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People in today’s society probably have no idea what human trafficking even is, and if anyone would try to tell them that it is equivalent to modern-day slavery, they would deny it saying that slavery ended a long time ago. However, that is not entirely true. Slavery still exists today just not in the same form that is widely known and with a different name – human trafficking. According to the Convention of Transnational Organized Crime, human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, or fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or 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. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs (Qtd. in Shelley 10).
Human trafficking takes place just about everywhere, including almost every country in different forms, ranging from domestic service to sex work. Human trafficking can differ from place to place, yet it usually does follow a common trend depending on the actual location. Trafficking and its victims can include anyone; males, females, children, longtime family friends, and even relatives.
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Recruitment of trafficking victims usually takes place in plain sight and victims are transported globally where they are forced into a new identity. Once this happens, because of the great knowledge traffickers have of what they are doing, the chances of finding victims before any damage occurs are very slim. Although human trafficking is an international issue, it has a greater effect on the United States’ citizens and economy more than anyone would have ever expected.
Across the globe, the industry of human trafficking is estimated to be worth around $32 billion encompassing over 12,000,000 victims which does not include the victims that we are already aware of. These statistics help prove the fact that human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal activity only behind the sale of drugs (Shelley 87). People commonly mistake human trafficking as only existing in third world countries, or low-income areas and not actually being an international issue, but that isn’t true. Elizabeth Miller stated, “there is a perception that human trafficking is something that happens in large, urban centers or on the coast, but it’s everywhere.” (Crompton) In the United States for example, trafficking takes place in every state. Those states that do present red flags of a higher concentration of trafficking include New York, California, Florida, and Washington D.C. (Human Trafficking). This trend is also apparent globally as there are indicators of areas with higher rates of trafficking than compared to others.
Countries with high levels of poverty are prone to more cases of human trafficking as many individuals are poor with no job and they feel as it might be their only way out. As said by Belinda Luscombe, “certain countries that are unable to educate their citizens about the law are also at a higher risk because they are unsure of what is legal or illegal” (33). Those countries that are among the worst are Burma, Cuba, Iran, Kuwait, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and the Sudan (Gale).
Each country’s need for a specific type of work varies, therefore the types of human trafficking in each country also differ. The two most common forms of trafficking are sex work and domestic servitude, although others include bonded labor, involuntary servitude, and child labor. Traffickers beat them and in extreme situations when victims refuse to cooperate, they force them to take drugs which in turn make them do actions they normally wouldn’t do (11). Domestic servitude commonly has victims working as maids or nannies in people’s actual homes. This work is usually the easiest as they spend their days cleaning, babysitting, and cooking, and the victims don’t have to move around from place to place as much. Still just as every other form of trafficking, victims are locked in their rooms at night, starved, and even beaten (9-10).
In both bonded labor and involuntary servitude, victims are usually taken to different countries other than their own to work. Bonded labor, which is illegal in all countries but Nepal, India, and Pakistan, can almost be considered the victim’s own fault for being in the situation that they are in. For one reason or another they had to make a deal with a trafficker to work in order to make money. What they were unaware of was just how smart the traffickers they were dealing with really were. Traffickers are very cunning individuals and are able to get into the minds of victims and convince them that they haven’t made enough money yet and must continue to work. Therefore, the work just never stops, and victims remain working far after they have already earned enough money (6).
Involuntary servitude involves victims who are working against their will. Traffickers threaten them to the point that they are afraid to refuse to work and to attempt to escape because of what might happen to them as a result. Now child labor might be the worst form of trafficking. As children in today’s society are raised to respect and listen to their parents and other adults, they will do almost whatever they are told to do by someone who appears to be older than them, which makes them the most vulnerable for any type of trafficking. They are forced to do it all: domestic servitude, involuntary servitude, just labor of any sort, and even prostitution. This in turn is very harsh on their well-being and causes them life-long consequences (11-12)).
Now each country has its own reasoning for trafficking. These motives could be anything from poverty and lack of education, to public or individual health issues and a demand for cheap labor. As stated before, in some countries other than the United States, poverty is a really big deal. Numerous people are not receiving an education because they just don’t have the money to. Since they become trapped in debt, some feel desperate and are very gullible in believing that working for traffickers is their only way to provide for themselves or their families (Hart 16). Cultural influences also have a big impact on human trafficking. In some countries there are “unwritten rules,” and if members of those countries don’t follow them, they are said to be unfit and don’t belong among other people in their communities.
Another main cause of recent increased incidents is political factors that happened as a result of the end of the Cold War. The end of the war triggered an increased number and duration of intrastate and regional conflicts that ended up dissolving families and communities. The end of the war also lead to a collapse of the communist political and economic systems therefore meaning that the state guaranteed employment was gone and the social safety net (Shelley 49).
So one might ask who a trafficker is or how to identify them. They would probably expect someone who appears to be different, that isn’t exactly true. Traffickers can be almost anyone; males, females, individuals, families, friends. What is even more shocking is that traffickers are not just men. Women are guilty of this crime as well. In most cases if one is able to pin point the ethnicity or background of victims, they would have an easier time figuring out the culture of the trafficker as they are usually the same because traffickers are better able to understand and known their victims vulnerabilities if they come from the same place. (Lockerby).
But who exactly are the victims of human trafficking? Victims are more than less women and children and as mentioned before, and they usually come from communities where women don’t have the same rights as men do. They aren’t allowed to own their own property, have proper access to education or economic rights (Shelley 16). Other characteristics of victims include vulnerable, diverse ethnic or economic backgrounds, varied levels of education, runaways or homeless, and victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse (Lockerby).
