Human trafficking is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. Every year, thousands of men, women, girls and children fall into the dragnet of traffickers either in their own countries or abroad. Almost every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for gullible victims.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING DEMOGRAPHICS
Adults and children alike can be trafficked or enslaved and forced to sell their bodies for sex. People are also trafficked or enslaved for labour exploitation like working on a farm or factory, working in a house as a servant, maid or nanny or in extreme cases, running errands for criminal cartels. Traffickers lure and trap people into forced labour and sex trafficking by manipulating and exploiting their vulnerabilities. Human trafficking entails recruiting, transporting , harbouring , obtaining and exploiting victims often using force, threats , lies or other psychological coercion.
Human trafficking can happen to anyone but some people especially from poor families and third world countries are more vulnerable than others. Significant risk factors include recent migration or relocation, substance use, mental health concerns, involvement with the child welfare system and being a runaway or homeless youth. Often, traffickers identify and leverage their victims’ vulnerabilities in order to create dependency.
More than a century after the abolition of slave trade in the world, the market for human beings is still thriving. From violent abductions and the sale of family members to voluntary participation , human trafficking is a global social problem. The exploitation and victimization of tens of millions of women, men, girls and children each year tremendously benefits the traffickers but the suffering for the trafficked is incalculable. Being the second largest criminal activity in the world, second only to illegal arms trafficking, human trafficking affects all nations but mostly, third world countries, with an estimated 27 million people of all ages worldwide being victims but only a small number being identified.
WHEN THE DEAL IS TOO GOOD
Human trafficking is literally the use of deception, violence, threats, coercion to recruit, transport or harbour people in order to exploit them. Traffickers may be family members, romantic partners, acquaintances or strangers. Traffickers will lure victims by too good to be true deals which include a well paying job, better income prospects,, free education, promise of a marriage partner , promise of foreign country citizenship and a good life among others. It becomes very easy to lure people due to unemployment, desire for a better life, curiousity, domestic violence , rural urban migration and a desire for a well paying job.
For the victims abroad , economic migration pretty much sums up their woes but not always. An extreme kind of exploitation , body harvesting , is rampant in select countries. Kidneys, eyes, genitals and other body parts are harvested from both live and dead victims in what is believed to be a booming business to the extent that some horror movies have been scripted from this vice. The movies are usually labelled “based on a true story”. Other forms of exploitation include child marriage, child domestic slavery, child soldiers, forced marriage, forced begging, forced prostitution , drug trafficking and forced labour.
MANIPULATION AND THE GULLIBILITY EFFCT
Traffickers control their victims by isolating them hence making them dependent on the trafficker. They also induce fear in the victim through threats of violence to either the victim, their families or friends alike. Traffickers will also lie to victims about laws in the host country so that victims think that they are viewed as criminals or illegal migrants. Traffickers also manipulate the victims by making them blame themselves for everything that has happened and worst of all they will tie victims to debt bondage which includes “cost of processing” travel documents and commissions for the victim to land safely in the host country.
When the deal appears too sweet, it is prudent to conduct due dilligence before taking up an offer. One should inquire from family and friends whether the company is genuine. Always ensure that you get a contract that correctly states your roles and remuneration. Inform family and friends when you start working and your location as well. Share the office contacts with family and friends and most important for those abroad, register yourself with your country’s foreign office. It is further advised to have a “safe word” that you can use to inform family and friends incase you get into trouble. Incase you are in trouble and you happen to have a smart phone, be sure to send a google pin to friends that you might have in the region.
TRAFFICKING AND COVID 19 EFFECT
Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director for Resource Management, Sustainability and Partnerships at the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) says a global survey of 100 trafficking survivors from 40 countries, and 400 frontline stakeholders, found that survivors face greater difficulties accessing all essential services than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic , essentials like food, water, safe accommodation, and now, COVID-19 testing, when needed. Many countries have legal frameworks, but the political will to enact them has been “completely absent” even before the pandemic. In the few places where these services are available, survivors are “very poorly” informed about them, she said.
There has been calls for a human-rights approach, which would require reforms to international and national legislation, starting with the due diligence obligations of States and businesses, which should be made binding – including in their supply chains. Trafficked and exploited persons meanwhile should be allowed to appeal negative decisions on residence status and assistance, with the non-punishment principle applied to any illicit activities these persons have been involved in as a direct consequence of their being trafficked. At the same time, it is a scary fact that the crisis has overwhelmed social and public services, impacted the work of law enforcement and criminal justice systems, and made it harder for victims to seek help.
EXCEPTIONS IN TRAFFICKING
It is however important to note that Initial consent to commercial sex or a labor setting prior to acts of force, fraud, or coercion is not relevant to the crime, nor is payment. If the trafficked person consented to be in their initial situation, then it cannot be human trafficking or against their will because they “knew better.” All commercial sex involving a minor is legally considered human trafficking. Commercial sex involving an adult is human trafficking if the person providing commercial sex is doing so against his or her will as a result of force, fraud or coercion. The world should be sensitized that, without a market, there would be no human trafficking but as it currently stands, the market is huge and dynamic, coupled with the lack of strong legislation to counter the vice.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING HOTSPOTS
There definitely are regions where human trafficking is rampant and these have to be highlighted. According to research, China, Russia, and Uzbekistan have been named among the worst offenders when it comes to human trafficking. Saudi Arabia, Italy and some middle East regions are also listed as hot spots. Libya can never go unmentioned as both a host and transit nation.
In Uzbekistan, the annual cotton harvest has been the biggest human trafficking culprit. The country is the world’s sixth largest cotton producer, and each year local officials force thousands of children to pick cotton in the fields in order to meet quotas cheaply. Some of the child workers are replaced with teenagers and city workers, but it’s forced labor nonetheless. Other countries which include host , transit and source include the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, Eritrea, U.S.A. , Brazil, Honduras, Mexico, Nigeria and Mali among others. Kenya is also part of these statistics .