Guide to Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is one of the oldest and most heinous crimes in existence; it is also one of the three most profitable in the world, ranking after illegal drug and gun dealing. Trafficking in human beings involves the movement of people (most commonly women and children) against their will by means of force, for the purpose of sexual or labor exploitation. Examples include abduction for sexual and domestic service (including boys), abduction for debt release, the exchange of women for settlement of disputes, forced prostitution, and sexual exploitation of children.
Kevin Bales, author of Disposable People, conservatively estimates there are 27 million people in modern slavery today. This is more people than at any other time in human history.
There are three main reasons why slavery is on the rise today:
- A recent worldwide population explosion has tripled the number of people on Earth, with a large percentage of growth in developing countries.
- Rapid social and economic changes have displaced many to urban centers and their outskirts, where people have no “safety net” and no job security.
- Government corruption around the world allows slavery to go unpunished, even though it is illegal almost everywhere.
Human trafficking is also prevalent because the costs to do so is relatively cheap. In 1850 America, an average slave in the south cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today’s money. Today, a slave costs an average of $90. In 1850 it was difficult to capture a slave and transport them to the U.S. Today, millions of economically and socially vulnerable people around the world are potential slaves because transportation costs are cheap. In testimony before the U.S. Senate’s Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Frank Loy said the trafficking of women and children, who are often forced into prostitution, is a worldwide human rights problem that may involve two million people a year. Loy said the victims are primarily from Asia, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Latin America and Africa.
An estimated one million children, most of them from Asia, became victims of trafficking in 2000. About 500,000 Brazilian children are forced into prostitution each year, while 250,000 women and children from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are transported per year to other countries, including the U.S. Almost 200,000 females, most under the age of 18 from Nepal work in brothels in India. Scenes of these horrendous sites have been captured by TV crews, which have provoked greater public outrage. Worldwide, the United Nations estimated in 2006 that between 20 million to 27 million people are held in slavery, often with violence. This same organization estimated that in the United States, there are estimates of 17,000 people being trafficked and forced into labor or sex slavery.
Protecting the Victims
Article four of the United Nation’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude” and “slavery and slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” Protecting human rights also a large component of U.S. foreign policy. A 2010 report by the U.S. State Department provided in-depth assessments and recommendations for 177 countries about what it called “modern slavery”. The Department said it was pursuing a policy of prevention, protection, and prosecution of human trafficking crimes.
The U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 prohibits economic assistance to any government that engages in a “consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” In 2000, Congress strengthened the Trafficking Victims Protection Act which established agencies to prevent and prosecute those involved in trafficking. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and the U.S. State Department, 800,000 to 2 million people, the majority of them women and children, are trafficked each year across international borders. Thirty-five percent are under the age of 18. According to CRS, trafficking in people represents the third-largest source of profits for organized crime after drugs and guns, generating billions of dollars each year. In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services initiated the Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking, which involves numerous federal agencies.
- Human Trafficking.org
- Human Trafficking Resources
- Polaris Project
- Global Rights
- Inter-community Peace and Justice Center
- UN Gift
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Information and Resources for Emergency Healthcare Providers
- United Front for Children
- Michigan State University