Human trafficking is an international phenomenon. Beyond its exploitative impact, the health implications of human trafficking with regard to the spread of AIDS and other communicable diseases tend to unite the global community in the fight against it. According to a 2007 UNESCO study, human trafficking is driven by a variety of demand/pull and supply/push factors. Victims suffer a host of disorders resulting from their traumatic experiences, but there are many barriers and challenges facing those attempting to help them. Possible solutions to controlling human trafficking include policy reform across cultures, gender mainstreaming, research and data collection, improvement in border controls, and greater transnational cooperation.
NATURE AND DEFINITION OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
In 2000, at the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in Palermo, Italy, the United Nations defined human trafficking as:
The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring 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. (Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto 2004, p. 42)
This definition of human trafficking was designed to address the inconsistencies in definitions used across countries, as well as in practices and laws with respect to a collective remedy in the fight against such crimes. For example, there are disagreements in many regions, especially in Europe, concerning prostitution: some argue that the fight to stamp out prostitution is lost, and that, in the wake of the AIDS epidemic, legalization accompanied by all necessary health controls is the best option. There is also disagreement across cultures and nationalities concerning whether prostitution is a legitimate form of labor.
Jo Doezema (2000) has observed that, in terms of trafficking for sex-related work and activities, the debate becomes more heated and complicated because many national laws in host countries differ on the question of the legality of prostitution. Donna Hughes (2000) recognized this problem when she observed that major differences on the issue of trafficking bubbled to the surface during the drafting of the UN protocols: the Coalition against Trafficking in Women (CATW) took the position that all forms of prostitution constitute a violation of the human rights of women, while the Human Rights Caucus took the stand that prostitution is a legitimate form of labor.
The definition of human trafficking that was finally adopted covers the explicit deployment of force and coercion, and it recognizes other forms of crime, human rights abuse, and practices of exploitation, such as labor trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, bonded labor, sexual exploitation, and child labor. The protocols were adopted by the General Assembly on November 15, 2000, and entered into force on September 29, 2003. According to Irena Omelaniuk (2005), the protocols serve many purposes: they provide the basis for policies to protect and assist victims of crimes related to sexual exploitation and prostitution, they require countries to take action against traffickers, and they help prevent human trafficking. Although many countries have signed the protocols, as well as relevant conventions, only a few have ratified them or incorporated them into their national domestic laws. In the absence of strong global and collective enforcement and monitoring, compliance is left to the power of peer pressure, persuasion, and the moral appeal of individual nations.
THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM
Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery. It is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second-largest criminal industry, after drug trafficking, in the world today, and it is the fastest growing. The term human trafficking Page 366 | Top of Articlehas been used interchangeably with such terms as trafficking in persons or modern-day slavery, according to the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT).
UN.GIFT estimates that during the first decade of the twenty-first century, approximately 2.5 million people were engaged in forced labor (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking. Of these, 1.4 million (56%) were in Asia and the Pacific; 250,000 (10%) were in Latin America and the Caribbean; 230,000 (9.2%) were in the Middle East and Northern Africa; 130,000 (5.2%) were in sub-Saharan Africa; 270,000 (10.8%) were in industrialized countries; and 200,000 (8%) were in countries in transition. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported in 2006 that 161 countries were affected by human trafficking, either as a source or as transit or destination countries.
According to UN.GIFT, the majority of trafficking victims are between eighteen and twenty-four years of age. The United Nations estimated in 2006 that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year. Ninety-five percent of victims experienced physical or sexual violence during trafficking. Forty-three percent of victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation, of which 98 percent are women and girls. Thirty-two percent of victims are used for forced economic exploitation, of which 56 percent are women and girls. Many trafficking victims have at least middle-level education. The majority of suspects involved in the crime of trafficking are nationals of the countries where the trafficking occurs.
