I was blind. In my head, Human Trafficking was a big evil on a small scale. Slavery should not exist in the twenty first century like it did back in the days. Disbelief and limited knowledge has led to my ignorance and unfortunately, I was and am not the only one. Through means of this blog I try to increase awareness by clarifying what Human Trafficking is, how it comes into existence and how it could be diminished not only by governments or NGOs but also by the individual – you, my dear reader.
There are many definitions for Human Trafficking depending on the purpose – legally, morally, or just as to the clarification of the term. Since the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime tries to imply the three, I found their definition very applicable for this blog. They illustrate Human Trafficking as:
“…the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
-UNDOC [1. UNDOC. (2010, July 14). Human Trafficking. Retrieved April 2, 2014, from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html?ref=menuside]
Trafficking is often confused with the term smuggling. Both involve the transportation of people but smuggling always refers to illegal trans-border placement. Trafficking however, can also be limited to a national level. In smuggling, the people transported have a consensual and commercial relationship with their smugglers. After borders are crossed the relationship ends. Not so in Human Trafficking where victims are being exploited and abused after the act of transportation ends [3. ICMPD. (2010, July 21). International Centre for Migration Policy Development. Retrieved April 2, 2014, from Anit-Trafficking: http://www.anti-trafficking.net/contact.html?&F=0%5C%5C].Simply put, to classify a crime as Human Trafficking, the act must include movement, the means of the act must be coercive and the purpose must be exploitation.
I like to tell a story about Lola.
Thailand – Lola was seven. Her parents worked on a rice field, generating barely enough income to sustain the lives of their family. The couple that owned the rice field lured Lola away from her parents. She was abducted and forced to work, feeding the cats and dogs. In case she did not fulfill her responsibility in the eyes of the perpetrators, she was punished with kicks and slaps. Sometimes, she was locked up into a cage because then, she would not be able to protect herself against the boiling water. On another occasion her ear lobe was cut off with a pair of scissors. But she was lucky. Once, whilst running after a cat, she climbed a wall and realized that she was free. A neighbor found her and called the police. She was reunited with her family. The perpetrators were arrested, paid bail and escaped. Lola is still suffering. She is in the process of recuperating, mentally, physically and psychologically. She will never be the same person but she is safe and gets help – for now [2. CdeBaca, L. (2013). Trafficking in Persons Report. Department of State United States of America.].
Sadly, the sole purpose why this market came into existence is that due to demand, supply is being offered. Selling people is very lucrative since owners pay are willing to pay high prices. Additionally, unlike drugs, humans can be reused over and over again – they can be sold over and over again. The UNDOC reveals the division of gender and age and shows that out of the estimated 28.9 million people that are being trafficked, 59 percent are women, 17 percent are girls, 14 percent are men and 10 percent are boys. Scarily, the amount of kids has increased in some areas from 20 percent in the period 2003 – 2006 to the present 27 percent, not only relatively but also absolutely speaking [8. Kangaspunta, K. (2012). Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.].
In developing countries there are some underlying implications such as weak rule of law, high rates of poverty and a respective low GDP, that lead to an increase in the likelihood of becoming exposed to human trafficking. The factors responsible for human trafficking in the land of origin are push factors. The factors that are responsible for demand in the country of destination are called pull factors.
