Human trafficking can be described as one of those controversial subjects that is at the same level with torture and rape. It appears unfathomable to civilized communities that there are individuals out there whose only objective is profiting from the misfortune and misery of others (Burke, 2013). Human trafficking, far from being a one country predicament, is now taking place in the large cities of all developed nations and apparently in innocuous bungalows in posh and up market suburbs which are used for housing the trafficked individuals. Human trafficking is not only unique to single country, but has indeed become a global problem. This paper seeks to explore in more detail what human trafficking is and some of the possible ways of combating it.
The unwarranted trade and enslavement of people in the 21st century mirrors a deteriorating state of affairs which goes to prove that the biggest ethical issue that world faces today is human trafficking (Bhat & Joseph, 2013). But what is it human trafficking? Simply put, human trafficking entails the employment of human deception in the exploitation of the most vulnerable via forceful stripping of their self-worth and dignity. Human trafficking depicts a contrasting picture of inequity amongst equals as pertains the right of each person over his or her life, since trafficked persons are forced to sell their innate freedom and are prone to coercive subjugation. The victims’ cry for help is drowned in the sea of general sense of apathy and frequent oppression which has been going on for ages (Bhat & Joseph, 2013).
Human trafficking is a worldwide phenomenon that portrays itself in the form of organ trafficking, bonded labor, and sex trafficking. Poverty lies at the centre of human trafficking and for instance in sex trafficking, children and women are just reduced to sex objects for gratifying sexual desires of their oppressors (Bhat & Joseph, 2013). Human trafficking has evolved into an organized multi-billion dollar industry complete with its key investors, crooked recruiters as well as corrupt public employees who serve as the principal players (Bhat & Joseph, 2013). Globalization has given rise to a service industry that is wholly committed to offering forged documents, transportation, financial, accounting as well as legal assistance to the participants of this illegal trade. An evaluation of the challenges and issues of human trafficking further reveals the bleak reality of the dire situation. Hordes of children and women have fallen victims of serious human rights violation having fallen prey to trafficking by vested interests employing deceit, lure, threat, coercion and compulsion before being thrown into the gruesome world of commercial sex exploitation or other kinds of bondage (Bhat & Joseph, 2013).
These hapless victims are subjected to mental and physical trauma, denial as well as violation of their inherent human decorum. As a result the post trafficking situation places the victim at an awkward place with nearly no hope of living a normal life again. Some of the greatest perpetuating and facilitating factors of human trafficking include gender discrimination and vulnerability situations. Other alarming developments that have cropped up recently include sexual exploitation via sex tourism, prostitution in pilgrim cities and tourist destinations , pedophilia, and cross-border trafficking (Hepburn & Simon, 2013).
Children and women trafficking is certainly not a localized problem. There might be a few cases of trafficking occurring in a community though it is majorly a borderless misdemeanor contravening the boundaries of districts, police stations, regions, states and countries. Different countries in the South Asian continent over the years have come out as destinations, sources or transit points (Ford & Lyons, 2013).
India particularly has emerged as transit, destination and source for tracking for different reasons such as for labor and commercial sexual exploitation (CSE). For instance, prostitution in India’s largest red-light district-Kamathipura generates 400 million dollars annually with more than 100,000 sex workers who have been kidnapped and trafficked from various regions in rural India operating in the city (Ford & Lyons, 2013).
Exploiters capitalize on the victims’ broken environment and entice them with fake promises for a better and prosperous life in some place in the big cities or developed countries. During the process of trafficking, victims are exposed to ‘grooming’ episodes that are done via sexual and physical abuse so as force them into submission (Siegel & Wildt, 2016). Blindly believing that things will be better afterwards is one of the things that lead victims into an abyss especially since they compromise caution due to desperation. Law enforcing officers especially policemen conspire with the traffickers for little bribes or free sexual favors. It is this hypocrisy from those who are supposed to uphold justice that discourages victims from seeking justice or any other form of assistance (Siegel & Wildt, 2016).