THE RISE OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
A study by UNESCO (2007) identified two categories of forces that drive the growth of trafficking in persons: demand/pull factors and supply/push factors. The demand/pull factors include: increased demand for low-skilled and cheap labor or foreign workers; the growth of a billion-dollar sex industry internationally; high returns and profits; permeable and porous borders; low-risk emigration; lack of access to legal redress or remedies for victims of traffickers; political and law-enforcement corruption; ease in controlling and manipulating vulnerable persons; growth in the adoption trade; the demand for human organs and body parts; the need for child soldiers in armed conflicts; an absence of effective laws; and cultural practices and beliefs (e.g., parent-arranged early marriages, the perception of unmarried girls as an economic burden).
Supply/push factors include: lack of educational and job opportunities; poverty; political insecurity; ethnic marginalization; social violence and persecution; and lack of awareness of the risks of migration. Clare Ribando
Seelke and Alison Siskin (2008) expanded the list of factors driving the growth in human trafficking to include: subordination of women in many societies as reflected in economic, educational, and work opportunity disparities; economic dislocations caused by disintegration and dissolution of nations, wars, famine, earthquake, ethnic cleansing and political marginalization, religious persecution and oppression, lack of opportunity and eagerness for a better life abroad; rising global demand for women and children to work in sex industries, sweat shops, and as domestic servants; and increased restriction on legal immigration to many destination countries, which leads to a rise in illegal entries. In addition, the tendency to treat trafficking victims as criminals, especially in raids on brothels, where victims are detained and punished, has made victims reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement. Furthermore, trafficking victims who voluntarily submit themselves or report their experiences may be deported and given inadequate Page 367 | Top of Articlesocial and health care, as well as insufficient support and judicial relief. The inadequacy of laws in some origin, transit, and destination countries also hampers efforts to fight trafficking. Political and law enforcement corruption further impedes the fight against trafficking in persons, in that authorities may ignore the plight of trafficking victims and, in some instances, downplay the scope and negative impacts of the problem. Authorities may also accept bribes and, in some cases, collude with traffickers and their networks and even help them obtain fake documents for travel and residency purposes. Finally, some countries lack specific and targeted laws and legislation against human trafficking.
GLOBALIZATION AND THE BREAKUP OF THE SOVIET UNION
Human trafficking is heavily influenced by a complex set of world processes. Globalization is characterized by the mobility of capital and skills, as well as the openness of political borders and the deregulation of trade, all of which affect human trafficking. Such problems are complicated by the transient nature of exchanges of goods and humans and the lack of enforcement mechanisms. Poverty in the countries of origin forces people to seek ways to improve their economic situations elsewhere. Many trafficked persons fall into the false hope and expectation of landing respectable jobs in their destination countries, as a means of living a better life, only to have their hopes dashed. Like the transnational drug trade, trafficking is a complex global enterprise that entails huge financial resources and technological capabilities. These resources enhance the traffickers' trade while shielding their activities from public scrutiny and from the interference of international law-enforcement agencies.
In addition to the globalization process, the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, which resulted in the creation of several small unstable countries in Eastern Europe, unleashed millions of jobless people eager to do anything for a living. The lack of employment forced them to immigrate to other countries in search of opportunities. Some immigrant children developed fantasies of living exciting lives in world capitals, and these young people were especially vulnerable to promises of opportunities to become models or movie stars. Some fell prey to criminals working in organized sex and human-trafficking rings.
James Alexander (1998), in his study of the Russian cities of Syktyvkar and Kirovto, noted that the instability that emerged in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union and its subsequent economic transition meant that Russians became more concerned about their economic and social conditions than about politics. Because their survival was no longer guaranteed by the government, they struggled to meet their basic needs. As a result of the increasingly unstable environment, many children became easy victims of human traffickers.
