Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery
Are slavery and bondage still extant in the world today? Difficult to imagine but sadly, true. Millions of people around the world still
suffer in silence in slave-like situations of forced labor and commercial
sexual exploitation from which they cannot free themselves. Trafficking in
persons is one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time1.
It appears that both abject poverty and the dearth of economic
opportunity are separate but related forces that drive people to uproot
themselves from the familiar comfort of home and to make themselves
vulnerable by trusting others as they take a chance on the possibility of
finding something better elsewhere.
Regrettably, this trust is sometimes betrayed.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it well when she described
Human Trafficking for the
2009 U. S. Trafficking in Persons Report.
Around the world, millions of people are living in bondage. They
labor in fields and factories under brutal employers who threaten them with
violence if they try to escape. They work in homes for families that keep
them virtually imprisoned. They are forced to work as prostitutes or to beg
in the streets, fearful of the consequences if they fail to earn their daily
quota. They are women, men, and children of all ages, and they are often held
far from home with no money, no connections, and no way to ask for help.
This is modern slavery, a crime that spans the globe, providing
ruthless employers with an endless supply of people to abuse for financial
gain. Human trafficking is a crime with many victims: not only those who are trafficked, but also the families they leave
behind, some of whom never see their loved ones again.
Trafficking has a broad global impact as well. It weakens legitimate economies,
fuels violence, threatens public health and safety, shatters families, and
shreds the social fabric that is necessary for progress. And it is an affront
to our basic values and our fundamental belief that all people everywhere
deserve to live and work in safety and dignity.
later, on October 14, 2010, Luis CdeBaca,
Ambassador-at-Large, Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons,
said in a speech at the
Sadly, we know that this evil persists in the world today. We see
people bought and sold in prostitution; held in involuntary servitude in
factories, farms, fishing vessels, and homes; and captured to serve as child
soldiers. This crime persists because it is a fluid phenomenon that responds
to market demand and operates in zones of impunity that are created by
vulnerabilities in laws, natural disasters, and economic instability. It is a
crime that impairs human rights, degrades public health, corrupts government
officials, and weakens rule of law. And it seems that each generation needs
to fight back against this ancient scourge.
When Joseph from
It is a common practice to persuade a young woman to leave home and
to move to a wealthier neighboring country where she can work in domestic
service, child or adult care, or as a waitress in a restaurant or a bar, or
perhaps as a dancer. Upon arrival, her
passport, visa, and return tickets are taken from her and, effectively, she
is imprisoned, either physically or financially or mentally. She is made to work as a domestic slave or
as an agricultural or factory worker, under slave-like conditions, or in a
brothel. She sees virtually none of
the money that she earns, and eventually she will be sold.4,5
PBS reported6 that Thonglim Kampiranon, a 43-year-old mother of two from rural
Slavery can be a trap that never lets go. Exploited workers, subjected to slave-like
labor conditions, may be held by restrictions on their freedom of movement,
by induced indebtedness, confiscation of papers, late payment or non-payment
of wages, and by the threat of denunciation to the authorities with the
implication that this would be followed by deportation. A young woman may initially agree to be
transported in order to enter the sex trade, but later find herself trapped
by threats of violence, physical restriction or debt-bondage. Modern “sex slavery” is an unfortunate
Here are ten criteria that you can apply to help evaluate whether or
not a worker is a trafficking victim.
1. Was the worker (or care-giver) deceived and
brought here under false pretenses?
worker allowed to exit the premises, unaccompanied?
worker free to quit and leave at any time?
worker in possession of his/her documents (e.g. visa, passport, etc.)?
worker restrained from use of a telephone?
worker punished if expectations are not fulfilled?
many hours constitute the usual workweek?
worker receiving adequate nutrition under respectable living conditions?
worker being paid at regular intervals?
worker's compensation commensurate with that received by local workers, doing
the same job?
Human Rights Watch
estimates that every year, 800,000 to 900,000 men, women and children are
trafficked across international borders into forced labor or slavery-like
conditions. Trafficking includes all
acts related to the recruitment, transport, transfer, sale, or purchase of
human beings by force, fraud, deceit, or other coercive tactics for the
purpose of placing them into conditions of forced labor or practices similar
to slavery, in which labor is extracted through physical or non-physical
means of coercion, including blackmail, fraud, deceit, isolation, threat or
use of physical force, or psychological pressure.7 The UN International Labor Office (ILO)
reports that Asia has three-quarters of the 12.3 million people believed to
be in forced labor worldwide.8
It is important to clarify the difference between trafficking and
smuggling. Trafficking differs
from smuggling in that there is the intent to exploit the individuals who are
trafficked. The key elements of a trafficking relationship are the threat or use
of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception or abuse of
power, while smuggling generally implies a degree of consent between the
transporting agent and the smuggled individual. Trafficking implies an absence of such
consent, during at least some stage of the trafficking cycle. In the case of trafficked children, the
issue of consent is irrelevant.
Article 3 of the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking states that
the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring
or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered
“trafficking in persons”, whether or not force, coercion and deception are
A second distinguishing feature of trafficking is evidenced by the
living and working conditions of the victim after arrival in the destination
country. Through corrupt government
officials, unscrupulous labor agents, and poor enforcement of the law,
economic migrants may be deceived or coerced into situations that amount to
forced labor and slavery-like practices.
If the work is exploitative, involving illegal forced labor or debt
bondage, or is below national and international labor standards, this too is trafficking
And so, what can be done about it?
Nothing will ever be more effective than raising awareness in the fight
to prevent Human Trafficking.
Motivated by greed, unscrupulous people, both men and women, take
advantage of trust and betray it. It
is for this reason that I propose that we do more to educate children to make
them less trusting. It has to be worked
into the grade school curricula by sensitive educators so that children
become aware of what can happen in various scenarios and are trained in how
to escape when they sense that they are being entrapped. They should learn to recognize signs of
danger, and know what to do. It means
educating today's teens about how they may be enticed to run away to a better
life or perhaps just to stay away from returning home tonight. And it has to be done everywhere – in small
farming villages and in large cities.
Raising awareness is the single best thing that can be done to protect
youth and young adults. Awareness will
lead to caution, thereby decreasing the likelihood that a targeted victim
will be deceived and enslaved.
October 15, 2010
Department Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2003, [http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2003/]
Luis CdeBaca, The Global
Fight Against Human
Trafficking: Ten Years After Palermo, University of Luxembourg, October
14, 2010, http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/rm/2010/149474.htm
BBC News, Scale
of African slavery revealed, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3652021.stm
Eugen Tomiuc, World: Interpol Official Discusses Human
Trafficking, Internet Pornography, 2003, [www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/news/2003/05/sec-030514-rfel-142137.htm]
International Labour Organisation, Forced Lobour, Child Labour And Human
Jim Lehrer, PBS, Slavery in America,
Human Rights Watch, http://hrw.org/reports/2004/indonesia0704/4.htm
agency urges Asian nations to end forced labor,