Human trafficking is a major crime and a series violation of human rights rooted in poverty. Traffickers profit while meeting the consumers’ demand and in the middle, there are victims who are often children, men, and women from poor countries living without any basic everyday needs such as clean water, electricity, proper shelter and certainly no education. Criminals take advantage of people with these kind of needs, desperation for money and better future to trap their prey. More and more people are becoming aware of the danger of human trafficking, yet nothing seems to be done to stop this crime or reduce it at the very least. Every year millions of humans are being trafficked all over the globe and stripped out of their freedom and dignity. Women are primarily manipulated and targeted for prostitution, while children and men are for forced labour and removal of organs.
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Human trafficking can be defined as “the act of recruiting, transporting or using a human being for commercial sex acts, involuntary servitude, or any other activity against their will, or best of interests” (Barner, Okech & Camp, 2014). Poverty, on the other hand, could be viewed as “a state of low income or that of weak consumption, which is associated with poor health, hunger, insecurity, low literacy levels, as well as a sense of powerlessness” (Savadogo et al. 2015).
Nothing is new under the sun. Human trafficking or modern day slavery is not something that just started yesterday. This practice can be traced back to the earliest documented sources, describing its practice in the ancient Near East. “Slaves were defined by their social status and were subjected to work for the upper class” (Bradley & Cartledge, 2011). Following the industrialization of Mesopotamia, the need for labor intensified, necessitating an exchange of this ‘tool of production’. The use of citizens rose up to the task, as expected, converting slave trade into a busy market. What followed was the stratification of slaves, with different slaves being sold for ‘dullu’ (forced labor). Product standardization was also carried out at this point, as slaves were expected not to be dissimilar. That’s when “practices such as tattooing slaves, slave haircuts and even fetters, were introduced” (Bradley & Cartledge, 2011). All these served to normalize a crime against humanity, which was so desensitized.
“The human trafficking market is the third most lucrative trade worldwide, despite its outlawing” (Gonzalez, 2015). The main factors leading to the thriving of this trade include poverty, defunct government structures, as well as corruption by law enforcement agencies. This is therefore a perfectly organized trade with established sources, transit systems, as well as ready market. The international market entails a huge leaning towards female trafficking, with huge sources being acquired from former Soviet Union members such as Russia and Ukraine (Barner, Oketch & Camp, 2014). They are then trafficked through the notorious Golden Triangle, before finding themselves mostly in Asian countries. Most of these countries involved are well known war-torn countries with defunct security systems. A hi-tech smuggling system was also uncovered in Japan, in which smugglers use legal means to smuggle slaves, through diplomatic as well as the infamous ‘Entertainment visas’ (Barner, Oketch & Camp, 2014). Western developed countries have not been spared either. Sex slaves as well as domestic workers have surprisingly found their way into countries such as The United Kingdom, Spain and France. As Barner explains, a very worrying trend is one of human trafficking that has popularized itself in the Middle East, where domestic workers are smuggled or ensnared unknowingly into these countries, where they face untold brutality, with some even being murdered.
At the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid is the necessity to meet physiological needs. It is this aspect at the bottom of the needs pyramid that the very poor have to struggle with. The most definite way to meet these needs is through employment, which brings us to one fundamental niche that human traffickers have exploited. Poverty predisposes people to desperation, which clouds judgement. One of the ways through which labor trafficking is carried out is through coercion and deception of desperate, unemployed individuals by using the pretext of offering employment (Whitman & Gray, 2015). An example from (Wannabovorn, 2008) of such a scenario is that of Thailand, 2008, where a number of migrants were being smuggled toward the resort island of Phuket, under inhumane conditions, with false promises of employment. According to the International Labor Organization, 2012 by 2015, roughly 14.2 million people were current victims of forced labor and it is reported by the same source that many enslaved women from the ‘problem areas’ in Eastern Europe are coerced into slavery under the pretext of employment as professional dancers, only to end up working as prostitutes and sex slaves. The point is, “when a girl comes from a very poor family, she’s at a high risk of being trafficked. It’s just too easy for recruiters to convince, or bribe, or blackmail, or outright kidnap her and funnel her into the sex trade” (Cordobo, 2008).
