Justice for victims of human trafficking act of 2015

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Introduction

Human trafficking is a type of modern day slavery that mainly involves the illegal trading of human beings for the main purpose of some form of exploitation. According to the United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime or UNODC, human trafficking refers to any form of recruitment, harboring, transfer, transportation or receiving of persons through the use of threats or use of some form of force, coercion, deception, fraud and abduction (Kempadoo, Sanghera & Pattanaik, 2015). There are close to 800,000 individuals trafficked across borders on a yearly basis. Of this number, eighty percent of them are women or girls while fifty percent of them can be classified as minors. Even though the degree of trafficking amongst the various countries or continents is variable, it is becoming increasingly clear that the scourge of global trafficking has grown into a significant problem (Weitzer, 2015).

The two most popular purposes of the vice of this vice are forced labor and sexual exploitation. The sex trafficking victims are often forced into one or more forms of sexual exploitation. It is crucial to note that prostitution and sex trafficking are not synonymous. Prostitution is just but one of the many types of work that are conducted by sex trafficking victims. This paper will examine the victims of sex trafficking as well as what can be put in place to prevent their continued victimization. We will also look at the roles played by society in perpetuating this form of victimization. After all these have been discussed, the paper will move towards solutions i.e. looking into what is needed to effectively combat the scourge of human trafficking. This will not be complete without mentioning the most recent international agreements/laws for dealing with human trafficking. The efficacy of these agreements will be interrogated to determine whether they are adequate or require more laws or better enforcement. Finally, recommendations will be made on how to effectively deal with the issue of human trafficking that has been with us for decades if not centuries.

Discussion

Victim Profile of Human Trafficking

The International Labor Organization or ILO estimated that there exist almost 21 million victims of human trafficking across the globe with the United States alone having hundreds of thousands of such victims. Victims of this crime are women and men, children and adults as well as immigrants in foreign countries (Adam, Webb & Al-Mateen, 2017). According to US law, victims of human trafficking can be placed into three principle categories: Young children that are still under eighteen years of age that have been inducted into commercial sex; adults that are over eighteen years of age that have been coerced and forced into commercial sex work; and adults or children induced to carry out services or labor via fraud, force, as well as coercion (Sen & Baba, 2017).

In the United States, victims of human trafficking have been identified in suburbs, cities, as well as rural farm areas across all the regions as well as Washington DC. These victims are made to provide or work in the commercial sex industry against their will as well as in legitimate commercial settings and underground market places. Some of them are placed behind locked gates in factories, sweat shops and brothels (Cho, 2015). In some other instances, the victims are in plain sight and may even go ahead as to interact with members of the community; however, the chronic lack of awareness or understanding of their options and situation contributes to low levels of victim identification by those who encounter the victims most often such as the grocery store clerk, pizza delivery man or even local plumber who has come to fix the drainage at the home where the victim is held.

However, it should be noted that there does not exist any single profile when it comes to victims of human trafficking.  This is because trafficking takes place among adults as well as minors in urban, rural or even suburban communities across the globe. These victims also have different socio-economic backgrounds, various levels of education and may either be documented or undocumented (Adam, Webb & Al-Mateen, 2017). The perpetrators of this vice target victims with the help of tailored methods of control or recruitment that they find to be effective when it comes to compelling that person into commercial sex or forced forms of labor.

While the vice transcends all the demographics, there exist some vulnerabilities and circumstances that contribute to higher levels of susceptibility to being victimized and trafficked. The following are some of the few notable risk factors when it comes to potential human trafficking victims (Adam, Webb & Al-Mateen, 2017). Homeless youth as well as runaways are more vulnerable to being trafficked.  A research that was carried out in the city of Chicago found out that fifty six percent of the women who have been prostituted were initially runaways with similar numbers being seen among male groups. The homeless youth as well as runaways often lack a reliable vibrant supportive network while the runaways to unfamiliar neighborhoods are exposed to higher risks of getting trafficked. Such runaways are regularly approached by criminal elements at transport hubs as well as shelters where they have infiltrated posing as victims themselves (Weitzer, 2015). They often pretend to be a significant other or boyfriend, employing feigned affection or manipulation so as to get commercial sex from the victims of trafficking.

