Topics of Special Interest
The Role of Parents in Child Trafficking
When Maria was five, her father’s common-law wife started selling her for prostitution in Nicaragua. After a few years, NGO workers found Maria living in the city dump and took her to a home for little girls. She behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner with the other girls, as that was the only life she had ever known. She was asked to leave that children’s home. Maria was taken to another children’s home for her protection while investigators documented her abuse and worked to terminate her father’s parental rights.
Parents are often among the victims in child trafficking cases. Traffickers convince them to part with their children with false promises of schooling or prosperity. But in some cases parents may also play an active role in the trafficking of children.
In the last year, anti-trafficking police in Greece reported an increase in trafficking of children by their parents. Albanian Roma parents bring their children to Greece, where they force them to beg or sell goods on the street. According to some NGOs, Roma parents in Greece also rent or sell their children to third parties for forced labor.
A 2007 study by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) found that some Cambodian parents sell their children into prostitution or domestic servitude to repay debts. In Niger, boys trafficked for forced cattle herding sometimes escape their employers and return to their parents. The boys arrive home with visible signs of physical and psychological abuse. But many parents return their sons against their will to their employers, angry that the child has left an opportunity to learn a trade.
To combat these types of child trafficking, law enforcement must send a strong message that these practices will not be tolerated. Some countries have already started taking steps. In January 2008, Albania passed a law that specifically criminalizes forced begging of children by parents. Laws in Niger, Senegal, and Togo also prohibit trafficking by parents.
Despite the prevalence of the problem, police and judicial authorities often do not recognize it. In January 2008, a South African court dismissed a trafficking case after learning that the victims’ parents had allowed the trafficker to take the children to Cape Town, where the exploitation occurred. Courts should not withdraw cases on the basis of parental consent.
Social workers and investigators must be educated about the role parents may play in trafficking scenarios.
Researchers investigating child trafficking on West African cocoa farms mistakenly determined, for example, that where the employer is a close relative of the child laborer, the child is less likely to be trafficked.
Public -Private Sector Partnerships: A Powerful Tool
With limited resources in great demand, government, corporate, and NGO leaders are coming together to find new ways to combat human trafficking. These partnerships have varied in size, scale, and duration, though they have one key common element: the desire to harness various competencies to tackle human trafficking.
- In 2008, LexisNexis, an online database service, partnered with the U.S. National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) to develop a national database of social service providers for the Center’s hotline. In Southeast Asia, LexisNexis partnered with a leading anti-trafficking NGO and taught technical skills to the shelter’s staff. The company also created an online resource center for attorneys who work with human trafficking victims; it collaborated with the American Bar Association (ABA) to support a training institute on civil remedies for TIP victims, which trained lawyers from six countries and across the United States.
- Wyndham Hotel Group partnered with the anti-trafficking NGO Polaris Project and made hundreds of free hotel rooms available for trafficking victims in emergency situations.
- U.S. information technology company Microsoft has supported local NGO partners in Asia. By providing basic information skills training, Microsoft has helped people in underserved communities find meaningful employment that lower their vulnerabilities to human trafficking. Microsoft has also partnered with the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, child protection NGOs, the ABA, and U.S. law enforcement to conduct law enforcement training on computer-related crimes involving the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
- Travel corporation Carlson Companies partnered with NGOs to develop training materials for its hotel staff on how to recognize and report on child sex tourism. Carlson Companies also provided hotel conference facilities for training of local travel, tourism, and hospitality employees.
- Media and film companies have been vehicles for raising awareness on human trafficking. The U.S. Government partnered with Priority Films to make the film “Holly” about child sex trafficking and sponsor expert discussions; it partnered with Lifetime Television to provide the television movie “Human Trafficking” to every U.S. Embassy for local screenings; and it partnered with Worldwide Documentaries to disseminate a DVD on human trafficking in conjunction with the release of the 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report. Through partnerships like these, private sector companies gain trust and legitimacy from consumers and earn the support of socially conscious buyers and investors. For the anti-trafficking community, these partnerships extend expertise, deepen resources, and stimulate creativity to fight human trafficking around the world.
Debunking Common Trafficking Myths
Initial Consent: A person may agree to migrate legally or illegally or take a job willingly. But once that work or service is no longer voluntary, that person becomes a victim of forced labor or forced prostitution and should accordingly receive the protections contemplated by the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. Once a person’s work is recruited or compelled by the use or threat of physical violence or the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process, the person’s previous consent or effort to obtain employment with the trafficker becomes irrelevant.
A person may agree to work for an employer initially but later decide to stop working because the conditions are not what they agreed to. If an employer then uses force, fraud, or coercion to retain the person’s labor or services, the employer becomes a trafficking offender and the employee becomes a victim.