Hughes (2004) has examined human-trafficking rings through the prism of Internet-based marriage agencies. She finds that thousands of desperate women in Russia and Eastern Europe would do almost anything to lift themselves out of poverty. As a result, many make the decision to risk traveling abroad with the assistance of marriage agencies, even if they have to enter the destination country illegally. Hughes also observes that many women who meet men and marry with the help of a marriage agency eventually end up being trafficked.
Bryon MacWilliams (2002) adds that because of hardship in the new Russia, many university students struggling to pay college tuition have been recruited by brothel owners to work as prostitutes. For these young women, he observes, working in nightclubs or maintaining relationships with their sponsors or pimps is the only way to guarantee their college education. So many college students in Russia are involved in prostitution that the activity operates as an organized Internet business.
THE SEX TRADE IN THE UNITED STATES
Most of the world's labor migration takes place along the United States-Mexico border. However, strict enforcement of immigration laws and anti-immigration sentiments in the United States have resulted in an underground enterprise that relies extensively on unskilled labor. In addition to exploited labor, this underground economy includes prostitution and sex trafficking. American men are steered into becoming the major customers of prostitutes supplied by Mexican traffickers. Hundreds of male tourists flow into Mexico from the United States to secure girls and women in prostitution.
This illegal trade is complicated by the fact that hundreds of unemployed women and youths who seek work in the United States must depend on labor traffickers (coyotes) to help them cross into the United States in their quest for jobs. In some cases, coyotes lure the poor and helpless women and youths with false promises of jobs in the United States. Sex traffickers sometimes even transport and sell their subjects themselves. According to Laura Lederer and the Protection Project (2001), Mexico has become a major state of origin and a destination point for trafficking of women and children. Mexico has also become a stopover point for the transportation of people along several trafficking routes in Latin America and the Caribbean that include the countries of Guatemala, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Colombia.
One of the most common ways women are trafficked across the border into the United States is through the use of illegal documents. Traffickers take legal documents away from their victims and give them to others to use when crossing the border. In some cases, the traffickers produce fake documents for their victims, although some women cross the border without inspection. In some cases, tourists or people of high repute, such as diplomats, are paid to escort the women. False marriage partners may also be arranged for trafficked women. Once they have entered the United States (or another destination country), the victims are moved around regularly. If they resist their involvement in prostitution, they may be raped until they acquiesce to their captors' demands, a practice known as softening or seasoning. The victims are often kept in one location for only a short period so they do not develop attachments to a person or a place, and do not build relationships with other sex providers or learn how to report their ordeal to law-enforcement authorities.
RISK FACTORS FOR TRAFFICKING VICTIMS
Traffickers tend to prey on vulnerable people and disadvantaged groups who are struggling to meet basic human needs (push factors). Pull forces also tend to attract victims, as well as drive the motivations and actions of traffickers.
Aiko Joshi (2002) and Alexis Aronowitz (2001) note that people at high risk for falling victim to traffickers are often those caught up in political strife, civil war, and economic crisis. They also contend that the disadvantaged status of women, the high demand for cheap labor, the growing sex industry, and unrestricted mobility of labor in the age of globalization are the primary factors driving human trafficking. R. E. Bell (2001) and Ali Miller and Alison Stewart (1998) also argue that persons trying to escape ethnic discrimination, government corruption, and armed conflict are more susceptible to traffickers. Other factors include age, poverty, gender inequality, unemployment, sexual abuse, health and mental health problems, police and political corruption, substance abuse, physical abuse, learning disabilities, loss of parents or caregivers, sexual-identity issues, lack of support systems, homelessness, and status as a runaway or throwaway.
Many victims of human trafficking suffer from a host of disorders as a result of their traumatic experiences. Some effects are immediate while others are long-term, but their physical and mental health needs command attention. Tania Misra and her colleagues (2006) argue that, in addition to treatment for depression and trauma, victims living outside their home countries should be given language assistance. Other researchers, such as Joop de Jong and colleagues (2001) and Nirakar Man Shrestha and colleagues (1998) maintain that human-trafficking victims tend to experience symptoms peculiar to torture victims: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depressive disorders, and substance abuse.
