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Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of 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 labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs (UNODC 2012).
Human trafficking is a phenomenon that has come to light in the past few years. The most recent estimated numbers put the amount of people being trafficked over borders between 600,000 and 800,000, and the amount of victims enslaved in their own countries around 2- 4 million (Okech 2011). Since human trafficking is such a underground black market, reliable and accurate figures are hard to estimate and even those estimates previously mentioned are viewed as extremely conservative (Miko 2002). Another factor that hinders the ability to require reliable data is the fact that human trafficking is only newly recognized in most countries, and as of now, very few countries systemically record incidences of human trafficking within their country (Laczko 2003).
The victims of human trafficking are trafficked for a variety of purposes, the most common of these being sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and forced labour (Miko 2002). The victims are forced to work in places such as sweatshops, construction sites, brothels, and fields, where the conditions are often subpar and inhumane (Trafficking in Persons Report 2001). The majority of the victims are used to perform sexual services, especially when the victims are brought into North American society. As seen in the report of Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, done by the US Department of Justice, out of the 1229 incidents that dealt with human trafficking, 83 percent were for sex trafficking, and only 12 percent dealt with labour trafficking. Of that 83 percent, over 30 percent of those incidents involved children being trafficked for sex (2009).
Since most of human trafficking deals with sex slaves, women and children are more at risk of being trafficked than males (Miko 2002). Of the 600,000 to 800,000 trafficked victims that are brought over the borders, over 80 percent of those are comprised of women and girls (Oketch 2011). For this reason, this paper will largely deal with incidents and facts on human trafficking with the intent of sexual exploitation.
Human trafficking is now one of the largest criminal enterprises in the world, with its profits ranking only behind drugs and weapons (Miko 2002). To further understand aspects of human trafficking, theories of crime causation can be applied to human trafficking. One such theory is choice theory.
Choice theory deals with the idea that a crime is committed by a rational person who has decided that the benefits of committing the crime outweighs the risks associated with the crime (Siegel 2012). Some of the more specific sub categories of choice theory include rational choice, routine activities, general deterrence and specific deterrence.
Rational choice theory assumes that before a felony is committed, the offender rationally will analyze the potential benefits that will be derived from committing the crime, as opposed to the risk of being caught and punished (Siegel 2012). For human trafficking, the benefits are high and the risks are low. Profits from human trafficking are generally extremely high. The only comparable criminal enterprises that produce such high profits are the drug and weapons trade. Similar to the latter, human trafficking worldwide produces billions of dollars for the criminals involved (Miko 2002). The large profits are partially due to the high demand for the trafficking victims, but also because the victims are easy to acquire, easy to find, easy to dispose of and easy to exploit (Clark 2003). A report completed by International Labour Office found that annual profits in the year 2005 from the trafficked victims amounted to over $32 US Billion (International Labour Office 2005). Another factor of human trafficking that would appeal to a criminal is the fact that unlike most other criminal operations, human trafficking does not require a large initial capital investment (Trafficking in Persons 2001) Rather, their commodities, the people, are easy to obtain and can be used repeatedly to maximize profits (Trafficking in Persons 2001).
On the other end of the spectrum, rational choice theory also analyzes the risks associated with committing the crime. Unfortunately, the chances of being caught and prosecuted for trafficking are minimal, especially in the cases of sex trafficking. In many countries, prostitution is legal, or if laws do exist against prostitution, then it is usually the prostitutes are the ones who are arrested and punished (Miko 2002). Very rarely is a trafficker ever convicted. This is partially due to the inadequacy of legislation, or the lack of enforcement of the laws in many countries (Laczko 2003). Another reason why convictions rarely occur is because the convictions are based on the testimony of the victims. Since the victims are usually deported from the country due to the fact that they are illegal immigrants, there are no victims present to testify against the trafficker (Laczko 2003). Or, if the victims are still in the country, they are often too scared to speak up against the traffickers in fear of retaliation against them or their family (Laczko 2003). Due to the combined prospects of wealth and slim chances of getting convicted, there are little factors to deter a criminal from participating in human trafficking.
