I heard a notification sound from my phone, I picked it up and saw the titles of multiple articles from my news app. One of which happened to be about human trafficking. As I looked through the article, I started to realize how much of a serious issue it actually is. It is a global epidemic that affects millions worldwide and is a one-hundred-fifty billion-dollar industry. It’s also the fastest growing criminal activity of the twenty-first century. The more I started to learn about human trafficking, the more I became interested in it.
While doing my research, I found a variety of different sources. I wanted to find out how human trafficking affects underdeveloped countries, the overall world economy, and the things being done to help prevent it from happening around the world. Coming up with sources proved to be difficult. While doing my research, I used a variety of key terms that helped me come up with sources that pertained to my topic, the problem was that each source was very specific to one country, while others just gave a broad definition of what it was. Most of my information found on human trafficking was in books, which took a while to go through and find the exact chapter that talks about human trafficking. I found that in order to write an essay that provides a thorough understanding of human trafficking, I would have to use a multitude of sources, so that my essay wouldn’t be limited to just one geographical region, or made up of just one source.
Human trafficking affects places all over the world, although it does occur more in poorer countries. The book Forced Labor by Patrick Belser, explains that in Brazil, human trafficking is being used to deforest the Amazon Rainforest and prepare the land for cattle and agriculture. Victims are being taken from poor regions and are promised better work opportunities. When they arrive, the workers are told they owe a debt for transportation and the food they received. The money they are supposed to make goes toward the materials needed for the job and food. Workers are coerced into manual labor and those who complain are told they cannot leave until they have paid off their debt, and those who do not submit are threatened with violence. In certain communities in Latin America and Pakistan, people are being held against their will because of debt bondages. Belser states that “because they are being paid very little or nothing at all during the initial ‘reimbursement period,’ workers enter into further debt to buy their food and other essential goods at inflated prices from their employers or recruiters. Under this system, workers sometimes work a whole season without receiving any cash payment. In worst cases, workers end the season with debt and remain bonded to their employer or intermediary for more than one season” (Belser, page 35). The point of the debt bondages is to make sure that the amount worked does not properly displace their debt, it means that the implicit interest rates are always fraudulently increased in order to make sure the worker is coerced into manual labor.
Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking. Although it is more apparent in poorer countries in the world, it is not restricted to specific geographic regions. Human trafficking occurs in the United States as well. In Michigan, one-hundred and twenty missing children cases were solved once officials uncovered a human trafficking operation. Minors are also more likely to be victims of sex trafficking in the U.S., and because of trafficking, women who work in the sex industry are also more likely to have been raped. The internet has also become a way traffickers advertise children through hundreds of websites. They might also post legitimate job offers online in order to lure victims into the commercial sex business. Immigrants in the U.S can also be victims of trafficking and may be afraid to speak up in fear of deportation. “Many trafficking victims fall prey because they seek a better life or enhanced economic opportunities.”(Bales, page 138) The United States government estimates that approximately fifty thousand women and children are trafficked into the country each year, and in the European Union it’s estimated at around half a million people. (Bales, page 135)
The global economy is very interconnected with each other, which means that there is a greater chance of illicit trade networks that foster criminal activity like human trafficking. All over the world businesses may be using forced labor in order to maximize profits. According to the book Illicit Trade: Converging Criminal Networks, “The economic and labour consequences in destination countries include depressed salaries; poor working conditions; increased work injuries; economic development based on trafficking (e.g. sex tourism); increased income inequality; an expansion of the illicit economy; a drain on the resources used for prevention, prosecution and punishment of offenders and treatment and support of victims”. (Illicit trade, page 35) It means that if people are being taken advantage of, the overall economy will eventually be stifled, and wealth is not going to be evenly distributed throughout the population. “Illicit trade can cause longer-term damage to the rule of law, public trust, human capital, and public health, as well as deter foreign investment.” (Illicit trade, page 50) In order to improve the overall quality of the economy and the life of people or victims, governments need to implement laws that help to identify and prosecute corrupt public officials who facilitate illicit trade for organized criminal groups all over the world, or else their economy will slowly start to deteriorate. Human trafficking provides free labor, but that doesn’t directly correlate to better economic output or productivity. Countries that have a more prominent problem with human trafficking, also tend to have a lower GDP and struggling economy.
In the book Global Slavery, Bales talks about how the “destabilization and displacement of populations increase the chances of exploitation and abuse through human trafficking”. (Bales, page 139) During times of war, orphans and street children become very vulnerable to trafficking since they would be considered easy targets. Bales also states how societal practices can greatly influence, and leave children defenseless to trafficking. In some communities, parents will sell their children, so that they could escape poverty and move to a place where they will have more opportunities, but instead, they are being taken advantage of for sexual exploitation or forced labor. People of high socioeconomic backgrounds do not have to face the same dire consequences.
What is being done about human trafficking around the world? Although some countries have created policies that help to prevent it from happening, some have virtually no laws to protect their citizens. There are currently around 20 million people around the world who are being transported by threats of coercion or deceit, for forced labor, involuntary servitude, or sexual exploitation, and poorer countries around are more susceptible to it. The UN set a protocol to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking. It established a universal trafficking definition and encouraged countries to try and combat trafficking and assist victims. Brazil also tried to combat trafficking and modern slavery by creating the Executive Group for the Suppression of Forced Labor, and the Mobile Inspection Group, who help to identify people who are being transported involuntarily or through manipulation.
Human trafficking is a worldwide problem that should have more awareness. It ruins a person’s quality of life and is even considered modern slavery. Most people who are forced to take part have no say for fear of repercussions. Through extensive research, I found that sometimes victims of human trafficking don’t really have a way out and that protecting their rights, and that more government policies can help prevent it from occurring. I also learned that it can happen anywhere, even in developed countries like the United States. I hope that through reading this essay, you are able to learn about what human trafficking is, its places in society, and how it affects the world economy.