SubscribeSign in
Human Trafficking’s Hidden Toll
The Global Scourge Is Worse Than a Crime—It Is a Systemic Threat
Jamille Bigio and Rachel Vogelstein

June 8, 2021
The mother of a victim of human trafficking near Sittwe, Myanmar, May 2015 
Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters
In 2000, countries around the world signed on to the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, a landmark agreement that defined the crime of human trafficking and required states to criminalize it. That same year, the United States passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a groundbreaking law that provided the U.S. government with a new arsenal of tools to tackle human trafficking; governments all over the world soon followed suit and adopted similar laws.
But two decades later, the scourge of human trafficking persists. An estimated 25 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor and forced sexual exploitation. The majority of victims are women and girls. Human trafficking is a truly global phenomenon; it occurs in almost every country, including the United States, fueled by poverty, social marginalization, and weak criminal justice systems. The scale of the problem is only growing, exacerbated by the upheavals of migration and conflict and by the economic desperation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Policymakers often overlook human trafficking as ancillary to major challenges. But trafficking is more than a mere crime. Moreover, it is not just an effect of significant global problems but also a cause: it bolsters abusive regimes
Finish reading this article for free.
Enter your email and we'll send a paywall-free link directly to your inbox.
In addition to your unlocked article, you will receive our flagship weekly newsletter Foreign Affairs This Week, as well as occasional updates and offers from Foreign Affairs. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, visit our user agreement and privacy policy.
Get unlimited access to all Foreign Affairs. Subscribe now.
Are you already a subscriber? Sign in.
JAMILLE BIGIO is Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.
RACHEL VOGELSTEIN is Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow and Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations
They are the co-authors of the forthcoming Council on Foreign Relations special report “Ending Human Trafficking in the Twenty-First Century.”
More:World Labor Crime & Drugs GenderRefugees & Migration
Recommended Articles
Women Under Attack
The Backlash Against Female Politicians
Jamille Bigio and Rachel Vogelstein
The Best Foreign Policy Puts Women at the Center
Greater Equality Leads to Greater Wealth and Security for All
Rachel Vogelstein , Jamille Bigio and Rebecca Turkington
Save up to 55%
on Foreign Affairs magazine!
Weekly Newsletter
Get in-depth analysis delivered right to your inbox
From the
publishers of
Foreign Affairs
The Most:
Nnamdi Kanu’s Trial Turns Up Pressure on Nigerian Government
Spotlight on Japan Fall 2020
by Author:Sheila A. Smith
Maybe Tunisians Never Wanted Democracy
by Steven A. Cook
Published by the Council on Foreign Relations
Privacy Policy Terms of Use
©2021 Council on Foreign Relations, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.
Subscribe for unrestricted access.
Explore Current Issue Archive Books & Reviews Anthologies Newsletters Search Subscribe