Whereas intra-country trafficking constitutes a big chunk of the trafficking trade, cross-border trafficking is also a key business, particularly in Bangladesh and Nepal. Moreover, children and women are also trafficked to the numerous countries in the Middle East and other regions in the world for provision of cheap labor as well as commercial sexual exploitation. In other incidents, distraught parents eager to settle their debts, sell their daughters to brothel owners in return for a insignificant money. This is a common practice in impoverished communities all over the world with good examples being Cambodia, Brazil, Mexico and India to name but a few (Ford & Lyons, 2013).
In Cambodia and India for instance, school-aged minors are compelled by their own mothers and fathers to offer sexual favors to rich old men (sugar-daddies) in return for school favors and other needs. In another part of the world, Afghanistan, for example, young girls are sold as brides so as to repay their fathers’ opium debts. Thus the more the world progresses and becomes globalized, there is a rising trend whereby the gift of parenthood is being auctioned to the highest bidder.
Of all human trafficking forms, sex trafficking is the most brutal since in most instances it entails commercial exploitation of minors. Sadists thrive on the popular belief and ill-perception that having sex with a virgin can cure them of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Young girls are not only raped but also tortured to such a degree that their reproductive system is irreversibly damaged denying them of their inherent right to motherhood (Ford & Lyons, 2013).
On the other hand, episodes of sexual exploitation amongst young boys are hardly ever heard of because of the total failure on the society’s part to acknowledge its existence which is further propagated by the gender biased belief that male victims do not exists. Nonetheless, the practice of laundanach and bachcabaazi in India and Afghanistan respectively, where boys dress up like girls and entertain males, offers an insight into the world of male sex slavery as well as prostitution (Ford & Lyons, 2013).
The medieval Devadasi system, under religion’s guise is still widespread in India whereby young girls are normally trafficked and married off at an early age to a ‘temple deity’. The minors are then forced to offer sexual services to higher caste ‘devotees’ and priests with no hope of ever being married. There is a high level of double standards exhibited and the men who demean the lower caste Dalits are the same men who cannot wait to have sex with women from this same caste. Ashamed and traumatized by this kind of life, these women finally forsake their identity and name. Failing to re-integrate sex trafficking victims in society is partially because of the social disgrace attached to their former lifestyle (Ford & Lyons, 2013).
The victims who are saved from the hands of their oppressors are frequently banished by the conventional society. Consequently, standing on platforms, built by our own haughty minds, we are quick to judge trafficked sex workers with contempt and disgust, failing to recognize that majority of them were auctioned into the sex trade by their friends and relatives. This social isolation is one of the factors that push victims back into the sex trade. The other damaging feature of human trafficking is the conversion of female victims into exploitative traffickers themselves especially since their conscience is spoiled by the trappings offered by instant money. Thus, the society should reawaken and come to the realization that sex commercial workers are not criminals, but hapless victims of the society’s misdoings (Bhat & Joseph, 2013).
The age-old, unjust bonded labor practice, where labor is offered as a way of loan repayment with no or extremely low pay, is predominantly widespread in developing nations. Illiteracy, poverty, descent as well as caste-based discrimination coupled with non-existent government welfare programs lie at the core of this modern-day kind of slavery. Thus, a form of descent-based slavery can be found in Nigeria whereby young girls and women are sold as informal wives referred to as wahaya and subject to sexual and domestic slavery (Bhat & Joseph, 2013).
Bonded labor is rampant in India where the practice rides on the infamous caste system-which is the conviction that men are not born equal and there are lesser men who are always supposed to be at the mercy of others. This situation is made worse by the reluctance of the authorities that be to recognize the big-scale existence of this malpractice. Several individuals, comprising public servants, believe that the prejudiced notion that this is a social trend exclusive to villages, and thus can be ignored in spite of a legislation that makes the continued existence of the system illegal (Bhat & Joseph, 2013).
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Tamil Nadu’s (southern state in India) textile mills conceal a modern day type of slavery under the guise of Sumangali scheme, whereby young girls of low caste families unsuspectingly fall prey to oppression in return for a marriage advance. Consequently as the trip towards marital bliss turns mutates into a tormenting ones, society cannot help but wonder at the way human traffickers have left nothing to chance in their quest to capitalize on the society’s vulnerable (Hepburn & Simon, 2013).
