Human Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery Affecting 30 Million Women and Children

Most people think that slavery is a crime of the past. However, this notion couldn’t be any  further from the tragic reality of a well organized criminal activity which victimized more than 30 millions women and children worldwide. As matter of fact, there are more people being enslaved today than at any other time in human history. There are two distinct facets of this modern slave trade: one concerns victims who are sold, bought and used as sex slaves, the other one pertains to people exploited for labor purpose. In this article we will only try to get a grasp on the global sex trade aspect of human trafficking.

Sex slavery is not limited to brothels is Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines or the Dominican Republic. In countries where prostitution is legal, like Germany, traffickers, pimps and dangerous organized crime organizations such as the Russian mafia or ethnic Albanians are controlling most sex workers, even the ones who claim to be “independent”. According to recent estimates, there are currently around 200,000 children between the age of 12 to 15 who are sold for sex by pimps/traffickers every year in the United States. The problem is  epidemic, and it often hides in plain sight.

The Obama administration- under the impulse of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton- has declared January 2012 the “human trafficking prevention month”. Even so it marks a desire from the US government to focus on the issue, the problem is so vast and global that this action is unlikely to make a dent. It is likely that the only positive impact will be to raise public awareness on the issue. By issuing its Trafficking in Person Report 2011, the State Department has been active in tracking human trafficking worldwide, country by country, and unlike previous reports the current report had the honesty to identify the United States as one of the hubs for modern day slavery.

Sex Trafficking, Globalization and the Internet

Until the communication revolution of the Internet, sex trafficking was mainly confined to brothels and street corners. But since then, the information super-highway has given criminal organizations the tool to turn sex trafficking into a multi-billion a year enterprise. It is more profitable than drug and weapon trafficking for a very simple reason: once a 100 kilos shipment of cocaine or heroin has been sold in the streets, it is gone. On the other hand, the “investment” made by human traffickers on the buying end- in women or children- will keep turning a profit over a fairly long period of time. Often large criminal organizations work together to control the recruitment of the victims, the transit and the enslavement at the destination point. The Russian mafia and Albanian gangs have the upper hand in Europe, and often work in association with recruiters/pimps in the Middle-East-where the biggest hub/distribution point is Beirut, Lebanon- to provide Estonian, Ukrainian or Lithuanian women, which are in “high demand”,for the rich “buyers” of the Gulf.

In Africa, the two biggest sources for human trafficking are currently Nigeria and Ghana. In a scheme that is more or less universal, women are recruited locally- often by other women- under the pretense of job opportunities aboard. But once they have reached their destination, either Italy, Greece, Belgium or Germany, their passports are taken away by pimps, they do not have legal immigration status, and they are forced to prostitute themselves-usually after being severely beaten and raped- to pay off the debt of their transit to Europe. According to a recent report from the British police, 75 percent of the sex trade in the UK is controlled by brutal Albanian gangs. In Germany, 75 percent of sex workers come from former Eastern block countries.

In the West, the Internet has become the number one platform for buying women and children for sex. Victims, from various countries of origin, are trafficked through pseudo-independent, but in reality pimp controlled escort services, chat rooms, and even “dating” web sites freely advertizing on the internet with ads such as “Meet Russian women online”. In the United States, there are countless brothels disguised as “massage parlors”, and in the burgeoning strip club business industry, “exotic dancers” are in fact turning tricks in VIP rooms. In Texas, migrant women from central America- either from Guatemala or El Salvador- are lured into crossing the US border by Coyotes working with local pimps, Mexican gangs and Salvadorian/US gang MS13, and will likely end up being sex slaves in Cantinas or massage parlors.

Human Trafficking: A Tragic Symptom of a Broken World

The cynics will say that prostitution is the “oldest profession in the world”. However, very few women enter this line of work willingly. In all cases they are forced into it by adverse socio-economic circumstances. The fall of the Soviet Union, and the rapid rise of Russian organize crime in its aftermath has flooded Western Europe and the Middle-East with an unprecedented influx of former Eastern block women seeking the dream of a better life and hoping to support their families back home. It is the same for poor women and children in rural areas of Thailand, Cambodia or the Philippines who are bought by local recruiters- for sometime as little as $150.00- and then shipped to Japan where they will become sex slaves in brothels controlled by Yakuzas.

Sophisticated criminal organizations are exploiting a situation of despair created by a global system where human beings are not much more than a resource and a commodity. Mega international corporations have outsourced countless jobs to seek a labor pool which can be paid slave wages, just like global organized crime has found a gold mine in human trafficking. And fundamentally, Albanian gangs, the Russian mafia, MS13 or the Mexican drug cartels are applying the same brutal rule of “free market” capitalism-which is to provide a product for a demand-with 30 millions enslaved human beings.

 

 

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