In April 2008, this type of misplaced reliance on a worker’s initial consent led to the deportation of three Thai victims from a European country because, according to the head of the anti-trafficking police unit in that country, the victims had consented to the employment and had arrived voluntarily in that country as guest workers. The victims in this case discovered their employment conditions were vastly different from what they expected when they initially accepted their jobs and traveled to Europe; further, their employers retained their passports, forced them to sometimes work without compensation, and threatened to turn them over to police if they did not work as they were told.
Prior Work History: Previous employment choices also do not exclude the possibility that a person may be a victim of trafficking. Some government officials fail to identify victims of sex trafficking because they may have willingly worked in the sex industry prior to being trafficked. Law enforcement may fail also to identify victims of labor trafficking because they are migrant workers and may have previously worked in difficult conditions, either legally or illegally. Whether a person is a victim of labor trafficking turns on whether that person’s service or labor was induced by force, fraud, or coercion.
Wage Payment: Case law from U.S. criminal cases has established that payment of a wage or salary is not a definitive indicator that the labor or service is voluntary. If a person is compelled to labor through the use of force or coercion—including the use of nonphysical forms of coercion such as financial harm—then that work or service is forced, even if he is paid or compensated for the work.
What’s in a Name ? Human Trafficking in Translation
The British abolition movement in the late 18th century achieved a ban on the trade or transportation of slaves through the British Empire in 1807. That focus on the trade of slaves—as opposed to the servitude itself—continues to this day and is reflected in terminology used around the globe.
Finding the right words to describe the crime remains a persistent challenge in combating human trafficking. Most formulations used to describe trafficking focus on the trade or buying and selling of people, or they mean something closer to “smuggling,” which relates specifically to movement over borders. These words, including the word trafficking in English, may not adequately capture the most important aspect of the practice: exploitation.
In the Arabic phrase for human trafficking, al-ittijaar b’il-bashar, the word al-ittijaar derives from the root meaning “commerce” or “trade.” In the Russian phrase torgovlyei lyudmi, torgovlyei also translates to “trade.” And Germanic languages use the word handel or “trade” in their characterizations. The Mandarin Chinese phrase gu?i mài, which means “to trick someone and sell them,” has an added element of trickery but is still focused on selling. Another less common Mandarin phrase, fàn mài rén kou, translates to “the buying and selling of humans.”
The French la traite des personnes and the Spanish la trata de personas adopt the same terms used to discuss negotiations or trade agreements. Officials in some French-speaking countries hesitate to use la traite because of immediate association with la traite des noirs, describing the transatlantic slave trade from Africa. In many Spanish-speaking countries, la trata is quickly associated with la trata de blancas, an older legal term that refers specifically to the selling of white women into prostitution. Still, those phrases are preferred over le trafic des migrants and el tráfico de personas, which imply something closer to “smuggling.” In Latin America, el tráfico also is easily associated with drug and arms trade.
The issue is more complicated when considering local languages, many of which do not have any words to describe human trafficking, although the practice is widespread. In East Africa, the Swahili phrase usafirishaji haramu wa binadamu translates to “illegal transportation of human beings.” But use of this phrase has caused further confusion with police and conflation with “smuggling.” Some officials use usafirishaji na biashara haramu ya watu, which means “illegal transportation and trade in people.” But these words, like those in English and other languages, still fail to invoke concepts such as unyonyaji (“exploitation”) or utumwa (“slavery”)—the key elements of the crime.
These limited characterizations may lead to confusion in creating effective legislation or policies to prosecute offenders and protect victims of human trafficking. A focus on movement would ignore those people who are trafficked within their own countries, regions, or towns. A focus on trade or buying and selling does not highlight the fraud or coercion often involved in human trafficking. It excludes the many victims who are never “bought” or “sold” but rather “self-present” to exploiters who then traffic them and victims who are otherwise deceived or defrauded into a form of servitude.
Human trafficking, in essence, is a modern-day form of slavery. It involves exploitation and forced servitude. To recognize and address all forms of human trafficking, the language used to discuss it should focus on the harsh reality of victims’ suffering and the horrific crimes of perpetrators.
The language of human trafficking:
|Arabic||Al-ittijaar b’il-bashar||The commercial trade of people|
|Burmese||Lu kon ku de||Trade in people|
|French||La traite des personnes||The trade of people|
|Japanese||Jinshin bai bai||The buying and selling of people|
|Mandarin||Gu?i mài||The cheating/tricking and selling of people|
|Mandarin||Fan mai ren kou||The buying and selling of people|
|Russian||Torgovlyei lyudmi||The trade of people|
|Spanish||La trata de personas||The trade of people|
|Swahili||Usafirishaji haramu wa binadamu||The illegal transportation of human beings|
|Thai||Garn ka manut||The act of trading persons|
Human Trafficking for Organ Removal
Mohammad Salim Khan woke up in a strange house and felt an excruciating pain in his abdomen. Unsure where he was, Khan asked a man wearing a surgical mask what had happened. “We have taken your kidney,” the stranger said, according to a January 2008 Associated Press report. “If you tell anyone, we’ll shoot you.”
