Human trafficking or trafficking in human beings is defined as the movement of people without their consent, usually by means of force for the intention of sexual or labor exploitation. Those who are mostly at risk of trafficking are women and children. Trafficking takes the form of kidnapping for the reason of sexual and domestic service, for debt discharge, the exchange of women for the resolution of disputes, forced prostitution and the sexual abuse of children. They fall victim to traffickers out of poverty and the lack of opportunity in their home countries.
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Trafficking has been considered as a worldwide illegal activity. This is because it has no concern or deference of state borders and boundaries. The profits obtained from trafficking supply the reserves of organized crime. Trafficking, is then encouraged by such other criminal activities as document scams, money laundering and mostly immigrant smuggling. (Population Today 2002, 1).
According to the US department of Justice, human trafficking is a type of modern day slavery that is of a high scale. For this reason, it is also both labor and time demanding activity. That said, according to the Department, 700 000 to 2 million people, the majority of whom are women and children , fall victim to traffickers each year. The trafficking is usually across international borders. Accordingly, 35% of these victims are usually under the age of 18 years. According to a report by population today, human trafficking is some kind of big business. It is reportedly the third largest source of profits for organized crime after drugs and guns, making billions of dollars each year. (Population Today 2002, 1, 4). Again, the Department of Justice estimates that some 17 000 people are trafficked into the United States each year and forced into labor or sex slavery for diminutive or no pay. These people are also often subjected to inhumane treatment and abuses both physically and mentally. On its part, the United Nations estimates that worldwide, there are between 20-27 million people who are being held in slavery, by violence, against their will, and for no pay. According to the US under secretary of state for global affairs, the number of victims involved in sexual and other kinds of trafficking has been growing steadily since the 1990’s. As at 2000, the figures stood at 700 000 to 4 million people trafficked every year across borders. The trafficking of women and children was rampant with many of them consequently being forced into prostitution. For instance, some 45 000 to 50 000 women and children and an unidentified number of men it was estimated in 1997, had been trafficked into the US according to the US Department of State. Ultimately, human trafficking is world wide human rights crisis that involves an estimated 2 million people in a year. These victims are usually trafficked from , Asia, , Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Latin America and Africa. Concurrently, it is also estimated that some 1 million children, primarily fro Asia fall victim to trafficking each year. Again, about 500 00 children of Brazilian origin are forced into prostitution each year while an estimated 250 000 women and children from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are transported each year to other countries including to the United States. (Christian Century 2000, 449-450).According to international laws enforcement officials, human being are the most profitable goods that are illegally traded in after guns and drugs. (Detroit Free press, 2004).
According to Masci, with 27 million people held in some kind of slavery, forced prostitution and bonded labor, human trafficking still flourishes in the world. The problem lies in the fact that while humanitarian groups engage in the buying of captives’ independence as a way of putting an end to the slavery, forced labor and prostitution, the action is counter productive in that it encourages even more trafficking. This is worthwhile, booming business for the traffickers, they will just traffic more slaves whose autonomy will be bought off by the humanitarian groups. More women and children will ultimately be transported across borders to captivity. On the same line, even with the strengthening of laws and acts such as the Trafficking Victims’ Protection Act, in the US, thousands of women are still trafficked within its borders. The problem lies in the fact that the act is not considered as tough enough. Politics is the interfering factor. For instance, certain US partners who are known to harbor notorious traffickers are usually treated with ‘kid gloves’. The reason, there seems no need to spoil the rapport that exists between these countries even for such serious issues as human trafficking. Clearly, there is no will and commitment to address and end this critical issue. (Masci, 2004).
Documented examples or cases illustrating human trafficking
Human trafficking is really alive and rampant as illustrated by the following cases.
Case 1: According to the BBC, the gangs (informal immigration officials) that are involved in the traffic of humans from China and into Europe charge as much as 30 000 dollars for each person. This is clearly a huge some of money for most victims. However, sometimes their families and even villages chip in. After all, the person will be escaping poverty and there is a likelihood that if he/she makes it abroad, his family and village will benefit too. The trafficking involves the victims targeted for Britain being hidden in the back of lorries for ferries that cross over from mainland Europe. Nonetheless, circumstances change when they get to their destination. They are usually kidnapped and held hostage where they are threatened with death unless their families cough up huge sums of money as ransom. They become hostages subjected to abuse and poor living conditions. The women are more often than not forced into prostitution. (BBC News, 2001).
