The Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women defines trafficking as All acts involved in the recruitment or transportation of a woman, within or across national borders, for work or services, by means of violence or threat of violence, debt bondage, deception or other coercion (Caldwell). It entails the use of various forms of coercion, fraud, intimidation, and brute force to obtain labor and other services for little no benefit to the person being trafficked.
Human Trafficking is not a new practice. This global trafficking business that reaps huge profits for traffickers and their collaborators has been present since the start of civilization. What is new is the sophistication and complexity by which it is carried out. The shocking thing is how this type of trade actually flourishes in this time of enlightenment where the rights of human beings are given utmost importance. It is a violation of human rights whenever a human being is placed under any conditions against his/her will. This phenomenon of the contemporary era can be regarded as the modern day equivalent of slavery (Trafficking in human beings). It is of the utmost importance that this practice of subjecting people to slave-like conditions be put to a stop.
Women form the majority of human trafficking victims and are the ones most at risk. They are especially vulnerable due to the lack of employment opportunities. Oftentimes, traffickers promise them good jobs and better lives, but they only become prostitutes and sweatshop workers. Agents and brokers arrange their papers and transport, but when they reach their destinations, they discover the real nature of the work. The women often experience rape and other forms of violence and are enslaved in abusive conditions where a bid for freedom is nearly impossible, even lethal.
Extent of the Problem
Trafficking is a problem of global proportion affecting virtually every country. According to the United Nations, human trafficking generates around 5-7 billion dollars each year (Raymond). It is currently one of the most lucrative types of international crime, only next to arms trafficking and illegal drugs (International Labour Organization). But unlike arms and drug trafficking, the punishment for human trafficking is relatively light in most countries (Raymond).
Determining the extent of and getting the exact statistics on human trafficking has proven to be a daunting task due to the illegal and underground nature of the activity. Researchers provide different estimates on the number of individuals being trafficked each year.
A US Government report in 2004 estimates a figure of about 600,000-800,000 individuals trafficked annually across borders (Trafficking), the majority of which happening in South East Asia, Japan, Russia and Europe (Trafficking in human beings). The aforementioned figure does not include those who are trafficked internally (Trafficking), and the United Nations reports that up to 4 million people are transported worldwide each year (Raymond). Women make up around 80-90 percent of all human trafficking cases, and majority of them are sexually exploited either through sexual slavery or forced prostitution (Trafficking in human beings).
Factors Influencing the Trafficking of Women
Trafficking of women is a rapidly growing problem and several factors have led to its growth. In order for appropriate measures to take place, these factors should be identified and addressed. In order for the government to counteract its development, a coordinated response from international and regional authorities that addresses the major factors and root causes of the problem should be enacted. In addition to this, prevention measures should be done such as information dissemination, empowerment, and education of women in order to avert possible victimization and re-victimization.
One of the major factors influencing the trafficking of women is the lure of easy profit in prostitution and other forms of commercialized sex (United Nations Further Actions). Researchers and human rights advocates also point out that the demand for womens bodies from the male population drives trafficking patterns. The male demand for sexual prostitution, coupled by the increasing poverty, drives women into vulnerable situations that are exploited by sex traffickers. For women, unequal labor opportunities, gender discrimination, and other restrictions and gender-based stereotypes have led them to seek employment opportunities in other countries. Other driving forces include discrimination against women; restrictive migration laws; a lack of information about the realities and dangers of trafficking and insufficient penalties against traffickers (Trafficking in human beings).
Prostitution and Sex Trafficking
Trafficking of women comes in three most common forms: sex tourism, mail-order bride services, and prostitution (Raymond). The link between trafficking and prostitution is a clear one. The demand for commercialized sex is the biggest driving force behind the trafficking industry. It provides the economic incentive for traffickers to perpetrate the exploitation of women. For example, reports show that an increase in human traffic accompanies places where military troops and peacekeeping forces are stationed (CATW International).
