All posts by Heike Lautenschlager

Don’t Trade Lives: fighting the modern slave trade

Thought slavery was abolished in the 18th Century? Think again.

It is estimated that at least 27 million people are enslaved in the world today. Many of these are in situations of exploitation as a result of trafficking.

Human trafficking is the third largest transnational crime after the illegal sale of drugs and arms. It is a crime against an individual, their rights and human dignity.

It happens when people are recruited, transported or received through deception, threat or forced into exploitation. This can be across borders or also within a country. But it is not only about borders. It is not only about the transportation of people. It is about the exploitation of children, women, and men, day after day.

It is modern-day slavery.

Victims are held captive by threats, physical force or emotional abuse by their exploiters. Some are told they must pay off a so-called ‘debt’ to their captors. They may be trapped in these trafficking situations – for years, sometimes even for life. Major forms of human trafficking include forced labour, sex trafficking (including commercial sexual exploitation of children), bonded labour, debt bondage among migrant labourers, domestic servitude and child soldiers.

Human trafficking most often summons up images of commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls. A lesser known facet is the trafficking of men, women and children for labour exploitation. A recent report by the US State Department to monitor and combat trafficking in persons (2010) has found that ‘more people are trafficked for forced labour than for commercial sex’.  In fact, the ILO estimates that for every trafficking victim subjected to forced prostitution, nine people are forced to work.   Finally, it found that ‘people are in situations of modern slavery in most countries’ – this includes countries like Australia. Modern day slavery exists in our neighbourhood and our backyard.

Let me give you 3 numbers to highlight the extent of human trafficking in the world today:

  • $31.6 billion (source: ILO) – the size of this  illegal industry
  • 12.3 million – the number of adults and children in forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution around the world. This number does not include a large proportion of cases that are never reported.
  • 1.8 per 1,000 people – the prevalence of trafficking victims in the world. This rises to 3 per 1,000 in ‘hotspots’ such as Asia.

This is the trade of human lives.

Human trafficking and slavery is a complex issue that requires a collaborative, multi-faceted response. To be effective, anti-trafficking strategies must target the three dimensions of human trafficking: supply, demand and the systems and structures that allow it to happen. This means taking action in countries of origin, transit and destination.

Individuals, governments and businesses worldwide directly and indirectly fuel this crime and have a role to play in combating it. Consequently, the Don’t Trade Lives campaign, which launched in 2008, has evolved to incorporate strategies targeting each of these segments of society.

So what we as individuals do?


Consume Ethically!

Many of the goods we use are made or grown in developing countries. Sometimes the workers producing these goods receive low pay or must work in dangerous conditions, and sometimes the workers are child labourers or people who have been trafficked.

As a consumer, you have the power: every dollar you spend can make a difference. When you shop ethically, you send a message to sellers, to manufacturers, and to other shoppers. The more we buy ethically, the more others will realise we won’t put a price on humanity.

Watch the video below and have a think about who made the shirt you are currently wearing.

Big Chocolate – Just say YES

Since World Vision Australia launched the Don’t Trade Lives campaign in 2008, it has encouraged the public to actively call on major chocolate manufacturers to stop using exploited labour in their supply chain. Tens of thousands of Australians have supported this call by sending letters and emails, making phone calls, attending events and signing petitions, and it has been heard loud and clear by the Australian Chocolate Industry. Have a look at this video to get an idea of what Don’t Trade lives is calling for.

Some companies have listened, reviewing their cocoa sourcing policies. They include Cadbury, which has made its Cadbury Dairy Milk block Fairtrade certified, and Green & Black’s which is transitioning its entire product range to the Fairtrade label.

Now it’s time to call on other industries to look into their supply chains: go to to have your voice heard!

We all have a role to play!

In addition to engaging the Australian public, Don’t Trade Lives calls on Business and the Australian Government to ensure an end to trafficking in persons:

Don’t Trade Lives seeks to:

  • Reduce the market in Australia for products produced through slavery and trafficked labour
  • Ensure the Australian government is proactive in facilitating a comprehensive, integrated and effective anti-trafficking policy environment in the Asia-Pacific region
  • Ensure that Australian businesses have transparent, traceable and independently verifiable supply chains that are free from exploitation

Take action to combat trafficking and slavery today!