Another aspect of choice theory is the theory of routine activities. This theory looks into the lifestyles of both the criminal and the victim, and sees if there is any correlation between how the two interact (Siegel 2012). The characteristics of routine activities involve the presence of motivated offenders, the availability of suitable targets and the absence of capable guardians (Siegel 2012).
The motivated offenders in the case of human traffickers would be the traffickers themselves. Very little research can be found on the traffickers themselves, so in general, the motivational factors are thought to be greed and the lack of value for human life, especially in the case of women and children where females are often viewed as commodities.
Other root causes of human trafficking are thought to be political unrest, economics, transition and other social factors (Trafficking in Persons 2002). These conditions are usually found in poor countries, where the traffickers are desperate for a source of income and turn to illegal methods for income. These conditions are predominant factors for creating and motivating offenders.
The availability of suitable targets is an essential part of the routine activity theory. Even with the presence of motivated offenders and the lack of guardians, crimes could not take place without suitable targets. Unfortunately, for the case of human trafficking, suitable targets are numerous and easy to find. The general movement of the victims are usually from the poorer countries into the first world countries, such as the United Sates, or the victims are moved into neighboring countries that have a slightly higher standard of living (Miko 2002). The citizens of these countries are usually poor and desperate for a better life. They are recruited, usually by
family members, friends or acquaintances, with a promise of jobs and a better life in another country (Trafficking in Persons Report 2001). One example of this type of trafficking would be the situation of women in North Korea. In her paper; â€œBrides, Bruises and the Borderâ€Â, Davis explains how the women of North Korea, who live in conditions of extreme poverty and sexual discrimination, are subjected to high levels of human trafficking. The economic crisis in North Korea, coupled with the gender imbalance that exists in China, creates a black market with a high demand for women and numerous suitable targets to fulfill the demand. (Davis 2006). The rates of trafficking for these North Korean women are so high that it is expected that around 80% of the women who cross the border into China have been forced or duped into slavery by methods such as violence, deception, coercion, abduction, fraud, debt bondage and abuse of power (Davis 2006) Once they are in China, they are often sold as wives to the many Chinese bachelors that exist, or into brothels and bars to serve as prostitutes (Davis 2006). The issue in North Korea is an example of how social, economic and political problems within a country can lead to increased vulnerability for certain groups of the population, usually women, creating vulnerable targets for the traffickers to easily victimize (Clark 2010).
Another high risk group owes its high victimization numbers not to gender, but to age. The numbers of children being trafficked into the sex industry are rising (Clark 2003). As the article â€˜Trafficking in Persons: An issue of human securityâ€™ entails, there are several reasons for this, most of them being connected to HIV/AIDs. The threat of contracting HIV/AIDs scares off many potential customers, so more men are willing to pay more for a young virgin who has a less likely chance of having the virus. Others believe that having sex with a virgin will cure someone infected with the virus. Also, due to the epidemic of HIV/AIDs, the mortality rate of parents has increased in many third world countries, leading to more orphaned street children that are vulnerable to being trafficking (Clark 2003).
Many other social factors exist that create large amounts of suitable targets for the traffickers. In countries where women are seen as a burden, and viewed as commodities instead of a person, families will willingly sell their daughters, either because of the desperate need for money, or to avoid having to provide a dowry that is needed to marry a daughter off (Miko 2002). Other families believe the lies that are told to them; that their daughters will be given good paying jobs in America and that they will have a better life in another country (Miko 2002). If these methods do not work, outright kidnapping and forceful abduction of young women also occurs (Miko 2002). In countries that are torn apart by war and fighting, the amount of orphans and street children greatly increase, creating a vulnerable population for the traffickers to target (Trafficking in Persons 2000). Political instability, militarism, civil unrest, internal armed conflict, and natural disasters are all other examples of problems that can occur in a country that leads to massive displacement of population, which in turn leads to an increase in vulnerability and an increase in trafficking (Trafficking in Persons 2000).
