Human trafficking means the trade of human beings for the purposes of forced labour, sexual slavery or the extraction of human organs. This trade, though illegal, and a violation of human rights, is still being done in the modern world, contributing up to $ 32 billion annually in the international trade market. It is with this respect that this essay attempts to uncover the human trafficking origins, its effects on the people concerned and the ways by which it can be controlled.
Origin of human trafficking
The real and exact dates when human trafficking began cannot be stated. However, this trade is believed to have started during the days when Africans were captured as slaves and forced to work in the plantations in American states. Men, women and children, especially young girls were forced to leave their homes and become slaves in foreign countries. During the 1700s, this was the most popular trade in America and Europe (Walsh 37). The majority of wealthy Europeans and Americans purchased people and owned them as a part of their wealth. These slaves were then allocated various tasks such as farming and cleaning around the farm and plantations, being used to gain the financial revenue and favours through forced sex; moreover some of them even were treated as gladiators fighting for the entertainment of their owner’s guests.
In Europe, the trade was for both the blacks and the poor white families. This led to signing the law against slavery in 1807 by the British Emperor. This law made any slavery done through the transatlantic illegal and the punishment for evading such a law was death by hanging. The United States followed this example of the British to also abolish the legality of the slave trade and passed a law in 1820, making the trade illegal and punishable by death. During this time, public awareness was being created against the existence of white slavery trade.
An International Convention for the suppression of the white slave trade was organized in Paris, France and all the member nations agreed to put a stop to the slavery of white people. A total of thirteen countries signed the treaty and abolished the white slavery in their nations. However, this did not stop them from obtaining black slaves and meant that the trade still existed. With this in mind, the League of Nations convention held in Geneva to discuss the impacts of slave trade in 1921 changed the law from “white slave” to the slave trade of women and children. This was a move to try and cover up all the vulnerable persons irrespective of their racial discrimination. Those who were present during the meeting believed that the children and the women were the most vulnerable groups of the society and that protecting them from the harsh environments of slavery would be a good start in protecting the tomorrow’s society (John 33). The black men were therefore the only lot left out in this agreement and this meant that they could be used legally for slavery.
The traffic in persons and the Prostitution of Others by the United Nations Convention was later passed in 1949, making it the first convention about the human trafficking problem that legally bounded the member countries to make the forced prostitution illegal in their countries. This meant that the focus shifted slightly from human trafficking to specifically that of prostitution and sexual labour. This protocol against trafficking of persons in member states was then passed in 2000 that made all forms of human trafficking illegal and the perpetrators legible for punishment as the law dictates.
Despite the fact that all the above stated laws have been put in place to govern the human trafficking and the punishment for the offenders was a death penalty, this trade still continues to exist nowadays. According to a report given by the United States department of State in 2004, close to one million people are being trafficked across the international boarders annually. The people involved in this trade have devised ways of obtaining their victims and taking them through the international boarders undetected. These methods of abduction include coercion, meaning that the victims are promised job opportunities abroad or marriage and then they are kidnapped. Most of the victims of coercion are women and young girls who are then sold to slavery and forced sexual activities.
Forms of human trafficking
There is a difference between human smuggling and human trafficking. Whereas the human smuggling is a crime against the state government, the victims involved are not qualified in the context of human right violation. It is basically out of free will of an individual to leave their current state in search of opportunities in another state. Trafficking on the other hand is a crime against the state government while at the same time, is a crime against the human rights. The victim of trafficking is taken against their own will.
The other difference is that smuggling requires travelling, whereas trafficking does not. The victims of trafficking are held and not allowed to move after reaching their destination. Therefore, there are several forms of human trafficking as discussed below (Allen 24-86).
a) Bonded labour
This is also referred to as debt bondage. It is one of the least known forms of human trafficking today but is still used in the whole world most widely. In this case, the victims are held and their freedom is taken from them by their creditors in order to pay outstanding debts. They are forced to offer their services in the situations where they are unable to pay the debts they owe or in cases where the terms and conditions of the loan defilement involved becoming servants of the other party. In this form of human trafficking, the value of the labour provided is in most cases greater than the sum of the money they originally owed.
b) Forced labor
In this form of human trafficking, the victims are forced to work against their own will and a threat of a specific punishment or violence of some kind is offered to those who refuse to comply. They are also restricted the ownership of their freedom and the decree is passed to their masters. This type of human trafficking majorly affects the men and the women who are either forced to work in semi-skilled labour industries and also as prostitutes in some nations (Berkovitch 43).
