The humanitarian crisis in Myanmar has caused a rapid spike in human trafficking cases across the country, prompting an Australian charity to take action.
Myanmar, a country located in south-east Asia, is on the brink of collapse, after commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing led a military coup against the San Suu Kyi government.
Consequently, The United Nations Development Programme reports that 48.2 per cent of Myanmar’s population is at risk of falling into poverty, allowing human trafficking – the world’s fastest growing criminal industry – to run rampant.
Australian charity, Eden Australia, has been working to stem human trafficking rates across Myanmar, by helping women who have been sold or coerced into sexual slavery.
The organisation provides the women with safety and employment through the production of jewellery, which gives them a stable income.
The jewellery also funds Eden’s education and employability programs, as well as trauma counselling and various art and dance therapies.
Michelle Kerr, Eden Australia’s country manager of global sales and marketing, said changes needed to be made to stop human trafficking rates growing.
“This statistic that [human trafficking] is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world; we have to stop saying that … it’s 2021,” Ms Kerr said.
“Our mission is to see a world where nobody is bought or sold, but it is almost bigger than that, because we care so much for the people who are bought and sold and that is our core focus.
“We have wealth, we have knowledge, we have resources, we have all of these things; it is a matter of us as a global community getting everything in line.”
Rescue: Freedom International reports that human trafficking is an estimated $150 billion industry that generates more revenue than Disney, Microsoft and the NFL combined.
And, according to The International Labour Organization, more than seven in 10 sexually exploited slavery victims come from Asian countries, including Myanmar.
The widespread devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in Myanmar has also amplified the growing threat of extortion.
This desperation has ultimately aided human traffickers who use false employment and promised high wages to lure women into sexual slavery, World Vision reports.
However, through Eden Australia’s outreach program, more than 700 captive Myanmar women have been saved. That’s a step in the right direction according to Rebecca Barnett, a clinical psychologist and Eden Australia board member.
Ms Barnett also said raising awareness was paramount in lowering human trafficking rates and would ultimately help Eden Australia’s work in Myanmar.
“Part of my work here in Australia deals in the trauma space as a psychologist … (and) these women in Myanmar who have been caught up in human trafficking are without a doubt highly traumatised,” she said.
“We need to support groups who understand the poverty and the long-term impacts of what is going on politically; the things that really drive human trafficking rates.
“Education also has to be important because without the awareness we are not going to be actively involved in the solutions that make a difference.”