8th list of 10: Facts about human trafficking

As I started my 101 entry, I thought I should do something fun. Inspired by Polly, I have decided to make 10 lists of 10; here is number 8.

  1. Human trafficking, also known as “modern day slavery,” is an umbrella term that encompasses several forms of exploitation including debt bondage, sex slavery, forced labor, and trade in human body parts.
  2. No one knows the extent, in terms of people or money, of human trafficking. Estimates globally range from 600,000 to 4 million people.
  3. Even within the U.S., numbers of traffic victims vary depending on your source from 17,000 to 50,000 individuals annually.
  4. After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms trade as the second largest criminal industry in the world, and it is the fastest growing.
  5. Women and girls constitute 70-80% of the victims of human trafficking worldwide with 50% being minors. Men are trafficked too though.
  6. UNICEF reports that every year 1.2 million children are trafficked for a profit of an estimated 10 billion dollars.
  7. Age ranges and education levels vary. Personally, I have worked with or known traffic victims with graduate degrees and men nearing retirement age.
  8. Traffic victims have been identified all over the United States, including in small towns in middle America.
  9. Most agencies have endorsed a multidisciplinary approach to working with victims of human trafficking; however, a truly integrative programming is extremely expensive. Ideally, programs would address legal, medical, addiction, material, economic, and psychological needs.
  10. One researcher explains that a staggering percentage of prostitutes in many western countries are illegal immigrants; more than 50% in Germany and as much as 80% of Dutch prostitutes are foreign born. He surmises that most of these illegal immigrants were trafficked into brothels. Moreover, he argues that all other prostitution could be understood as domestic trafficking due to the violence, the women’s lack of control, and their inability to leave
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Human trafficking in the News

Take a look at this article of Human Trafficking in the news: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article1836946.ece. The story in and of itself is shocking and something America really needs to see– all too often we think of trafficking as happening in “backwards” third-world country and having no representation in our own backyards. However, this is not the case and we need to start seeing it so that we better address it.

Peter, my professor who pointed out the article, also pointed out something even more disturbing to me– the fact that it didn’t make front page, or even close to front page.  This story was buried were most people would not see it, thus continuing the illusion that human trafficking is not a problem in the US.

Domestic violence, rape, trafficking and other crimes against women

The reality is that around the world women are subjugated and submitted to violence every second.  The reality is that those who defend them and speak up are often persecuted for it.  Sometimes, we need to take a moment and look at the people in this world who are doing amazing, un-thanked, difficult work and are giving up so much of themselves for so many others. Meet Lydia Cacho Ribeiro and notice the references to sex trafficking in Cancun. More and more I am realizing the role that Americans (or any western traveler) can and should play in promoting child-safe, women-safe, environmentally safe tourism.

More on economics

In the last post I talked about economics theory. Specifically, I pointed to the idea that if there is a demand, there will be a supply.  There is, however, more to this than simply meets the eye.

In the counter trafficking movement, much of the work being done has been to control the supply side of things.  Education outreach to villages encourages raised awareness of the risk of trafficking thus reducing the amount of people who will be duped into it. Vocational training and keeping kids in school projects work to increase the economic viability of at-risk populations making them less susceptible to traffickers. Economic development through asset-building and micro-loan programs have likewise made less people vulnerable.  Increasing the security at international borders has increased the number of individuals caught before crossing and thus saved from an unknown future.

But, in reality, a lot of what this is doing is to decrease (but not eliminate) the supply and do nothing to the demand. With a smaller supply and a constant demand, the profitability of human trafficking is actually going up.  Those traffickers who have found ways to traffic people and get them successfully to their destinations, are making more money then they were in the past.  Admittedly, this is hardly working as a deterrent

Human trafficking is tied with illegal arms trade as the second biggest illegal criminal industry in the world—and it is the fastest growing.

In order to curtail this, counter-trafficking programs and governments need to start focusing not just on the supply side, but also on two other key points:

  1. Decrease demand
  2. Increase penalties

If we decrease the demand for slave labor, beggars, prostitutes, etc., then the trafficking rings will have nowhere to sell their “goods” (aka human beings). If they have nowhere to sell the people to and profitability falls, they will go out of business. 

On the penalty side, there are not enough disincentives to either be a trafficker or to use the service of trafficked people.  For example, in many places it is illegal to be a prostitute, but not illegal to be a pimp or a john. The legal system, thus, punishes victims of trafficking (prostitutes) but does not adequately punish those who have trafficked them (unless there is a solid case of trafficking) or those who have bought their services.

Even in places where traffickers are prosecuted, often the punishment in terms of money and time in jail is not on-par with that of trafficking illegal drugs or weapons.  Therefore, with the penalties being less and the goods being re-sellable, it is an obvious and smart choice for criminal networks to get involved in human trafficking as opposed to drug or arms sales.