A Human Security Crisis of Global Proportions
– 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.
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.
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.
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:
to border integrity, as millions of people are transported annually across national boundaries under false pretences;
- Threats to human health, through
the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs to the victims, their clients, their clients’ wives, and so on;
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;
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.