Case 2: In 2002, six people were charged in New York for trafficking some 40 Mexicans and using them for forced labor. The six had been lured from the state of Arizona after promises of better paying work in New York. This marked the very first time that the Victims’ of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 had been put to use. According to the Act, the penalty for using force labor on victims would attract a penalty of 20 years in prison. (Anti slavery.org, 2002).
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Why human trafficking is an issue of concern, its effects and sources
Human trafficking has always been an issue, it can be traced all the way back to the bible. Most people, even the kings, kept for themselves slaves for different purposes. These slaves were obviously obtained by certain means. It would therefore be correct to conclude that trafficking was one of them. However, trafficking has reached a high magnitudes in modern day terms. Trafficking targets mostly women and children due to the fact that they are the most vulnerable members of society. These people tend to be the most affected when it come to the disparities in wealth and even income. As they search for better living standards, to escape poverty and seek better economic activities, they fall victim to the traffickers. This is exacerbated by the fact that in the developed countries, there is growing need for cheap labor tied with the need of these vulnerable groups, who mostly lead precarious lives, to experience better lives. Demand in the developing countries for cheap labor is what fuels human trafficking in countries of origin. Thus, they seek out what could be termed as ‘informal’ (illegal) migration methods hence falling victim to traffickers. This is almost always supported by certain cultures where women and children occupy less status with little or no rights. In the end human trafficking results in untold suffering and even death for most of the victims. Children are robbed of the chance to experience their innocent childhood. In other cases, the families end up poorer than before as they cough out untold sums of money just to get passes from ‘informal’ migration officials. In addition, it presents immense problems to countries as they seek to deal with the problem which requires large sums of money to effectively deal with. Think of all the personnel needed and even the money used by humanitarian groups to buy off the freedom of the captives. (Office of crime victims’ advocacy, 2004).
Approach taken by experts and analysts
For a long time policies have been formulated for implementation as a way of addressing the human trafficking issue. This is both at the international and even national levels. For instance, in 2000, the United Nations adopted the Protocol to Prevent , Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children. These set of rules were designed to supplement the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Accordingly, it was to help in strengthening preceding international agreements dating as far back as 1904. In the United States, in 2000 congress approved the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) that was intended at preventing trafficking, punishing traffickers, in addition to defending and supporting trafficked persons. The TVPA aims at protecting those considered to be victims of what is referred to as severe forms of trafficking. These includes those subjected to sex trafficking brought on by way of force, deception or intimidation and especially in cases where the victims is less that 18 years old. It also prevents the enrollment, harboring, shipping, provision or obtaining people for labor services by way of force, deceit and compulsion. (Office of crime victims’ advocacy 2004) Internationally there are such laws as The Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others which seeks to prevent the trafficking of women especially for purposes of prostitution. (TED case studies 2008).
Proposals for solutions or policy responses
In order that human trafficking can be effectively dealt with, there is need for certain things to be put in place. First, there is need for the drawing and execution of a service delivery system in all countries and especially where human trafficking is rampant. This means that the relevant expertise that can appropriately identify and respond to the victims of trafficking (victim assistance) need to be created. In addition, local responders and other people dealing in curtailing human trafficking such as law enforcers, medical personnel, social services and community service providers need the necessary awareness, skills and expertise. More over, a system of documentation that serves to determine the frequency and pervasiveness of trafficking within particular areas need to be put in place. (Office of crime victims’ advocacy, 2004).
Kemeny posits that it is important to analyze two important institutions in an attempt to address the issue of human trafficking. This then means addressing the mission of the church, the purpose of government and how the two should relate to one another with respect to the justice system. (2007) Should the laws of the church precede the laws of the state, do the traditional laws carry more weight than modern laws? According to O’Donovan and O’Donovan, the overriding political good rests in enhancing human freedom individually and collectively whether older or modern tradition is followed. (2004).
Leithart on his part opines that there is a need to explore the strengths and weaknesses of postmodernism theory. To Leithart, the theory reflects the important biblical factor of elusiveness and instability of the world. This is important in explaining why human trafficking exists. But he goes on to show that biblical faith takes us beyond pessimism and desperation. This means that all is not lost in finding a lasting solution into human trafficking. (2008).