Immigrants who are trafficked in foreign countries normally face unique challenges that end up leaving them more likely to fall into the trap of exploitation and trafficking.  For example, in the US in 2013, thirty two percent of calls that had high possibilities of human trafficking to help lines tended to reference foreign nationals (Kempadoo, Sanghera & Pattanaik, 2015). Recruiters that are based in home countries normally demand astronomical travel and recruitment fees leaving the victims highly indebted to them (Weitzer, 2015). The fees are artificially inflated way beyond the actual costs with the aim of creating economic dependency conditions on the new trafficker and subsequent employer. These traffickers are fond of leveraging the non-portability feature of most work visas coupled with the lack of familiarity with the neighborhoods, rights and laws, spoken language, as well as cultural familiarity to manipulate and control their victims (Kempadoo, Sanghera & Pattanaik, 2015).

People who have had to endure trauma and violence in the past have been found to be more vulnerable to future forms of exploitation. This is because the extensive psychological impact of trauma is normally long-lasting and difficult to eventually deal with. Victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, conflict and war or even social forms of discrimination are easy pickings for traffickers who can identify their vulnerabilities and scars (Kempadoo, Sanghera & Pattanaik, 2015). Abuse and violence may end up being normalized. Beliefs of unworthiness or shame contribute to one’s future susceptibility to the scourge of human trafficking.

Measures to prevent victimization

Some of the measures employed to prevent victimization include the 3P paradigm of prosecution, protection and prevention so s to strengthen how the entire globe combats human trafficking. Governments that are committed to increasing prosecution of human traffickers hve passed laws that seek to criminalize any forms of human trafficking as well as hand out sentences that are deemed to be sufficiently stringent (Adam, Webb & Al-Mateen, 2017). Such protection efforts have managed to empower people to move beyond their states of victimization and rebuild their lives with utmost security, dignity as well as respect.

However, so much work still remains to be done. Despite the impressive sustained anti trafficking measures, millions of vulnerable people are still bound by physical, mental as well as financial coercion or manipulation by the traffickers that take advantage of their vulnerabilities to rake in profits. While the continued efforts aimed at protecting and prosecuting are crucial, the victimization prevention strategies require commensurate attention as well as resources (Adam, Webb & Al-Mateen, 2017). Various governments are supposed to work in partnership with survivors, NGOs, religious and community leaders as well as the private sector to evaluate vulnerable populations and come up with targeted programs to address and prevent the factors that contribute to modern day slavery within communities (Adam, Webb & Al-Mateen, 2017). Without effective prevention strategies, most of the governments are left to only respond to the consequences of the vice without ever coming nearer to seeing its ending.

Viable prevention strategies seek to address the tactics employed by the human traffickers head on. With dissemination of targeted and accurate information, most of the communities will end up being better prepared to deal with the threats posed by human trafficking (Adam, Webb & Al-Mateen, 2017). Strategic intervention programs should reach the populations that are at risk way before they have to deal with the deceitful recruitment ways practiced by the predators in the industry.

Role of society in abetting human trafficking

Society cannot avoid blame for fueling the booming and highly lucrative human trafficking industry. To begin with, law enforcement agencies have effectively made the industry a high reward low risk venture. This is unorthodox since the traffickers can normally expect to make a lot of money with little to no fear of legal consequences and punishment. It has grown to become the second most profitable illicit industry second only to the cartel-dominated drugs trade. However, while drugs are expected to be sold in a single transaction, human beings, on the other hand can be easily sold over and over again. The ILO estimates that profits raked in from this industry easily hit the $150 billion mark on an annual basis (Sen & Baba, 2017).

The table below illustrates the Global Enforcement figures that have been drawn from the 2015 Human Trafficking report. The figures illustrate the estimated amount of trafficking prosecutions as well as convictions round the globe annually.

From the figures displayed, the prosecution numbers are surprisingly low for an industry that manages to victimize over 21 million individuals globally (Sen & Baba, 2017). Lasting and far-reaching consequences for the human traffickers is still shockingly rare and minimal. These numbers can be easily interpreted by the traffickers as society condoning their criminal actions. They know that they can sell as well as exploit vulnerable people in society with little to no consequences.

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Just like any industry, human trafficking is fueled by the economic principles of demand and supply. The increasing demand from buyers of cheap items acts as an incentive for corporations to demand cheap forms of labor. This demand pushes those that are located at the bottom of the market supply chain to exploit the laborers. Another factor is that the increased demand for commercial sex, more so from young girls and boys, acts as an incentive to commercial sex establishments such as strip clubs, pornography sites as well as brothels to recruit and use increasingly younger girls.

