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December 2, 2010

Today, December 2, is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. So today my blog will have a rather serious topic, Human Trafficking.

Most of us have heard the term, but don’t really know what it is (and most often we associate the term with sex slavery). So what is trafficking in persons? According to the Trafficking in Persons Report released by the U.S. State Department, it is an umbrella term used “for activities involved when one person obtains or holds another person in compelled service.” This can include involuntary servitude, slavery, debt bondage, child soldiers, and forced labor.

Just how big is this problem? It is huge. There are currently an estimated 12.3 million adults and children in forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution around the world (This estimate is probably low – Free the Slaves estimates that there are 27 million slaves in the world today). Virtually every country in the world is affected by trafficking for sexual exploitation or forced labor. Reliable global data are limited, but the number of victims is believed to be reaching epidemic proportions due to a “boom” in the trafficking of persons in recent years. Data taken from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report on trafficking in persons document the trafficking of human beings from 127 countries to be exploited in 137 countries.

People can be victims of trafficking even if they are not transported to another country. According to United States Government-sponsored research completed in 2006, approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders annually, which does not include the millions trafficked within their own countries. And if anyone thinks it does not happen in “developed” countries, think again. According to the U.S. State Department report, “The United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor, debt bondage, and forced prostitution. Trafficking occurs primarily for labor and most commonly in domestic servitude, agriculture, manufacturing, janitorial services, hotel services, construction, health and elder care, hair and nail salons, and strip club dancing.” So the next time you go to get your acrylic nails filled in, realize that the women doing the work, who do not speak English well, may in fact be victims of trafficking.

There has also been an increase in the number of people who are trafficked for reasons that are not related to sexual slavery.  The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that for every trafficking victim subjected to forced prostitution, nine people are forced to work. Immigrants are particularly vulnerable to this type of slavery, but individuals also may be forced into labor in their own countries.

You may wonder how this happens – how do people become victims of human trafficking? The most common recruitment methods are:

  • Individual recruiters looking for interested males and females in bars, cafes, clubs, discos and other public places.
  • Recruitment via informal networks of families and/or friends.
  • Advertisements offering work or study abroad.
  • Agencies offering work, study, marriage or travel abroad.
  • False marriages.
  • Purchase of children from their guardians.

Based on the IOM Counter-Trafficking Database, which includes information on victims who have been assisted by IOM projects in 78 countries, most recruitment occurs through personal contacts. According to the database, 46 per cent of victims knew their recruiter and 54 per cent were recruited by strangers. In addition, 52 per cent of recruiters were men and 42 per cent women, and in 6 per cent of recruitments both men and women were involved as recruiters.

Who is most vulnerable to traffickers? Factors affecting vulnerability in the countries of origin include age, gender and poverty. Children are vulnerable to the demands and expectations of those in authority, including their parents, extended family and teachers. Women are vulnerable to trafficking because they are often excluded from employment, higher education and legal as well as political parity. Many forms of gender-based violations, such as rape, domestic violence and harmful traditional practices, are linked to social and cultural situations that contribute to the vulnerability of women to being trafficked. The most vulnerable people include:

  • Poor young women with drastically worsened economic status due to war
  • Internally displaced people who are more vulnerable than refugees as the former do not benefit from any international protection
  • Refugees in camps who are recruited for sexual exploitation or children recruited for use as soldiers
  • Orphans

    I could continue to provide information from the various reports I have read, and web sites I have seen, related to human trafficking. It is a travesty that we are still allowing this to occur. Instead of making this a ten-page blog, however, I will hope that I have gained your attention and that you will follow some of these links to learn more about the problem.


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