Six days earlier, Khan, a 33-year-old Indian day laborer from New Delhi, had been approached by a bearded man offering a construction job. The man explained that the work would pay $4 a day – not unusual in India – and would last three months. Khan, a father of five, jumped at the chance for work.
He traveled with the man to a small town several hours away. Once there, Khan was locked in a room and forced at gunpoint to give a blood sample and take drugs that made him unconscious. He didn’t wake up until after surgery.
Police raided the illegal clinic afterward, rescuing Khan and two other men. Khan never received money for his kidney, and it took months to recover physically. Indian authorities pursued charges against the doctor involved. Khan was trafficked for the purpose of organ removal.
The UN TIP Protocol prohibits the use of human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal. This may include situations in which a trafficker causes the involuntary removal of another living person’s organ, either for profit or for another benefit, such as to practice traditional medicine or witchcraft.
A far greater number of organs are obtained from people in the developing world, sometimes through exploitative means, and sold in a highly lucrative international market. The UN TIP Protocol does not cover this voluntary sale of organs for money, which is considered lawful in most countries.
But the demand for organs is rising as the world’s rich are growing older. At the same time, the world’s poor are growing poorer, and the potential for more human trafficking cases like Khan’s is increasing. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 10 percent of the 70,000 kidneys transplanted each year may originate on the black market.
Victim Restitution : Key to Justice , Key to Rebuilding a Life
In fiscal year 2008, U.S. courts ordered traffickers to pay restitution awards totaling more than $4.2 million.Restitution: The process in which a court calculates the monetary loss of a trafficking victim or other person as a result of the crime and orders the traffickers to pay that sum to the victim, usually carrying a punitive cost in excess of simple compensation for a victim’s lost wages. This can be the product of a successful criminal prosecution of a trafficking offender or an entirely separate civil complaint filed by the victim. The United States is the only country in which a compensation claim for the victim is automatically part of the criminal proceedings in trafficking cases. Forfeiture: The process in which the government takes physical possession of the proceeds from, or material possessions involved in, the trafficking crime (cash, buildings, vehicles, etc.).
These processes can be used to provide compensation to trafficking victims in the United States. The TVPA includes provisions for mandatory restitution to trafficking victims and a provision allowing victims to sue trafficking offenders for compensatory and punitive damages. Many other countries have included victims’ rights to seek compensation through legal procedures.
Victim compensation meets the practical needs of survivors of human trafficking. It alleviates the monetary burden of the state and helps the victim pay for basic necessities, such as housing, food, and transportation, which can prevent their re-trafficking. It also allows compensation to third parties, such as medical and social service providers, who paid for services required as a result of the crime. But beyond providing for these immediate and critical needs, restitution has a restorative power. The philosophy behind restitution goes hand-in-hand with a victimcentered approach to trafficking. Providing the victim with their traffickers’ ill-gotten gains is critical to restoring a victim’s dignity, helping them gain power back from their exploiters who took advantage of their hope for a better life. Restitution and compensation attack the greed of the trafficker and the idea of a human being as a commodity. It is a way to ensure that victims receive access to justice.
Child Trafficking in Gold Mines
Some 20 to 30 percent of the world’s gold comes from artisanal mines throughout Africa, South America, and Asia. Artisanal mines are small-scale mines typically found in rural areas of developing countries. They offer communities and families a way to make a living in areas where few alternatives exist. But these mines are also the sites of modern-day slavery; of the two million children who work in goldmines worldwide, many are forced, often through debt bondage, to do back-breaking work in hazardous conditions.
Child laborers in gold mines face a number of dangers:
- Exposure to hazardous elements. Mercury is magnetically attracted to gold, making it a good tool for locating gold and separating it from the soil. In West Africa, children rub mercury into their hands before sifting soil through their fingers. In South America, children reportedly wash gold while standing in waist-deep water contaminated by mercury. Prolonged mercury exposure causes retardation, blindness, kidney damage, and tremors. To a lesser extent, child mine laborers are also exposed to cyanide and sulfur. A 2006 Harvard Medical School study found that children in gold mining communities in Ecuador showed neurological abnormalities resulting from mercury and cyanide exposure.
- Mine collapses, explosions. Artisanal mines frequently collapse, killing or injuring workers. Children are often lowered into narrow mine shafts as deep as 90 meters, sometimes for up to 18 hours. In Bolivia, trafficked boys as young as eight help detonate dynamite in the interior of gold mines.
