UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called for efforts to address the scourge of human trafficking by reducing gender inequality.
In a message on the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, which falls on July 30, Guterres said women and girls already account for more than 70 percent of detected human-trafficking victims, and today are among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated many global inequalities, created new obstacles on the path to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and left millions of people at greater risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labor, forced marriage and other crimes, he said.
With previous downturns showing that women face a harder time getting paid jobs back in the aftermath of crisis, vigilance is especially important at this time, he said. “If the world is to put human dignity and human rights at the center of the COVID-19 response and recovery, we need to do more to protect trafficking victims and prevent vulnerable people from being exploited by criminals. On this World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, let us pledge to work for inclusive societies and economies that leave no one behind.”
Women make up 49 percent and girls 23 percent of all victims of human trafficking. Sexual exploitation is the most common form of exploitation (59 percent share), followed by forced labor (34 percent share), according to UN data.