Human Trafficking

*

Human Trafficking

Typically, when we hear the word ”slave”, we think of the transatlantic trade that was abolished 200 years ago. However, there are actually more people enslaved today in so-called ”modern day slavery.” Human trafficking is defined as a situation where several perpetrators cooperate, usually across countries, to recruit victims who are transported from one place to the next to be abused, often through prostitution.

Human trafficking for sexual purposes is driven by the demand. The demand to buy access to another person’s body, and do what one pleases with that body, is the root to why this horrific reality exists. Human trafficking is the fastest growing type of organized crime, and the most profitable alongside weapons and drugs.

For an event to be deemed human trafficking, it needs to consist of three elements: an act (e.g. recruitment or transportation) performed through the use of illegal means (e.g. threats or deception) for the purpose of exploitation (e.g. sexual). Note that it only requires the intent of exploitation and not that the exploitation actually has actually occurred.

In the event that the victim is under 18 years, the case is deemed human trafficking even if the perpetrator did not use illegal means (e.g. threats) to carry out the crime.

Consent is irrelevant whenever any of the ‘illegal means’ of trafficking are used. This means that a circumstance constitutes trafficking even if the victim knew of the prostitution, but not of the actual terms.

It is a chain of criminal activity (recruitment, transportation, harbouring, etc), but all aspects do not have to occur in a particular order and different offenders can be in charge of different links of the chain.

According to the UN refugee agency, anywhere from 700,000 to 4 million women, children and men fall victim of human trafficking every year. In their 2013 report, Eurostat noted that the majority of identified victims of human trafficking within EU from 2008-2012 were exploited for sexual purposes (62%). In addition, in their latest report in 2010 on organised crime, UNODC also reports that more than 140 000 victims of human trafficking for sexual purposes are exploited every day in Europe.

Poverty, unemployment, lack of education and the glorification of western society are all contributing factors to human trafficking, but it is the demand that ultimately fuels this horrifying reality. Sex purchasers often look for new, younger, girls: in one Swedish case, male buyers were given a customer account number, and were informed by text message or email of the arrival of new women.

Another reason why human trafficking is so widespread is its’ profitability combined with low risk. Unlike most objects that are bought and sold, victims of human trafficking can be sold again and again, increasing the profitability. Further, transporting humans undetected across borders is actually easier than transporting drugs or weapons. This, coupled by the fact that very few traffickers are actually caught, and even fewer sentenced, is why the risks are so low.

That was the case for Michelle. She was said to owe the “madam” who had arranged and paid for her trip to Europe 50 000 Euros. But it was her father who had done a deal with the criminal network that resulted in her leaving. He was even present when she was subjected to a ritual using blood from sacrificed animals before she was sent away, believing she would be working as a nanny.

Once she arrived in Italy, Michelle was locked up in an apartment and forced to have sex with different men several times a day. Every time she tried to escape, she was raped as punishment. Her alleged debt never decreased; instead, for every time she misbehaved, the debt grew. A police raid eventually exposed the offenders. The offenders said Michelle had run away from her “madam”, and as punishment, the network killed her father.

Michelle eventually fled from Italy to Sweden, and a few months later, she was picked up by a group of church outreach workers. They put her in touch with Talita, and today we see her and her young daughter twice a week for therapy sessions and study sessions to help her plan for the future.

Human trafficking can have devastating consequences for the victim of the crime. Isolation, threats, degradation, mental abuse, manipulation, violence, sexual assault, torture and forced use of drugs leads to physical and physiological damage and, at worst, even death. The victims who have the opportunity to return home also risk social alienation since they are considered immoral, bringing shame upon their families and communities. The chance of them finding themselves in another abusive situation is thereby significant.

Shortly, we will post an interview with Märta Johansson (Lecturer, Institution for Law, Psychology and Social Work, Örebro University) on human trafficking and the Swedish Sex Purchase Act (known as the Nordic Model).


[1] Människohandel och prostitution ur ett svenskt perspektiv, s 26 och 29
[2] Polisens lägesrapport 15 Människohandel för sexuella och andra ändamål, s 7
[3] Människohandel och prostitution ur ett svenskt perspektiv, s 13
[4] Människohandel och prostitution ur ett svenskt perspektiv, s 12
[5] Människohandel och prostitution ur ett svenskt perspektiv, s 14 och Polisens lägesrapport 15; Människohandel för sexuella och andra ändamål, s 15
[6] Människohandel och prostitution ur ett svenskt perspektiv, s 14
[7] Polisens lägesrapport 15 Människohandel för sexuella och andra ändamål, s 13
[8] The Globalisation of Crime - A Transnational Organised Crime Threat Assessment, s 43
[9] Människohandel och prostitution ur ett svenskt perspektiv, s 30
[10] Människohandel och prostitution ur ett svenskt perspektiv, s 33 och 37
[11] Människohandel och prostitution ur ett svenskt perspektiv, s 30
[12] Människohandel och prostitution ur ett svenskt perspektiv, s 18
[13] Människohandel och prostitution ur ett svenskt perspektiv, s 23
[14] Människohandel och prostitution ur ett svenskt perspektiv, s 20
[15] Människohandel och prostitution ur ett svenskt perspektiv, s 29