- Long hours, back-breaking work. Traffickers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo subject children to debt bondage in gold mines, forcing them to work nine to ten hours daily digging tunnels and open-pit mines. In gold mines in Ethiopia, children are forced to work an average of 14 hours a day, six days a week. Children trafficked from Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mali to gold mines in Côte d’Ivoire are held in slavery-like conditions and forced to work 10 hours a day, seven days a week. They receive little food and meager pay. In 2008, a Guinean child told the Associated Press he was promised $2 a day for his work in a gold mine but received only $40 after six months of backbreaking, coerced, and hazardous labor.
Buying or Negotiating a Victim’s Freedom
Among the repugnant aspects of human trafficking is the commodification of human lives: the assignment of a monetary value to the life of a woman, man, or child. Whether in an Indian brothel or in the Lake Volta fishing industry of Ghana, a price is placed on a victim’s freedom.
Anti-slavery organizations and activists have sometimes opted to pay the price of victims’ freedom from their exploiters. Negotiating a victim’s freedom or paying the ransom brings instant results. In the past year, a well-known international organization in Ghana endorsed this approach by negotiating with and providing financial incentives to Lake Volta fisherman who had enslaved boys in the fishing industry. While this releases victims from the bonds of modern-day slavery, the implications of this practice are more complicated.
If trafficking victims are freed because of a payment or negotiation, the trafficker remains unpunished and unrepentant and is free to find new victims to perform the same service. By “purchasing” a victim’s freedom, wellintentioned individuals or organizations may inadvertently provide traffickers with financial incentive to find new victims. While the numbers of victims rescued from compensated or negotiated releases can seem impressive, it is difficult to determine whether they lead to a net reduction in the number of victims. Still, the enslavement may continue without any cost or punishment to the trafficker or exploiter.
A more lasting and effective way to secure a victim’s freedom is through the application of law: holding traffickers and those who exploit trafficking victims accountable under criminal justice systems. The minimum standards of the TVPA call for the criminalization of all acts of trafficking, as does the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. Criminal provisions assign a punitive cost to this trade in humans, a cost that the exploiters are likely to respect and fear. Applying criminal laws also provides society with a measure of justice and hope that the cycle of entrapping additional victims can be broken. Negotiating with traffickers provides none of this.
Strengthening Prohibitions Against Forced Labor and Fraudulent Recruitment of Foreign Workers
The enactment of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA of 2008) strengthened the U.S. Government’s criminal statute on forced labor. It clarified nonphysical forms of coercion, which are recognized as potent tools used by traffickers. The act now explicitly provides a detailed explanation of “abuse or threatened abuse of law or legal process,” a prohibited means of coercion under both the forced labor and sex trafficking statutes. This is often seen practically in acts such as an employer threatening to have a migrant arrested and deported as an undocumented alien if he or she refused to enter into or continue a form of labor or services. The statute also explains that “serious harm,” another form of coercion, includes harming or threatening to harm someone financially in such a significant way that it would compel that person to enter into or continue a form of labor or services.
The TVPRA of 2008 also created a new criminal statute prohibiting fraud in foreign labor contracting, which imposes criminal liability on those who, knowingly and with intent to defraud, recruit workers from outside the United States for employment within the United States by means of materially false or fraudulent representations. While not a trafficking-in-persons offense per se, this crime may be closely linked to forced labor. The new statute prescribes a punishment of up to five years’ imprisonment.
Title 18 U.S. Code Section 1589 – Forced Labor.
(a) Whoever knowingly provides or obtains the labor or services of a person by any one of, or by any combination of, the following means:
(1) by means of force, threats of force, physical restraint, or threats of physical restraint to that person or another person;
(2) by means of serious harm or threats of serious harm to that person or another person;
(3) by means of the abuse or threatened abuse of law or legal process; or
(4) by means of any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause the person to believe that, if that person did not perform such labor or services, that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraint, shall be punished as provided under subsection (d).
(b) Whoever knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture which has engaged in the providing or obtaining of labor or services by any of the means described in subsection (a), knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the venture has engaged in the providing or obtaining of labor or services by any of such means, shall be punished as provided in subsection (d).
(c) In this section:
(1) the term “abuse or threatened abuse of law or legal process” means the use or threatened use of a law or legal process, whether administrative, civil, or criminal, in any manner or for any purpose for which the law was not designed, in order to exert pressure on another person to cause that person to take some action or refrain from taking some action.
(2) the term “serious harm” means any harm, whether physical or non-physical, including psychological, financial, or reputational harm that is sufficiently serious, under all the surrounding circumstances, to compel a reasonable person of the same background and in the same circumstances to perform or to continue performing labor or services in order to avoid incurring that harm.
(d) Whoever violates this section shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If death results from a violation of this section, or if the violation includes kidnapping, an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, the defendant shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for any term of years or life, or both.”
Title 18 U.S. Code, Section 1351 (new statute) – Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting “Whoever knowingly and with intent to defraud recruits, solicits, or hires a person outside the United States for purposes of employment in the United States by means of materially false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises regarding that employment, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both.”
