Scholarly article on topic 'Innocence lost: The rights of human trafficking victims'

Innocence lost: The rights of human trafficking victims Academic research paper on "Law"

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{"Human trafficking" / "debt bondage" / "victims rights" / "modern day slavery"}

Abstract of research paper on Law, author of scientific article — Jeana Fowler, Nicolette Che, Lindsay Fowler

Abstract The purpose of this study is to divulge the various forms of human trafficking, to identify the victims of this illegal practice, and to address the special needs and rights for quality education and vocational training for those who have been victims of what is known as modern day slavery. The authors intend to show that hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children of all ages who suffer terribly at the hands of the human trade organizations have a real need for quality human rights intervention so that they are able to successfully rebuild their lives.

Academic research paper on topic "Innocence lost: The rights of human trafficking victims"

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Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 2 (2010) 1345-1349


Innocence lost: The rights of human trafficking victims

Jeana Fowlera *, Nicolette Cheb, Lindsay Fowlerc

abEuropean University of Lefke, Gemiionagi/Lefke, Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, Turkey Marshall University, Huntington, West Vrginia USA

Received October 12, 2009; revised December 21, 2009; accepted January 6, 2010


The purpose of this study is to divulge the various forms of human trafficking, to identify the victims of this illegal practice, and to address the special needs and rights for quality education and vocational training for those who have been victims of what is known as modern day slavery. The authors intend to show that hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children of all ages who suffer terribly at the hands of the human trade organizations have a real need for quality human rights intervention so that they are able to successfully rebuild their lives. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Human trafficking; debt bondage; victims rights; modern day slavery.

1. Introduction

Though people all over the world would like to think that slavery stopped at the end of the Civil War, this is simply not true. Slavery is a huge but silent problem that exists in every country and endangers the lives of everyone involved. There are still millions of people who live in bondage in all parts of the world, a majority of whom are women and children who make up the backbone of society. This continues to occur even after the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, developed in the 1940s, stated that all human beings without distinction of any kind should be free from slavery.

Within the last decade, several governments have developed national, regional, and international laws and strategies to combat this crime against humanity, which is the recruitment or movement of persons for the purpose of exploitation. Some of these international laws are: The Convention on the Rights of the Child; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; and the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children - which as been signed and ratified by about 150 countries and translated into national laws against human trafficking. Unfortunately, this crime is still on the rise.

Human trafficking comes in various forms and intensely negatively affects people from both sexes and all ages. This is not an isolated problem; it has become an international phenomenon that must be addressed at a global level.

* Jeana Fowler . Tel.:090 542 887 6018; fax: 0392 727 7528 E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2010 Published by Elsevier Ltd. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.03.198

It has become one of the fastest growing illegal activities and is said to be producing between $7- $10 billion dollars a year (Ryf, 2002). Unfortunately, many people refuse to believe that human trafficking has become a world-wide issue; rather, they perceive only isolated incidents sparsely scattered across the globe. However, in nearly every country of the world, this modern-day slavery epidemic is present in some way due to unscrupulous criminals who are benefiting from a lucrative, but illegal, enterprise while stripping away the rights of innocent victims.

According to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to be free and not held in slavery. Additionally, they have the right to free basic education with equal access to vocational training and higher education (Amnesty International). It is our duty as global citizens to be able to identify the methods of human trafficking, recognize the victims of this criminal activity, and address the special needs and rights for quality education so that their lives and freedoms will be returned.

Before continuing, however, it is of utmost importance that a clear definition of human trafficking is addressed. This has been a difficult task due in part to the view that it was a form of prostitution and because the crime remained largely invisible to the public. But as the illegal activity has continued to expand, human trafficking has become more visible, and therefore a matter of international concern. In the year 2000, the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime defined human trafficking in Article 3 as:

The recruitment, transportation, transfer harboring, or receipt of persons by means of the threat or the use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of the position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purposes of exploitation (p. 3 United Nations 2000).

The UN 2000 Protocol has been signed and ratified by approximately 150 countries, meaning, therefore, that they all agree on this definition and are ready to use it as a base or springboard to make national laws that counter human trafficking.

2. Identifying the victims

It is inconceivable that in modern times, human beings can be held captive against their will and be physically, sexually, and psychologically abused while being forced to work without pay (Ryf. 2002). However, this takes place every day in the lives of human trafficking victims. Even more shocking is that in many cases, the families often sell their own relatives! In order to better understand the impact of this human slavery, it is important to know who is most likely to be targeted for this illegal activity and recognize some subtle signals which might be sent to enhance rescue efforts.

2.1 Who Are the Victims?

Human trafficking knows no boundaries. Victims of this criminal activity can be of either gender, any age, or any nationality. They are most likely to be from poor and under-developed countries. However, the victims are generally females, especially young girls, who have experienced financial and/or educational inequalities. It is estimated that approximately 800,000 - 900,000 people are currently living as modern day slaves (VILJ).

Women have primarily been targeted due to inadequate, and often deplorable, living standards; they are promised high paying jobs with "guarantees" of a much higher standard of living (McCain, 2007). This, however, is not related only to the victims themselves; unbelievably, even families of these young girls will sell their own daughters in order to make financial gains! Sadly, some children are born for the specific purpose of being sold for different purposes. Additionally, men are often targets and are used in forms of forced labor.

3. Forms of exploitation

There are many different types of forced servitude which occur across the globe. Some victims are lured or deceived into their own slavery due to being misled by their traffickers, while there are others who are captured through kidapping or by being sold as a commodity and are forced to work as slaves without ever clearly knowing

what is happening. The authors will discuss the most common forms of exploitation which are prostitution, domestic servituforced labor, debt bondage, and child soldiers.

