January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month, and National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is observed annually on Jan. 11 as designated by the U.S. Senate.
National Human Trafficking Awareness month was designated in 2010 by presidential proclamation.
Human trafficking is “modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act,” according to the Department of Homeland Security. Human trafficking is not the same as human smuggling, which involves illegal transportation of a person across a border.
The different kinds of human trafficking include sex trafficking, forced labor and domestic servitude. Sex trafficking victims may be forced, threatened or manipulated by promises of love or affection to engage in sex acts for money. Any person under the age of 18 involved in a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking.
An estimated 400,000 people are believed trapped in modern slavery in the United States, from forced labor to sex trafficking, according to the Global Slavery Index, published by the human rights group Walk Free Foundation.
According to the International Labour Organization, there are more than 40 million victims of human trafficking globally: 81% are doing forced labor; 25% of them are children; 75% are women and girls. The ILO estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide.
Human trafficking is an issue commonly associated with major sporting events. Metro Atlanta law enforcement authorities made hundreds of arrests ahead of Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta in February 2019.
The NCAA Final Four tournament will be held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium from April 4-6. Nearly five dozen people were arrested during the Final Four last year in Minneapolis, according to Reuters. The arrests came through a series of sting operations aimed at sex trafficking for minors.
In December 2019, several hotel chains, including some located in metro Atlanta, were accused in a federal lawsuit of profiting from sex trafficking. The suit, according to Insurance Journal, was filed on behalf of 13 women who claimed they were sold for sex in Hilton, Red Roof Inn, Intercontinental, Best Western and Wyndham hotels, among others.
The legal action is the first time the hotel industry has been targeted in such a lawsuit.