Trafficking of Burmese Refugees in Southeast Asia
Arun participated in the pro-democracy demonstrations 20 years ago in Burma as a university student. Identified and hunted by Burmese authorities, he fled to a neighboring country. There, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees issued refugee identity cards to Arun and his wife. A group of government-organized anti-migrant volunteers found the couple during a search for illegal immigrants; they destroyed their identity cards and sent them to a detention center. Several days later, in the early morning hours, immigration officials transported them by boat to the country’s international border. Without the money to buy their freedom, immigration officials sold them each for $200 to trafficking rings, which sent Arun to work on a fishing vessel and his wife to a brothel.
Persecution by the Burmese regime and bleak economic opportunities have led thousands of Burmese political dissidents and ethnic minorities to flee the country during the past 20 years with hopes of a better life elsewhere in Asia. In Burma, they face abuses including forced labor, forced relocations, restricted movement, denial of education and economic opportunities, and religious persecution. Persecuted groups are often desperate enough to escape by any means possible, making them highly vulnerable to human trafficking. The risk of being trafficked is heightened by their marginalized political status, lack of economic or educational opportunities, and severe poverty.
Even those who are able to reach another country remain vulnerable to exploitation. Many Burmese attempt to settle in Malaysia, where there are widespread reports that immigration authorities have been involved in the trafficking of Burmese refugees from immigration detention centers to the Thai-Malaysian border. Immigration officials have sold refugees to Thai traffickers, who demand a ransom in exchange for freedom. The traffickers sell those who are unable to pay to brothels, fishing vessels, and plantations. The situation for these Burmese refugees has become so desperate that many have begun pooling their money in informal “insurance” programs to pay for their freedom if deported by Malaysian authorities and sold to traffickers. Many Burmese refugees flee the country by boat or overland to Thailand, often compelled to hire smugglers, who also engage in trafficking.
The Rohingya are a stateless people (see page 31) who are denied citizenship and land ownership rights in Burma, where they face religious and ethnic persecution from the Burmese military regime. Lacking documents or citizenship status, the Rohingya may be vulnerable to trafficking, including situations of forced labor.
Statelessness : A Key Vulnerability to Human Trafficking
Statelessness affects groups of people in all regions of the world. The most vulnerable groups include individuals from the former Soviet bloc, the Rohingya in Burma and throughout Asia, the Bidun in the Middle East, many of Europe’s Roma, the Bhutanese in Nepal, children of Haitian migrants in the Caribbean, denationalized Kurds, some Palestinians, some ethnic groups in Thailand and the Horn of Africa, and many others around the world, according to the NGO Refugees International.
A stateless person is someone who, under national laws, does not have nationality – the legal bond between a government and an individual – in any country. Citizenship gives a person a legal identity, a nationality, and the ability to participate in society with dignity. A stateless person often can’t go to school; get health care; register a birth, marriage, or death; work or travel legally; own property; or open a bank account wherever they live. Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that everyone has the right to a nationality, an estimated 12 million people around the world are legally or de facto stateless today.
Stateless populations are easy targets for forced labor, land confiscation, displacement, and other forms of persecution and exploitation. Without a nationality or legal citizenship, they may lack protection from police or access to systems of justice. In their desperate struggle for survival, stateless people often turn to human smugglers and traffickers to help them escape discrimination or government persecution. They become victims again and again as the problems of statelessness, refugee issues, and trafficking intersect.
Stateless people who are trafficked face particular vulnerabilities. They often lack identity or travel documents, putting them at risk of arrest when they travel—voluntarily or by force—outside of their communities. Without documents or citizenship status, stateless trafficking victims have little protection from their country of habitual residence. They may find it impossible to return, while at the same time having no legal status in their new country. Repatriation is problematic for stateless people regardless of whether they were trafficked or not.
Sometimes human trafficking results in statelessness, as in the case of Vietnamese women trafficked as “mail-order brides” to Korea, Taiwan, People’s Republic of China, and other places. Thousands of Vietnamese women marry foreigners each year, with 86 percent of such marriages contracted for economic reasons, according to the Viet Nam Women’s Union of Ho Chi Minh City. The process of naturalizing in their husband’s country often requires the women to renounce their Vietnamese citizenship. For those who are trafficked under the false pretense of marriage, the naturalization process is never completed and they become stateless, often passing their predicament on to their children. The Government of Vietnam is considering new nationality laws that would help prevent this problem by allowing dual citizenship.
Other measures to prevent and resolve situations of statelessness include birth registration campaigns and more efficient, transparent, and accessible avenues for acquiring legal residency or citizenship. Organizations working with trafficking victims can help by creating awareness, identifying stateless individuals, and assisting with procedures to acquire nationality. For countries or regions that share cross-border populations, harmonized approaches to documentation and civil registration can be key efforts to preventing statelessness and human trafficking.
