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- Introduction – Includes definition and a brief history
- Geography. – Where do people being trafficked come from and where are they taken?
- Causes of trafficking – Why are people being trafficked taken to those places?
- Obtaining people – How are human traffickers getting the people they are trafficking?
- Process of trafficking – How are people getting into the target countries? How are they typically treated?
- Short term and long term outcomes – What happens once the people being trafficked arrive where they are going?
- Prevention – what steps have countries taken to prevent or what could they do to prevent; both in source and target countries?
Human trafficking may be defined as the acquisition and sale of human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, sexual slavery, or forced labor for other people or the trafficker. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime defines human trafficking as “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” (UNODC, 2018). Every year, children, women, and men become trafficking victims in their thousands, either in their mother countries or foreign countries. The practice gravely violates human rights and is considered a serious crime. It was estimated by the International Labor Organization (ILO) that as of 2014, an estimated profit of $150 billion was being generated by forced labor alone per annum. Noteworthy, forced labor is just one component of human trafficking. It was also estimated in 2012 by ILO that modern-day slavery traps 21 million people (ILO, 2012). Human trafficking is fast-growing and there is need to adequately address it.
Almost every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, as sources, countries of transit, or destinations, or even a combination of all the three. Often, less developed countries serve as sources while more developed ones serve as destinations. People in less developed countries are rendered vulnerable to being trafficked by virtue of such conditions as conflict or poverty. While there are cases of long-distance trafficking, most trafficking is regional or national. Victims from the widest range of sources are taken to Europe as their destination while victims coming from Asia are taken to the widest range of destinations. According to Lee (2013), the Americas are known to be both sources and destinations of human trafficking victims.
According to UNODC (2014), 38 states out of the 66 UN member states in Africa and the Middle East are affected by human trafficking. On the same note, 29 states out of the 35 UN member states in the Americas suffer from the practice. In Europe and Central Asia, 43 states out of the 53 UN member states are affected. South Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific are also not spared as 18 states out of the 39 UN member states in the region feel the effects of this inhuman act. In Sub-Saharan Africa which mainly serves as origin and transit, the countries involved include Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
3. Causes of Trafficking
While the causes of human trafficking may vary from one country to another, the practice majorly targets and capitalizes on vulnerable populations. People who find themselves in situations that are vulnerable and precarious are desperate to find reprieve and in the process fall prey to traffickers. As such, trafficking may be said to be caused by the search for a better life, natural disasters, war, and poverty. Traffickers target people who can easily be coerced into the human trafficking industry. Often, such people are migrants, fleeing their countries in order to escape from political instability, conflict, natural disasters, or economic hardship. As noted by Simon (2016), “The displacement of populations increases individuals’ emotional vulnerability, and frequently they do not have the financial support to protect themselves.” This makes them susceptible to trafficking and other human rights abuses.
Human trafficking is also caused by demand for cheap labor and pursuit of economic gains by traffickers. A common exploiter of trafficking is the service industry, especially kitchens and restaurants. The demand for cheap agricultural and domestic labor also keeps increasing. Initially when they are being acquired, employees are often given promises of good working conditions with irresistible perks. However, they later learn that they are not just massively underpaid but also subjected to work overloads and harsh working conditions. With respect to economic gains, traffickers make huge profits, as much as $150 billion per year according to ILO (Simon, 2016). The illegal industry is fast growing as traffickers seek to make more profits.
4. Obtaining People
Human traffickers get the people they traffic through the following methods: seduction and romance, false job advertisements, false travel or educational opportunities, abduction, and sale by family. In romance, a “loverboy” lures a young woman (their victim) into a romantic relationship. The relationship quickly turns into one that is psychologically and emotionally abusive. The loverboy intimidates their victim into compliance through the use of violence and blackmail, including coercing them into travelling to a foreign country. Traffickers also lure the vulnerable into the hands of exploiters through the use of such enticing offers as travel or employment. The offers always have convincing fronts even though they are false (Dragiewicz, 2014). They use a registered business as a front in posting such “opportunities” in legitimate newspapers.
In some world regions, families resort to selling their children to traffickers due to unbearable levels of displacement, desperation, debt, and poverty. As noted by Dragiewicz (2014), such families choose this option so as to ease the pressure to alleviate these hardships and earn some money. Traffickers also use job advertisements to lure jobless youth in unemployment-stricken countries into travelling abroad with promises of well-paying jobs. The youth seeing the situation back at home and the absence of any hope decide to grab this false opportunity. Further, traffickers may abduct their victims either at gun point or through drugs that make them pass out. Once abducted, the victim would have no otherwise but dance to the tunes of the traffickers lest they get instantly killed or tortured to death.
Socio-culturally, human trafficking is encouraged by the oppression of children and women in societies that are overly patriarchal. The family and social structures of such societies are such that women are generally subordinates to men. Men and boys enjoy more opportunities than women and girls. The attitude towards women and girls in the societies is so discriminative that they rarely have any opportunities to prosper. Not enough time and resources are invested in them as is done for their fellow male counterparts. Their chances of going to school are far fewer than those of boys. When it comes to important family matters, they do not have any say and are often denied the right to rent or own land (Temesgen, 2012). It is a serious bondage that leaves them vulnerable to anything that would help them get their way out of the societies. They thus find it very difficult to say no to traffickers.