All these social problems cause ideal conditions for human traffickers to operate under. Since many of the victims are taken from countries that exhibit civil unrest and political problems, there is often a lack of capable guardians present to safeguard the victims and prevent trafficking. The lack of capable guardians is the final component in routine theory. Capable guardians should be present to protect the suitable targets from the motivated offenders. In the case of human trafficking however, there is a noticeable lack of any such guardians. In many countries, no laws exist to prevent human trafficking (Miko 2002). Or if there are laws, the lack of interest displayed by many governments allows traffickers to easily transport their victims throughout the country and out of the country (Miko 2002). This is especially present in countries that are struggling to stay in power, in which cases the government is too concerned with its own plight than trying to combat the issue of human trafficking (Clark 2010). When the government shows a disinterest in the problem, the civil servants and law enforcement groups are likely to take bribes and collaborate with the traffickers in an attempt to ensure their own survival (Clark 2010). This corruption and apathy that exists within the law enforcement in many of the countries where the initial trafficking occurs ensures that there are no capable guardians to protect the vulnerable populations from the traffickers.
Law enforcement is a huge component of two other sub categories of choice theory. General deterrence and specific deterrence both look at the law and how the laws are enforced, to see if these laws will either deter or encourage a rational potential criminal (Siegel 2012). Since people are more likely to commit a crime if they perceive that their actions will bring them more satisfaction than harm, the law needs to be severe enough to deter citizens from committing the infraction. To supplement this, the law not only has to be severe, but also there needs to be a certainty of punishment, and the speed to prosecute the crime (Siegel) When those three factors are combined, the rational potential criminal should, ideally, realize that the risks are too high and the benefit to low, and should deter from committing the crime. However, it is hard for punishment to be certain, swift and severe all at the same time. The increase of one factor will almost always have a negatively inverse effect on the others
Using general deterrence, and applying it to human trafficking, the high numbers of human trafficking can be explained. In any given country, the certainty, severity and speed of being caught are all extremely low. Without these deterrent factors to dissuade the criminals from trafficking, there is nothing to lower the crime rates or convince the criminals that human trafficking is too risky. In many countries, trafficking is given very a low priority by the government, and even if there is legislation present that criminalises trafficking, it is rarely implemented (Laczko 2003). In other countries that are torn apart by civil strife, law enforcement groups are corrupt, or do not have enough power, to try to prosecute the traffickers (Clark 2010). Even if there is a police force able to identify and punish the traffickers, many law enforcement groups feel threatened by the traffickers and fear retaliation if they do attempt to enforce the law (Miko 2002). Even in the United States, a county that has a sound social structure and adequate police force, there were only 77 convictions of human traffickers in between the years 2001 and 2003 (Feingold 2005). These low conviction rates will have no effect on the trafficking rates, not when human trafficking is present on such as huge scale and there are the proper incentives to induce other criminals. Another factor that makes the laws ineffective is that fact that most prosecutions rely on victim testimony. In most cases of human trafficking, the victims are too scared to speak up against trafficker, or the victim has already been deported to his or her home land (Laczko 2003).
All these subcategories of choice theory can explain why human trafficking has become such a huge global enterprise. Choice theory is a very analytical method of viewing criminals, as it views criminality as simply a choice that analyzes the risks and benefits of committing a crime. In the case if human trafficking, there are many benefits. There is an abundance of vulnerable victims, all of which can be exploited over and over again to maximize profit. Very little initial investment is needed and there is a large market to sustain the enterprise. When these benefits are compared to the risks, which are fairly inconsequential and unlikely, there is little incentive for the criminal to deter from continuing in trafficking. Drastic changes will need to be made quickly to combat this global problem.