Report: Women, girls nearly 3/4 of trafficking victims

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A U.N. report released Wednesday found that nearly three-quarters of all human trafficking victims are women and girls and that trafficked men and boys are typically used as forced laborers, soldiers and slaves.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime's report also found that children comprise nearly a third of trafficking victims worldwide.

UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov, who launched the report at U.N. headquarters, said trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labor remain the most prominently detected forms of the crime, but victims have also been trafficked to be used as beggars, for forced or sham marriages, benefit fraud or producing pornography, he said.

Victims are "tortured, extorted and even trafficked for organ removal in some African routes," Fedotov said.

The report comes a day after the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a first-ever draft resolution on the issue and debated the links between human trafficking and conflict zones.

The resolution asks that countries that have not yet done so fully implement the U.N.'s trafficking in persons protocol and improve efforts to investigate and dismantle trafficking networks. It also calls on member nations to do more to establish procedures to identify victims and provide protection and assistance for them.

Fedotov said during the Security Council debate that trafficking victims have been detected in 106 different countries and territories worldwide. However, he said, 158 countries have criminalized most forms of the practice in line with U.N. protocol — up from 2003, when only 18 percent of countries had such laws on their books.

France's U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said the Security Council for the first time clearly established that the link between trafficking in persons, sexual violence and terrorism in situations in conflict constitutes a "threat to international peace and security." Although the resolution provides tools to act, he said more needs to be done in finding ways to respond to the crime, including the possibility of sanctions.

The report links armed groups to human trafficking, documenting how these groups often engage in trafficking in their territories of operation, coercing women and girls into marriages or sexual slavery, and pressing men and boys to act as forced labor or combatants.

The report's researchers found more than 500 different trafficking flows, or routes, with 42 percent of them located inside a single country's own borders.

Wednesday's report found that although 28 percent of trafficking victims worldwide are children, it is much more in other regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America and the Caribbean, where children comprise 62 percent and 64 percent of victims, respectively.

U.N. General Assembly President Peter Thomson, who opened the meeting, said the fact that children make up a substantial number of the victims is "sufficient to convey the horrific nature of this criminal industry."

Nadia Murad Basee, a Yazidi woman who survived being a captive of the Islamic State, knows all about that horror. In December, she told the U.N. Security Council how she and thousands of other Yazidi women and girls were abducted, held in captivity and repeatedly raped after the Iraqi area of Sinjar fell to Islamic State militants in August 2014. She escaped after three months in captivity.

Basee said that as an activist she's met hundreds of victims who suffer from a lack of housing and medical and psychological treatment for their wounds.

"I hope that the recommendations set out in the report are translated into practical and actual solutions for all victims of human trafficking in every corner of the world," she said.

The General Assembly asked for the report to prepare for next year's appraisal of the U.N.'s global action plan for combatting human trafficking.

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