Detaining Adult Victims in Shelters : A Bad Practice
Governments often first encounter a victim or confirm the victim status of a person through the initial detention or even formal arrest of that person. Whether through raids on a brothel suspected of exploiting trafficking victims or through the detention of undocumented aliens, law enforcement actions are often the precursor to identifying trafficking victims.
Once positively identified, however, law enforcement authorities should remove victims as quickly as possible from detention centers or jails and refer them to appropriate care facilities where they can receive counseling, shelter, medical care, and legal aid. This should apply to all victims, regardless of nationality and regardless of immigration status.
For adult victims, the government should obtain their informed consent before committing them to more than a temporary stay in a shelter facility. Victims should be provided with available options. For child victims of trafficking, the government should designate an appropriate authority with responsibility for the care, custody, and best interests of the child. The state may take temporary or longer-term custody while the child is in a temporary shelter or with an appropriate care provider.
According to an August 2008 paper published by the Australian Agency for International Development, governments often neglect to obtain the full and informed consent of adult trafficking victims when placing them in a government-run or governmentfunded shelter. This detention can impede a victim’s rehabilitation as the victim feels confined and denied basic freedoms—the hallmark of trafficking experiences. Lengthy detention without the ability to work and earn income can hurt a victim and a victim’s family economically. As noted in a path-breaking recent report by the NEXUS Institute on victims of trafficking who reject assistance, adult victims must be given the option of receiving assistance on their own terms—without physical restraint or confinement—or of rejecting all assistance from the state or others. At the core of human trafficking is the loss of basic freedoms; any effective remedy for victims must include a restoration of all such freedoms.
Gender Imbalance in Human Trafficking
“The root causes of migration and trafficking greatly overlap. The lack of rights afforded to women serves as the primary causative factor at the root of both women’s migrations and trafficking in women...By failure to protect and promote women’s civil, political, economic and social rights, governments create situations in which trafficking flourishes.” -- Radhika Coomaraswamy, former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women
According to the ILO, the majority of people trafficked for sexual exploitation or subjected to forced labor are female. According to researchers, both the supply and demand sides of the trade in human beings are fed by “gendered” vulnerabilities to trafficking. These vulnerabilities are the result of political, economic, and development processes that may leave some women socially and economically dependent on men. If that support from men becomes limited or withdrawn, women become dangerously susceptible to abuse. They often have no individual protection or recognition under the law, inadequate access to healthcare and education, poor employment prospects, little opportunity to own property, or high levels of social isolation. All this makes some women easy targets for harassment, violence, and human trafficking.
Research links the disproportionate demand for female trafficking victims to the growth of certain “feminized” economic sectors (commercial sex, the “bride trade,” domestic service) and other sectors characterized by low wages, hazardous conditions, and an absence of collective bargaining mechanisms. Exploitative employers prefer to use trafficked women—traditionally seen as submissive, cheap, and pliable—for simple and repetitive tasks in agriculture, food processing, labor-intensive manufacturing, and domestic servitude.
In countries where women’s economic status has improved, significantly fewer local women participate in commercial sex. Traffickers bring in more female victims to address the demand and also take advantage of women who migrate voluntarily to work in any industry. As commercial sex is illegal in most countries, traffickers use the resulting illegal status of migrant women that have been trafficked into commercial sex to threaten or coerce them against leaving.
Gendered vulnerabilities fostered by social and institutional weaknesses in some societies—discriminatory laws and practices that tie a woman’s legal recognition, property rights, and economic opportunities to someone else—make women more likely than men to become trafficking victims. A woman who exists only through a male guardian who controls her income, identification, citizenship, and physical well-being is more susceptible to becoming a trafficking victim.
In many cultures, new widows must adhere to strict mourning practices, such as a month of isolation, or become outcasts. Despite official inheritance laws, during her isolation the relatives of a deceased man may confiscate the man’s property from his widow and children. In many cases, without her husband’s permission the destitute widow may not withdraw money from her bank account, register her husband’s death or their child’s birth, receive a passport, or take a job. Without a birth certificate, she cannot enroll her child in public school or see the doctor at the local clinic. Desperate to feed her child, the widow becomes easy prey for human traffickers.
International Woman of Courage
Hadizatou Mani, Niger
Hadizatou Mani was born into slavery. When she was 12, she was sold for $500. Her new owner, a man in his 60s, sent her to work long hours in the field, beat her, raped her, and made her bear him three children.
When Niger criminalized slavery in 2003, Ms. Mani’s owner kept the news from her and tried to convince village authorities that she was not a slave but one of his wives. When Ms. Mani finally won her “certificate of liberation” in 2005 and married a man of her choice, her former master charged her with bigamy. Ms. Mani served two months of a six-month prison sentence.
