Human trafficking is described as “the recruitment and transportation or transfer of persons by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, 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,” according to the United Nations (Shelley and Lee, 7). Globally, human trafficking is the third most prevalent crime being prosecuted and combated (Shelley and Lee,14). The history of trafficking begins in the era of slavery where people were abducted or forced into labor for the profit of their then “owners”. In the new age, trafficking and slavery are abolished and perpetrators are apprehended and convicted. The paper is going to discuss and analyze the concept of trafficking.
According to Gozdziak (28), around thirty million people in the world currently are victims of slavery. According to the U.S. State Department, around eight hundred thousand people have trafficked across different international borders annually, of which women and children make the most victims (Gozdziak, 28). The trafficking phenomenon is sometimes confused with smuggling. Smuggling is defined as the procurement, in order to obtain profit, either financial or material, of the illegal entry of a person or goods into a nation of which the person is not a national or a permanent citizen in violation of applicable laws and regulations (Kempadoo et al., 57). In trafficking, the victims are forcefully taken and transported against their will while in smuggling; some are smuggled with their consent. A sort of dependency is created by the traffickers in trafficking to ensure the cooperation of the victims. The main similarity that remains constant in their definitions is the illegal nature of the two phenomenon.
The purpose of human trafficking is mainly for profit of the perpetrators of the business. Traffickers take advantage of loop holes in law enforcement protocols to exploit vulnerable individuals. Gozdziak (48) states that these individuals are made more vulnerable to forced labour practices because of joblessness poverty, high rates of criminal activity, corruption, political instability and poor economic state. When consumers willingly buy goods and services from industries that rely on forced labour, that is, slavery, they create an opportunity for human traffickers to maximize their profits with minimal production costs.
The human trafficking phenomenon has been described as a process by some researchers(Gozdziak,33). The process begins with recruitment where victims are lured by promises of better lives and abducted and then in most cases transported across borders. The traffickers usually provide forged documents for transport and bribe government officials to get a free pass. The victims are then forced into labor by threats. The traffickers exploit the victims and after a period of service, the victims get disposed. The disposal methodologies include being sold to other traffickers or sometimes being murdered.
Trafficking is categorized into different forms which include sex trafficking, forced labor and debt bondage(Shelley and Lee, 21). Sex traffickers put the individuals that are trafficked into work in form of slave prostitution. The victims are forced into profitable sexual activities where all the profits are collected by the trafficker (Kempadoo et al.,39). Traffickers are reported to get the victims addicted to hard drugs such that it limits them from ever running away in fear of not getting their daily fix (dose). Addiction creates interdependency between the victims of trafficking and the traffickers. Sex slaves are the most traumatized in the trafficking business mainly because of the shame of things they are forced to do. It is hard for them to seek help due to this trauma and also the state of their minds as they are almost always on drugs.
In the category of forced labor, the victims are placed in servitude domestically or sometimes in manufacturing companies. The victims placed in domestic servitude are kept in servitude through the use of force, such as physical and mental torture. Children are particularly the most vulnerable to the domestic slavery which occurs in private homes and is often looked over by the authorities. There is great demand in some of the wealthy countries of Asia and the Middle East for domestic servants who, very often, fall victim to conditions of involuntary slavery. Individuals, mainly women and children, from developing countries and from less advantaged sections of society in developed countries are deceived by promises of decent living conditions and good employment (Shelley and Lee, 41). The victims are provided with transportation fees and documents, which are usually faked, used to transport them to their ironically promised land, where they find themselves forced into domestic servitude and held in the worst conditions and in constant fear.
In debt bondage, the victims are forced into labor by use of a debt to keep an individual in subjugation. Debt bondage is defined as voluntary offering of personal services as collateral for a debt where the value of those services is not applied towards the clearing of the debt or their length or nature of the bondage is not limited and defined (Kempadoo et al., 56). The practice criminalized in many nations though it still largely practiced especially in south Asian countries and Sub-Saharan countries. The history of debt bondage goes a long way back to the times of ancient Rome and Greece where an individual would voluntarily place himself or his children as collateral for a loan. The practice was later abolished to prevent physical abuses to the integrity of the parties involved. Despite this abolishment, the practice of debt bondage has continued. In some parts of south Asia, new generations continue to work in bondage in an effort to clear the older generations’ debt. The new world is fighting to abolish enslavement of persons due to debt. Many organizations, such as end slavery now and antislavery, are established with the goal of ending the practice.