Child trafficking is also a menace that needs to be curbed. “Poverty, on the other hand, predisposes children to trafficking, owing to ineffectiveness of the legal framework that protects the minors” (Adesina, 2014). In countries with widespread economic disparity such as Nigeria, survival for the fittest is the norm. Unfortunately, even the security officers in charge of maintaining law and order are compromised, with some acting as accomplices to this trade, at a handsome price being paid by the traffickers. According to Adesina (2014), rural communities are vulnerable to child trafficking due to unemployment, ignorance, poverty, as well as defunct legal frameworks. Recently in 2014, we witnessed the kidnapping of 276 female Chibok students from a school in Nigeria. This opened up a whole new aspect of trafficking in which children are kidnapped, brainwashed, then radicalized, ending up in militias. “This is affirmed even more in Uganda where a warlord known as Joseph Kony abducts children from poor communities, forcing them to serve in his militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army” (Steele, 2013). Child trafficking could also start by parents in countries like China. According to the study, “The most common cause of child trafficking is China’s one-child policy. Implemented in 1980 and partially relaxed in 2013, the law imposes fines on families who give birth to two or more children. Families ill equipped to pay penalties on top of the costs of raising a child food, school tuition, etc” (Horwitz, 2015). Therefore they attempt to sell their own children for cash.
Natural as well as man-made disasters are some of the factors that predispose a population to widespread poverty, owing to abrupt breakdown of structures. “A widespread wave of forced migration and human trafficking has been witnessed in South Asia, which faces its own fair share of natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods” (Poncelet, Gemenne, Martiniello, & Bousetta, 2010). Citizens from these countries are faced with the challenge of forced migration owing to these disasters’ displacement actions. Prying human traffickers take advantage of this situation to coerce these desperate individuals, promising them sources of livelihood, only to end up as slaves. Natural disasters surprisingly predispose men a lot to human trafficking, as seen in countries such as Bangladesh.
The aspect of human trafficking for organ removal is also a strong menace. “Most of these crimes are committed in private clinics in India, where most victims of commercial kidney removal hail from impoverished villages in Karnataka and West Bengal” (Budiani-Saberi, Raja, Findley, Kerketta & Vijay, 2014). Most of the victims admitted to coercion as they were facing very dire economic times. All of the interviewed victims expressed regret and also admitted to ignorance and poor reasoning when they were confronted with the option of selling their kidneys. Upon further interviewing, it was established that most of the victims lack a formal education background (Budiani-Saberi, Raja, Findley, Kerketta & Vijay, 2014). All these are predisposed and made possible by poverty, further stressing the role of poverty in fanning the human trafficking for organ removal flame.
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Winding up on the aspects of poverty predisposing one to falling prey to human trafficking, it would be prudent to do an epidemiological survey on the victims of human trafficking. In the same study done in India, “28 percent of the victims lacked a formal education background, with 12 percent being widowed. 91 percent of the victims were found to be parents to at least two children, who were overwhelming to take care of” (Budiani-Saberi, Raja, Findley, Kerketta & Vijay, 2014). These are just part of a population that is predisposed to facing hardships and financial constraints, as well as poor living conditions.
The effects of human trafficking are widespread and very ugly as well. “The psychological torment experienced by victims of human trafficking is untold, with most of them never really recovering from it” (Budiani-Saberi, Raja, Findley, Kerketta & Vijay, 2014). It is also financially challenging to set up networks that are tasked with countering this vice, through investigation as well as crackdowns on suspected stakeholders. The emigration of victims also leads to reduced productivity, as the best among the workforce, when it comes to males, are abducted or coerced so as to offer labor elsewhere. “The epitome and worst part of this heinous crime is that it degrades human life, to mere factors of production or leisure” (Greenbaum, 2017). It would not be surprising to find out that some of the biggest financiers to human conflicts such as wars and uprisings, are human trafficking cartels, as they thrive under such conditions.
With all that said, much has also been done, especially in establishment of legal instruments and human rights, all in a bid to curb this menace. However, all this has proved futile as the trade is still standing ground, growing even more with the increased conflict rates seen in the world today. A bolder approach to tackle this issue is needed, in the form of a labor approach which targets the markets for human trafficking, as opposed to the human rights narrative. Severe sanctions should be put on countries involved in this trade, so as to force change from within. In notorious destinations to slaves, all workers should be allowed to unionize to set up watchdogs that can monitor the welfare of its individuals. Labor laws should have severe consequences for anyone found employing minors, as this would help deplete the market for children being trafficked around the globe.
Finally, as it has been said that it is only an insane person who does things in the same manner, expecting different results. The world needs to open its eyes and watch out for any injustice being committed against women, men, children or humanity in general. As from this discussion, it is evident that human trafficking correlates perfectly with other vices such as violence and inhumanity. Therefore, we should all do our part by trying to protect and help each other to make the world a better place.
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