The Industry Of Trafficking Humans Criminology Essay

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The trafficking of humans is a large-scale industry that is rapidly becoming a global issue, and has many different functioning economies - among which the most prominent are currently domestic slavery, sweatshop labour, forced marriage, and prostitution. Globally, an estimated two million women and children are tricked or forced into slavery each year, often as a result of poverty. Of these, around 800,000 are trafficked into the sex industry, making it the third largest underground economy in the world. [2] This modern-day form of slavery is officially deemed "sex trafficking" when an individual is forced into indentured servitude, whereupon they take part in one or more commercial sex acts. [3] Australia is a destination for human trafficking, with evidence suggesting that the majority of the victims are coerced into debt-bonded prostitution - an offence that is recognised as a form of human slavery under the Australian Criminal Code and international law. [4] The implications of these statistics for females are phenomenally disempowering, particularly when considering the fact that this exploitative industry, often originating in the Third World, still thrives in our prosperous country. The demand for this industry is fuelled by a distorted patriarchal notion of sexuality, and it is this which drives it to prosper as an underground economy, a desire industry, and a prolific racial and sexist movement.

In this industry, a woman is vulnerable to exploitation through her age, socio-economic standing, and finally gender. It is estimated that over 70 per cent of all trafficked women are trafficked for sexual exploitation, and, while men too are coerced into certain industries (particularly agricultural), 98 per cent of sex-trafficked individuals are female. [5] These statistics support the fact that the entire trafficking industry, with its many different economies, is driven by a socially-constructed set of implications with regards to gender. These suggest that while men are essentially exempt from exploitation in the sex trade, this objectification of women is more than commonplace within the thriving industry. In fact, women who are trafficked and sold into marriage (mail-order brides) are essentially forced into both sex and domestic slavery. [6] Thus, while men certainly are amongst those being trafficked, women are almost three times as likely to be forced into these circumstances, as they are socially "suited" to all areas in the overall industry s - domestic slavery, labour, non-consensual marriage, and prostitution. With this in mind, a particularly concerning and disempowering truth comes to light amongst the statistics. Human Rights Watch states that, "while government delegates legitimately talk of the horrors of sexual violence against trafficking victims who end up in sexual slavery, they ignore the sexual violence and abuse that is rampant among victims forced into other forms of forced labour. If you talk with women and children who work in sweatshops, in domestic servitude - you will hear the stories of physical and sexual abuse - because at its core, trafficking is about the process of reducing human beings to property." [7] This summarises the essential notion behind the trafficking industry - to fundamentally dehumanise and objectify women in order to justify certain inhumane acts. Furthermore, these inhumane acts are essentially fuelled by a distorted, yet globally apparent, patriarchal perception of sexuality which, once justified by the objectification of the victim, can then lead to rape, torture, and even murder. [8] 

In Australia, it is estimated that around a thousand trafficked sex-workers are operating under involuntary servitude in the form of debt-bondage. [9] Debt-bondage is an illegal practise used by the traffickers in which they tell the victim that they owe money (often falsely attributed to the expenses of transport into and living in the destination country), and that they must repay this debt through personal services. [10] Interview-based research conducted by the non-government organisation Project Respect shows that currently these debts tend to average between $40,000 -$50,000. [11] In turn, eighteen to twenty prostitution jobs per day are necessary in order to repay this debt and, whilst undertaking these acts, women are often forced into unprotected sex or are exposed to brutal violence. [12] As a result of this, the women are likely to face numerous health risks, both physical and psychological. [13] Some physical risks that can be attributed to these daily sexual exploits are: drug and alcohol addiction, physical injuries (broken bones, burns, and tearing in the genital area), sexually transmitted infections and diseases, and other miscellaneous diseases (TB, hepatitis, etc.). Psychological harms are just as prominent in the victims, and include: extreme shame, fear, hatred and fear of men, suicidal thoughts, and suicide. They are also at risk from other psychological conditions including insomnia, anxiety, depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). More often than not, these women also attain a permanent sense of self-loathing. [14] 

The high demand for sex trafficking in Australia is fuelled by certain customer demands and racial perceptions that can be narrowed down into four particular points. 1) A shortage of Australian women prepared to prostitute themselves; 2) a demand for women who are compliant and acquiescent moreso than Australian women; 3) a demand for women upon whom the customer can inflict high levels of violence; 4) the racist and sexist perception from the customer market that Asian women possess all of the aforementioned qualities. [15] Women from south-east Asia make up the majority of the individuals trafficked into the sex industry- in particular; China, Thailand, and South Korea. [16] 

Whilst the Australian Government has taken some steps in the right direction with regards to the support of victims of sex-trafficking, the current laws and policy are falling behind that of the International standard. As a result, traffickers are often escaping prosecution, whilst the victims themselves are often detained and then deported. This then raises the concern that the victims are at risk of re-victimisation upon returning to their often dangerous environments. [17] Since the introduction of the current Commonwealth laws in 1999, there hasn't been a single prosecution of a trafficker. This is arguably because of the reliance upon the cooperation of the victims to effectively prosecute the traffickers, and the fact that they are unlikely to cooperate with law enforcement agencies without any means of redress or mandated support. [18] 

The Australian Government provides assistance for trafficking victims, their families, and witnesses in the prosecutions. The government funds two return and reintegration program; one program is for all trafficked women and children, and the second program is solely for Thai victims.9   Trafficking victims who cooperate with authorities in investigations and prosecutions of their traffickers qualify for a temporary visa and a range of social services.10 Those who have held the temporary visa for two years can qualify for a permanent visa. 58 temporary visas have been granted since January 2004, no victim has qualified for a permanent visa yet. The visa program also provides victims with shelters, counseling, food and living allowances. As of January 2007, 35 trafficking victims have received these services.11   

A key issue in Australia's current practice is the priority given to the enforcement of immigration law. Women working illegally in the Australian sex industry are detained and promptly deported. It is arguable that the current approach negates proper consideration of the human rights of victims of trafficking and undermines the criminal justice objective of prosecuting traffickers.

The first internationally agreed definition of people trafficking is set out in the new UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. It also obliges signatory states to criminalise the conduct and to protect and support the victims of trafficking. Since re-modelling its domestic policy response to trafficking based on the Trafficking Protocol, the United States (US) has doubled its investigations and tripled its prosecutions for trafficking offences. Other European countries which have altered their approach from stigmatising victims to supporting them have similarly reported more success in prosecuting offenders.


The Australian Government supports a public awareness campaign with advertisements in daily newspapers that encourage victims and communities to call the police hotline,12 and widely publicizing prosecutions against traffickers.13  

The U.S. Department of State recommends that the Australian government should devote more attention and resources to addressing allegations of labor trafficking, including in connection with its 457 worker visa program.16  The Australian NGO, the Anti-Slavery Project recommended that Australia do the following: 1) Reform the current visa regime to protect ALL victims of trafficking and slavery. A victim-centered visa regime will prevent the re-trafficking and re-enslavement of victims regardless of their cooperation with authorities; 2) Adequately resource and implement a victim support program that effectively meets the needs of survivors of trafficking and slavery by providing comprehensive and culturally appropriate services. The current victim service program provides a certain level of services to victims of trafficking who are participating in law enforcement processes. However it is our experience that the level of support is variable and can be inadequate to meet the needs of victims leaving them vulnerable to violence, exploitation and endangerment of their ability to cooperate with law enforcement.17