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COVID-19 Impact on Human Trafficking: Racial Disparities and Social Media Use 30 Executive Summary Although slavery is thought to have been eradicated in the United States over a century ago, in reality, modern slavery still exists, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated forcedlabor initiatives.AccordingtotheInternationalLabour Organization (ILO), forced labor refers to an involuntary performance of work which is achieved through coercion and menace. The definition stated in the ILO Forced Labour Convention (1930) stipulates the following three conditions as part of the definition: work or service, involuntariness, and menace of any penalty. It must be emphasized that forced labor can be perpetuated by private actors, individuals, or state authorities and is present in many economic sectors all around the world (ILO a). Within forced labor practices, sex trafficking and sexual exploitation have emerged as growing issues in the past decades. TheUNdefines sexual exploitation as “any actual or attempt- ed abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust for sexual purposes, including but not limited to profit- ing monetarily, socially, or politically” (ILO a). Although all individuals are at risk of sex trafficking, certain populations that are most at risk include people of color and migrants (Williamson). Further, women are a particularly vulnerable group. In fact, according to the ILOGlobal Estimates of Mod- ern Slavery, 71% of the people affected by modern slavery are women, of whom 99% are involved in the commercial sex in- dustry (ILO a). COVID-19 has made economic inequalities that already existed in American society worse, which has ultimately intensified forced labor efforts. In addition, modern techno- logical advancements have produced social media platforms that have allowed for this increase in sex-trafficking activity to occur, as there is a more personalized method of targeting potential victims. The following sections address how the pandemic has specifically affected these groups of women Policy Brief on the Future of Work MARTINDALE CENTER in terms of their vulnerability to sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, in conjunction with the usage of internet re- sources. It will discuss policy options to address these issues and provide solutions in hopes of ending the existence of sex-trafficking one day. Issues and Challenges The continued sexualization of the bodies of women of color, which has played out since slavery, encourages the dispropor- tionate number of them involved in sex trafficking through- out the United States. Women of color often are stereotyped as “hyper-sexualized people” who choose and enjoy prostitu- tion, though rarely recognized as victims of sex trafficking. This fabricated judgement undermines the fight against hu- man trafficking and weakens efforts to identify and protect victims of sex trafficking. As reported by advocacy organi- zation Rights4Girls, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in a two-year review of all suspected human trafficking inci- dents across the country, 94% of sex trafficking victims were female, 40% were Black, and 24% were Latinx (BJS, cited in “Racial and Gender Disparities…”). In South Dakota, Native American women represent 40% of sex trafficking victims, even though they make up only 8% of the population (Fergu- son, cited in “Racial and Gender Disparities…”). In addition, according to an overview from the Congressional Black Cau- cus Foundation, “intersecting factors like low socioeconomic status, child welfare involvement, detachment from educa- tion, criminal justice involvement, and history of physical/ sexual abuse…contribute to the increased vulnerability of sex trafficking” (Davey, 3). Statistically, women of color face multiple forms of discrimi- nation in terms of economic opportunity and social treatment and are also at greater risk of experiencing sexual and physi- cal abuse as compared to their racial counterparts. Moreover, These Martindale Center Policy Briefs on the Future of Work were prepared by teams of students and young professionals serving as Research Externs with the Lehigh University / United Nations Partnership working in affiliation with the International Labour Organization. Authors: Keagan Casey • Abigail Duane • Maeve Kelly • Grace Kennedy • Kate Lyden • Klea Troka • Maya Silva Series Editor: Stephen Cutcliffe, Ph.D. February 2021 COVID-19 Impact on Human Trafficking: Racial Disparities and Social Media Use