3.1 Prostitution

Prostitution is one of the oldest institutions in the world; therefore, it is not surprising that "sex trafficking is the largest subcategory of transnational modern day slavery" (US Dept. of State, 2007). In Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, women and children are trafficked both within and across nations for the purpose of sexual exploitation. While some women and children are forced into prostitution, others travel with full knowledge of exactly what they will be doing. However, they remain unaware of the fact that the money they will earn will be owned by another person; this is what qualifies them as victims of human trafficking.

When the victims arrive to their destinations, they are often locked in rooms without food or water for days and are repeatedly brutally raped to "teach them what will be expected" by their customers. This is also regularly used as a punishment for trying to resist their captivity, or for "poor performance." Additionally, most, if not all, captured victims are forced to participate in drug use and eventually become addicted. Their passports and other identification are nearly always confiscated and not returned to the victims until the traffickers choose to release them.

3.2 Forced Labor

Men, women and children are often trafficked to work, through the use of force, under slave-like conditions in factories, quarries, or as domestic servants. These victims are also frequently physically and psychologically abused and are given false information to keep them from attempting to get help. It is very common for these slaves to be required to work up to twenty or more hours per day with little or no relief from their labor.

3.3 Debt Bondage

Debt bondage - or forced labor - is another form of slavery with a long history. It is the practice of lending money or services to a person or people in exchange for their labor should the debt not be repaid. For victims of human trafficking, debs are held over them as long as possible. "The cost of transporting the victim, their food and shelter will be increased by traffickers through high interest and false accounting" (Bales, 2007).

3.4 Child Soldiers

The most recent and probably the worst form of human trafficking is the abduction of young boys and girls to use them for war. These children, from the ages of 9 to 18 are kidnapped or abducted, usually by rebel groups, and used as combatants, porters, spies, and sex slaves. This form of exploitation is the worst because not only are the children abused and exploited, they are also trained to ruthlessly take lives and have the potential to become menaces to society if not well rehabilitated.

4. What Has Been Done?

It is obvious that the world has not remained oblivious to the problem of human trafficking. Since the abolition of the slave trade, several conventions have been held in which national and international legislations were developed to address punishment for crimes related to exploitation and discrimination against every human being without any distinction to race, sex, or color. Some of such legislation targets vulnerable groups of people such as women and children. The most recent is the 2000 Protocol mentioned previously. Some signatories and non-signatories of this Protocol have taken protective measures for victims, punitive measures for traffickers, and preventive measures to fight modern day slavery. In addition, the United States has developed a tier system to monitor countries' compliance with the international laws and guidelines. Another policy which was adopted in 2000 is The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) which also provided justice for the victims. A modified

version was written in 2001 and was named The Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act which made it easier for victims to receive citizenship in the United States.

Statistics prove, however, that most developing countries have yet to develop their national machineries to be strong enough to protect and rehabilitate victims; this has been commonly accomplished through non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Developed countries, on the other hand, have well developed social welfare institutions and facilities; hence, they rescue and rehabilitate more victims.

5. What Can Still Be Done?

Although, as has been shown, there are many programs in place to help the victims of human trafficking, much work remains to be done. First and foremost, the issue of poverty must be addressed. Targeting the poorest and most disadvantaged households and communities, and providing education and training with income generating skills and current information about human trafficking is essential. This education and sensitization will be enlightening to the people concerned.

Women continue to remain poor and vulnerable, not because they lack food and clothing, but because they lack access to and control over human and financial resources. For example, the traditions that forbid women from owning land and making key decisions still exists in many parts of the world today. Adequate long-term development and poverty alleviation programs need to address women's strategic gender needs by providing them with necessary education, income generating skills and training, and basic rights of financial independence. This can be facilitated by changing existing discriminatory laws and addressing women's needs at all levels of development. The victims, especially women, need to be provided with suitable job training to insure that they will be enabled to earn sufficient money to provide for themselves and their families.

Additionally, basic education must be provided for these victims as many of them were removed from their countries at the ages when they would have normally been receiving a formal education. With knowledge comes power, so these victims must be given the opportunity to attend school in some form. There may need to be an alternative education plan in place since some will not return to their homes until after the "normal" educational ages. Victims need both psychological and formal or vocational education to prepare them for lives away from their former slavery.

Rescued victims of human trafficking require special attention. Many underwent torture (both physical and psychological) and need rehabilitation services. Children used as child soldiers and/or prostitutes find it difficult to forgive themselves and overcome the shame involved. Unfortunately, some victims find it too difficult to return to a "normal" life and retreat to the places from where they came. Shockingly, although they have suffered extreme trauma, some will recruit or trick other victims to come with them.

6. Conclusion

Despite security measures taken by most destination countries, traffickers still succeed in finding their ways through security networks. Therefore, it will be easier to fight human trafficking when governments look at the problem not just as a security threat requiring law and order, but also as a socioeconomic problem of poverty and deep rooted discrimination (gender, ethnic, racial, and social). The problem does not necessarily begin with the traffickers, but with those socioeconomic and political conditions that make people vulnerable to exploitation. It is essential to educate the general population, especially those whose socioeconomic conditions make them likely to become victims, about the dangers of the crime.

However, the problem does not stop with just the traffickers and victims. As members of a global society, we need to be aware of and educated about the intricacies and horror of this criminal activity. We need to be willing to accept these victims when they return and help them start new lives under favorable conditions and with complete acceptance. We may never know first-hand what these innocent victims experience, but that in no way excuses us from doing everything we can to help educate and rehabilitate those whose innocence has been lost.


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