Trafficking has become a lucrative industry and is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Globally, it is tied with the illegal trade, as the second largest criminal activity, followed by the drug trade. Human trafficking usually affects women and children more than it affects men. Sex trafficking is nothing less than slavery because when an offender takes a woman or girl against her will and forces her to engage in prostitution, he not only sells her body but also her freedom and dignity. Much sex trafficking is international, with victims being taken from places such as South and Southeast Asia, the former Soviet Union, Central and South America, and other less-developed areas to more developed places including Asia, the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America. Those who profit from victimizing children and adults in the sex trade are only one half of the problem. The other half is those who patronize this industry.
The total annual revenue for trafficking in persons is estimated to be between USD$5 billion and $9 billion. The Council of Europe states, “People trafficking have reached epidemic proportions over the past decade, with a global annual market of about $42.5 billion,” and The United Nations estimates nearly 2.5 million people from 127 different countries are being trafficked around the world.
Human trafficking differs from people smuggling. As for smuggling, people voluntarily request or hire an individual, known as a smuggler, to transport them from one country to another, where legal entry would be denied upon arrival at the international border. After entry into the country and arrival at their destination, the smuggled person is free to find their own way, while smuggling requires travel, trafficking does not. Victims of human trafficking are not permitted to leave upon arrival at their destination, they are held against their will through acts of coercion and forced to work or provide services to the trafficker or others. The work includes anything from bonded or forced labor to commercialized sexual exploitation.
1. How Does Human Trafficking Take Place?
Traffickers find their victims from developing countries where poverty is widespread, commonly through force or deception. The victims are typically very young, from 8 to 18 years old and some as young as 4 or 5 years old. A common scenario involves a poor Asian or Eastern European girl who is offered a “better life” as a housemaid, restaurant server or dancer in a wealthy country such as the United States, Great Britain, or Italy. As she arrives, her passport is taken away, she is physically and sexually abused and forced into prostitution in a country where she neither speaks the language nor have any friends nor relatives. She is forced to service 8-15 clients a day and does not receive any pay as she is told that the money is used to pay off her “debt” to the trafficker and brothel owners for transportation, food, lodging and so on. After some period of time, she will be resold to another brothel owner, often in another country, and the cycle will continue all over again. She is likely to acquire HIV/AIDS, and to pass it on to her clients and their wives, all around the world. She has a greater chance than most of dying early, and is certain to live a horrible existence in whatever short years she has. Even if she is eventually rescued and repatriated to her country and community, she is likely to be ostracized as a result of her involvement in prostitution.
Government and police corruption, primarily in under-developed countries, play a large role in the perpetuation of the sex slave industry, with blind-eyes being turned toward openly active brothels and payoffs being accepted by those officials charged with the enforcement of national and international laws prohibiting trafficking, prostitution and child sexual exploitation.
2. Types of labor work
Bonded labor, or debt bondage, is probably the least known form of labor trafficking today, and yet it is the most widely used method of enslaving people. Victims become bonded laborers when their labor is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan or service in which its terms and conditions have not been defined or in which the value of the victims’ services as reasonably assessed is not applied toward the liquidation of the debt. The value of their work is greater than the original sum of money “borrowed.”
Forced labor is when victims are forced to work against their own will, under the threat of violence or some other form of punishment, their freedom is restricted and a degree of ownership is exerted. Men are at risk of being trafficked for unskilled work, which globally generates $31bn according to the International Labor Organization. Forms of forced labor can include domestic servitude; agricultural labor; sweatshop factory labor; janitorial, food service and other service industry labor; and begging.
Sex trafficking victims are generally found in poor circumstances and easily targeted by traffickers. These circumstances include homeless individuals, runaway teens, displaced homemakers, refugees, and drug addicts. While it may seem like trafficked people are the most vulnerable and powerless minorities in a region, victims are consistently exploited from any ethnic and social background. Traffickers are known as pimps or madams, offers promises of marriage, employment, education, and/or an overall better life. However, in the end, traffickers force the victims to become prostitutes or work in the sex industry. Various works in the sex industry includes prostitution, dancing in strip clubs, performing in pornographic films and pornography, and other forms of involuntary servitude. Women are lured to accompany traffickers based on promises of lucrative opportunities unachievable in their native country. Most have been told lies regarding the financial arrangements and conditions of their employment and find themselves in coercive or abusive situations from which escape is both difficult and dangerous. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were 1,229 human trafficking incidents in the United States from January 2007- September 2008. Of these, 83 % were sex trafficking cases.