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The United States has a law that divides victims into three separate groups that are based on the age of the victim and the type of trafficking imposed. These contain children under eighteen forced into commercial sex, adults eighteen or over forced into commercial sex through fraud, or coercion, and children or adults force to perform labor or services through fraud, or coercion (Lockerby).
Recruiting individuals takes a lot of skill but it “is easiest during economic crisis, natural disasters, and conflicts because there is already a supply of potential victims.” (Shelley 95-96) Victims don’t just volunteer, traffickers must find ways to make them fall for their tricks. Traffickers sometimes use the help of or are actually friends, family, acquaintances or even boyfriends to the victim. Ways the traffickers recruit victims include proposals of marriage, employment agencies, and fake modeling agencies (Shelley 98). After victims are recruited, traffickers take any identification that may have on them as well as their money so they are unable to communicate with their friends and family and have no idea as to where they may be and they are taken to auctions to be sold to other traffickers and to be sent off to work (Lockerby).
One of the hardest parts of trafficking once the victims are recruited is transporting them into a new country especially the United States. The conditions the victims encounter are usually very inhumane as they must be hidden to prevent be discovered, just as drug dealers must do when transporting drugs. Yet transporting drugs is much easier because drugs can be disguised, and humans can’t always be hidden.
In some situations victims are forced into the compartments of cargo vessels, small boats that provide no protection from the elements, and poorly ventilated spaces of vehicles (Shelley 100). After successfully transporting victims into new countries, they must find a way to secure their residence. This can be done through the creation of false documents, retention of visa mills, or false marriages between residents and victims, (Shelley 105).
In order to make victims obey what they are told, traffickers must use means of violence being either physical or mental. Many of the techniques the Nazis used during the Holocaust are currently still used in manipulating them. Victims are “deprived of their identities, moved vast distances in inhumane conditions, and are tortured to induce compliance. Some have their arms and bodies tattooed indicating they are the possessions of the traffickers … those who continue to resist can be thrown to their deaths from windows of apartment buildings or left to die from gangrene of the wounds inflicted by the traffickers” (Shelley 107). They work long, stressful hours while being deprived of breaks, receive no pay whatsoever, and have no say in any situations (Lockerby).
Among all else, the only place that human traffickers are referred to as “pimps” is the United States. A pimp “is a U.S.-born trafficker, operating often in loose but mutually supportive networks” (Shelley 123). In most cases pimps are men who search out young, vulnerable girls that they find alone in malls or bars. They are able to convince them into sex work by wearing expensive clothing and jewelry and driving nice cars.
The attraction the girls find of these men makes it easy for the pimps to use psychological manipulation to make the girls trust them. The girls know that if they stay with them, they will get whatever they’ve always wanted, and it soon turns into “false love.” Once the girls fully trust them, they are easily talked into becoming sex workers and work for them wherever that may be: adult clubs, parking lots, mattresses in alleys, cars, or hotel rooms. The pimps then take the money their girls earn for them and use it to buy themselves new things (Shelley 125).
Trafficking is also very popular in the United States because of the number of women who are unable to have their own children. For one reason or another they are unable to get pregnant, which in turn causes an enormous toll of these women mentally and emotionally. They then act in very unusual ways that they wouldn’t normally do. In one particular situation, a woman by the name of Judith Leekin was unable of having children of her own so what she did was adopt eleven different children using four names in New York and then moved them all with her to Florida. Leekin was able to make over $1.68 million from welfare provided as an incentive to adopt them because of age, background, and physical/mental disabilities. She was able to live a very luxurious life, but the children on the other hand did not. Leekin abused them physically and mentally and deprived them all of schooling (Shelley 244).
An individual’s health is affected both physically and mentally. They often suffer from medical conditions that include STDs, complications from so many abortions that sometimes lead to sterility, cancer, and hearing loss (Hart 30-32). The psychological effects on victims are usually much worse than any of the physical because of the amount of time it takes to completely heal. Stress is probably one of the biggest symptoms of trafficking. It causes a weakened immune system, depression, feelings of worthlessness and shame, and PTSD, among many other things. One victim actually admitted, “I feel like they have taken my smile and I can never have it back.” (Shelley 63) The family of a victim also suffers as they lost a loved one and feel guilty as they failed to do their job in protecting their family (Shelley 61). Human trafficking is such an issue world-wide that the consequences are unspeakable ranging from the ones we are aware of to the ones that no one knows about yet.
Human trafficking happens worldwide, probably closer around that anyone realizes. No matter the type of trafficking, victims suffer, but so do their families and the rest of the world in one way or another.
Slavery is still existent in today’s society no matter what anyone thinks and every person that reads this paper increases the number of people who know about what human trafficking and who knows, one day it might even save them from falling for a trafficker’s trick.
- Chisolm-Straker, Makini. Human Trafficking. Mount Sinai Emergency Medical Department, 2005. Web. 25 June 2019
- Crompton, Janice, and Rich Lord. “Human Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery.” Post-gazette.com, Pittsburg Post-Gazette, 8 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 June 2019
- Fischer, Mary A. “Freedom Fighter.” Reader’s Digest Oct. 2010: 130-141. Print
- Hart, Joyce. Human Trafficking New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 2009. Print
- Lockerby, Thomas P. Polaris Project. 2015. Web 25 June 2019
- Luscombe, Belinda. “Bring Back All Girls” Time. 25 June 2019: 30-34. Print
- Shelley, Louise. Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2010. Print
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