Human Trafficking: The Slavery of Today
Human trafficking is one of the most prevalent crimes against individuals as well as humanity as a whole. It isn’t something any of us can shut our eyes against; it happens on every continent, in every country. And it can happen to anyone. To a middle-class white girl from New York City; to a young man fleeing the conflict in Syria; to a mother and her infant child in India whose only fault was trusting her husband.
Despite its name, human trafficking does not necessarily involve any moment; someone can be trafficked within their own hometown. The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.” It takes many forms today, from domestic servitude, to forced marriages, sex trafficking, child labor or bonded labor. In essence, any practice that is forced and a lifestyle which takes away the agency and freedom of the individual could fall under the term ‘human trafficking’.
Slavery has been a part of humanity dating back to our earliest civilizations. Whereas it used to be an acceptable practice, it has now been outlawed in almost every country. As with too many illegal things, this lead to it becoming one of the most lucrative businesses across the globe and the fastest growing criminal enterprise, garnering an estimated $150 billion for traffickers every year. Although exact numbers are hard to determine due to the nature of the business, it is suspected that there are 20 to 30 millions slaves in the world today; of which just about one million are actually being transported across international borders annually. In India alone there are approximately 14 million people who are currently a victim of the human trafficking trade. Even though it could affect anyone anywhere in the world, this number alone should be reason enough for this issue to be a pressing one.
Nevertheless, increasingly there are stories circulating of white girls from a happy, healthy background who were tricked into the trade by traffickers posing as agents who could launch their modeling/singing/acting career. Although their cases are not worse or less so than any others, they are often perceived to be more shocking as many people in the west presume that wealthier countries are exempt from such crimes. But money is money and it is what traffickers are usually mainly after, finding opportunities wherever and whenever possible. Considering how quickly human trafficking has been growing as a business, it is of no surprise that in recent years more and more drug cartels have decided to expand their operations into this sector of criminal activity as well.
One of the many difficulties that authorities are facing in battling human trafficking is that there are just so many perpetrators. Although there are human trafficking rings, built up in order to enslave the most people in the most efficient ways, there are also a lot of isolated incidents. Moreover, in a lot of cases the victims’ passports and papers are taken away, ensuring their dependability on their traffickers or new ‘owners’. Victims are being brainwashed and threatened, their spirits so broken that the possibility of help or freedom has become an entirely alien concept.
Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult to put an end to this, but that does not mean we should ever stop trying. Most prevention programs are focused on the anticipated consequences for survivors; something that is very important, but in itself shows how hard it is to stop the crime from happening in the first place. Poverty, war, natural disasters and the desire to search for a better life are leading causes as to how and why people end up being trafficked. Instability or a search for something better in the victims lives is oftentimes what makes them susceptible to becoming victims of human trafficking in the first place. It is difficult to determine what can be done in order to prevent the business from growing even further and in order to save the millions of victims that have become enslaved.
A healthy dose of mistrust is one factor that can prevent people from becoming victims. Double checking what is offered, questioning the opportunities that seem too good to be true, putting safety measures into place. Unfortunately, that might not be enough, but it is a start. Human trafficking is set to increase its revenue even more in the next couple years, particularly due to the anonymity the internet provides when talking to people and making deals. Educating people about the dangers as well as alleviating some of the suffering in the world and therefore taking away the desperation that drives many victims sto end up trusting traffickers are two important steps in putting an end to this horrific crime. But none of that can happen from one day to another. So we need to talk about it, point out if something doesn't feel right, try to help someone if they seem to be being held in a situation against their will. You’d rather be wrong when asking if someone needs help than turn the other way.