Child labor is a form of work that is likely to be hazardous to the physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social development of children and can interfere with their education. The International Labor Organization estimates worldwide that there are 246 million exploited children aged between 5 and 17 involved in debt bondage, forced recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, pornography, the illegal drug trade, the illegal arms trade, and other illicit activities around the world.
3. Trafficking in children
Trafficking of children is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation. Trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children can take many forms and include forcing a child into prostitution or other forms of sexual activity or child pornography. Child exploitation can also include forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, the removal of organs, illicit international adoption, trafficking for early marriage, recruitment as child soldiers, for use in begging or as athletes (such as child camel jockeys or football players), or for recruitment for cults.
Thailand and Brazil are considered to have the worst child sex trafficking records. One of the major reasons is the parent’s extreme poverty where they sell their children in order to pay debts or gain income. Some is deceived that the traffickers will give a better life and education for their children. The adoption process, legal or illegal, can sometimes result in cases of trafficking of babies and pregnant women between the West and the developing world. Thousands of children from Asia, Africa, and South America are sold into the global sex trade every year. Often they are kidnapped or orphaned, and sometimes they are actually sold by their own families.
Trafficking victims are also exposed to different psychological problems. They suffer social alienation in the host and home countries. Stigmatization, social exclusion and intolerance make reintegration into local communities difficult. The governments offer little assistance and social services to trafficked victims upon their return.
4. Global nature of the problem
Sex trafficking is global in nature and the victims come from all developing countries and are trafficked into or through virtually all developing and developed countries. It is estimated, for example, that 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States every year, most of who are sold into prostitution. This is not dependent on nationality, race or religion and not on economic or social standing. The one substantial difference is that it is the wealthy countries – through their military, businessmen, tourists, and Internet pornography subscribers, all of whom pay significantly more for the use of a sex slave that keeps this criminal industry extremely profitable for traffickers.
Trafficking does not only occur in poor countries, but in fact in every country. A source country is a country where people are trafficked and these countries are often weakened by poverty, war, corruption, natural disasters or climate. Some examples of source countries are Nepal, Guatemala, and the former Soviet Union, Nigeria, Thailand, China, Albania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine and many more. Then there is transit country where the victims are enslaved and the destination country is where the victim ends up. Japan, India, much of Western Europe, and the United States are all destination countries and the most common destinations for victims of human trafficking are Thailand, Japan, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the US, according to a report by the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).
Almost every human trafficking prevention organization works to spread public awareness of trafficking. Several methods have been used to achieve public awareness, and while some produce little results, others have succeeded in persuading governments to pass laws and regulations on human trafficking. By pushing the issue of human trafficking into the public eye through the media, organizations work to educate the general public about the dangers of being trafficked and practices of preventing individuals from being trafficked. Television, magazines, newspapers, and radio are all used to warn and educate the public by providing statistics, scenarios, and general information on the subject.
Regardless of the type of human trafficking, nearly 1 in 5 of its victims was children, according to various reports. Their innocence is abused for begging, or exploited for sex as prostitutes, pedophilia or child pornography. Others are sold as child brides or camel jockeys.”
In a 2008 report on human trafficking, the U.S. State Department listed Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia as destination countries with widespread trafficking abuses, particularly forced laborers trafficked from Asia and Africa who are subject to restrictions on movement, withholding of passports, threats and physical and sexual abuse. The report found those countries made feeble efforts to rescue victims and prosecute traffickers. The department’s report also says slave labor in developing countries such as Brazil, China and India was fueling part of their huge economic growth. Other countries on the blacklist were Algeria, Cuba, Fiji, Iran, Myanmar, Moldova, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Sudan and Syria.
According to the Report, the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. In Central Asia and Eastern Europe, women make up more than 60 percent of those convicted of trafficking. The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labor, or slavery, making up 18 percent of the total, although the writers of the report say it may be underreported. Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labour counting 18 %. Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority, up to 100% in parts of West Africa.
5. War and abuse
Women and girls in war zones are especially touched by the ugly side of war. They are not able to defend themselves and after being abused or sold they are stigmatized in their communities besides ending up pregnant or with HIV/AIDS.
In August 2001, soldiers with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Eritrea were purchasing 10 year old girls for sex in local hotels.
Before the arrival of 15,000 UN troops in Cambodia in 1991, there were an estimated 1,000 prostitutes in the capital. Currently, Cambodia’s illegal sex trade generates $500 million a year. No less than 55,000 women and children are sex slaves in Cambodia, 35 percent of which are younger than 18 years of age.