Ms. Mani worked with the local NGO Timidria and the British NGO Anti-Slavery International to bring a case to the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), charging that the Government of Niger had not successfully protected her rights under its anti-slavery laws.
“It was very difficult to challenge my former master and to speak out when people see you as nothing more than a slave,” Ms. Mani said in comments published by Anti-Slavery International. “But I knew that this was the only way to protect my child from suffering the same fate as myself. Nobody deserves to be enslaved. We are all equal and deserve to be treated the same…no woman should suffer the way I did.”
Despite direct and indirect pressure to drop her suit, Ms. Mani pressed forward with her case. On October 27, 2008, ECOWAS condemned Ms. Mani’s enslavement, ruled that the Government of Niger had not protected her rights, and ordered it to pay Ms. Mani the equivalent of $19,800. To its credit, and as an indication of a desire to put slavery in the past, the Government of Niger accepted the verdict and paid the fine in March 2009.
Human rights laws are useless if not enforced. Timidria and other Nigerien NGOs had suggested before this verdict that Niger’s anti-slavery laws were a “charm offensive” and were “passed for Westerners.” Ms. Mani achieved a victory not only for herself, but for the people still enslaved in Niger and elsewhere in West Africa. Her bravery is a ray of hope to them. And the ECOWAS court decision is a step forward for the region, sending a strong message to the governments of Niger and other countries that anti-slavery laws must be more than words on paper.
Ms. Mani was among the recipients of the U.S. Secretary of State’s 2009 Award for International Women of Courage.
Legal Assistance for Trafficking Victims
Helping trafficking victims access legal avenues to justice, restitution, and other compensation for their suffering is a key element of any effective victim protection strategy. It is particularly crucial in addressing the needs of foreign victims who are not familiar with laws, customs, rights, and procedures in the country to which they were trafficked.
The laws and legal process in most countries are not easily accessed or understood by people who do not have legal training. Rescued human trafficking victims may fear possible criminal charges or deportation, retaliation by traffickers if they give information to police, or attacks against family members. At the same time, they need services such as medical care, food, clothing, and safe housing. Access to legal advice and information can help them through the stress and confusion in the weeks and months following their rescue.
Legal assistance helps trafficking victims know their rights, obtain key information, and understand the options that are available to them.
Legal systems vary throughout the world and the needs of trafficking victims must be considered individually. NGOs that assist and shelter trafficking victims should assist victims with the following legal issues:
- Legal rights. Victims should know their legal rights, status, and the legal process in which proceedings will take place. They should know how to access services or benefits that may be available to them, such as interpretation, medical care, housing, education, etc.
- Immigration law and immigration proceedings. Victims trafficked across a border may not have proper documentation and may need assistance in obtaining identity documents. Victims may need immigration relief, if available, after rescue or during an extended stay in the destination country.
- Criminal law. Victims should not be punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. But they may need legal assistance if they are arrested or detained in the course of rescue. Victims should also have access to legal advice regarding criminal proceedings related to their case and available options regarding giving evidence and testimony. If possible, an attorney should accompany a victim to legal proceedings related to the victim’s case.
- Civil law. Victims should know of available avenues for restitution or compensation through a civil claim for damages against perpetrators or others responsible.
- Child victims. Trafficking victims under 18 should have access to legal representation related to custody, care, and juvenile law.
Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking
“Women still comprise the majority of the world’s poor, unfed, and unschooled. They are still subjected to rape as a tactic of war and exploited by traffickers globally in a billion dollar criminal business.” -- Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, March 7, 2009
The low status of women in some societies, insufficient access to education, limitations on legal rights, and other forms of discrimination are recognized as “push factors” that combine with other situational problems such as conflict, civil instability, or an economic crisis to prompt young women to leave their communities. In many communities and cultures, violence against women is all too common, and laws intended to protect women are inadequate or not enforced. In addition to physical attacks and injuries, women who are victims of spouse or intimate partner abuse are often subjected by the abuser to constant berating, severe psychological abuse, and excessive levels of control over nearly every aspect of daily life. A history of domestic violence (spouse or intimate partner abuse) represents an added risk factor that may cause a victim to feel an urgent need to escape and leave her home and community to survive – and thus her vulnerability to exploitation is heightened.
Research has shown a clear link between sex trafficking and both pre-trafficking domestic violence and trafficking-related genderbased violence. Cathy Zimmerman, a noted authority on victim trauma, identified domestic and sexual violence as a key “push” factor that makes a woman vulnerable to trafficking. Almost 70 percent of adult female trafficking victims using services at an assistance program in London reported having experienced violence before being exploited in the destination setting.
Though the link between domestic violence and sex trafficking is welldocumented, the responses to each crime must be distinct. Victims of domestic violence and victims of sex trafficking suffer different traumas and require different therapies. Zimmerman’s research found that victims of sex trafficking often suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which for most women in care do not begin to decrease for at least 90 days; this is not as prevalent in victims of domestic violence. Sometimes there is an added cultural obstacle to caring for both types of victims in the same facility: in some socially conservative populations, victims of domestic violence resent the perceived stigma of prostitution attached to the victims of sex trafficking with whom they are cohabitating.
