Human trafficking is a huge part of our history and has occurred in some form within most societies around the globe. Slavery and human trafficking were once so commonplace, to the extent that no one would bat an eye at seeing an enslaved human for the purposes of physical or sexual exploitation. However, with the recognition of human rights in the early 20th century came awareness, and the United Nations took the role of condemning those who took part in any form of human trafficking. As such, it is easy to turn your mind to the mechanisms set up by the United Nations to combat trafficking and forget what goes on behind closed doors. Today, human trafficking is one of the largest illegal operations carried out by organized crime. The US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report 2007 showed that up to 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked per year; and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime have stated that human trafficking is the second largest source of illegal income, coming behind drug trafficking.
While human trafficking occurs in most countries, the International Labour Organisation reported that the majority of victims come from poorer countries, and the US Department of State’s 2007 Report named China, Russia and Uzbekistan as some of the worst offenders when it comes to human trafficking. The same report stated that 80% of trafficking victims were women and children, most likely used for prostitution and sexual exploitation. A majority of the time these women and children will be forced to take hard drugs to ensure they will be complicit and not try to escape. To think that these girls are taken away from their homes, family and everything they know only to be drugged out of their mind invokes a huge amount of compassion and sympathy.
Amnesty International is critical of governmental action regarding human trafficking. They label the aid given as “insufficient” or “ineffective”. Amnesty International states that this is likely due to a lack of resources to support what is known as the four pillars of anti-trafficking: protection, identification, prosecution and prevention. While it is debatable whether or not governments are doing all that they can to aid in this battle, there are many effective NGO’s and charities without which the fight against trafficking would be impossible.
Recently there was a news story that went viral about a flight attendant who spotted a trafficking victim on an Alaska Airlines flight and alerted the authorities. The girl was saved from her kidnappers who were subsequently arrested. The identification of the victim by the flight attendant is what saved her. The need for identification is one of the most important aspects in the fight to stop human trafficking. Recognising this, Connecticut has recently passed a law stating that all hospitality workers are to undergo a specific training course to enable them to spot human trafficking. The training programme they are required to go through is run by a coalition of organizations combatting human trafficking, including the Grace Farms Foundation, and the Connecticut Trafficking in Persons Council.
While identifying the victims of human trafficking is one of the key forms of aiding in the fight against trafficking, another problem is a reluctance or inability for governments to prosecute traffickers and criminal organizations once they are caught. A charity in New Delhi, India has begun forming an online database to make it easier for the government and authorities to charge and prosecute these criminals. This charity, Shakti Vahini, aims to replicate the technology used in the United States for the trafficking prosecutions there. The founder of Shakti Vahini, Ravi Kant, has said that this is the perfect time for a database of this form in India, as the government is currently “framing new legislation on human trafficking and there is a lot of conversation about tackling the crime.” These proactive measures taken by charities and NGO’s are effective in helping the government fight human trafficking. This is particularly in regard to the NGO’s in Connecticut, as without them it is unlikely the government would be able to succeed in training hospitality staff up to identify and report trafficking victims.
There are hundreds of organizations formed to fight trafficking, including Stop the Traffik, Polaris Project, and Not for Sale. Stop the Traffik is a global movement of activists who aim to protect people from trafficking. They do this by teaching people about what trafficking is, and what they can do to help stop it, and by campaigning for change. Stop the Traffik has a partnership with the United Nations, and has done so from their formation in 2006. Polaris Project is one of the most well known anti-trafficking organizations. They take action in a similar way to Stop the Traffik, and campaign to governments to attempt to rid the world of slavery and human trafficking. These organizations do a huge amount of work to get rid of human trafficking, but there are still so many people being taken away from their homes, by force and under false pretences, only to be sold on and treated cruelly and inhumanely.
The fight against human trafficking may seem unwinnable, or impossible. While in most countries the laws exist to prosecute criminal organizations involved with trafficking, there is the problem discussed above with identification, which is at the forefront of the problem. In addition, corruption is rife in many states. It only takes one corrupt official to undermine the existence of these laws and let human traffickers get away without so much as a slap on the wrist.
In order to win the fight against human trafficking, resources need to be made available by governments to support the four pillars of anti-trafficking that Amnesty International mentions: protection, prevention, identification and prosecution. The aid that NGO’s give to the governments and victims of human trafficking is invaluable and it is clear that the anti-trafficking effort undertaken so far would not have been as effective if it did not have the help of these organizations.
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