The Human Trafficking Crisis

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The fifteenth century marks the introduction of human trafficking in the Americas. Slavery still exists in the United States, and in other countries, and governments are not doing enough about it. Those who think that slavery in America ended with the creation of the 13th amendment couldn’t be farther from the truth.

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To fully understand human trafficking throughout the ages; the origin of slavery, aspects of slavery in the United States, the focus of policing human trafficking, and the treatment of victims of human trafficking, must be inspected thoroughly. “. . . Experts estimate that more than half a million women are trafficked across international borders each year and every year 50,000 women are trafficked into the United States.” (Simons, 2010, pg. 65). The governments of all countries need to join together to help better prevent and stop human trafficking, and to create programs for survivors of human trafficking.

To completely understand the nature of this matter, the origins of this issue must be investigated. Addressing slavery’s initiation and slavery in Europe, as well as the purpose of medieval slavery are necessary to discovering how governments have not done their part in protecting their people from human trafficking and how they have not assisted survivors of human trafficking in their countries. “. . . As an institution, modern forms of slavery, such as people trafficking, still exist, despite slavery being almost universally banned in societies today.” (“How Did Slavery Develop?”, 2016). Finally, illustrating how slavery relates to economics, ethics, and American culture, will round out the information.

Understanding the concept of slavery means understanding that its origins begin not with the Americas, but seemingly with the very origin of human life. “Slavery has been an ancient institution that likely goes back to periods of the earliest writing if not originating even before.” (“How Did Slavery Develop?”, 2016). The system of slavery has been used by mankind for millenniums, and the development of the system is most notably attributed to the necessity to utilize prisoners of war. However, this was not the sole slave source: “Slavery also developed as a form of punishment for individuals who defaulted on debt. As societies became monetized by the 3rd millennium BCE, slavery became a way in which individuals were punished for falling into debt.” (“How Did Slavery Develop?”, 2016). Throughout centuries both of these methods are recurring factors in the victimization of individuals trafficked into the slave trade. Medieval Europe is no different.

“In the earliest part of the Middle Ages, slaves could be found in many societies, among them the Cymry in Wales and the Anglo-Saxons in England. The Slavs of central Europe were often captured and sold into slavery, usually by rival Slavic tribes. Moors were known to keep slaves and believed that setting a slave free was an act of great piety.” (Thought Co., 2017).

Modern day slavery still resembles medieval slavery at its core, utilizing unpaid labor to achieve a goal that others do not desire to perform under general conditions. However, modern slavery has an entirely different purpose and target group. Rather than using slavery as a punishment for debtor as has been done in the past centuries, modern day slavery is an exploitation of labor and an exploitation of innocents. This should not be mistaken as heralding slavery of the past as justice of some sort, but rather a statement that in the very least some amount of reason can be attributed to who was enslaved.

“In Brazil, for example, girls may be trafficked for sex work from rural to urban areas, whereas males may be sold to work in the gold mines of the Amazon jungle. In the Ivory Coast, children are frequently sold into slavery to work on cocoa plantations.”(Feingold, 2005)

Children, women, and men alike are all sold into varying sorts slavery, few of them ever “deserving” of such a fate. This target group of modern slavery is simple: anyone is vulnerable. Social and economic class have very little to do with it either, as David Feingold points out: “To fill the demand for ever cheaper labor, many victims are trafficked within the same economic class. . .”, “. . . In parts of Africa girls from medium sized towns are more vulnerable to trafficking than those in rural villages.”(Feingold, 2005). Where a common fallacy once stood, new light has been shed; anyone and everyone is susceptible to trafficking no matter gender, no matter social class a far cry from the origins of this institution of pain.