The labor offered in this type of human trafficking includes agricultural labor, domestic servitude, and janitorial, begging, sweatshop factory labor among others. These are the most intensive labors and they require a substantial amount of man power.
c) Child labor
In the context of trafficking, this involves the trafficking of children. It involves exposing them to the forms of work that are hazardous to their physical, moral, mental and social development. The researches done by the International Labor Organizations state that there is an estimate of over 200 million children between the age of 5 and 17 that are involvd annually in various forms of human trafficking all over the globe. These children are used for illegal activities such as pornography filming, prostitution, forced recruitment to the armed forces and illegal drug trade among others.
d) Sex trafficking
There has not been any universally defined term on sexual exploitation. This term was earlier used to explain the organized movement of women between and within countries for the purposes of sex work. The plot included the use of deception, physical coercion, forced debt and bondage on these women. However, the movement aspect of this definition did not qualify it to be a type of crime against the humanity. Therefore, the aspect of carrying out the sex work activities with or without consent was used to distinguish whether this formed part of human trafficking or not. It was later agreed that the fact that these women were forced to participate in sexual activities without their consent made it an illegal activity and the perpetrators were liable to be charged by the courts of law.
This is the most common form of human trade in the today’s society. People, especially young women are being transported to different countries and introduced to sex trade against their will. Incentives such as the availability of job opportunities are some of the modern methods used to attract these women. In the extreme cases, the abduction of tourists from the airport is an increasingly common practice with the today traffickers.
The sexual trafficking includes forcing the immigrants into different forms of sexual acts as a condition of allowing them to stay in their immigrant nations or arranging for them to move to other states. These women are beaten up and locked away from the public with promises given to them that they will be let out after the payment is done.. This money would be later used for the purchase of their travel documents and visa.
The victims of sex trafficking are usually susceptible women who are easily identified by the traffickers. The circumstances such as homelessness, runaway teens, job seekers, refugees, tourists, drug addicts and kidnapped victims all form a good source for the traffickers to have their picks. This is a vulnerable group of individuals that can be easily persuaded to be engaged in any type of activity, in order to achieve a specific goal. The traffickers also target the powerless minority groups in the society and exploit them through one way or the other to join the already existing group of sex trafficking.
Social impact of human trafficking
There are various issues that the victims of human trafficking and their families face. These factors range from physical to emotional and mostly psychological consequences. They include the following;
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The majority of the slaves in the past years were beaten up and forced to live in harsh environments because they were regarded as the properties and not human beings. The research has shown that the slaves obtained in Africa during the 1800s ended up dying before they reached America or Europe, especially the women and children, because of the harsh conditions they were subjected to (Hilton 64). The poor feeding programs and continuous beating were all they got during their travel and also with their masters.
The children who were introduced to sexual activities at their tender ages faced the serious tears, and due to the fact that no doctor or medical expert was available to help them, the crude healing measures were used by their fellow slaves, which resulted in the complicated medical situations at times leading to death. The physical activities that these children were involved in were also very severe for them to bear and had an impact on their growth and development structures.
Some of the able-bodied slaves were used to fight with the gladiators, and some for carrying and handling the heavy materials used in the farms. The battles with the gladiators were not an easy experience for them either. Most times they ended up bleeding almost to death as the winning formula was to kill your opponent. This was and still continues to be a violation of human rights. The fact that one individual is being beaten up or forced to kill the other without his consent is for real a cruel way to treat a fellow human being.
During the days of Hitler, the slaves faced various punishments when they failed to oblige to the requirements of their bosses, some including the amputation of various body parts (Blackburn 51). The worst form of cruelty caused by this German leader was killing children because he believed that they caused an obstruction to the working program of their mothers.
In today’s form of slavery, there are various methods that are being used that cause the physical impacts on the victims. In the nations such as Cuba, where the trade is common, the use of drugs to sedate the slaves has a serious impact on their health and mental state. After being brought into the country, the slaves are drugged for several days until the drug gets in to their systems and then they are used for various illegal activities, majorly prostitution. In the Arabian countries, these slaves are involved in domestic work where they not only serve as slaves but are also beaten up and abused by the same masters. Recent documentaries have shown the cases of children being used as slaves in these countries, and the living conditions they have to put up with in their everyday life, only hoping that somehow someone would come and rescue them from their suffering.
This also involves the families that the slaves come from. The forceful removal of individuals from their comfort zone of family or community has a great psychological impact on both the families involved and the person taken. There is a wide gap that is created in the community, in which the person comes from that cannot be easily filled.
When the person is a parent, his children are left without the parental love and guidance that they are used to and instead find themselves looking for a parent figure in other places. Every child needs to feel the love and protection of a parent, especially a mother. When they are not there, in most cases the child is traumatized and feels secluded from the community to which he belongs. This case is worse when both parents have been abducted to be used in the slavery and the child is aware of this fact (Lal 52). Such children are observed to be suffering from various forms of psychological challenges and when the proper guidance and protection are not offered to them, they end up being the social delinquents in their society.
In the history of slavery, the slaves were taken by force in front of their family members. This involved planned raids into a village when the target group was expected to be present and taking them by force, even if it meant killing the ones who tried to resist. Those left behind felt so powerless and unsafe and it took them quite a lot of time and consolation from their fellow village members to calm down and accept the fact that they might never see their kin again.
