International Day of the Girl: Victories of 2019

Each year October 11th marks the International Day of the Girl Child. This U.N.-declared holiday serves to promote the empowerment of girls and their human rights, and shed light on the struggles they face around the world. In honor of this holiday, we have compiled important victories in the fight against sex trafficking from the past year.

The start of the year saw the release of Cyntoia Brown after 15 years in prison. At just 16 years old Brown was sex trafficked and, fearing for her life, shot the man who picked her up. Brown was tried as an adult and convicted to a life sentence. Her story sparked public interest that grew over the years and even garnered support from celebrates. Finally, in January of 2019 Cyntoia Brown was granted clemency. Following her release, she said in her statement, “I look forward to using my experiences to help other women and girls suffering abuse and exploitation.” Brown’s release marks an important shift, culturally and politically, in recognizing children sold for sex should not be treated as criminals but as child sex trafficking survivors.

In July, an FBI operation led to the recovery of over 100 child sex trafficking victims across the United States. Dubbed Operation Independence Day, this initiative involved 400 law enforcement agencies and resulted in the arrest of 67 suspected traffickers. Much of the operation’s success was attributed to its length. In the past, nationwide sweeps by the FBI were conducted in only a week. Lasting a full month, Operation Independence Day allowed agents to build rapport with victims and cases against traffickers. As a result of their diligence 60 new federal investigations have opened.

This year saw an increase in multiple industries’ involvement in combating human trafficking. In June, the American Hotel & Lodging Association launched No Room for Trafficking, a national campaign seeking to advance the hospitality industry’s growing commitment to issue. Delta Air Lines donated 2.5 million dollars’ worth of flights to the Polaris Project through their SkyWish program. Delta, the first carrier to sign on to ECPAT's Child-Protection Code of Conduct, also launched an in-flight video to educate passengers on trafficking potentially occurring next to them. Also this year, ECPAT-USA launched the 20BY20 campaign aimed at training 20,000 employees in the hospitality, airline, and events industry by the year 2020. Awareness of human trafficking is crucial for these employees as they are the first line of defense in combating the issue.

These are just some of the many victories made this year in the fight against human trafficking. Although awareness and commitment to the issue spreads each day, the fight is far from over. In 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people were victims of human trafficking worldwide. The most common form of human trafficking is sexual exploitation; its victims are predominantly women and girls and nearly 20 percent of all trafficking victims are children.