Due to bad economic, social and political implications such as poverty or governmental instability in underdeveloped countries, citizens tend to be desperately searching for a better live, thus can be considered as potential migrates. Traffickers can trick people in need of employment into their system. A study that included around 10.000 victims found that less than five percent of Human Trafficking victims were being kidnapped. In fact, out of the 95 percent most were initially migration seekers. They can be lured into the Human Trafficking system either during the migration process or even afterwards since they are in need of quick money to survive. Furthermore, since it was found that most victims are migrants it should be further explained why some tend to fall into Human Trafficking whilst others do not. There are some stipulations to vulnerability. For one, some victims are physically weaker such as children, women and persons with disabilities, and are therefore less likely to effectively defend themselves. Additionally, the inequality of women in some cultures leads them to push for other options that are more prone to risk. Also, some cultural norms are dictating trust and reliance of which traffickers can take advantage. A last decisive factor is the crime rate of a country. It was researched that criminal organization that trade in drugs or weapons extent their networks in the field of Human Trafficking since their illegal infrastructure of corruption already exists and Human Trafficking is considerably profitable [4. Cho, S.-Y. (2012). Modeling for Determinants of Human Trafficking. Economics of Security Working Paper Series.]. In all cases the victims are exposed to threats, physical and psychological violence to make them obedient. The victims passports are confiscated which leaves them with no freedom since they are often bound by debt bondage. Parents are even threatened with the lives of their relatives to keep them under control.
There is one pull factor that plays a major role, namely the three-folded legal and institutional effort that a country takes to counter Human Trafficking: 1.Prosecution of traffickers; 2.Protection of victims; 3.Preventive measurements that mitigate the likelihood of trafficking. If corruption and instability of state lead to the three factors not being present, respectively, the rate of Human Trafficking rises.
Due to the instability in Thailand´s government and the fact that Thailand is famous for its sex tourism, it is estimated to have the largest number of child prostitutes [5. The Crisis of Child Exploitation in Brazil. (2012, March). Retrieved April 2, 2014, from Libertad Latina: http://www.libertadlatina.org/LA_Brazils_Child_Prostitution_Crisis.htm]. People are specifically traveling to Thailand for the sole purpose of engaging sexually with a child. Especially, when it comes to forcing and exploiting children my belief in the human kind starts falling apart. Children are physically and psychologically fragile and more prone to suffer and still have longer to live than adults. Please do not get me wrong, I do not mean that this is legitimizing other forms of trafficking humans but it only furthers my incomprehension on why people are actually engaging into this market not only from the demand but also from the supply part.
But is there a solution – a light at the end of the tunnel?
A reactive solution would be promoting the awareness. A current problem is the insufficient and wrongful representation of Human Trafficking by the media [5. Vezmer, J. (2012, June 13). Stop The Traffik. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from LexisNexis: http://www.nexis.co.uk/humantrafficking.php]. If people do not have the knowledge about the scope of Human Trafficking, governments are not pushed to adapt their current legal system to tackle the problem. The issues (Protection and Preventive Measurements), should be enhanced since fighting the pull factors limits the attractiveness of the market and, therefore, reduces it. This can be done either by the governments or International Governmental Organizations, such as the UN. Also NGOs like SlaveryNoMore get involved in consulting governments to tackle the problem at hand. Furthermore, since humans are often being trafficked cross border, governments should start to collaborate. Not only law enforcement officials but also employees working on immigration must be trained to recognize traffickers to increase pressure.
Reactive behavior is, as the name implies, action one undertakes after the crime has been committed. The aftercare of victims that need to be reintegrated into society is one of those. Again, NGOs are very much involved in this process, whereby cooperation with different communities and schools is conducted. An additional aspect is the ineffective prosecution of Traffickers that must be adequately approached. Legal systems should be improved. Especially, because some laws require the transaction of money to find someone guilty of Human Trafficking, traffickers are not prosecuted if no money was transferred [7. CdeBaca, L. (2013). Trafficking in Persons Report. Department of State United States of America.]. Moreover, further resources should be allocated in evaluating current Protection, Prosecution and Prevention programmers since it is not always clear to what extent they are being effective since actual figures related to Human Trafficking are mostly estimated.
I would like to ask you to do two things. Firstly, make sure that people around you also get informed about the scope of Human Trafficking – therefore, increase awareness and pressure on governments to act. You can educate your surrounding society yourself or do it by means of sharing this blog entry. Secondly, do not close your eyes if you suspect Human Trafficking in every day life. Report it to the police or contact a NGO. Slavery should not exist in the twenty first century like it did back in the days. Fighting it, is a shared responsibility of humanity. Human Trafficking is a big evil on a large scale.