The numbers are staggering. Two million children are forced into prostitution every year. Almost 200,000 Nepali girls are sexual slaves in India. And more than 50,000 women are trafficked into the U.S. every year. The human-trafficking trade is thriving, and a research project under way at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University is using IT to try to stop it.
The Protection Project is a legal research institute that began in 1994 with a mission to gather and disseminate information on human trafficking. In March 2000, the project’s coordinators launched a massive searchable database online (www.protectionproject.org), containing human rights reports, human-trafficking and extradition laws from almost every country in the world, survivor stories and maps of trafficking routes. This database presents a worldwide picture of just how widespread human trafficking, prostitution, child pornography and illicit adoption really are.
While usable by anyone, the database is targeted toward the people fighting this scourge: law enforcement agencies, nongovernmental organizations, human rights organizations and academics. Laura Lederer, director of the project, says the site has already had an impact in the international community. “We’re getting around 10,000 visits a month to our website, and we know prosecutors are using it because we’ve fielded phone calls from them,” she says. “And we know it’s being used by [nongovernmental organizations] such as relief and development organizations, advocacy organizations, service providers and others in countries around the world.”
This is one site that will welcome a lot of traffic.