Discussing exploitation and trafficking in relation to Indigenous women necessarily means understanding the historical and ongoing colonial sexualization of Indigenous women’s bodies. Since early colonization, Indigenous women’s bodies have been positioned by Western ideology as inherently violable and less valuable than non-Indigenous, non-racialized bodies.
Although anyone can become involved in trafficking, there is added risk and vulnerability to individuals from certain groups.
We know from police data that the majority of trafficking victims/survivors are female and that a significant number are young people under the age of 18.
Young people are within the "age range of vulnerability" for sexual exploitation, which has been identified by one study as being between 10 and 17 years old. Another publication has reported 13-14 years old as the average age of entry into sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Traffickers also often target people who experience marginalization, including Indigenous people, LGBTQ2S+ people, low-income people, newcomers, people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, people with addictions and mental heath issues, racialized people, and women and girls.
Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people in particular are disproportionately affected, with one national survey of service providers reporting that 50% of the trafficked girls and 51% of the trafficked women they serve were Indigenous.
Systems of oppression, including racism, colonization, and sexism, increase structural risk. They also contribute to the dehumanization of and normalization of sexual violence against Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit people and members of other oppressed groups. When we consider trafficking within the context of child welfare, an equity lens must therefore be applied. This includes consideration of not just the dynamics of trafficking, but the identities of the individuals involved and how they intersect with both trafficking and child welfare involvement.