When one thinks about human trafficking, they think about countries from the Middle East or Africa, kidnapping children to become soldiers and fight in wars or little girls to become sex slaves. However, what many people do not realize is that this heinous crime occurs in their own backyard. Human trafficking is an issue that happens in countries all over the world, even countries that are seemingly progressive, such as the United States. In the United States alone, between 14,000 and 17,500 people per year enter the country for trafficking purposes (Goodhart 203). Within the United States, there are trafficking cases in all communities, from rural areas to urban hubs. While the majority of these cases happen in metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago or Atlanta, they have also happened in the small rural areas (Goodhart 212). This means that the problem has spread everywhere, and is not restricted in location, making it a global crisis for every citizen of Earth. While human trafficking is highly illegal and can only be accessed through black markets and illegal trade markets, it still exists within society. It is estimated that 1.2 million people around the world are trafficked annually, and there are 12.3 million people in forced labor or sexual servitude positions (Goodhart 203). This is an issue that causes grave situations for its victims, and can often leave them critically injured, raped, or dead. This issue needs to be reanalysed and new solutions must be implicated in order to help save the lives of current and future trafficking victims. Possible solutions to end human trafficking are more global women’s rights, education, and increased victim protection.
Human trafficking is also known as “white slavery,” due mainly in part because it happens in America and Europe (Goodhart 205). Human trafficking is a broad term that is used to describe a wide collection criminal acts that involve labor and sexual exploitation (Goodhart 203). It is a roughly $7 billion a year industry, according to the United Nations (Feingold 28). It is also one of the biggest criminal activities in the world, behind arms and drugs crimes (Gabhan 529). It is a process that involves the illegal kidnapping or exploitation of people to be forced to work or provide other services, often cross-border. This process is recruitment, transportation and control (Goodhart 204). Recruitment happens in many ways, including kidnapping and coercion. Since these people are taken to other nations illegally, they do not have any rights and therefore become illegal immigrants (Samarasinghe and Burton 52). This issue happens for many purposes, including forced labor, forced marriage, sexual exploitation, and debt bondage (Goodhart 203). Victims are trafficked into various industries, including the sex trade and for labor purposes. For example, little boys can be kidnapped to perform forced labor on fishing boats or other commercial vessels, and many do not return home (Feingold 26-27). In addition, children are trafficked to sweatshops to perform forced child labor, or to farms and agricultural industries, and sometimes they are forced to become child soldiers (Goodhart 203). Roughly 80 percent of trafficking victims are women (Chuang 141). Up to 50 percent of these victims are minors (Goodhart 203). These women are often the victims of gender-based violence and control exerted by dominant ideas. Women and children are often trafficked into forced prostitution, forced marriage or entry into the mail order bride industry, and other commercial sexual purposes (Goodhart 203). Roughly 80 percent of trafficking globally is for commercial sex purposes, and the majority of the people who have been prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice have been convicted for forced prostitution (Goodhart 212). This is often why the concept of this crime is connected directly to sexual exploitation.
Women often find themselves victim to human trafficking because they come from areas that are run by repressed institutions that do not place equal values on women (Chuang 141). These countries do not have adequate resources for women, whether it be education or opportunities (Chuang 141). Thus, women become victims very easily as they are not treated with equal respect in the first place. Possible causes of trafficking also include a lack of solid labor market in the victim’s home country, leading to more desperate means of searching for income (Chuang 138). Since many victims of trafficking are used for labor, this can be considered a direct cause. Many women are coerced into being trafficked because they are promised new job opportunities in another country, and they are so desperate for work they take the job without hearing any details about it (Gabhan 530). By the time they realize what they are getting into, they have already gone too far. With the increase in international trade markets, the labor industry has shifted in the past few decades, allowing more people to leave and find work abroad while leaving their home country in despair and desperate for more workers and jobs (Chuang 140). Many victims choose to migrate to find work in other countries, and are subject to exploitation along the way (Chuang 140). Thus the socioeconomic conditions of the locations they live could be a blame factor for this. In addition, this desperation motivates more traffickers to commit the crime because they are looking for more ways to make money (Chuang 141). Many of the women who are trafficked do not see any of the profits they earn, as the traffickers take the money to repay the costs of transporting them as well as the profit from doing so (Gabhan 530).
There have been efforts in the past and present to stop trafficking. One of these measures is attempting to tighten borders so that it is harder to smuggle in victims in and out of the country (Feingold 27). However, this has made the victims even more vulnerable and prone to violence. The first attempt to control and prevent human trafficking occurred in 1949 with the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation in the Person of Others (Samarasinghe and Burton 52). However, after this convention there were what have been described as “decades of silence,” during which time international groups remained silent on the issue and the commitment to confront and stop female sex trafficking was almost nonexistent (Goodhart 207). Efforts began again in the 1970’s, when the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women was created (Goodhart 208). This commission helped to protect women from becoming victims of sexual trafficking, and offered rights and protections to women. However, these laws focused more on discrimination and were not as effective in regulating trafficking. The first comprehensive federal law in the United States to address trafficking was the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (Nam 1656). Since this law was passed, there has not been as much success as was intended when the act was passed. This could arguably be because the United States switched governments and presidents from Democratic to Republicans soon after the bill was signed (Goodman 215). This is mentioned not to blame any specific president or the Republicans for lack of action, but only to state that the government likely had other pressing issues to be concerned with instead. This act gives victims the power to bring their traffickers to court and take civil action against them (Nam 1656). However, victims could be scared to do so because of the potential repercussions that would happen from the criminals. If the case does not result in the lifelong punishment of the offender, the victim would live in fear that the offender will come back to punish them, usually by killing or extreme injury.