Over 5,000 women and children have been trafficked from the Philippines, Russia and Eastern Europe and are forced into prostitution in bars servicing the U.S. Military in South Korea.
6. Children – lost innocence
- Children from Pakistan and Bangladesh are kidnapped or sold by their parents to traffickers who take them to Persian Gulf States including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, to work as camel jockeys. These children are 3 to 7 years of age and kept malnourished to keep their weight below 35 pounds. They suffer physical abuse from the traffickers and work all day training camels. Many of these children do also suffer extreme injuries or death from falling off camels during the races.
- Child victims of trafficking are very vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Misconceptions that having sex with a virgin can cure HIV/AIDS have fueled an increased demand for child prostitutes.
- Girls from 15 to 17 years of age are trafficked from Thailand and Taiwan to South Africa. Traffickers recruited these girls to work as waitresses or domestic workers and once they arrive to South Africa they are forced into prostitution.
- Filipino children are trafficked to countries in Africa, the Middle East, Western Europe and Southeast Asia, where they are sexually exploited. Traffickers loan parents a sum of money, which the girl must repay to the trafficker through forced prostitution. In one case, a Filipino woman rented her 9-year-old niece to foreign men for sex, and eventually sold her to a German pedophile.
- 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States from no less than 49 countries every year. As many as 750,000 women and children have been trafficked into the United States over the last decade.
- Women and children as young as 14 have been trafficked from Mexico to Florida and forced to have sex with as many as 130 clients per week in a trailer park. These women were kept hostage through threats and physical abuse, and were beaten and forced to have abortions. One woman was locked in a closet for 15 days after trying to escape.
- In Fresno, California Hmong gang members have kidnapped girls between the ages of 11 and 14 and forced into prostitution. The gang members would beat and rape them into submission. These girls were trafficked within the United States and traded between other Hmong communities.
- The Cadena smuggling ring brings women and some are as young as 14, from Mexico to Florida. The victims were forced to prostitute themselves with as many as 130 men per week in a trailer park. Of the $25 charged, the women received only $3. The Cadena members keep the women hostage through threats and physical abuse and the women must work until they paid off their debts of $2,000 to $3,000.
- Domestic servants in some countries of the Middle East are forced to work 12 to 16 hours a day with little or no pay, and subject to sexual abuse such as rape, forced abortions, and physical abuse that has resulted in death.
- Traffickers in many countries in West Africa take girls through voodoo rituals in which girls take oaths of silence and are often raped and beaten, prior to their leaving the country. They are also forced to sign agreements stating that, once they arrive in another country, they owe the traffickers a set amount of money. They are sworn to secrecy and given detailed accounts of how they will be tortured if they break their promise. Traffickers have taken women and young girls to shrines and places of cultural or religious significance; they remove pubic and other hair and then perform a ceremony of intimidation.
7. Human trafficking and the facts
- An estimated number of 700.000 to 4 million people are forced in forced labor (including the sex industry) as a result of trafficking. Of these are:
- 1.4 million – 56% are in Asia and the Pacific
- 250.000 – 10% are in Latin America and the Caribbean
- 230.000 – 9.2% are in the Middle East and Northern Africa
- 130.000 – 5.2% are in sub-Saharan countries
- 270.000 – 10.8% are in industrialized countries
- 200.000 – 8% are in countries in transitions
- 161 countries are reported to be affected by human trafficking by being a source, transit or destination count. People are reported to be trafficked from 127 countries to be exploited in 137 countries, affecting every continent and every type of economy.
- The majority of trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years of age and 1.2 million children are trafficked each year.
- 95% of victims experienced physical or sexual violence.
- 43% of victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation of which 98% are women and girls.
- 32% of victims are used for forced economical exploitation of which 56% are women and girls.
- 52% of those recruiting females are men, 42% are women and 6% are both men and women.
- In 54% of the cases, the recruiter was a stranger to the victim, 46% of the cases, the recruiter knew the victim.
- Estimated global annual profits made from the exploitation of all trafficked forced labor are US$ 31.6 billion. Of this:
- US$ 15.5 billion – 49% – is generated in industrialized economies
- US$ 9.7 billion – 30.6% is generated in Asia and the Pacific
- US$ 1.3 billion – 4.1% is generated in Latin America and the Caribbean
- US$ 1.6 billion – 5% is generated in sub-Saharan Africa
- US$ 1.5 billion – 4.7% is generated in the Middle east and North Africa
8. Slavery and sex-trade in the Arab world
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a destination for men and women, mostly from South and Southeast Asia, trafficked for the purposes of labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Migrant workers, who stand for more than 90% of the UAE’s private sector workforce, are recruited from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, China, and the Philippines. Women from some of these countries travel willingly to work as domestic servants or administrative staff, but some are victims of forced labor, including unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, non-payment of wages, threats, or physical or sexual abuse. Men from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are drawn to the UAE for work in the construction sector, but are often subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude and debt bondage.
