Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Human Trafficking Getting More Attention

As many as 2 millionmen, women and children are tricked, lured or coerced into involuntary servitude every year. While, historically, international law has defined trafficking as the movement of women and girls across borders for the purpose of prostitution, human rights organizations are coming to realize that trafficking in persons is far broader in scope. In addition to forcing young women and girls into prostitution, traffickers also use violence, deception, coercion, or exploitation to keep both men and women in slavery-like conditions. People can be trafficked into abysmal working conditions on farms, in factories, or in domestic households. Children are especially vulnerable to such forms of exploitation, including being forced to work in sweatshops, or as child soldiers.

Asia is a particularly burgeoning market where sex trafficking is concerned. Women are especially victimized in poor countries like Nepal where they have low status and limited employment opportunities. UN agencies estimate that some 200,000 Nepalese women and girls are in sex brothels in India, for example. While there are heated debates over what constitutes voluntary vs. involuntary prostitution, it remains that thousands of women and girls are forced into this business. Countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and Bangladesh are also at the center of the sex trafficking trade.

It is thought that about $7-9.5 billion is made every year from human trafficking. After arms sales and drug dealing, trafficking in persons is the fastest growing criminal industry. Additionally, because there is little risk of prosecution for traffickers themselves, the business continues to thrive. Some governments are starting to impose stricter penalties on those caught for trafficking, but, from the trafficker's perspective, the gains to be made still far outweigh the risks.


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