Finally, the existing systemic disparities and inequalities make particular groups increasingly vulnerable to exploitation. Conflict, mass displacement, lack of access to education, extreme poverty and harmful social norms such as child marriage are all just but some of the societal ills that fuel the human trafficking industry. Families that lead a life of poverty or in situations of desperation have a higher probability of accepting fairly risky job openings (Adam, Webb & Al-Mateen, 2017). When girls in poor families are not allowed to go to school, their parents are more likely to sell them to men for marriage in exchange for some money or favors.

What it will take to combat the vice

Combating this vice requires input from all the stakeholders including governments, the public, immigration officials as well as airport and border clerks. One of the most effective modes of combating this vice is through increasing general public awareness on the high risks as well as tale  tell signs of human trafficking. This is a crucial piece of anti-trafficking prevention approach (Kempadoo, Sanghera & Pattanaik, 2015).  Such public awareness campaigns should aim either the section of society viewed to be most at risk like migrant laborers; individuals that may be contributing unwittingly or wittingly to the demand of trafficked persons such as the private or public employers as well as purchasers of commercial sex; or the wider public i.e. those that may be able to pinpoint the subtle indicators of human trafficking and subsequently raise their suspicions to relevant law enforcement officials or the concerned government agencies (Kempadoo, Sanghera & Pattanaik, 2015).

Just like the other programs, anti human trafficking awareness campaigns should include an evaluation component so as to evaluate their efficacy and also improve any future such campaigns. More often than not, the general public awareness campaigns are severely limited because of the restrictions that re inherent on single-dimensional campaign resources like billboards, posters or even the conventional print media advertisements. This has the effect of diminishing the complexity of human trafficking into compressed texts and simple images. While such a campaign my significantly help in raising awareness on the extent of human trafficking, it at the same time may have the effect of misrepresenting victims and watering down the issue. A good example is that pictures of physical restraint such s cages or handcuffs may impact on what the public views as constituting human trafficking yet physical restraint and movement alone are not required for human trafficking. When it comes to these campaigns, the designers should thus fully understand the scale as well scope of the issue within a particular target community. This will allow them to appropriately capture the nature of the crime, its perpetrators s well s victims.

International agreements/laws on human trafficking

Although the scourge of trafficking impacts on every demographic, one of the common factors across all the forms of modern day slavery is the vulnerability to exploitation of the victims. Systemic cultural, social as well s economic policies may end up discriminating or marginalizing against individuals as well as groups since they are poor, physically or intellectually disabled or due to their ethnicity or even gender (Kempadoo, Sanghera & Pattanaik, 2015).  Such people may be lacking in legal as well as health services because of their status and barriers that arise from spoken dialect. Traffickers have been known to exploit such disadvantages by preying on those that lack opportunity and security, deceive or coerce them to gain some form of control and thereafter profit from any compelled service.  In  bid to prevent this, world governments, with close assistance from the first responders, local communities as well as NGOs ought to consider their own cultures, policies, as well as populations to pinpoint the people who may be uniquely vulnerable within their jurisdictions. On this basis, communities may come up with strategies that work towards increasing awareness as well s preventing human trafficking (Kempadoo, Sanghera & Pattanaik, 2015).

The protocol to suppress, prevent as well as punish the culture of people trafficking, more so females and minors, in conjunction with the United Nations convention Against Transnational Organized Crime or the Palermo Control upholds the connection between human trafficking and vulnerability. This international convention also seeks to encourage state parties to take measures that alleviate factors that make individuals vulnerable to trafficking in human beings (Adam, Webb & Al-Mateen, 2017). These factors include underdevelopment, poverty, as well as lack of equal opportunities. Understanding these root causes will assist governments when it comes to shaping strategic prevention efforts as well as include anti trafficking elements into other efforts that are targeted at vulnerable populations.

Most recent federal laws on human trafficking

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act or TVPA of the year 2000 was the initial comprehensive legislation that sought to address human trafficking.  This particular law offers a three pronged approach which includes prevention protection and prosecution. This particular legislation was reauthorized via the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act or TVPRA of the years ’03, ’05, ’08, and ’13 (Adam, Webb & Al-Mateen, 2017).  Under this particular law, both labor and sex trafficking fall under the category severe forms of human trafficking.

The other federal law worth mentioning is the 2015 Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. This particular federal law heightens the US response to incidences of human trafficking.  The law has several crucial amendments that aim to reinforce services for victims of this crime (Adam, Webb & Al-Mateen, 2017). Among the amendments are alterations within the criminal liability of purchasers of commercial sexual activities from trafficking victims, setting up of a survivor-led United States Council on Human Trafficking, as well as directives when it comes to the implementation of a national strategy for tackling the vice (Adam, Webb & Al-Mateen, 2017).