For the foreign female domestic workers, it is a life of isolation both physically, psychologically, socially and culturally. Some of these women live in abusive environments but others are able to live a little bit more socially. Under the law, once a foreign female worker enters a employers house, she is under his/her control since the employer is the visa sponsor. The employer bears total responsibility for his/her domestic workers and has total control over them. But during the first 3 months of the contract, both the employer and the employee have the right to contact the recruiting agency in order to report problems or to seek change in the status or employment of the foreign female domestic worker. Most recruiting agencies, however, do not encourage this practice, and often hide information from the foreign female domestic worker about their rights. The immigration regulations governing the status of domestic workers and the social practices towards foreign female domestic worker in the United Arab Emirates enslave them to their employers until the duration of their contract ends. Whether one is placed with a desirable or an undesirable employer is a matter of luck.
Saudi Arabia is a place for men and women from South East Asia and East Africa trafficked for the purpose of labor exploitation and forced begging for children from Yemen and Africa. Hundreds of thousands low skilled workers from India, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Kenya migrate voluntarily to Saudi Arabia to work. Many of these workers meet conditions of physical and sexual abuse, non-payment or delayed payment of wages, withholding of travel documents and restrictions on their freedom of movement.
Unfortunately, the government of Saudi Arabia has done little or almost nothing to eliminate trafficking and has lack of efforts to protect victims and prosecute those who are guilty of abuse. Some victims of abuse, chooses to leave the country rather than to confront their abusers in court and according to the law, they are required to file a complaint first before they can be allowed in any shelter. If a victim chooses to file a complaint, he/she is not allowed to work and the Saudi Government does in fat provide food and shelter for female workers who file report.
9. Iran – High profitable sex-trade
Iran has for 25 years, has enforced humiliating and punishments on women and girls, enslaved them in a system of segregation, forced veiling, second-class status, lashing, and stoning to death. Joining a global trend, in Tehran there has been a 635% increase in the number of teenage girls in prostitution. In Tehran, there are an estimated 84,000 women and girls in prostitution, many of them are on the streets, others are in the 250 brothels that exist in the city. The trade is also international as thousands of Iranian women and girls have been sold into sexual slavery abroad. The head of Iran’s Interpol bureau believes that the sex slave trade is one of the most profitable activities in Iran today and government officials themselves are involved in buying, selling, and sexually abusing women and girls.
Many of the girls come from poor families living in rural areas. Drug addiction has become epidemic throughout Iran, and some addicted parents sell their children to support their habits. There is also a problem with high unemployment, 28% for youth between 15-29 years of age and 43% for women between 15-20 years of age.
Popular destinations for victims of the slave trade are the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf because of the booming tourism and the good economy. According to the head of the Tehran province judiciary, traffickers target girls between 13 and 17 years old, although there are reports of some girls as young as 8. The victims are often physically punished and imprisoned besides being examined if they have engaged in “immoral activity.” Based on the findings, officials can ban them from leaving the country again.
Police have uncovered a number of prostitution and slavery rings operating from Tehran that have sold girls to France, Britain, Turkey, as well. One network based in Turkey bought smuggled Iranian women and girls, made fake passports, and transported them to European and Persian Gulf countries. In one case, a 16-year-old girl was smuggled to Turkey, and then sold to a 58-year-old European national for $20,000.
One factor contributing to the increase in prostitution and the sex slave trade is the number of teen girls who are running away from home for different reasons and 90% of girls who run away from home will end up in prostitution. As a result of runaways, in Tehran alone there are an estimated 25,000 street children, most of them girls. The perpetrators look after street children, runaways, and vulnerable high school girls in city parks and manage to convince them. In large cities, shelters have been set up to provide assistance for runaways but these places are often corrupt and run prostitution rings from the shelters. In one case, a woman was discovered selling Iranian girls to men in Persian Gulf countries; for four years, she had hunted down runaway girls and sold them. She even sold her own daughter for US$11,000.
For further information about the slave and sex trade and the work that is done to prevent, you can click into these links.