Global Trafficking in Human Beings
By SEYYAR, Ali
Each year thousands of people (men, women, and
children) fall victim to the vicious and organized trafficking of humans
(TH). Particularly after the collapse of Communism, this black market
has prospered greatly in the countries surrounding the so-called Iron
Curtain countries. For years, in addition to this new phenomenon, third
world countries and countries that are still under Communism have been
primary sources for such activities.
Global traffickers in humans bring people from
underdeveloped or developing countries, enticing them with the promise
of work or a better life, to developed countries, where there is an
immense demand for labor. These people are forced to work painstakingly
long shifts at unskilled and demeaning jobs; for example, men are forced
to do dangerous tasks that require physical strength, often working
without any safety precautions. Minors are forced to work in less labor-intensive
jobs, but again for extremely long hours without any proper training.
Women are forced to work in socially degrading and debasing jobs, which
in some areas are no different from slavery, and the worst, they are
used in prostitution.
Nowadays there is a global sector abusing minors and
women for these vicious purposes. On the other hand, the acquisition of
the global dimensions of TH can be seen to be an outcome of poverty and
the misery that results from the poor socio-economical situation of
third world countries. Most international trafficking in humans is from
poor countries to developed countries. It has also been witnessed that
this problem is aggravated by the peculiar traits of prosperous
What is Trafficking in Humans?
In most countries where TH is committed, there are no
conceptual or legal precautions taken to protect against such abuses.
Within the classical conception, TH is usually defined as the abuse of
people in actual physical slavery. Yet today, since the problem has
become so widespread as to be global, and as TH is committed for the
sake of contemptible purposes, this narrow-scoped definition is no
longer sufficient. Thus, the United Nations felt the need to define TH
in a broader context.(1)
The ultimate goal of TH is to force people to work in
oppressive and exploitative situations in a way that will benefit the
organized human traffickers. These conditions include the coercion of
men to work in the most menial and labor-intensive jobs, women and girls
to partake in debasing activities, servanthood, counterfeit marriages
and adoptions, even prostitution, with secret contracts that are in no
way legal, forcing them to work under harsh conditions.(2)
The Factors that Nourish TH
For the most part, human traffickers utilize new
technological tools of transportation, communication, and media to
accomplish their goals. The Internet is a commonly used tool. Some
matchmaking companies in developed countries work outside of legal
boundaries. Not only do they put ads in the national newspapers, they
also put the c.v. and photographs of women and girls who are willing to
marry rich men onto the Internet.(3)
This evil marketing approach illegally prospers under
the guise of matchmaking and is generally ignored by the countries from
where it originates. This, in part, stems from the mutual benefit of the
involved parties (for example, bribing officials while transporting
people across borders.)(4)
TH is also related to what is called pleasure
tourism. Third world countries that depend heavily on tourism revenue
tend to neglect the conditions that contribute to such problems. For
example, Kenya has overlooked TH in order to support tourism. In order
to please the increasing number of tourists, women are even brought from
neighboring countries, like Uganda.(5)
Undoubtedly, the International Development Banks as
well as multinational financial institutions are also responsible for TH
by supporting the countries involved and ignoring the socio-ethic
consequences. Among developed countries, according to Focus, the Germany
is the country most involved in tourism for base purposes. Between
200,000 and 400,000 Germans travel to Far Eastern countries, mostly
Thailand and the Philippines, for this purpose each year. In Thailand,
among the 1.5 million women employed in such demeaning jobs as
prostitution, 800,000 of them are minors. In the Philippines, the minors
involved number between 30 and 60,000. In such countries, diseases like
AIDS are widespread. For instance 80% of women working in such forms of
employment in Thailand are infected with HIV. According to data from the
World Health Organization, there will be over 40 million AIDS patients
in a couple of years.(6) Lately, there have been reports that after the
Tsunami in the Far East, TH has increased in the victimized regions
where children now have even less protection.
The multinational organized crime groups who commit
TH usually employ two methods. One is to bring women and minors who are
already in an abusive situation to developed countries. The other is to
promise good wages, work conditions, and prospects to desperately poor
people and then to force them to undertake unthinkable actions. For
example, as the demand in the evil practice of TH for prostitution
increasingly turns to younger and younger girls, due to concerns about
AIDS, the second form of TH is frequently committed. As a result, there
is an increasing demand for foreign women and girls in developed
societies, where marriage has become something to be put off, or perhaps
altogether avoided.(7) According to UN data, one million minors are
traded in the global TH market.(8)
Although TH is one of the most heinous crimes and
something that requires serious punishment, the victims of TH face many
discouraging impediments if they try to seek their rights. Most of the
time, suspects manage to get away with a very light punishment, if any,
as the victims cannot prove their case. Thus, although the judicial
system protects women in theory, in practice TH is easier to commit than
most people think and remains unpunished. It would be useful to give the
example of a trial that lasted eleven months here. At the end of the
trial, which was brought to court by Thai women who were promised work
in pubs as waitresses in Germany, the criminals were found guilty of
encouraging prostitution rather than TH; the former carries a much
lighter punishment. In the hearings, the women said that they were
forced to marry German nationals in Denmark so that they could enter
Germany legally and attain a work permit. But later, they were forced to
engage in prostitution to pay for the expenses.(9) The abuse of women
sometimes can be hidden behind a legal disguise. For example, in Berlin
a female computer programmer had been laid off from work, and was on
unemployment benefit. When a brothel owner saw her c.v. on a database of
job seekers and offered her a position, she refused on moral grounds.
The government then threatened to cut her unemployment benefits, as she
had refused a job. Surprisingly, brothels were legalized two years ago
in Germany, and now are considered to be just another workplace.(10)
The people who are forced to work underground or in
demeaning jobs know neither the language nor the laws of the country to
which they have been brought with fake documents. As the dependents or
guardians of these people are paid in advance, it is even more difficult
for these people to return to their families as long as their financial
dependence continues. On the other hand, if they notify the authorities,
they will face deportation and be arrested, as they are not legally
residing in that country.
TH can be said to be modern slavery from the
perspective of the methods used, the purposes it serves, and the
exertion of physical and psychological oppression on the victims. Hence,
it is necessary to protect people who are victims of TH wherever they
live through the law, and to severely punish the human traffickers.
1 The declaration of UN-General Secretary about
Trafficking in Women and Girls, number A/50/369. date:08/24/1995.
2 The decision of UN-General Committee, number:
3 Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen,
und Jugend (BMFJ) (Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women, and
Youth). Materialen zur Frauenpolitik (Materials of Women Politics). Nr.63.
Bonn 1997. p.20.
4 Marjan, Wiyers and Lin Lap, Chew; Trafficking in
Women; Forced Labor and Slavery-Like Practices in Marriage, Domestic
Labor and Prostitution, Utrecht. 1996, p45.
5 BMFJ, same issue.
6 Focus, Nr. 2; 1995. pp 111-114.
7 Licia, Brussa. Survey of Prostitution, Migration
and Traffic in Women: History and Current Situation; EU, EG/Prost (91)
8 Der Spiegel. Nr. 35, 1996, p.31.
9 Elvira, Niesner et al. A womans Dignity is
Inviolable: A Trial on Trafficking in Women, Forschungsprojekt im
Auftrag des BMFJ (Research Project on behalf of BMFJ); Frankfurter
Institut für Frauendforschung (Frankfurt Institute for Women Research).
10 The world at a glance
The Week, volume 5, issue
196, February 25, 2005.