5. Process of Trafficking
After acquisition, traffickers transport their victims from one city to another, one state to another, or one country to another. While doing the transportation, traffickers often forge travel documents for the victims. However, in cases where the victims are willing to avail their real documents, traffickers would prefer to use them. It implies that a trafficking victim may enter their final destination either legally or illegally. Segrave (2016) explains that during the transit process, traffickers often seek to exercise maximum control over their victims so they may successfully deliver them to target destinations. They thus apply control methods that ensure that the victims remain obedient and submissive to them throughout the process.
Some of the methods used include violence (sexual, physical and psychological), threats, intimidation, and blackmail. As explained by Segrave (2016), traffickers may for instance threaten to kill a victim or even his or her entire immediate family if they show signs of resistance. They also control the victims’ movements, keep them in isolated places, and take away their personal documents. Worse off, they compel the victims into addiction by forcing them to drink alcohol and use narcotic drugs. A specific control method that is commonly used is known as indebted slavery. The traffickers tell the victim that they paid a certain amount of money to enable his or her transportation to the final destination and that this sum continues to increase due to everyday expenses spent on their subsistence. They make the victim believe that he or she would regain his or her freedom as soon as he or she pays off that amount.
6. Short Term and Long Term Outcomes
Once the people being trafficked arrive where they are being taken, they are immediately subjected to exploitation as the traffickers look to fulfill their greatest motive: making financial profit. The urge to achieve this goal sees trafficked persons being exploited in a number of ways including trade in human organs, forced marriages, illegal adoption, forced commission of crimes, forced beggary, labor exploitation, and sexual exploitation (Piotrowicz, Rijken & Uhl, 2017). Psychologically, human trafficking has both short-term and long-term effects on victims. As is already seen, perpetrators and traffickers use extreme control measures to achieve coercion. Victims are exposed to high amounts of short-term psychological stress induced by emotional violence, physical violence, fear, and threats.
In the long term, trafficked persons may suffer from complex trauma which may emanate from repeated intimate relationship trauma cases over long time periods. This may happen after they may have been put through such ordeals as gang rape, forced prostitution, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. Involved in complex trauma are multifaceted conditions of revictimization, despair, somatic and medical concerns, self-destructive behaviors, substance abuse, dissociation, self-hatred, anxiety, and depression (Piotrowicz, Rijken & Uhl, 2017). Trafficking, particularly sex trafficking, also makes victims susceptible to contracting HIV/AIDS. Trafficking enhances the proliferation of HIV in that the people being trafficked are young or inexperienced and vulnerable and thus fail to effectively protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections. The situation is worsened by the fact that customers highly demand child-prostitutes since there is a perception that they are not likely to be HIV positive. Economically, human trafficking generates billions of dollars per year but unfortunately, victims rarely get a share of this money.
A measure that is majorly being taken by both target and source countries to prevent human trafficking is criminalization of the practice through legislation. The countries “criminalize trafficking in persons specifically, but their legislation may only cover some victims (for example, only children, women and/or foreigners) or certain forms of exploitation (for example sexual exploitation)” (UNODC, 2014). In the United States for example, the Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons was established by the enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in the year 2000. The office fights human trafficking in liaison with foreign governments.
However, in order to adequately prevent the trafficking vice, countries should seek to recognize and understand the complexity of the crime. As noted by United Nations (2010), “We cannot allow ourselves to marginalize the issue of trafficking, viewing it as something that can be ended with a few extra taskforces or dedicated units.” Preventive strategies have to be embedded in all policy areas. For instance, source countries should improve female education in order to reduce the vulnerability of girls to trafficking. In the same breadth, destination countries should increase police pay so that police officers do not become easily bribable.
Human trafficking is a serious problem that keeps growing and needs to be conclusively addressed. It has far-reaching effects on the victims as well as on the economy. The psychological and physical tortures the victims pass through affect them both in the short and long term and may interfere with their lives. In spite of the industry generating billions of profits yearly, this money ends up in the pockets of perpetrators and traffickers and does not help the global economy in a meaningful manner. The hope to put an end to this horror only lies in a concerted effort by all communities, nongovernmental organizations, private companies, and governments.
Dragiewicz, M. (2014). Global human trafficking: Critical issues and contexts. New York, NY: Routledge.
ILO. (2012). “21 Million people are now victims of forced labour, ILO says”. International Labor Organization. Retrieved June 17, 2018 from http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_181961/lang–en/index.htm
Lee, M. (2013). Human trafficking. New York, NY: Routledge.
Piotrowicz, R., Rijken, C., & Uhl, H. (2017). Routledge handbook of human trafficking. Oxfordshire, UK: Taylor & Francis.
Segrave, M. (2016). Human trafficking. Oxfordshire, UK: Taylor & Francis.
Simon, M. (2016). “5 prevailing causes of human trafficking”. The Borgen Project. Retrieved June 17, 2018 from https://borgenproject.org/5-causes-of-human-trafficking/
Temesgen, G. (2012). Root causes and solutions to human trafficking in Ethiopia. International Journal of Science and Research, 3(8), 1578-1585.
United Nations. (2010). Prevention, prosecution and protection – human trafficking. UNChronicle. Retrieved June 17, 2018 from https://unchronicle.un.org/article/prevention-prosection-and-protection-human-trafficking
UNODC. (2014). Global report on trafficking in persons. New York, NY: United Nations. Retrieved from http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/GLOTIP_2014_full_report.pdf
UNODC. (2018). Human trafficking. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Retrieved June 17, 2018 from https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html