Slavery isn’t only an ancient phenomenon. It occurs in the 21st century. We name it human trafficking – a much nicer word than “slavery.” Human trafficking includes forced labor, debt bondage, domestic servitude, forced marriage, use of children as soldiers, and sex trafficking of all types. Human traffickers use threat, force, coercion, abduction, fraud, and/or deception to exploit targets.
The International Labour Organization estimated that 40 million individuals were victims of modern slavery (forced labor) in 2017. That comes out to over 5 individuals per 1,000 people in the world. Most present-day slaves are females (71%) and one out of four are children.
A common reason that individuals is trafficked is forced labor in the private sector. Most of us have seen movies of “sweat shops.” At times government-sponsored forced labor occurs. We don’t have to stretch our minds far to imagine political incarcerates in some countries being forced to labor long hours with insufficient food, or children brained-washed into become soldiers. Also, individuals are trafficked for sexual exploitation including forced marriage.
According to Human Trafficking Search, individuals most vulnerable to human trafficking:
- Have low socio-economic backgrounds and/or disabilities
- Are homeless, have run away from home, or are in foster care
- Are a political, cultural, or ethnic minority, i.e., Roma in Europe and Russia
- Are immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants
- Have been sexually abused, raped, or are victims of domestic violence
- Have been victims of natural disasters, conflicts, or political turmoil
Although some human traffickers kidnap individuals for slavery, that scenario is not what usually happens. More commonly, traffickers manipulate or in some other way take advantage of the individual’s vulnerability or gullibility. An example is an unemployed construction worker in Venezuela who agrees to come to the United States to work. A trafficker tells him that he will be driving a piece of heavy equipment. When the man arrives in the United States, he becomes laborer (slave) laying irrigation pipe fields. His trafficker tells him that he has to work at this job until he pays back expenses for bringing him to the United States. At the same time, daily he is charged for his lodging and food, both which are substandard. This slave never earns sufficient money to buy his freedom.
Human trafficking is underground, hidden in the underbelly of society. A colleague of mine declared that human trafficking doesn’t exist. She contended that the entire notion of human slavery is a left-wing conspiracy. My colleague couldn’t be more wrong. According to the International Labour Organization, forced labor (slavery) is a lucrative business, generating $150 billion in illegal profits each year.
Human trafficking happens between and within countries. Common countries of origin for human trafficking are East Asia, the Balkans, and West Africa. Destination countries (not in any order of frequency) include the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Columbia, and Oman. A United Nations organization documented that 100% of human slave victims in South Asia were trafficked in their native country or region.
Human Trafficking Search developed the A-M-P Model to illustrate how human trafficking works. AMP stands for Action, Means, and Purpose. Think of Action as recruitment and transportation. Means as some type of coercion, and Purpose as how the victim is used.
On February 9, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued Executive Order 13773, Enforcing Federal Law With Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking. The Executive Order contended that trafficking and smuggling of human beings by transnational criminal groups risks creating a humanitarian crisis. Human trafficking enriches criminal traffickers to the detriment of American people.
When we discussed human trafficking over lunch, my husband became irate. I was happy at his response. Every individual should become incensed about human trafficking. Human trafficking is a blight on both global and United States societies. The more we know about human trafficking, the more likely we are to be able to recognize it when we see it and the more likely we are to speak out against it.