The psychological effect on the modern slaves is even worse, especially on the children and women. The fear of the future unknown and unpredictable life as a slave may be too much for some of them to handle. Also knowing that they may never find the chance to see their family again is tormenting. This drives some of them in to a panic mode that only worsens their lives as slaves. There is that feeling of social identity experienced by every member of the society. When this is taken away from them, the only feeling left is that of confusion and loss of the desire to live.
The living conditions that the slaves are subjected to are also wanting. The transition from their comfortable living conditions and regular routine to that of being forced to do stuff against their will is enough to cause some sort of mental stress. In the modern forms of human trafficking, the individuals face shock after realizing that their freedom has been sold and now they are the servants in foreign states unwillingly.
The masters take their travel documents and identities, in cases of domestic slavery, and therefore they are forced to work because of the fear of being found living illegally in the country. The consequences of such living standards in the refugee camps without any form of identity keeps them with their current bosses irrespective of the harsh survival conditions that they are forced to live. With no hope of ever going back home, no money, these slaves find themselves undergoing through serious mental stress that if not well addressed can lead to cases such as trauma and mental failure.
The forced sexual labor also has a psychological impact on the victims. It includes the pressure they find in being used for the sexual pleasures against their will, and being drugged in the attempt to make them weak before such acts occur (Brass 13).
Efforts and measures on human trafficking
Different estimates have been set in place to determine how large the human trafficking market is. Some statistics show that nowadays more than 27 million people are in slavery across the world. A study done in 2008 classified over 33 million of individuals to be in either of the above stated forms of human trafficking, and further stated that a third of this population was involved in sex slavery (Davis 42). The factors leading to these trafficking were used to measure the rate of trafficking, especially labor and sex slavery and they were as follows:
i. Structural factors.
These factors included the issues facing the society such as poverty, unemployment, the demand for commercial sex, discrimination rate and the level of gender in the society and the challenges of institution that are facilitated by the impacts of globalization.
Poverty and globalization
The challenges of poverty which include an impact in a household’s economic situation may lead the people, especially women to voluntarily migrate to other countries in the attempt to improve their homes living conditions and while in the process find them unwillingly introduced to different forms of slavery and human trafficking.
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The factors of globalization such as the introduction of social sites have also been under the strict scrutiny by human right activists for promoting various forms of slavery, especially sex slavery. The sites are used by human traffickers to market their products, recruit and exploit the females while the general fans of the sites view it as a form of entertainment without necessarily looking at the underground purpose and objective. The studies have identified the Internet as one of the facilitators of commercial sex trade despite the fact that it is difficult to determine whether the women advertised are the victims of sex trafficking or if they do it out of their own free will.
In the attempt to cub this problem and offer a lasting solution to the modern day human trafficking and the violation of human rights, the state government of every nation needs to strengthen the Internet laws that should come with parental control gadgets to limit the exposure of teenagers and children from the harmful social sites. There should also be a law that stops the use of pornographic pictures and videos in the Internet. Poverty cases should also be addressed to prevent most people seeking for greener pastures across the borders of their member states.
Political and institutional challenges
These include the factors such as gender discrimination by the society, challenges faced by the institution as a result of globalization and the society’s demand for commercial sex. The corruption in the political management of public institutions also has a great influence on the level of human trafficking in a state (Mühlhahn 45).
Some cases such as civil war in a nation may force its citizens to seek refuge in the neighboring countries. The studies have reported that countries with less freedom are more likely to suffer from the effects of human trafficking. This is because the political situation is not stable and so the rules are bent. The army and police answer to different authorities who may be leaning on various sides pertaining the view on the states of human trafficking.
The corrupt authorities may also be involved in the long chain of cartels that are involved in this form of trade. Owing to the fact that they are the law enforces, arresting them and charging them in the law courts can prove to be futile and difficult, most cases seeing them winning the cases.
One of the ways to control the human trafficking in this situation is when the government is in a stable condition, where the law makers work together to protect the citizens, and the law enforcers do their duties diligently without any favors of any group. This will make the citizens feel safer in their countries and in their police force, thus having no reason to move out and be the victims of human traffickers.
Despite the fact that many laws have been passed in the attempt to stop the human trafficking, some nations still do practice it. Its meaning and definition has evolved over time and the traffickers have found new ways of getting their prey. It is a real problem facing the today’s social and economic situation of our nations and if something is not urgently done to stop it, most of our brothers, sisters, and even children will fall prey to this practice that is not only a violation of human rights but also a cruel trade.
Measures therefore need to be taken by every country, be it a member or not a member of the United Nations, to protect the rights and freedom of its citizens. By doing so, people will therefore feel safe and happy to live and work in their countries without feeling the need to move out in search of greener pastures. This will also help to improve the economic situation of their countries.