Prostituted individuals have little or no protection from harm and violence due to their profession. Their bodies, being treated as commodities, are often subject to abuse and debasement. They also often suffer severe physical and mental problems due to injuries caused by such abuse (CATW International). The National Security Presidential Directive on Combating Trafficking in Persons states that prostitution and related activities are inherently harmful and dehumanizing, identifying these activities as contributing to the phenomenon of trafficking, and opposing the regulation of prostitution as a legitimate form of work for any human being (qtd. in Raymond).
There is a need for comprehensive legislation and anti-trafficking laws that centers on the victims interests and issues. Several laws exist, such as the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (also referred to as the UN Trafficking Protocol) which demands corroborating territories to fight the spread of human trafficking by protect[ing] and assisting victims of such trafficking and promot[ing] cooperation among states in order to meet those objectives (United Nations Protocol).
United States President Bush signed a Human Trafficking bill this January, renewing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. This is the first federal law for the punishment of traffickers and that especially addresses the issue of trafficking (Bush Signs). Also, at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, the Beijing Platform for Action addressed the trafficking of women in the context of abuse and violence against them (Trafficking in Women) rather than regarding them as criminals or illegal migrants. Many countries around the world are also currently doing modest initiatives to eliminate the human trafficking trade.
Criminalization of Purchasing Women for Prostitution and Punishment for Traffickers
One solution being proposed to decrease the traffickers incentive of transporting women is the legal prohibition of purchasing sexual services. This is rooted on the idea that prostitution (legalized or not) increases trafficking rates (CATW International). Men who purchase women for sex are major players in the supply-demand chain driving the trafficking industry. In order to decrease demand, those purchasing the service should be penalized (Bortel). This is but a logical extension to the premise that since illegal to provide such services (in many countries, the prostituted women are also punished by law), it must also be illegal to obtain them (Bortel).
Another obstacle to the fight against trafficking is that the traffickers are rarely caught or punished, and if they are they are just penalized for the equivalent of a minor crime (Smith). In addition to this, many countries consider victims as illegal aliens, and are deported or penalized, while the traffickers get away scot-free. In the United States law practice, there is an attitude that trafficking in women qualifies as a lesser crime than trafficking drugs (Bortel). In this light, legislation that gives harsher penalties to traffickers must be enacted, including strengthening existing laws that protect the rights and interests of women.
Bortel, Angela. Ending Trafficking in Women: A Victim-Centered Approach to Legislation. Professionals for Cooperation. Jun. 2001. Moscow State University. Accessed 19 Apr. 2006
Bush Signs Anti-Human Trafficking Bill. CBS News. 10 Jan. 2006. Associated Press. Accessed 19 Apr. 2006
Caldwell, Gillion. Trafficking Women in the Former U.S.S.R. The Trafficking of NIS Women Abroad. Sept. 1997. International League of Human Rights. Accessed 19 Apr. 2006
CATW International. Statement by CATW at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. 5 Mar. 2003. Accessed 19 Apr. 2006
International Labour Organization. International Labour Office. A global alliance against forced labour. Global Report under the Follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Geneva: 11 May 2006.
Raymond, Janice G. The Ongoing Tragedy of International Slavery and Human Trafficking: An Overview. Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. 29 Oct. 2003. Accessed 19 Apr. 2006
Smith, Virginia. Trafficking women and children. Catholic New Times. 20 Mar. 2005. LookSmart, Ltd. Accessed 19 Apr. 2006
Trafficking. Anti-Slavery: Todays Fight for Tomorrows Freedom. Anti-Slavery International. Accessed 19 Apr. 2006
Trafficking in human beings. Wikipedia. 11 Apr. 2006. Wikimedia Foundation. Accessed 19 Apr. 2006
Trafficking in Women. Women Watch: Information and Resources on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women. 22 Nov. 17 Dec. 2004. United Nations. Accessed 19 Apr. 2006
United Nations. Further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Women Watch: Information and Resources on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women. 16 Nov. 2000. United Nations. Accessed 19 Apr. 2006
”. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. UN Nations Crime and Justice Information Network. 15 Nov. 2005. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes. Accessed 19 Apr. 2006