Like human trafficking, global recognition of domestic violence as a crime is growing. Services for victims are insufficient but increasing in most countries. In countries where resources are limited programs established to assist victims of domestic violence have been tapped in emergencies to shelter victims of human trafficking. But assisting victims of these two crimes in one setting is very challenging. It should only be attempted when the facility can provide a safe and supportive environment and when staff are properly trained to understand the safety, legal, medical, mental health, social, and cultural needs of the victims.
In Memoriam : Norma Hotaling
After overcoming sexual exploitation and drug addictions, Norma Hotaling devoted her life to ending the commercial sex trade in the United States. While she left behind a life of despair, homelessness, addiction, and prostitution, she used her experiences to educate others about the harms of sex trade. She became a passionate leader and was often called on to speak at conferences, counsel public policy experts, and testify before the U.S. Congress and state legislatures. She also addressed foreign audiences as a Department of State-funded speaker.
Ms. Hotaling co-founded the NGO Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE) in 1992 to provide resources, advocacy, and counseling for sexually exploited men and women. Her work led to a 2004 California law that allows prosecutors to charge pimps and johns with child abuse if they prostitute a minor.
In 1996, Ms. Hotaling helped the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office create the First Offender Prostitution Program, a unique class for men caught soliciting prostitutes. The initiative allows first offenders to have their charges dropped if they pay a $1,000 fine and participate in a six-hour course taught by sex trafficking experts, neighborhood activists, and doctors who discuss the downsides of prostitution. A 2008 U.S. Department of Justice study lauded the program, concluding that participants were 30 percent less likely than other men to be rearrested for soliciting prostitutes. The program is now replicated in 40 cities.
Ms. Hotaling was committed to demystifying and debunking the romantic notion of prostitution and getting people to understand that the practice treats women and girls as commodities. She worked to reframe prostitution as form of violence against women rather than a job. In 2008, while battling pancreatic cancer, Ms. Hotaling led a successful opposition to legislation that would have decriminalized prostitution in San Francisco.
In a 1997 interview, Ms. Hotaling described her life’s work for The San Francisco Chronicle:
“It’s like caring for orchids. They die so easily. But you take the dead-looking stem to someone who knows orchids and that person can look at the root and say, ‘Look! There’s still a little bit of life here.’”
Ms. Hotaling died in her San Francisco home in December. She was 57.
Forced Labor Costs Considerable : A View from the ILO
The Trafficking in Persons Report in recent years has focused increased attention on labor forms of human trafficking. A newly released ILO report on forced labor in the world – The Cost of Coercion (May 2009) – breaks new ground in assessing the economic impact of forced labor, including the impact of fraudulent recruitment of migrant workers. The report’s release is prescient, coming amidst a global financial crisis that affects a significant share of the world’s migrant work force and underscores the need for much stronger governmental and business community responses to forced labor.
Among the key conclusions of Cost of Coercion:
- Key manifestations of the global forced labor problem continue to be: slavery and abduction for labor; agriculture-based forced labor in rural areas; compulsory work on public projects; bonded labor in South Asia; forced labor exacted by the military – with a special emphasis on “Myanmar” (Burma); and forced labor related to labor migration – the “underside of globalization.”
- Forced labor represents a challenge for virtually every country in the world and is increasingly penetrating supply chains of mainstream companies in the formal economy.
- Forced labor can be induced by a number of means, including psychological (non-physical) coercion; abuse of legal processes – such as the threat of having a migrant detained and deported as an undocumented alien; threats of financial penalties, such as those linked with debts; and the confiscation of identity or travel documents.
- An estimated 8.1 million victims of forced labor in the world today are denied more than $20 billion due to the perpetrators of forced labor. These opportunity costs, or “stolen” wages, are incurred largely in the developing world and most significantly in Asia and the Pacific, which accounts for $8.9 billion, or almost half of forced labor’s costs in the world. As wages denied and not remitted to workers’ home countries, these costs can be viewed as an impediment to economic development.
- Little progress has been made since 2001 in improving data collection on forced labor; the process of estimating the problem “has hardly begun in most countries.” While victimizing far more people than sex trafficking, forced labor is also underrepresented by governments’ law enforcement efforts against human trafficking.
- ILO research has shown a clear relationship between amounts spent by migrant workers during their recruitment and the probability of their becoming victims of forced labor; the higher the cost, the greater the likelihood of forced labor. Excessive and often unlawful recruitment fees are often a key contributing factor to forced labor. Particular attention should be paid to private employment agencies, given their documented role in trafficking for labor exploitation.
- Migrants in the fishing industry or serving as domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to forced labor.