Human trafficking is considered the modern form of slavery. The U.S. government says that it is tied with illegal arms dealing as the second biggest and rapidly expanding criminal industry on the globe. 600,000 – 800,000 victims are trafficked across international borders. Victims are typically men, women, teenagers, and young children that do not speak English, which works in the favor of traffickers because victims cannot communicate with authorities for help.
A lot of human trafficking victims work in prostitution or sex entertainment (live sex shows, pornography, or stripping) under force. Victims also work as domestic slaves; agricultural, janitorial, restaurant, or sweatshop workers. Some victims are imprisoned while others are imprisoned under less obvious techniques including but not limited to little public contact, isolation from family, threatening victims with imprisonment, or threatening victims with deportation for violating immigrant laws if they make any attempt to contact authorities. Often, victims’ travel documents are taken away so that it is more difficult to escape. Traffickers also threaten the victims with death, injury, or the safety of the families back at home in order to ensure victims’ compliance.
Human trafficking is sometimes thought of as migrant smuggling, but the two are not the same. Unlike migrant smuggling, human trafficking victims do not consent to being trafficked. Also, human trafficking involves the continuous exploitation of its victims for traffickers’ profit, and the victims do not necessarily need to be transported.
The traffickers typically use three methods to have victims comply: coercion, force, or fraud. Coercion involves threatening physical restraint or serious harm on the victims, or any plot used to make victims believed that physical restraint or serious harm will occur. Coercion can also involve the threatening or use of abuse of the legal process. Force is the utilization of beatings, confinement, or rape of victims in order to enforce control. Force is often used in the premature stages of victimization to make the victims less resistant and easier to control. Fraud is when traffickers make false offers to attract people to trafficking scenarios. An example would be a woman responding to an advertisement promising a job of some sort in another country, but is trafficked at the destination.
Victims of human trafficking are eligible for immigration relief and social services under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. Congress passed the act, and defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” as:
Sex trafficking, or the acquiring, enlisting, sheltering, or shipping of someone for the purpose of commercial sex act(s) by force or fraud in order for someone under the age of 18 to perform the act(s). TVPA defines commercial sex acts as any sex act performed in exchange for anything of value given to/received by any person. This covers prostitution, live sex shows, pornography, stripping, mail-order brides, sex tourism, and military prostitution. The majority of sex trafficking victims are women and girls. Victims are obtained by traffickers by means of kidnapping; lying about marriage and turning the situation into bondage; being sold to the traffickers by parents or significant others; or promising the victims a good job in another country.
Labor trafficking, or, the acquiring, enlisting, sheltering, or shipping of someone for the purpose of labor or services by means of force or fraud for debt bondage, peonage, slavery, or subjection to unwilling servitude. There are three kinds of labor trafficking. First, debt bondage (or bonded labor) involves the use of victims’ labor to repay a loan or service in which no conditions or terms are spelled out. Second, forced labor is when victims are made to work against their will by means of threatening a form of punishment or violence. Third is child labor, or labor which is harmful to the health and/or development (mental, moral, physical, spiritual, social) of children. Child labor also conflicts with child victims’ education. An estimated 246 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are involved in child labor.
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