In addition, the situation of domestic workers, comprising children, is nothing to write home about as they are forced to work for hours with meager food and salary and regularly are subjected to sexual and physical abuse. A good example of this malpractice is in the Middle East where foreign domestic servants are frequently intimidated by ruthless and rich brokers and face serious financial and legal hurdles if they try running away from their employers (Siegel & Wildt, 2016).
Forced child labor is one of the nastiest manifestation of debt bondage witnessed in India’s mining, carpet and silk industries as well as camel jockeys in UAE. The most susceptible are children who can be readily manipulated and threatened. Such children are compelled to assume the responsibilities of their parents of debt repayment in addition to being unjustly denied education during their formative years (Burke, 2013).
Moreover, in war ravaged nations, children are kidnapped and recruited into militias. Consequently, these child soldiers as they are commonly known are robbed of their innocence and childhood, and are converted into savage creatures having been brainwashed that killing is ok (Siegel & Wildt, 2016).
The other kind of human trafficking is organ trafficking which is a reasonably new transgression that has plagued humanity. There has been a constant rise in demand for human organs which has outstripped supply by far leading to the emergence of conniving agents or middlemen who plot with dishonest medical officials to prey on the gullible poor people who are not aware of the medical repercussions of organ donation and give out their approval due to their desperate need for cash (Hepburn & Simon, 2013).
Trafficking although not reported from several regions occurs everywhere. Nevertheless, the situation is bad and more rampant in impoverished regions of the world. This is where the full force of the push and full forces of supply and demand. For example, trafficking of children and women from the North-Eastern Indian states and bordering countries, in each direction, is an issue of grave concern (Hepburn & Simon, 2013).The long drawn activities of extremists coupled with the ethnic conflicts and clashes between numerous groups in this part of the world have made children and women in the whole region extremely susceptible. Inadequate infrastructural development as well as livelihood opportunities have worsened the problem. Because trafficking in this region cuts across various countries and states, it should be keenly studied and dealt with accordingly by the state governments together with NGOs working to end this evil (Elliot, 2014).
Moreover, government agencies in India and those of other concerned countries should come up with punitive measures meant to deter this practice. Whereas the pull factors seem to be the central cause of human trafficking, the push factors not only lead to but also worsen the situation. Thus, it is the socially discriminated, deprived and economically backward segments of society that are the most susceptible. The girl child is the worst affected especially since most societies in the Indian subcontinent view girls as liabilities. The gender prejudice widespread in the social setting and various kinds of violence against women such as female feticide and infanticide adds to the susceptibility. This is accentuated further during periods of severe economic distress such as food shortage, flood, drought and so forth. Consequently, during such hard economic periods, deprivation at an all time high spurring migration leading to more trafficking (Elliot, 2014).
There is no doubt that definitely trafficking is high profit and low-risk venture and a well connected trafficker with numerous links might readily have an very safe and profitable business of trading children and women, with a return running into millions of dollars annually. On the other hand, the earnings of the victims of trafficking are a pittance in comparison to what the traffickers earn. There is no recorded occurrence where illegal wealth accumulated by the traffickers has been seized. There needs to be firm action on this front by all the concerned authorities to serve as a restraint especially since it is also a source of money laundering in the economy (Shelley, 2010).
While surveying the connection between trafficking and migration, it has in most cases emerged that constraints on the migration of women, combined with inadequate protective controls raises their susceptibility to trafficking. Migration, this has to be addressed and comprehended from a developmental point of view; if at all trafficking is to be thwarted. There exists a powerful connection between migration with development, good governance and gender (Palmiotto, 2014). A holistic strategy, tackling all these elements, would best work to curb human trafficking. Safe migration, HIV/AIDS containment and curtailing of trafficking are key to the development of the human trafficking hotspots. Such parameters will have a direct impact on public safety and consequently on national security as well. Moreover, anti-trafficking approaches must recognize the rights of people to move with informed consent (Shelley, 2010).
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In addition, with the growth of tourism in numerous developing countries such as South Asia, human trafficking and sex tourism have consequently gone up as well. The countries of several developing nations with the hope of promoting tourism and resultant economic development normally ignore these issues and relax their rules. Economic development, undoubtedly, cannot be at the cost of trafficking and exploitation. Overall, there is hardly any conscious or awareness endeavors to deal with these issues (Territo & Kirkham, 2010).
