January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Despite the tireless efforts of many, as President Obama statedin his recent Presidential Proclamation, “the injustice of modern slavery and human trafficking still tears at our social fabric.” This month provides an opportunity to both raise awareness about the problem and galvanize support for action that can reduce the prevalence of human trafficking.
There is a growing body of law at the international, national, and state levels addressing human trafficking specifically. Although those represent important developments, there has been limited progress on the root causes of human trafficking. That’s where human rights come in. Human trafficking thrives because there is demand for the good and services produced by exploited individuals and because there are millions of vulnerable adults and children.
The foundational principle of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” – is a direct challenge to the devaluation of human lives that is embedded in the demand side of human trafficking. Human rights education fosters tolerance and reduces disregard for others’ rights. And, when realized, human rights – including the rights to birth registration, health care, education, and housing; labor rights; and the principle of nondiscrimination, to name a few – can reduce the vulnerability of marginalized populations so that they are not pushed into human trafficking settings.
The challenges we face today as human rights advocates are seemingly endless. It’s often difficult simply drawing sufficient attention to rights violations. Human trafficking is one area where everyone from policymakers to parents wants action. Demonstrating the value of human rights to human trafficking can help advance anti-trafficking efforts and serve as a model for applying human rights approaches to other pressing issues.
First published at Home Rights at Home blog.