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Last but not least is the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of the year 2014. This federal law seeks to cut down the incidences of sex trafficking amongst the young people that are within the foster care system. The segment of this act that is targeted at sex trafficking calls upon child welfare systems to heighten their responses to incidences of sex trafficking through screening as well as identifying young people who are already victims or the ones that are at a higher risk for sex trafficking (Adam, Webb & Al-Mateen, 2017).

Recommendations to combat human trafficking

Since human trafficking is such a big industry that transcends international borders, we cannot leave the burden of fighting crime entirely on law enforcement departments. This is because they can only do so much to combat the scourge and the public can do its part to curb the spread of human trafficking. The following recommendations can play a significant role in curbing this vice:

  • Volunteer or even support anti-trafficking programs within the community
  • Businesses should provide jobs, skills training as well as internships to trafficking survivors to prevent them from relapsing and falling back into the trap (Sen & Baba, 2017).
  • Members of the public should become conscientious or informed consumers. This can be done through discovering an item’s slavery footprint. It can also be easier by checking out the Department of Labor’s list of items that get produced by Forced labor or child labor.
  • Encourage firms to prevent as well as investigate incidences of human trafficking within their supply chains. Their factory or supplier lists should be made publicly available together with their addresses and phone numbers to enhance consumer awareness.
  • Lastly, we can assist law enforcement departments by learning the indicators of human trafficking. This will allow us to assist in the identification of potential trafficking victims. This will enable us to always be on the lookout in airport terminals, transport hubs as well as in the restaurants that we frequent.

Conclusion

Research on the topic of human trafficking has acted as an eye opener. I have learnt that the vice involves such basic right violations that before the most recent global movement which begun with the 2000 Palermo Protocol, governments across the world were unwilling to collect the required data. Even though the covering veil is gradually being lifted on the crime’s trends, and the concerned governments are beginning to keep close track of the prosecutions related to trafficking of persons, political drawbacks are still rife.

The trafficking of persons involves some of the most discomforting as well as intimate human behavior. This is the reason why the victims, especially women, may find it difficult to report the same to the authorities. Governments across the world may in turn feel the urge to withhold or underreport the extent of the scourge within its jurisdictions. Even in cases whereby governments have set out to collect the required data they have ended up encountering limited capacity. Ever since the enactment of the US TVPA that mandated the US State Department to evaluate the efforts of foreign governments to curb trafficking, countries that are recipients of aid from Washington have now had an incentive to demonstrate that they are, indeed acting tough, on the vice. It is thus in these governments’ financial interests to underreport cases of sex trafficking, potentially restrict resources geared at data collection while having many motivations to exaggerate any of their efforts to deal with the scourge.

One may ask why a country may feel compelled to intentionally report inaccurate the scale of such a vice? The most obvious of answers is that such governments may not have the correct statistics since such victims are unwilling or even unable to come forward due to intimidation. Some prevailing cultural attitudes may have the adverse effect of assigning blame to the victims which implies that he victims should have been more responsible to avoid falling into the trafficking trap which undermines the likelihood of such incidences being reported. Another powerful motivation that inhibits reporting of such incidences by various governments may derive from a country’s share of GDP that is obtained via sex tourism. For example, countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, with such a significant share of their national incomes coming from sex tourism, will have much greater incentives to overlook sex trafficking and avoid actively enforcing any international agreements or pacts.

The examples highlighted show that legislation alone may not be sufficient in curbing the human trafficking crime network. There exist many impediments to enforcement of such laws. The fact that the issue of human and sex trafficking is global and transcends several international borders and/or continents makes it difficult for countries such as the US to act alone. The US should therefore pay closer attention to its aid-receiving international partners to ensure they report accurate data. This can be enhanced through assisting them build their individual capacities to gather and monitor the cases within their jurisdictions.

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  1. Adam, B. S., Webb, S., & Al-Mateen, C. S. (2017). 10.0 Human Sex Trafficking: A Modern Day Slavery. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry56(10), S15.
  2. Cho, S. Y. (2015). Modelling for determinants of human trafficking.
  3. Kempadoo, K., Sanghera, J., & Pattanaik, B. (2015). Trafficking and prostitution reconsidered: New perspectives on migration, sex work, and human rights. Routledge.
  4. Sen, S., & Baba, Y. (2017). The human trafficking debate: Implications for Social Work Practice. Social Work & Society15(1).
  5. Weitzer, R. (2015). Human trafficking and contemporary slavery. Annual review of sociology41, 223-242.
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