FACT: An estimated 27 million people are enslaved worldwide.(1)
FACT: A person is trafficked over US borders every 10 minutes.(2)
FACT: Human trafficking generates over $32 billion dollars annually.(3)
FACT: Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal activity in the world.(4)
FACT: $90 is the average cost of a human slave sold around the world.(5)
What is Human Trafficking?
Human Trafficking is commonly referred to as the modern day slave trade. This “trade” has become the most pervasive destroyer of human lives worldwide and affects men, women and children. Over 50% of the victims are children.(6) The heart wrenching fact is that many of these children will never reach the age of adulthood.
The United Nations Trafficking Protocol of 2000 defines human trafficking as the following:
“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;”(7)
October of 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was signed making human trafficking a federal crime in the United States. Under U.S. and international law, commercially sexually exploited children found in the sex trade are considered to be victims of human trafficking, even if no force or coercion is present.(8)
Trafficking in the sex industry has many faces: including street prostitution, online escort services, pornography, strip clubs, legal brothels and illegal brothels (which operate under the guise of legitimate businesses).
How is it that people can be bought and sold so easily? One factor is difficulty distinguishing between willing commercial sex workers and those held captive by a trafficker. The million dollar questions, “Is there really much difference?” While there are a number of voices advocating for legalized sex work, it would benefit us to study just how many active participants in the sex industry were actually lured in through the tactics of a trafficker and are now entrenched in the lifestyle of prostitution.
Another major factor is that the Internet has made it very easy to buy and sell just about anything, including people. Internet sites generate more than $33 million annually off sex ads(9) and are a large driver for the boom in the sex industry.
Who Are the traffickers?
Organized trafficking is a structured system, much like any business. A trafficker is equivalent to the CEO/COO of a corporation; managing the day-to-day operations. Below is a short list of possible employees in any small trafficking organization.
Trafficker: person who deals and trades in the illicit activity of human trafficking, commonly referred to as a pimp in the US. Typically men or women who are unknown to the victim, but can be acquaintances or family members.
Manager: person who manages an illicit trafficking business, under the guise of a legitimate business, for the trafficker. Managers can be men or women; typically women in Asian organizations
Recruiter: person or team charged with luring the victim into the hands of the trafficker. Recruiters are often family members, acquaintances or classmates of the victim or their family.
Transporter: person who transports victims from one location to another. Transporters are typically men who are unknown to the victim.
How is this happening in the 21st century?
Victims are often lured into captivity by false promises of work, education or a better quality of life. Once a victim has agreed to go with the trafficker they are almost immediately transported out of their home country or region and typically kept in secluded and well-guarded locations. This is to ensure the victim remains in captivity. They are no longer allowed contact with family or the general public and are methodically stripped of all resources that might help them to escape such as passports, money, and computer or telephone access.
Cameroon: Ivaline’s Story
Ivoline was at the top of her class in nursing studies at her hometown university in Cameroon. A woman from her village offered to help Ivoline complete her university degree in Europe. Ivoline and her father thought the offer was genuine and Ivoline’s father spent his entire savings to help her get to Spain. The woman had Ivoline pose as her daughter, using false passports while they traveled together to Europe. Once in Spain, instead of being sent to school, Ivoline was forced into prostitution on the streets. Ivoline eventually escaped from the woman and was homeless for a few weeks before she built up enough courage to go to the police. Although her trafficker was not brought to justice, Ivoline’s strength has given her new optimism and confidence; on her birthday this year, she toasted to hopes of finding work and creating a new life in Spain with her own family.(10)
Cambodia: Neary’s Story
Neary grew up in rural Cambodia. Her parents died when she was a child, and, in an effort to give her a better life, her sister married her off when she was 17. Three months later they went to visit a fishing village. Her husband rented a room in what Neary thought was a guesthouse. But when she woke the next morning, her husband was gone. The owner of the house told her she had been sold by her husband for $300 and that she was actually in a brothel.For five years, Neary was raped by five to seven men every day. In addition to brutal physical abuse, Neary was infected with HIV and contracted AIDS. The brothel threw her out when she became sick, and she eventually found her way to a local shelter. She died of HIV/AIDS at the age of 23.(11)
Watch the video from CNN which shows the shocking story of a Spanish pimp ring that actually tattooed their prisoners as a mark of ownership.
The abuse and neglect trafficking victims suffer is horrific, much like that of animals or cattle. They are often tattooed or branded like animals as their traffickers claim ownership of them.
“A Spanish National Police investigation into two Madrid prostitution rings led to the rescue of a captive 19-year-old woman who was tattooed with a barcode on her wrist after she tried to escape the ring, authorities said Saturday. The bar code served as a form of identity for the woman and as certificate of “ownership” by one prostitution ring, and beneath the bar code was also tattooed the amount of money she owed the ring, police said.”(12)
CNN shows the shocking story of a Spanish pimp ring
Is human trafficking too
big to tackle?
As long as there is a demand for slaves there will be a supply. The business of trading in human lives was evident in the first societies and has always been extremely lucrative. While we know these to be facts, we would all likely agree that none of that makes slavery acceptable or tolerable. So our real question is – what to do.
Can we really see human trafficking abolished in the next century? The truth is – no one really knows. But an even greater truth is that we have a responsibility to try. If we want to see change, we must act. As a wise man once said:
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~Mahatma Ghandi
I agree. Let us be the change – to work for the end of human trafficking and bring justice to the nations.
Child Labor Footnotes
Justice Society would like to thank Marie Birnbaum for her work as a contributing writer for this article.
2. World Relief
4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
5. Free the Slaves.net.
6. UNICEF. Factsheet on Child Trafficking.
7. U.S. Department of State
8. United Nations, Palermo 2000. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Woman and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational organized Crime. Article 3, Pg. 2
9. Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000.
10. Aim Group
11. US Department of Justice, Trafficking in Persons Report, 2012.
12. US Department of Justice, Trafficking in Persons Report, 2005. Pg. 6.
13. Martinez, Michael. “Prostitution ring in Madrid tattooed 19-year-old woman with bar code.” cnn.com. CNN, 26 Mar. 2012. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.