Human trafficking is aconsidered one of the most profitable crimes in today’s society. Human trafficking is the sale of human beingsused for forced labor or sexual exploitation. While not often discussed, human trafficking is believed to generatethirty-two billion dollars a year (Phantom Rescue). The sale of humans can be infinite, dependingon how many transactions occur. Most ofus are familiar with the slave trade in the seventeenth century, when slaveswere transported from Africa to the New World.
However, the buying and selling of humans, for monetary or social gain,has been happening for thousands of years. Many socioeconomic factors can lead to the trafficking of individuals. In addition, lack of government policies cancontribute to this crisis. Countries such as Russia, China, Iran, and Belarushave high rates of traffickers and victims.
These crimes are often hidden fromthe authorities, due to the tactics perpetrators use. History, greed, and ignorance to this globalcrisis allowed its growth in modern times. The trafficking of humans has been in existence worldwidefor thousands of years.
Greek andRomans, as well as medieval civilizations, have participated in thispractice. The thirteenth centurymanifested the beginning of the European slave trade, which transported peoplefrom Africa to Portugal to use them as slaves. In the 1500s, the British became a part of the slave trade inAfrica. Additionally, in the 1600s,North America, Spain, France, Holland, Denmark, and Sweden joined thepractice. Starting in the nineteenthcentury, human trafficking laws and awareness were put into action. In 1904, the International Agreement for theSuppression of “White Slave Traffic” was signed and in effect. The goal of this agreement was to securewomen from being a part of “white slave traffic.” White slavery alludes to forcing a whitewoman (or girl) into sexual exploitation or prostitution.
Many argue this law was put into place tocontrol the amount of European woman from seeking jobs overseas. However, this historical agreement stands asa righteous action against female trafficking. After World War I, the League of Nations was founded. Its goal was to maintain world peace andfocus on global issues such as human trafficking.
The Suppression of White Slave Traffic wasrenamed to “traffic in women and children” to include everyone and notdiscriminate. In the year of 1956, Indiainitiated the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, which persecutes individualsinvolved in operating brothels, living on wages from sex work, and abductingpeople for prostitution. Moving on tothe twenty-first century, the Polaris Project was founded by Katherine Chon andDerek Ellerman in 2002 (Polaris Project).
The Polaris Project is a non-profitfunctioning to end modern day slavery. Their accomplishments include a free hotline in which reports can bereceived on trafficking victims, and training law enforcement how to approachtrafficking cases. There are many forms of human trafficking, but one aspectremains true for all victims: the exploitation of the vulnerability ofvictims.
The most prevalent form oftrafficking is sexual exploitation. Women, and often children, from underdeveloped countries are promisedemployment in a different country. Victims are often lured into the scheme, due the false hope they arepresented. False travel documents areoften provided, and the trafficked person(s) are transported through anextensive travel network to their destination. Here they will be forced into sexual slavery while living in constantfear. Similar to sexual exploitation,forced labor preys on underprivileged individuals looking for a better job andlife. Men, women, and children are boundto labor-intensive jobs in agriculture, construction, and domesticservitude.
A fast-growing form oftrafficking is the illegal transactions of tissues, cells, and organs. In many countries, waiting lists for organtransplants are long. Criminals havetaken advantage of this situation, and are exploiting the agony of donors andpatients. Such phony operations areperformed in vile conditions with no follow-up. Approximately 20 to 30 million slaves are in the worldtoday. According to the U.S.
StateDepartment, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across internationalborders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children. There is no definite profile for traffickingvictims. They come from rural, urban,and suburban backgrounds. All races,sexes, and other demographics are affected.
However, individuals with a past of violence and trauma are morevulnerable to traffickers; they recognize the susceptibilities from pastabusers. “People may be traffickingvictims regardless of whether they were born or transported into a state ofservitude, whether they once consented to work for a trafficker, or whetherthey participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked” (U.S.Department of State). Many contributing factors lead to the trafficking ofindividuals. Populations experiencingpoverty are most at risk due to desperation and dire circumstances. Indeveloping countries, job opportunity (especially for women) is scarce. This marginalization of women increases thelikelihood of someone accepting sketchy job offers.
As a result, parents sell their children andare forced to pay off their debts. Violent repercussions, such as immigrationor police intervention, are held over families. In addition, globalization has made it easier for trafficking violatorsto communicate and move people across borders. Modern advances such as the internet and air travel have allowed fortransactions to remain incognito. Finally, political and civil violence in certain countries has ledfamilies to flee their homeland in search of new opportunity. All of these factors provide traffickers achance to take advantage of disadvantaged people. Russia, China, Iran, and Belarus are a few examples ofcountries with high trafficking rates.
In China, the one-child policy and a cultural preference for maleoffspring perpetuates the trafficking of brides and sex workers. “Traffickers recruited girls and young women,often from rural areas of China, using a combination of fraudulent job offers,imposition of large travel fees, and threats of physical or financial harm, toobtain and maintain their service in prostitution” (U.S. Department of State). Chinaalso has a forced labor epidemic, in which migrants are forced to work infactories or coal mines without pay. InRussia, approximately 50,000 children and adolescents are prostituted withoutconsent. In addition, one million peoplein Russia are exposed to inhumane living and working conditions, such asnonpayment for work and destitute housing and living conditions.
Russia has failed to develop a solid systemfor pinpointing and assisting victims, leading to distrust amongst governmentofficials. Iran has demonstrated minimaleffort towards ending their sexual trafficking crisis. Even though sex rings are often defeated, thepeople most punished are the girls.
Officials are unwilling to determine the difference consensualintercourse and rape. Law enforcementwill torture and execute these women for violating Iran’s behavior standards. In Belarus, individuals suffering fromsubstance abuse are maltreated and sent to medical labor camps. At these camps, they are forced to work withno pay. These camps violate the rightsof people and neglect labor laws. “Human trafficking is fluid,adaptable and under the radar. The secrecy and invisibility of the trafficking trade largely contributes to its successand growth” (Weaver). Human traffickingvictims remain concealed from law enforcement due to the social circumstancesof victims and tactics perpetrators use.
A large number of victims are not allowed to leave their place of forcedwork, and have no access to a phone or the internet. Additionally, language barriers between thosetrafficked and the police remain a significant issue. In many of the countries that victimsoriginate, there is mistrust of government leaders and law officials. Officials in these countries often smugglepeople across borders themselves and do little to protect their citizens. Since many victims are illegally sent totheir destination country, they are afraid to seek help. This may turn to their own criminalconviction. Another factor as to whyvictims remain unseen is due to the sheer complexity of trafficking schemes.Operations are usually branched out amongst many associates.
This makes it difficult for law enforcementto know where to start their search. Moreover, lack of police specialization in trafficking cases and minimalresources delays the cessation of operations. Human traffickers can include pimps,criminal networks, businesses, and family operations. Traffickers often share the same ethnicity astheir victims.
This allows them to understandand take advantage of the vulnerabilities of their victims. Traffickers can include family members,friends, males and females, partners, and strangers. Working alongside certain businesses orindustries facilities this illegal operation. In conclusion, growth of humantrafficking has increased globally in the last century. Since this crime does not discriminate, it canaffect anyone.
Political and economicinstability, as well as poverty, are main contributing factors to the growth ofthis global crisis. More should be doneto decrease the likelihood of a trafficking case occurring. Funding to train law enforcement andgovernment officials to identify traffickers and victims should be increaseddramatically.
Tougher penalties placedupon violators could deter the sale of humans.