A viable solution that could help reduce human trafficking is to make more advancements in women’s rights across the world instead of just within North America. While women have come a long way in many areas, there are still countries that are ruled by other laws that dictate many restrictions for women and girls. With women in more institutional positions among the workforce, there would be more options for women to turn to instead of attempting to migrate and find work somewhere else. One of the first steps that should be taken for this is outlawing prostitution. While this industry is not legal in many countries, it has been decriminalized in others. While there is no official evidence to conclude that prostitution has an impact on human trafficking, many laws that are aimed at prostitution commonly have trafficking victims in mind (Feingold 29). Many activists also use prostitution as a victimizing industry to provoke serious thought and interest in regards to human trafficking (Goodhart 212). Even with the lack of evidence, there is a significant number of victims who are forced into prostitution or are made to become sex slaves. Many people, activists and officials, do believe that prostitutes are victims, regardless of their consent (Goodhart 210). The demand for the global sex industry is high, despite societal rejection, and has been pushed underground to meet those demands (Samarasinghe and Burton 51). Making prostitution illegal would in theory deter people from doing business with prostitutes, which would decrease the demand for the industry. Thus, there would be less desire to kidnap victims as the profits would not be worth it. Encouraging women to remain in school and commit to education is an action that would be crucial for empowering women in nations that do not otherwise have the means or intentions of doing so (Samarasinghe and Burton 58).
According to Gabhan, “awareness is the first condition for prevention” (Gabhan 534). Education is a solution, and this can be in regards to the victims as well as the rest of the world. Many people do not believe that human trafficking happens within their home country, and often categorize it as a non-American issue. In addition, many campaigns for public awareness have backfired, partly due to those people who are sceptical of ulterior motives by the government and the wealthy (Chuang 155). Education also needs to happen in at-risk communities so that the individuals who could become victims are more aware of the potential circumstances (Samarasinghe and Burton 55). These at-risk individuals are women and children ages 5 to 25 who are relatively uneducated or live in poverty, who are often repressed by the societies they live in (Samarasinghe and Burton 55). The implementation and intervention of NGOs and other organizations in this areas is key for providing this education. Through the creation of more programs, educators and other tools can be sent to these areas.
Protection is a viable solution for human trafficking, and more attention should be focused on protecting victims than prosecuting offenders. While prosecution is important and necessary, little thought is placed on victim protection. Government officials have categorized the issue as a border patrol and security issue, while this is not the only solution (Chuang 147). Traffickers know that there are consequences to what they are doing and they often find ways around the law. International law also dictates that in order to lay human trafficking charges there must be evidence of forced or coerced movement (Goodhart 203). There are also different charges for trafficking and severe trafficking in the United States, so the difference between the levels of severity make a difference to the charges (Goodhart 204). If an offender is given a less severe punishment for his trafficking crime he might be set free early and come back to find his victims. In this sense they are not truly safe as long as the offender is still on the loose. This is something that many people get around and find ways to avoid in the eyes of the law. There are also issues with the concept of consent. A coerced victim might consent to the act simply because they are forced to, or they are scared. If they give their consent it is harder to lay criminal charges. A first step regarding protection would be to create protection programs for the victims that would not require sending them home, as if they are sent home they could be placed in the conditions that had led to their fate in the first place (Feingold 30). To make matters worse, some of these victims might not have legal status in their home countries that would protect them or allow them full citizenship, which would mean access to more protection (Feingold 30). Offering support and protection in the United States and other first world countries would allow the victims to be socialized and conditioned to help them recover. In addition, there are more resources to therapist research in first world countries that could discover new methods to rehabilitate victims without sending them back home where they are vulnerable. They could also be given an education that could help them survive. In addition, prevention and protection measures must be implemented in at-risk communities through intervention strategies (Samarasinghe and Burton 53). While there are many of these strategies already in place by NGO’s and organizations like the United Nations, they need to place more focus on these areas and the individuals who are at risk within them. The United Nations must also consider targeting economical means, as trafficking as an industry is based on economics (Smith and Smith 139). They must hit at the government and industry level within the nations that are using human trafficking. Economic theories must be applied at the international and federal level that would mesh with the economy of human trafficking (Bravo 67). This can be applied through a liberalization of labor markets, which would eliminate the vulnerability of individuals as there would be more opportunities for employment (Bravo 68).
There are many obvious benefits to these solutions. In addition to preventing human trafficking, more rights would be granted not only for immigrants but for women as well. By offering more protection to the victims, male and female, they would then be able to lead prosperous lives as they would be able to use resources to find jobs and increase the legal labor markets in their home countries. Jobs and education would offer them protection, and would remove the need to leave the country to find work. Having a job back home would also mean that the women would be in the public eye, and if something were to happen to them other people would take notice. Women who are at home and do not work live mostly in the private sector, away from the public eye. No one notices if something happens to them, especially in countries in Africa or the Middle East, where women are strictly controlled by their husbands or fathers. By keeping them in the public sphere protection would significantly increase.
In conclusion, a solution to human trafficking would involve three main elements: emphasis on global women’s rights, education across all sectors, and increased protection focusing on the victims. Victims of trafficking suffer extreme effects, mental as well as physical (Gabhan 532). The physical effects include STDs and viruses such as AIDS, injuries from being beaten and treated carelessly, sickness from the impoverished environments they are placed into, among many others (Gabhan 532). The mental effects are significant as well, as they suffer extreme treatment and therefore are unable to form normal relationships that rely on trust (Gabhan 532). In addition, they face high risk for being deported because they are treated as illegal immigrants (Gabhan 532). Changes need to be made to the current laws regarding human trafficking, as they have obviously not been effective enough to prevent the crime from taking millions of victims every year. Through step by step processes governments and institutions at every level can provide a helping step towards this solution.
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