The Truth About Human Trafficking
Human trafficking, often referred to as "modern-day slavery", is the act of buying and selling human beings for either labor or sexual purposes against their will, and happens everyday-- more often than the public may realize (or care to admit). Labor purposes are just that; they may be sent to work on farmland, in factories, or in sweatshops. Sexual purposes are much darker in nature, more nefarious, more taboo, and are one of the more private practices of human trafficking. These purposes can range from sexual abuse to arranged marriages to forced pornography or prostitution, and is one of the more common forms of human trafficking.
It's often believed that human trafficking only stems in third-world countries, where conditions are poor and money is hard to come by, but sadly, that isn't true; this practice happens anywhere that a profit can be made. The victims aren't seen as people, they're seen as product. Over the past 40 years, from the 1970s to today, there have been migrating human trafficking "hotspots" that have swept across the world-- starting with heavy trafficking in Southeast Asia and the Philippines in the 1970s, then to Africa in the 1980s, prominent in Uganda and Nigeria. In the 1990s, these areas moved to Europe and South America, with hotspots in El Salvador and Guatemala, and in the 2000s, this shifted to Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia.
Even with this worldwide spread, it continues to this day. Most commonly, human trafficking takes place in China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Cambodia, Thailand, New Zealand, Malaysia, and the United States.
The United States has worked hard on laws protecting the victims of human trafficking, and on October 28th, 2000, signed into law the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000.¹ This permitted victims of human trafficking to apply for protection from their abductors, granting them nonimmigrant visas while officials investigated the conduct of their attackers and their crimes, provided they could fulfill two obligations: first, they had to prove and/or admit they were a victim of human trafficking, and second, they had to face the prosecution of who they were trafficked by.² Sadly, the second stipulation tended to dissuade many potential applicants, scaring them off.
The law goes on to discuss what punishments human traffickers would face, the average of which is 20 years in prison, unless a victim died as a result of the trafficking, upon which they could be put into prison for life.³
Furthermore, the law helped the U.S. form a rating system to grade each country in the world. Countries can receive a rating from 1 to 3. Countries rated a 1 are considered to be in good standing where their governments and leadership are doing all they can to uphold the Act's tenets. Those rated a 2 were having difficulties of some sort upholding the Act, but measures were in place to improve upon this, and those rated a 3 were not upholding the Act, and no definitive action appeared to be taking place as of yet, and was met with counteractions, including public listing of their poor status (quite the embarassment, and it certainly didn't help tourism), as well as cuts to foreign aid, and potential immediate refusal of loans.
Despite the laws in place to prevent trafficking and protect the victims, despite the country acting as a figurehead to prevent this modern-day slavery, human trafficking is still a crime that happens every day, even in the U.S. About 18,000 foreign victims are trafficked within American borders each year, and worse yet, it is estimated that about 200,000 or more victims are sexually trafficked annually. Many organizations were formed throughout the country to combat this practice, but it is a battle that must continue to be fought to this day.
- ¹ - Source: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/10492.pdf
- ² - Source: http://www.uscis.gov
- ³ - Source: http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/crm/1581fin.php
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