Sex trafficking is a global issue, so Turkey is not immune to the problem. Historically it has been an issue in Turkey particularly with the trafficking of women from former Soviet countries, as the LA Times report in 2006. The majority of the women were aged from 18 to 24 and about half came from Moldova and Ukraine. The LA Times reported that the estimation of the profits of those women’s sex slavery was $3.6 billion over the course of one year alone.
Turkey is considered a “destination country” because of its geographic location. Often these women are offered other jobs like cleaning or childcare before entering Turkey, much like some of the stories in Half the Sky, and then once they arrive, their passports are taken and they are forced to work in the sex industry, according to the UNHCR. While Turkey has made some efforts to address the problem of human trafficking within its borders, the UNHCR says it has not done enough. It recommends that Turkey ratify legislation against human trafficking, create more supports for victims of human trafficking, prosecute traffickers more heavily, and train their police forces to better identify victims. Others are suggesting that Turkey enact legislation that would make human trafficking violations be classified as terrorism.
What further exacerbates the situation currently is how the refugee crisis has increased the number of people vulnerable to the threat of human trafficking. A 2014 report on the state of female Syrian migrants “tells of early and forced marriages, polygamy, sexual harassment, human trafficking, prostitution, and rape that criminals inflicted upon Syrians in Turkey.” The report found that girls aged 15 to 20 were the most vulnerable to forced prostitution, but that younger girls were still affected as well.
The Sustainable Development Goals do specifically mention human trafficking as an issue to be dealt with in three of the goals: 5, 8, and 16. The fifth SDG is all about gender equality, aiming to end discrimination against women and girls entirely. The eighth SDG focuses on providing “decent” work for sustainable economic growth and part of that promotion of employment for all works as a way to “eradicate forced labour, slavery and human trafficking.” The sixteenth SDG works to reduce violence and promote just and peaceful societies, citing that where there are lax laws sexual violence and exploitation must be addressed.
So what can be done to fight human trafficking? Well I think it’s clear that human trafficking is a global phenomenon that as citizens of the world, we are all responsible for ending. But I also think it’s important to acknowledge that since the problem is so widespread, it can feel intimidating to try and tackle it. And the standard question of how you as an individual can do anything is understandable too, but in order to really combat the issue, we need to push past that attitude. The State Department has a list of ways that individuals can help fight human trafficking, including several ways that you can stay aware of the issue, be an observer of the injustice, and report what you see happening in your community.
Here’s how Obama has responded during his administration: