The Problem

2010_0825_child_trafficking_mThe Problem of Modern Slavery

Sex trafficking, sex tourism, trafficking for labor and servitude, and commercial sexual exploitation are all part of a growing global phenomenon of modern slavery – one of the most serious human rights abuses we face in the 21st century.   Just as in any other market, basic economic principles are at work. Supply is a result of demand: when demand goes up, supply grows to meet the demand. Conversely, if demand goes down, so too will the supply.

Since the passage of the Trafficking of Victims Protection Act (TVPA), the focus has been on the rescue, rehabilitation, and restoration of victims, and in the last ten years, thousands of anti-trafficking organizations have formed to build shelters and provide services to victims of sex trafficking.  Hundreds more are focused on education and awareness-raising about human trafficking. While these efforts are important, they do little to stop sex slavery.

As long as people can buy and sexually exploit women, children and other vulnerable communities, there will continue to be a market for them. It is critical to eradicate these new forms of slavery, as human beings used in this way are often physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually devastated.

The only effective method for eradicating modern slavery is to target demand.  Global Centurion is a non-profit organization dedicated to playing a vital role in eradicating world slavery, by focusing on the demand side of the equation – the perpetrators, exploiters, buyers, and end-users of human beings. 

Modern Slavery: A Diverse Struggle

It is quite difficult to accurately assess the true size of human trafficking globally because human trafficking takes place hidden from sight. The U.S. Department of State no longer gives estimates as to the current number of people trapped in human trafficking. Sec. Kerry did refer to the economic scope though as “a $150 billion illicit trafficking industry”[i].

Different Types of Human Trafficking

Forced Labor

Also known as involuntary servitude, forced labor may result when unscrupulous employers exploit workers made more vulnerable by high rates of unemployment, poverty, crime, discrimination, corruption, political conflict, or even cultural acceptance of the practice. Immigrants are particularly vulnerable, but individuals also may be forced into labor in their own countries. Female victims of forced or bonded labor, especially women and girls in domestic servitude, are often sexually exploited as well.

Sex Trafficking

When an adult is coerced, forced, or deceived into prostitution – or maintained in prostitution through coercion – that person is a victim of trafficking. All of those involved in recruiting, transporting, harboring, receiving, or obtaining the person for that purpose have committed a trafficking crime. Sex trafficking can also occur within debt bondage, as women and girls are forced to continue in prostitution through the use of unlawful “debt” purportedly incurred through their transportation, recruitment, or even their crude “sale,” which exploiters insist they must pay off before they can be free.

It is critical to understand that a person’s initial consent to participate in prostitution is not legally determinative; if an individual is thereafter held in service through psychological manipulation or physical force, that person is a trafficking victim and should receive the benefits outlined in the United Nations’ Palermo Protocol and applicable laws.

Bonded Labor

One form of coercion is the use of a bond, or debt. Often referred to as “bonded labor” or “debt bondage,” the practice has long been prohibited under U.S. law by its Spanish name, peonage, and the Palermo Protocol calls for its criminalization as a form of trafficking in persons. Workers around the world fall victim to debt bondage when traffickers or recruiters unlawfully exploit an initial debt the worker assumed as part of the terms of employment. Workers may also inherit intergenerational debt in more traditional systems of bonded labor.

Debt Bondage Among Migrant Laborers

Abuses of contracts and hazardous conditions of employment for migrant laborers do not necessarily constitute human trafficking. However, the burden of illegal costs and debts on these laborers in the source country, often with the support of labor agencies and employers in the destination country, can contribute to a situation of debt bondage. This is often exacerbated when the worker’s status in the country is tied to the employer in the context of employment-based temporary work programs and there is no effective redress for abuse.

Involuntary Domestic Servitude

A unique form of forced labor is the involuntary servitude of domestic workers, whose workplace is informal, connected to their off-duty living quarters, and not often shared with other workers. Such an environment, which often socially isolates domestic workers, is conducive to nonconsensual exploitation since authorities cannot inspect private property as easily as formal workplaces. Investigators and service providers report many cases of untreated illnesses and, tragically, widespread sexual abuse, which in some cases may be symptoms of a situation of involuntary servitude. Ongoing international efforts seek to ensure that not only that administrative remedies are enforced but also that criminal penalties are enacted against those who hold others in involuntary domestic servitude.

Forced Child Labor

Most international organizations and national laws recognize that children may legally engage in certain forms of work. There is a growing consensus, however, that the worst forms of child labor should be eradicated. The sale and trafficking of children and their entrapment in bonded and forced labor are among these worst forms of child labor. A child can be a victim of human trafficking regardless of the location of that exploitation. Indicators of forced labor of a child include situations in which the child appears to be in the custody of a non-family member who has the child perform work that financially benefits someone outside the child’s family and does not offer the child the option of leaving. Anti-trafficking responses should supplement, not replace, traditional actions against child labor, such as remediation and education. However, when children are enslaved, their abusers should not escape criminal punishment by virtue of longstanding patters of limited responses to child labor practices rather than more effective law enforcement action.

Child Soldiers

Child soldiering can be a manifestation of human trafficking where it involves the unlawful recruitment or use of children—through force, fraud, or coercion—as combatants, or for labor or sexual exploitation by armed forces. Perpetrators may be government forces, paramilitary organizations, or rebel groups. Many children are forcibly abducted to be used as combatants. Others are made unlawfully to work as porters, cooks, guards, servants, messengers, or spies. Young girls can be forced to marry or have sex with male combatants. Both male and female child soldiers are often sexually abused and are at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

Child Sex Trafficking

According to UNICEF, as many as two million children are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade. International covenants and protocols obligate criminalization of the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The use of children in the commercial sex trade is prohibited under both U.S. law and the Palermo Protocol as well as by legislation in countries around the world. There can be no exceptions and no cultural or socioeconomic rationalizations preventing the rescue of children from sexual servitude. Sex trafficking has devastating consequences for minors, including long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, unintended pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and death.

Organ Trafficking

Trafficking in organs is a crime that occurs in three broad categories. Firstly, there are cases where traffickers force or deceive the victims into giving up an organ. Secondly, there are cases where victims formally or informally agree to sell an organ and are cheated because they are not paid for the organ or are paid less than the promised price. Thirdly, vulnerable persons are treated for an ailment, which may or may not exist and thereupon organs are removed without the victim’s knowledge. The vulnerable categories of persons include migrants, especially migrant workers, homeless persons, illiterate persons, etc. It is known that trafficking for organ trade could occur with persons of any age.  Commonly traded organs include kidneys, liver and the like; any organ that can be removed and used, could be the subject of such illegal trade.[i]

Trafficking in organ trade is an organized crime, involving a host of offenders. The recruiter who identifies the vulnerable person, the transporter, the staff of the hospital/ clinic and other medical centers, the medical professionals, the middlemen and contractors, the buyers, the banks where organs are stored are all involved in the trade.[ii]

Forced, Temporary and Child Marriage

Marriage induced through force, coercion, or deceit is a global phenomenon engendered by cultural and societal norms about the institution of marriage and the roles of spouses. Forced marriage is one entered into without full consent and under duress, where the individual has no right to choose a partner or ability to say no.

Around the world, forced or coerced marriages are used by parents and families as a means to many ends, but most commonly to settle debt, receive dowry payments, further economic interests, relieve poverty, obtain residency permits, display status, provide inheritance, counteract promiscuity, and serve as compensation for a wrongful death. Forced marriages render the forced party (in most cases a woman) vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by her spouse or his family, who exercise significantly greater power and control. This can trap the victim in conditions of enslavement, particularly in domestic or sexual servitude.

Not all forced marriages result in cases of trafficking. Each situation is unique and needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine whether it meets the legal definition of trafficking. The evaluation must look particularly at the terms of the marriage and the possible conditions of exploitation encountered afterward. Trafficking and forced marriage intersect when marriage is used both in conjunction with force, fraud, coercion, or abuse of power and as a means to subject wives to conditions of slavery, often in the form of domestic or sexual servitude.

Difference between arranged and forced marriage

In the UK a distinction is made between a forced and an arranged marriage. A forced marriage is one lacking free and informed consent with an element of physical force or psychological pressure. In an arranged marriage families take a leading role in arranging the marriage with the intending spouses free to choose or to refuse.[iii]

Marriage as a method of recruitment for child trafficking into sexual exploitation Previous research by ECPAT UK has documented how girls, particularly from Eastern Europe, are trafficked into the UK on promises of marriage, as fiancées or girlfriends hoping for a better life, only to be forced into sexual exploitation. There are no consistent patterns on the nationalities of the girls brought into the country or their traffickers, but this method has been used on girls from Albania, Kosovo, Moldova and Russia. Traffickers establish romantic relationships with the girls prior to travelling abroad or girls may travel abroad in response to marriage advertisements. Once they arrive in the UK they are often sold and sexually exploited and may be trafficked to other European destinations.[iv]

Forced marriage as a result of trafficking

Another scenario in the UK is where British girls, predominately from a South Asian or Middle Eastern background, are taken abroad, either unaware of an impending marriage or having been coerced into agreeing to the marriage. Once abroad they often face physical and psychological violence, their documents are removed and their movements closely monitored so they cannot leave or seek help. After the marriage ceremony these young girls may be left in the country abroad, sometimes never to return to the UK. However, most seem to be brought back and are expected to sponsor their husband to live in the UK. South Asian and some Middle Eastern girls forced to marry a British man abroad are also brought into the UK. These forced marriages are characterized by domestic and sexual servitude, physical and psychological violence and often severe restrictions on the movement of these girls.[v]