Angela Shen Ryan (1997) observes that young international victims tend to develop feelings of isolation, depression, and survivor guilt, as well as behavioral and aggression problems, to the extent of questioning their cultural identity. Minors are designated by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as those whose ages fall below eighteen years. According to HHS, minors can receive federally funded services and benefits, such as housing or shelter, English-language training, food assistance, and health care. But because of cultural differences and language barriers, minors are often unable to communicate effectively with their caregivers on critical issues of need, including safety, housing, food and clothing, legal assistance, advocacy (moral and emotional counseling and support), dental and medical care, substance abuse, mental health, transportation, education, job training and employment, and family reunification and repatriation.
BARRIERS TO ACCESSING AND PROVIDING SERVICES
There are many barriers and challenges to providing services to victims of human trafficking. Christine De Rosa and colleagues (1999), M. L. Dennis and colleagues (2004), and Ann Aviles and Christine Helfrich (2004) argue that barriers to victims' willingness to access services include their relative isolation from society, as well as such rules as strict control of movements, limits on the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol, restrictions concerning visitors and companions, and restrictions concerning the publicizing of victims' location. Other barriers to providing services to victims of trafficking include confidentiality concerns, lack of trust, absence of culturally appropriate services, and a shortage of emotional and financial support. Kevin Bales (2004) contends that a sense of shame and stigma, fear of punishment, and fear of retaliation, arrest, and deportation are deterrents to victims' willingness to access appropriate services.
However, other researchers, such as Patricia Dobkin and colleagues (1998), Catherine Spooner and colleagues (2001), Pamela Noel (2006), and G. Melnick and colleagues (1997) claim that such factors as mental health, low motivation, and substance abuse are among the predictors of high attrition for victims with respect to their submission to therapy or treatment. Another barrier Page 369 | Top of Articleto victims' willingness to access services is the inability to self-identify, meaning that victims may be reluctant to see themselves as victims. Rather than blame the perpetrators, they blame themselves as responsible for the situation they find themselves in. The result is that victims are less likely to report to appropriate law-enforcement authorities or seek medical or other forms of assistance. Similarly, providers of services are confronted with the following obstacles: difficulty in identifying or reaching victims because trafficking is often a hidden crime; lack of awareness and training among service providers; a shortage of resources among service providers; cultural and language barriers; poor service coordination and delivery; and safety concerns.
SOLUTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Seelke and Siskin (2008), the African Union (2002), and Jacqueline Oxman-Martinez and Jill Hanley (2004) propose the following as possible solutions to the problem of human trafficking:
- Establish a legislative framework for reform.
- Harmonize the definition of organized crime with international conventions and universalize the international standard to fight human trafficking through policy reform.
- Mount a global fight against poverty.
- Reform migration policies.
- Relax migration impediments across nations.
- Institutionalize gender mainstreaming, an approach that aims to ensure gender equality.
- Institute and harmonize human-trafficking responses across national borders.
- Establish effective law enforcement.
- Address the root causes of human trafficking through education, training, awareness-raising, and research and data collection designed to discover and record the most promising practices for dealing with the problem of human trafficking.
- Prevent trafficking in source countries through increased lobbying, funding, and education.
- Improve border control to prevent and detect trafficking in persons.
- Strengthen interjurisdictional cooperation among state parties.
- Build cooperation among nations to prevent and punish smuggling, trafficking, and transnational organized crime through sharing of information, resources, and training.
- Insist that affected states offer protection to human-trafficking victims.
- Cultivate international support for case-by-case refugee determination for trafficking victims.
- Expand victims' access to health and social services.
Eventually, these strategies will help to improve the status of women, restore the right of safe return for victims, and lead to the prosecution of traffickers and the criminalization of trafficking.
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Ngozi Caleb Kamalu (2013)
Fayetteville State University, NC