The institution of slavery in Europe, however, would be overtaken by serfdom. “[Slavery] began to be replaced by serfdom. Much attention is focused on the serf. His plight was not much better than the slave’s had been, as he was bound to the land instead of to an individual owner, and could not be sold to another estate.” (Thought Co., 2017). While serfdom would eventually transition back to slavery after the black plague, there were about to be far more atrocities committed overseas. The American slave trade would be quite different than that of the old world, in particular, the fact that slavery would be confined to a select race. However, the American slave trade was essential to the formation of the strong economic nation that still remains a global superpower: America.

The American slave trade helped to kickstart the economy of America, with what was essentially free labor producing the cash crops of the South, slavery is clear contribution to the economics of early America. “Slavery was an extremely diverse economic institution, one that extracted unpaid labor out of people in a variety of settings . . . This diversity was also reflected in their prices.” (The Conversation, 2017). Yet another facet of the slave trade’s involvement with economics is the actual purchasing and selling of these human beings. This transitions into the ethics of the American slave trade, where we can clearly divine that ethics were not employed. We witness this in particular with the 3/5ths compromise, where people were demeaned to less of human beings than their white counterparts. While these ethics of slavery are in the past, there is still an American culture of racism in our modern day. This in tandem with the unwillingness of people to discuss the fact that slavery was a very real institution, as seen in the “McGraw-Hill textbook controversy over calling slaves ‘workers from Africa’”, this culture of unaccountability still exists today because we refuse to acknowledge the failure of past Americans in a sense of moral correctness. “The elephant that sits at the center of our history is coming into focus. American slavery happened – we are still living with its consequences. I believe we are finally ready to face it, learn about it and acknowledge its significance to American history.” (The Conversation, 2017)

This “peculiar institution” would continue to persevere until January of 1865, when the 13th Amendment was passed, and slavery in America finally became illegal. Even for this amendment, however, the exploitation of human beings in America would not draw to a close. The American government could not have guessed that even after outlawing slavery in the States they would be unable to protect their people from a future, and parallel institution: Human Trafficking.

Modern labor and sex trafficking cannot be given a set date, but rather they have both likely existed since the beginning of civilization. Only in recent years have they culminated to a point in which international government intervention is absolutely needed. The reason that a cooperative international effort is needed is because many individual countries, states, and cities are at a loss when it comes to preventing slavery. “Many local Police forces are scrambling to find or invent their own anti-slavery training.” (Bales and Soodalter, 2009, pg. 180). With a cumulative effort a singular and effective method of anti-slavery training could be developed, this would allow local police departments to focus on the task of utilizing a successful program, rather than squandering considerable amounts of time developing their own programs, which may do more harm than good.

Another contributing factor is to human trafficking is that many people are not willing to believe that human trafficking could be happening in their communities. “It took the arrests of two people for the sex trafficking of two young girls, aged thirteen and seventeen, to awaken Nashville, Tennessee from its complacency” (Bales and Soodalter, 2009, pg. 180). Not only is denial of human trafficking putting the community at risk, it also prevents law enforcement from assisting those already involved in the trade from being rescued.

On the other end of the spectrum, the police and the American people ignore the bulk of the issue. “Although the police recognize the potential for both sex and labor trafficking to occur in their communities, they focus their efforts on the sex trafficking of U.S. minor victims, whom they perceive as the most vulnerable and publicly supported victims.”(Farrell and Pfeffer, 2014). Another threat to salvation is the misinterpretation of human trafficking. “‘We are not talking about prostitution alone,’ said a counselor who worked with Leticia. ‘What she experienced was slavery. She had no rights, not even over her own body. When a person is forced to submit to sexual exploitation like this, the physical, emotional, and spiritual deterioration is profound.” (Simons, 2010, pg. 63)

Finally, the use of human trafficking in order to acquire organs, in particular the kidney, for transplant is hardly recognized. This form of trafficking is severely dangerous to the health of those individuals whose organs are stolen, and is a practice which is banned by the WHO amongst the governments of various other countries (Efrat, 2016). However, this form of organ transplantation rarely takes place outside of developing countries. Fortunately, the organ trade would be considered one of the easiest form of human trafficking to curb. Unfortunately, there is hardly enforcement of the law when it comes to organ transplantation.