The rehabilitative situation portrays an extremely depressing picture and more regularly than not, the endeavors are ad-hoc and disjointed. There exists no institutionalized mechanisms in most of the Indian states nor the affected countries. The vocational and counseling training conveyed in the rehabilitation centers are normally determined by the availability of resources and facilities and not by the victims’ best interests. The liberated person’s needs must be taken into consideration in a comprehensive way (Dragiewicz, 2014).
Alongside psycho-social intervention, and vocational training, and medical care must also be considered. Livelihood alternatives should also be integrated into the rehabilitation programs and various income financing methods such as micro-financing and such other cheap ways of accessing credit must also be offered to the victims. After rehabilitation, follow up mechanisms must be put in place to avoid re-trafficking. Thus, the government or concerned NGOs should also offer the rehabilitated individuals access as well as awareness to such facilities via public awareness campaigns, help kiosks and help lines (Territo & Kirkham, 2010).
Moreover, trafficking of children and women must be tackled in the particular environment of the push factors in the affected community. Therefore because exploiters capitalize on the vulnerability of poor rural people, preventive approach should essentially entail empowerment of the powerless, particularly in rural regions. Concerted endeavors by the governing authorities, in conjunction with dependable NGOs can be instrumental in the accomplishment of this (Palmiotto, 2014).
A general lack of political resolve to instantly tackle the root source of human trafficking remains the biggest factor leading to its thriving. Governments should recognize that each person has the right to a good life, which comprises right to education, food, as well as employment and thus should ensure adequate provisions for the same (Palmiotto, 2014).
In order for the affected countries to fight slavery, it is important to possess a profound understanding of the cultural, political and financial power structures in their respective societies. Thus, countries can constitute commissions, which can work alongside various NGOs to carry out comprehensive studies and categorize individuals involved in all kinds if human trafficking. This is going to be extremely helpful in the rescue and rehabilitation mission (Dragiewicz, 2014).
Therefore an integrated strategy comprising 3 components of preventing, protecting and prosecuting would be quite successful in tackling human trafficking (Palmiotto, 2014). Due to the fact that trafficking just like drug cartels is an organized crime, that involves a multiplicity of players interlinked together in a chain, expert techniques of tackling these networks are needed. Stringency and certainty of punishment of the traffickers, without any hindrance or postponement whatsoever, is the critical ingredient for averting trafficking. At the same time victims require holistic rescue and rehabilitation techniques that are sustainable since lack of time, sensitivity and priority coupled with unawareness of the issues are popularly viewed as the aspect responsible for the modern day depressing picture in enforcement. Nonetheless, an efficient networking of the NGOs and law enforcement agencies can ensure satisfactory dent in human trafficking hotspots (Dragiewicz, 2014).
In conclusion, human trafficking is more or less a controlled industry having both supply and demand sides. Hence, a restriction of demand, that is those bankrolling such illicit operations, will be helpful in thwarting this cancer in the society. Nations can also join forces to form a common database dealing with human trafficking information only. Embassies must also transform and become victim friendly and sensitive. There should be tightening of security at various international borders to counteract transnational trafficking. Most importantly, there should be intensive training of the law enforcement officials in not only handling rescue operations but also dealing with sex trafficking victims (Dragiewicz, 2014).
In fact it can become the duty of every person to curb this menace by being watchful in his or her locality and being ready to report any suspicious goings-on to authorities immediately. Serious campaigns should also be done to create adequate awareness amongst students via workshops and seminars (Palmiotto, 2014). There exists no doubt that we live in societies that churns out broken souls every day. Nonetheless, the world has reached a point where eliminating human traffic is no longer limited to a few willing organizations and individuals. Anybody, in any way, can assist in fighting or at least reducing this scourge. This all boils down to the simple fact of whether we are enthusiastic enough to take that crucial first step!
- Bhat, C. Joseph, C. (2013). Human Trafficking. Carnegie Council Journals , np.
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- Dragiewicz, M. (2014). Global Human Trafficking: Critical Issues and Contexts. New York: Routledge.
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- Michele Ford, L. L. (2013). Labour Migration and Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia: Critical Perspectives. London: Taylor & Francis.
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