By Jonathon Emord
The United States Department of State estimates that there were approximately 12.3 million adults and children in slavery worldwide in 2010. The children were compelled to engage in labor, prostitution, involuntary domestic service, and soldiering against their will.
But because of the clandestine nature of the trade in humans, estimates of the numbers of adults and children in captivity vary widely. Despite the millions enslaved, there were only 4,166 successful prosecutions of traffickers in 2009.
Human trafficking occurs in almost every country, yet governments worldwide are failing to do what is required to combat the practice, and some are complicit in it. There is a dire need for greater resources to combat the evil, including far greater reliance on police decoys who pose as victims and as customers to ferret out the traffickers and bring them to justice.
Life Terms for Traffickers
In addition, penalties for trafficking need to be raised substantially, so that life terms become common for those who enslave others and for those who physically abuse adults. Severe punishment should be meted out for those who rape adults and children and for those who physically abuse children.
The United States is one of the principal destinations for traffickers.
In 2000, the United Nations adopted its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children (the so-called Palermo Protocol). In that same year, the United States enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. While those actions have increased awareness of human trafficking, they have not caused arrests, prosecutions, and convictions to reduce significantly the incidence of human trafficking.
Sophisticated organized crime operators move large numbers of people into human trafficking weekly. Many respond to false employment ads for maids, waitresses, and other low-salary positions, only to be kidnapped and compelled into labor or prostitution.
Others voluntarily become involved in prostitution only to find that they cannot escape the illicit practice because pimps or gang members threaten them or their relatives with injury or death if they do. Still others, children, are kidnapped or sold by their parents to traffickers and then end up as forced domestic servants or sex slaves.
Trafficking destinations include the United States, Europe, South Korea, Canada, Australia, the Persian Gulf states, and many other countries worldwide. Women and children are often obtained from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Russia, the Baltic States, and Mexico, among other poorer nations, and are then sent to service wealthier clients around the world. Children as young as three have been kidnapped and sold by parents in Pakistan and Bangladesh to be used as camel jockeys in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
The United States is one of the principal destinations for traffickers. Cases document human trafficking in women and children from Honduras to Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; Latvia to Chicago; Mexico to Florida; Korea to Michigan; Japan to Hawaii; Cameroon to Maryland; Taiwan to Seattle; India to California; and Vietnam to Atlanta.
Greater Efforts Needed
Toronto International Airport has become a hub for moving international trafficking victims into U.S. and Canadian cities. Near the Canadian border, Toledo, Ohio, ranks fourth in the United States in arrests, investigations, and rescues of child sex victims (behind Miami, Florida; Portland, Oregon; and Las Vegas, Nevada).
There is perhaps no greater offense to human dignity and worth than slavery, and there is no more vile and destructive practice than the sexual abuse of children.
Consequently, each nation should invest substantially in means to ferret out, capture, and punish those engaged in this trade. Prosecutions should be high profile events and, upon convictions, should lead to stiff sentencing.
Without the investment of substantially greater efforts, particularly through the use of decoys to identify traffickers and through their prompt arrest, prosecution, and conviction, this scourge is likely to grow. Additional resources, public and private, need to be devoted to the care and nurturing of victims, helping to restore them to good health and security.
Jonathan Emord writes the column ‘Inside Washington’ for Troy Media Corporation. Copyright Troy Media Corporation.