“. . . Organ trafficking, at first blush, does not look harmful or morally repugnant. Transactions in organs may deceptively seem advantageous to both the organ buyer and seller, although in reality they are far from it. While the notion of buying sex — prostitution — meets widespread disapproval, many people accept the buying of kidneys as a legitimate solution for the shortage of organs for transplantation.” (Efrat, 2016)

Human trafficking is one of the most prevalent issues around the globe, the institution of slavery has existed since the dawn of time, and without significant intervention it has persisted to this very day. An end to slavery is feasible and achievable, but no country can do it alone. The only hope for an end to human trafficking is collective government effort specializing specifically in the area of labor trafficking amongst sex and organ trafficking; not only focusing on rescuing those enslaved, but furthermore, the prevention of trafficking and the rehabilitation of individuals who had been trafficked. “The police must also establish partnerships with groups in the community who are more likely to come into contact with potential trafficking victims.” (Farrell and Pfeffer, 2014). Beginning on a local level and building to a federal, and even global level, awareness must be promoted for this vision to be realised. Given the history of slavery, the obstacle of human trafficking may seem insurmountable, but with a diligent global effort an end to slavery, a long sought vision, is beyond possible, it is assured.

Sources:

  1. Farrell, Amy, and REBECCA PFEFFER. “Policing Human Trafficking: Cultural Blinders and Organizational Barriers.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science653 (2014): 46-64. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24541774.
  2. Feingold, David A. “Human Trafficking.” Foreign Policy, no. 150 (2005): 26-32. https://www.jstor.org/stable/30048506.
  3. Wilson, Jeremy M., and Erin Dalton. “The Human-Trafficking Markets in Columbus and Toledo.” In Human Trafficking in Ohio: Markets, Responses, and Considerations, 11-28. Santa Monica, CA; Arlington, VA; Pittsburgh, PA: RAND Corporation, 2007. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mg689oacp.9.
  4. Bales, Kevin, and Ron Soodalter. “The Slave Next Door.” Google Books. Accessed October 23, 2018. https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Slave_Next_Door.html?id=J936zQHE44EC&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button#v=onepage&q&f=false.
  5. Mehlman-Orozco, K. (2016, July 29). What happens after a human trafficking victim is ‘rescued’? Retrieved from https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/judicial/289709-what-happens-after-a-human-trafficking-victim-is-rescued
  6. “How Did Slavery Develop?” How Did Public Sanitation Develop? – DailyHistory.org. Accessed December 20, 2018. https://dailyhistory.org/How_Did_Slavery_Develop?
  7. Olusoga, David. “The History of British Slave Ownership Has Been Buried: Now Its Scale Can Be Revealed.” The Guardian. July 11, 2015. Accessed December 20, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/12/british-history-slavery-buried-scale-revealed.
  8. Snell, Melissa. “Slavery Didn’t Go Away When the Western Roman Empire Fell.” Thoughtco. Accessed December 20, 2018. https://www.thoughtco.com/chains-in-medieval-times-1788699.
  9. Berry, Daina Ramey. “American Slavery: Separating Fact from Myth.” The Conversation. September 18, 2018. Accessed December 20, 2018. https://theconversation.com/american-slavery-separating-fact-from-myth-79620.
  10. Efrat, Asif. “Organ Traffickers Lock up People to Harvest Their Kidneys. Here Are the Politics behind the Organ Trade.” The Washington Post. December 07, 2016. Accessed December 20, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/12/07/organ-traffickers-lock-up-people-to-harvest-their-kidneys-here-are-the-politics-behind-the-organ-trade/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.343228d1bbd3.
  11. Simons, Rae, and Joyce Zoldak. Gender Danger: Survivors of Rape, Human Trafficking, and Honor Killings. Philadelphia: Mason Crest Publishers, 2010.

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