According to Lewis, the solution lies in public education and activism. To him there are inherent ramifications in teaching relativism, as opposed to values of objectivity, the belief that a certain approach is really factual, and others false, to the type of thing the world is and the kinds of things people are. To Lewis, this is the ‘Tao’. The society needs a sense of objective values. More so morality. A proactive approach to end human trafficking is both moral and an objective value. (1944).
There is a need to implement controls that seek to ensure the enforcement of both local and international laws. This in turn calls for the strengthening of political cooperation between countries. More over, there should be a strict observance of the international standards and laws that are already in place. This means that known human traffickers should not be able to hide in the laws of foreign countries. There should be no loop holes in the laws pertaining to human trafficking. It should be put to an end and all governments should work together towards this. (Office of crime victims’ advocacy, 2004).
Lobbying could result in the formulation of policies that seek to protect the victims of human trafficking even more. For instance, the anti slavery international organization in Europe lobbies at both the national and international level for the application of better human rights as way of protecting the victims of human trafficking. (Anti slavery.org, 2008).
Obstacles and limitations
As much as countries would like to provide such services as victim assistance, they are usually limited by certain factors. For instance, legal provisions bar the undocumented migrants from the benefits and services linked with victim assistance. In most cases, those individuals that are trafficked but not acknowledged and documented by law enforcement as victims of severe forms of trafficking under the Trafficking Victims Protections Act (TVPA) are usually detained as criminals or deported. More over, the statutes do not allow for the legal representation of these trafficked individuals who are not documented. This has important consequences. Because the trafficked individuals are scared of deportations and detention since they do no fit in with the definition of victims of severe forms of trafficking, they never seek help. This is in turn a drawback in the documentation into the incidences and prevalence of trafficking. The result is that adequate policies cannot be formulated and implemented to address the situation.
There is also the lack of adequate funding to keep the victims assistance service running. Bills have to be paid and the personnel effectively trained so they can give services efficiently. Governments and other agencies also have other pressing issues that need to be dealt with. However, there has to be commitment and cooperation from all the stake holders involved for overall success in addressing the human trafficking issue. (Office of crime victims’ advocacy 2004)
Human trafficking can simply be defined as trade in human beings/people. Human trafficking has over the years become the most profitable trading venture after drugs and guns. It is part of organized crime. People are transported from their homes to foreign countries on the promise of better paying jobs and even better living conditions. The most vulnerable groups include women and children. Mostly, these people end up as victims in either force labor and in the case of women, prostitution. According to the US Department of State, human trafficking is widespread. An estimated 2 million people are trafficked every year. Human trafficking is an issue of concern because it traverses national and international boundaries. It results not only in the death but also the suffering of the victims. In addition it results in making their economic situations even worse than before because they pay huge sums of money to get their tickets abroad while other times they have to pay huge sums as ransom. More over it presents countries with immense legal and social problems. Thus there has been a need for appropriate policies to be put in place to effectively deal with the crisis. Still, the policies need the cooperation of all stake holders if they are to work effectively. However, there are still obstacles in the form of legal restrictions especially for those who do not qualify as victims of severe forms of trafficking. This needs to be addressed as they are the major reasons why the war on human trafficking has not been entirely successful.
Anti slavery.org. ‘Forced labor case marks a first for US law’. (2002). Web.
Anti slavery.org. ‘Trafficking programme’. (2008). Web.
BBC News. ‘Human trafficking: Chinese gangs’ cruel trade’. (2001). Web.
‘Human trafficking exposes’. Population Today 30, no. 1 (2002): 1,4.
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Kemeny, P.C. Church, State and Public Justice: Five views. Downers grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007.
Leithart, Peter J. Solomon among the post moderns. Grand rapids, Michigan: Branzos press, 2008.
Lewis, C.S. The abolition of man. New York: Harper Collins, 1944.
Masci, David. ‘Human trafficking and slavery. Are the world’s nations doing enough to stamp it out?’ CQ Researcher 14, no.12 (2004).
O’Donovan, Joan Lockwood & O’Donovan Oliver. Bonds of imperfection: Christian politics past and present. Grand Rapid, Michigan: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing company, 2004.
Office of Crime victims’ advocacy. ‘Human trafficking: Present day slavery’. (2004).
‘Sex on the block’. Detroit Free Press. (2004): 4l.
‘Sexual trafficking on the rise’. Christian Century, 117, no. 13 (2000): 449-450.
TED case studies. ‘Trafficking in Russian women: Sexual exploitation as a growing form of international trade’. (2008).