Traffickers look for vulnerabilities when luring new recruits (victims). The most sought for victims are those who are emotionally or psychologically vulnerable (Kempadoo et al., 62). Due to their weakness in decision making, the traffickers find it easy to lure and abduct them. The political and also the economic state of a nation may encourage traffickers to carry out their practice in the affected countries. In times of economic hardship, the rate of crime in a country tends to raise, thus one of the crimes being human trafficking. More people are lured by the promise of employment during a time when jobs are scarce and poverty is on the high rise.
In times of natural disasters, traffickers take advantage of the state of an ease during the period of the disaster. An individual abducted during a natural disaster may be considered dead and the abductors are left unnoticed. After the abduction, traffickers employ a variety of inhumane control tactics, including physical and mental abuse, confiscation and destruction of identification and money, isolation from other people, and renaming of victims. As a result, victims feel trapped and fear leaving for different reasons including psychological trauma, emotional attachment to the traffickers, or threats directed to the victims or their families.
Certain attributes in an individual, a social group or a community makes them more vulnerable to trafficking and other related exploitation. The attributes mainly include poverty or some other social disadvantages of which contributes to creating a poor economic state and more social disadvantages that limit an individual’s choices and make it easier for traffickers and exploiters to take advantage. Understanding the nature of particular vulnerabilities in a community can help to ensure that prevention measures and responses are effective. Communities should help elevate factors that render members of their community vulnerable especially women and children. Individuals in the society can help to curb human trafficking in their communities by not participating in the commerce of any products of forced labor. Community members can se the available resources to create awareness and see how human trafficking exists in the different services and products they consume. Buying fair trade products and holding their favorite brands accountable for fair labor practices would be a good step into a better future. Alongside the efforts of law enforcement, the affected community can help to reduce the demand for human trafficking.
Human trafficking goes against several human rights laws(Kempadoo et al.,90). Human rights law has abolished discrimination on the basis of gender and race; it has demanded equal for non-citizens; it has outlawed forced labour, debt bondage and the sexual exploitation of children and women, it has demanded for freedom of movement and the right to leave and return to one’s own country at will. The same laws also dictate the right to life, the right to liberty, the right not to be submitted to slavery, servitude, forced labour or bonded labour, the right to be free from gendered violence, the right to freedom of association, the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the right to just and favourable conditions of work. The law advocates for the right to an adequate standard of living and the right of children to special protection (Kempadoo et al.,93).
In the United States, the penalties put in place for traffickers include a jail sentencing, not less that twelve years to life and increasing every year. The fines in place for the crime are up to $1,500,000 with the fine increasing by a couple million dollars every year. In some countries, a trafficker is expected to register as a sexual offender. Different countries and organizations such as the UN (United Nations) have put in place descriptive legislations on the prosecution of human traffickers. All police officers are also put in trafficking training in order to be able to handle traffickers on site and rescue the victims of the practice ().
In conclusion, human trafficking has been around for a long time and is set to grow vastly in the coming future. The laws and regulations put in place may protect people for the long term but the fight must be taken as an individual obligation. People should never be sold or bought. Each person must beware and recognize their obligation to the safety of their society in the fight against trafficking. Anyone can be a victim but we can all take part in rooting out human trafficking from our societies.
Kempadoo, K., Sanghera, J., Pattanaik, B., Trafficking and prostitution reconsidered: New perspectives on migration, sex work, and human rights, 2015.
Shelley, L., Lee, M., Human trafficking as a form of transnational crime, 2007.
Gozdziak, E.M., Collet, E.A.,Research on human trafficking in North America: A review of literature, 2005.