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Human Trafficking

A Human Security Crisis of Global Proportions

Human Trafficking – An Overview


One of today’s biggest human rights crises is the international trafficking of women and girls (and, to a lesser extent, boys) into sex slavery. Human trafficking is the third largest criminal industry in the world, outranked only by arms and drug dealing. The United Nations estimates that trafficking in persons generates $7 to $10 billion annually for traffickers.


The number of people trafficked each year is estimated by most experts to be in the millions. Given its current growth rate, which is fuelled by its high profitability, low investigation rate and low prosecution rate, human trafficking is expected by some to take over drug trafficking as the second largest criminal industry in the world within the next decades.

Trafficking to the United States: an example of trafficking networks.

How Does Human Trafficking Take Place?


Traffickers acquire their victims primarily from developing countries where poverty is rampant, commonly through some means of force or deception. Victims are typically very young, most ranging in age from eight to 18 years old. Some are as young as four or five years old. A common scenario involves a poor Asian or Eastern European girl who is offered a “better life” as a housemaid, restaurant server or dancer in a wealthy country such as the United States, Great Britain, or Italy. When she arrives at her destination, her passport is taken away, she is physically and sexually abused, and she is forced into prostitution in a country where she neither speaks the language nor has any friends, relatives or means of support. She is forced to service 8-15 clients a day and does not receive any pay. Rather, the money is used to pay off her “debt” to the trafficker and brothel owners for transportation, food, lodging and so on. After some period of time, she will be resold to another brothel owner, often in another country, and the cycle will continue all over again. She is likely to acquire HIV/AIDS, and to pass it on to her clients and their wives, all around the world. She has a greater chance than most of dying early, and is certain to live a horrible existence in whatever short years she has. Even if she is eventually rescued and repatriated to her country and community, she is likely to be ostracized as a result of her involvement in prostitution.


Government and police corruption, primarily in under-developed countries, play a large role in the perpetuation of the sex slave industry, with blind-eyes being turned toward openly active brothels and payoffs being accepted by those officials charged with the enforcement of national and international laws prohibiting trafficking, prostitution and child sexual exploitation.



Global Nature of the Problem


Unlike some human rights abuses which are primarily regional, sex trafficking is global in nature. Victims come from virtually all developing countries and are trafficked into or through virtually all developing and developed countries. It is estimated, for example, that 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States every year, most of whom are sold into prostitution.


This exploitation is not dependent on nationality, race or religion. It is also not dependent on economic or social standing. For example, a working man from Cambodia may purchase the use of a child sex slave trafficked from Vietnam for $1. Another Vietnamese girl of the same age will be charged out at $200 – often more if she is still a virgin – to a European businessman in Hong Kong. Both girls will be forced to service countless American and local military men. A South American girl will be trafficked into Canada under an “exotic dancer” visa and forced into prostitution. A desperately poor Romanian child will be used as a sex slave in the lucrative and depraved child pornography business, the reach and growth of which has become unlimited since the advent of the Internet.


The one substantial difference is that it is the wealthy countries – through their military, businessmen, ex-patriates, tourists, and Internet pornography subscribers, all of whom pay significantly more for the use of a sex slave – that keep this criminal industry extremely profitable for traffickers.



Global Implications


The mental, physical and emotional impact of this egregious crime on the human security of the countless individual victims is obvious. The additional impacts on human security as a collective international concern may not be so obvious. They include:


  1. Threats to border integrity, as millions of people are transported annually across national boundaries under false pretences;
  2. Threats to human health, through the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs to the victims, their clients, their clients’ wives, and so on;
  3. Threats to national and international security, since it is believed that many of the world’s major sex traffickers are connected to organized crime groups, which may then use the proceeds to fund other criminal activities such as terrorism;
  4. Threats to the very health of our global human conscience, since slavery – often proudly touted as having been wiped out in the 19th century – is actually alive and well, right in all of our own backyards.

Copyright 2007, The Future Group