Human trafficking is one of the most vicious and shocking forms of violence and exploitation—a web of slavery that overwhelmingly ensnares females. Today women and girls comprise more than half of all trafficked victims of forced labour and 98 per cent of all victims of sexual exploitation.
Lakshmi Puri, UN Women Acting Executive Director
The reality of human trafficking is stark – it is one of the most virulent forms of violence against women. It is estimated that between 21 and 36 million people are enslaved across the globe. 68% of victims are in labour slavery while 22% are in sex slavery. Modern slavery encompasses slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking. Victims of this global crime are often moving between source, transit and destination countries.
At Hibiscus Initiatives, our human rights and person-centered approach to anti-trafficking work is reflected throughout our services. Despite current legislation stating that victims of human trafficking should not be prosecuted and convicted for criminal acts they were forced to perform, we continue to identify and support potential victims of trafficking in prisons and detention, as a result of them failing to be recognised as victims by the authorities at the time of arrest.
Our successes include ‘L’, whose conviction was quashed in 2013 by the Court of Criminal Appeal in a landmark non-punishment case demonstrating that victims of human trafficking should not be prosecuted and convicted for criminal acts they were forced to perform. A Hibiscus project worker identified, referred to a first responder and advocated for ‘L’ while she was in custody.
The ‘A Dangerous Journey’ campaign
To raise awareness among women and girls about the dangers and consequences of trafficking, we commissioned an animated film based on our clients’ true life experiences which won the 2013 Gold World Medal at the New York Festival.
Grace and Rose were trafficked from West Africa to the UK for sexual exploitation, lured from Nigeria by false promises of a better life in the UK. Both women accepted free flights believing they were being given the opportunity to pursue their dreams of education and employment. Instead, they got caught in a web of sexual slavery and deceit that ensnares vulnerable women trying to escape a life of poverty and deprivation, and found themselves in the horrendous situation of forced prostitution.
The animation gave these women an opportunity to voice their stories. Many trafficked women have to take part in an ancient form of West African witch craft called ‘juju’, a ritual which involves drinking animal blood to commit to a vow of repaying large sums of money for their journeys to Europe. The priest administering the oath warns the women that if the loan is not repaid they face a certain death. As a result, many women are too scared to speak out about their experiences when apprehended by people who could help them.
The film was produced by Animage Films and funded by various UK charities and organisations, and was supported by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons.