International human rights law defines human trafficking as the violation of an individual’s right to liberty and security through appropriation of their legal personality, labor and humanity. When a person is trafficked, they may be subjected to one of the following forms of inhumane treatment: slavery, servitude, forced labor, bonded labor, gender-based violence, sexual violence, and others (Stoklosa, Grace & Littenberg, 2016). In the era of increased mobility, human trafficking is especially challenging to track and stop in its ways. The present paper seeks to raise awareness about the issue through outlining causes of human trafficking and showing its detrimental impact on the victim and society.
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Origins and Causes of Human Trafficking
The history of human trafficking dates back to the times when slavery first emerged. At present, there is not a single country where slavery would be legal. Yet, as Stoklosa, Grace, and Littenberg write (2016), human trafficking was detected in all 50 US states and 124 countries of the world, with many cases still remaining unreported. In her study, Seo Young (2015) ponders the nature of the phenomenon and how the changing world with its current tendencies predisposes certain demographics to be more vulnerable to traffickers. One cause pointed out by Seo Young (2015) is the rise of migration due to the increased mobility and globalization. The researcher cites a recent survey that investigated the cases of 10,000 victims of human trafficking. Surprisingly enough, only 5% of them were actually kidnapped while the majority fell victim to human trafficking when attempting to move to another country through predatory “agencies” and unreliable personal connections. Another finding made by Seo Young (2015) states the rate of migration between two countries positively correlates with the rate of human trafficking.
Some groups of people are especially at risk of falling victim to human trafficking. Seo Young (2015) explains that women are more likely to be held against their will and traded due to the profitability of such a venture for the perpetrators. The majority of human trafficking cases deal with prostitution where the core customer base consists of heterosexual males. Further, Seo Young (2015) argues that contrary to popular belief, it is often not ignorance and lack of education that push women to put themselves at risk of being trafficked. According to the researcher, many female trafficking victims were seeking highly paid career opportunities in foreign countries, which implies that they were educated to begin with. However, it is not merely a matter of personal ambition: it is often the case that the origin country has a poor job market situation, pushing people to look into work migration.
Lastly, some other factors influencing the human trafficking rate are the presence of criminal organizations and the risk of being caught. Seo Young (2015) cites other studies, concluding that human trafficking is closely associated with other criminal activities. One should expect human trafficking to be a greater problem in countries with poorly controlled human smuggling and drug trading (Seo Young, 2015). Apart from that, the phenomenon is more pronounced and aggravated when the government of an affected country fails to take measures. This leaves criminal organizations with more leeway to conduct their illegal operations.
The Impact of Human trafficking on the Victim and Society
Human trafficking has an extremely detrimental, traumatizing effect on its victims. Hemmings et al. (2016) explain that being subject to human trading puts an enormous strain on a person’s physical and mental health. The researchers state that human trafficking victims often report headache, fatigue, dizziness, and stomach pain (Hemmings et al., 2016). It is readily imaginable how malnourishment, harsh living conditions, and inhumane, cruel treatment can lead to the development of chronic diseases. They are likely to persist even after a victim is rescued (Hemmings et al., 2016).
Emotional and psychological consequences may present an even greater challenge for victims, their families, and medical professionals. Hemmings et al. (2016) name such mental disorders as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as some of the most common consequences of being trafficked. All of these conditions have the potential to become debilitating: the emotional pain, grieving, and frustration are so great that an individual is unable to function (Hemmings et al., 2016). It is likely that human trafficking victims will require years of therapy and treatment before fully recovering and returning to their old selves.
Now that the effects of human trafficking at an individual level are outlined, it is essential to describe the effects on a larger scale. Njoku (2015) investigates the case of Nigeria, a West African country, that is notorious for sex trafficking. The author points out that because of the many incidents of human trafficking, Nigeria suffers from poor international reputation. Namely, other countries presume that the Nigerian government is unable to handle the problem and does nothing to help its citizens. This observation leads to another point: the social impact of human trafficking. If the issue remains unaddressed by the authorities, the government may lose citizens’ trust. The imminent threat of being kidnapped and subjected to forced labor might push individuals to consider migration. The latter in turn is associated with poor economic outcomes as citizens’ displacement or migration means shortages in the workforce.
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Challenges: Future Prospects of the Issue
It is likely that the phenomenon of human trafficking will become more resonant in the global society. However, to achieve this goal, it is essential that policy makers grow more aware of the pending issue and develop strategies to combat this crime against humanity. I agree with an idea put forward by Seo Young (2015) that governments might lack gender diversity to be more efficient when addressing the issue. Since women make up the majority of human trafficking victims, one may expect that female politicians would be more vehement in fighting for the cause that is in their interests. Apart from women politicians, human trafficking victims themselves can get on the forefront of the fight, of course, with due protection and confidentiality. Storytelling could be a powerful tool in raising awareness of human trafficking and demonstrating that the issue is more pandemic that it might appear.
Addressing human trafficking will require overcoming some barriers and obstacles on the way to establishing human rights for all. A major obstacle is related to how institutions respond to the issue and how effective they are at taking measures. Stoklosa, Grace, and Littenberg (2015) argue that human trafficking victims are not necessarily kept completely isolated. On the contrary, they may appear as normal members of society and come into contact with other people, though under close supervision from their traffickers. Stoklosa, Grace, and Littenberg (2015) claim that training medical professionals to help human trafficking victims can have a tangible positive impact on their lives. Unfortunately, as the evidence suggests, currently, healthcare workers are not educated on the subject matter (Stoklosa, Grace & Littenberg, 2016). In some cases, medical professionals may even aggravate the situation for the victim if they are not thoughtful and considerate enough.
Hemmings et al. (2016) convincingly make a case for promoting disclosure when it comes to identifying human trafficking victims. The researchers provide recommendations for health workers; yet, the guidelines are general enough to be relevant for employees that deal with people in other sectors as well. Hemmings et al. (2016) write that the rescue operation should start with identification. In this sense, medical professionals might have more leverage than other specialists. They may be trained to identify injuries that are characteristic of physical and sexual violence. Besides, they have personal conversations with patients during which they may notice personal presentation inconsistencies and other telltale signs (Hemmings et al., 2016). In summation, human trafficking can only be combatted if there is a system in place that relies on people trained to respond quickly and wisely.
I have chosen the issue of human trafficking because it is one of the most heinous and persistent crimes against humanity that has yet to be resolved. From the literature research, it has become clear that the determinants of human trafficking are diverse and often cannot be eliminated completely. For instance, the process of globalization cannot be stopped, and it is likely that in the decades to come, our world will grow even more interconnected. Another determinant that is there to stay is the vulnerability of certain demographic cohorts. These insights lead me to the point that the only feasible option is to change the political agenda and implement it at all levels.
At the state level, it is essential that the government combats crime as a whole because its different types fuel each other and are interconnected. I have already described what could be done at the community level. Employees could be trained to identify the signs of abuse and human trafficking and refer victims to relevant institutions. Lastly, each one of us could learn about these signs as well because one timely action can be life-changing for a struggling individual.
Human trafficking is a human rights issue that has existed for thousands of years ever since the emergence of slavery. Today, this phenomenon still persists, mutating and taking new forms in line with the global trends. Some of the determinants of human trafficking include the migration rate, belongingness to vulnerable demographics, and law reinforcement or the lack thereof. Human trafficking impacts both the victims and society as a whole. Victims are likely to suffer from physical and mental illnesses and struggle to regain trust in the world and the energy to continue living. The unresolved issue of human trafficking ruins the political reputation of a country, its societal order, and the economy. When it comes to solutions, personally, I envision a strategy that would encompass measures on the state, community, and individual scales. There must be clear guidelines as to how victims are identified and treated by institutions and individuals. However, it should be noted that despite the best efforts, some determinants will probably never be eliminated fully.
Cho, S. Y. (2015). Modelling for determinants of human trafficking. Social Inclusion, 3, 2-21.
Hemmings, S., Jakobowitz, S., Abas, M., Bick, D., Howard, L. M., Stanley, N.,… & Oram, S. (2016). Responding to the health needs of survivors of human trafficking: a systematic review. BMC health services research, 16(1), 320.
Njoku, A. O. (2015). Human trafficking and its effects on national image: The Nigerian case. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Academic Research, 2(2), 21-30.
Stoklosa, H., Grace, A. M., & Littenberg, N. (2015). Medical education on human trafficking. AMA journal of ethics, 17(10), 914-921.