Children are trafficked for forced labour, domestic work, as child soldiers, as camel jockeys, for begging, work on construction sites and plantations but most children are trafficked for sexual exploitation. And girls trafficked for forced labor and domestic work often end up sexually exploited by their employers. The vulnerability of these children is even greater when they arrive in another country. Often they do not have contact with their families and are at the mercy of their employers.
In 2006, the US State Department reported that one million children are exploited in the global sex trade. Sex tourists, seeking anonymity and impunity in foreign lands, exploit many of these children in child sex tourism.
Child trafficking can occur when children are abducted from the streets, sold into sexual slavery and forced marriage by relatives, or in any place where traffickers, pimps and recruiters prey upon a child's vulnerabilities. Poverty is the pre-condition that makes it easier for traffickers to operate.
The greatest factor in promoting child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation is the demand for younger and younger victims worldwide. This demand comes from the mostly male buyers who become the customers in the growing global sex industry.
Children are often trafficked, employed and exploited because, compared to adults, they are more vulnerable, cheaper to hire and are less likely to demand higher wages or better working conditions. Some employers falsely argue that children are particularly suited to certain types of work because of their small size and "nimble fingers".
Trafficking for sexual exploitation
Poverty, gender-based discrimination and a history of sexual and physical violence are all factors that can make women and children vulnerable to traffickers. Some are abducted and sold, some are deceived into consenting by the promise of a better life or a better job, and some feel that entrusting themselves to traffickers is the only economically viable option. Once trapped, they are held and exploited in slavery-like conditions.
Regardless of the route of entry, most women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation suffer extreme violations of their human rights, including the right to liberty, the right to dignity and security of person, the right not to be held in slavery or involuntary servitude, the right to be free from cruel and inhumane treatment, the right to be free from violence, and the right to health.
In many parts of the world, human trafficking is a high-profit and low-risk endeavor for the traffickers. Traffickers use several means to prevent victims from escaping. These may range from physical restraint in the form of locks and guards, physical or psychological violence, drugging or by instilling a fear of the police, making the victims believe that they are the offenders.
The trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation, also results in a negative impact on the health and well being of victims, which could be long term and ultimately life-threatening.
Further, human trafficking prevents victims from attaining physical, mental and social well-being. During the process of being trafficked itself, there are several difficult situations, which pose health hazards like drowning, freezing or suffocating. Victims' health is further endangered in situations of sexual exploitation. Available data suggest several areas of concern:
Violence: The consequences of psychological, physical and sexual violence associated with trafficking and sexual exploitation include depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts, and physical injuries such as bruises, broken bones, head wounds, stab wounds, mouth and teeth injuries, and even death.
Reproductive Health: Involvement in the sex industry is associated with an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections including HIV. Pregnancy and forced or unsafe abortions are primary health concerns, exacerbated by lack of access to health care.
Access to Health Care: Fear of detection and deportation can leave undocumented women reluctant to access social services. In situations of debt bondage, women may not be able to pay for care. Those forcibly kept in brothels may not be allowed to leave to seek health care. Because their access to care is so restricted, trafficking victims are at high risk of complications arising from undiagnosed and untreated infections, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pelvic pain, pregnancy and sterility.
Substance Abuse: Many women and children in the sex industry use drugs and/or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Both voluntary and forced use commonly leads to addiction and its attendant health consequences.
Trafficking for Forced Labour
The movement of people for the purpose of forced labour and services usually involves an agent or recruiter, a transporter, and a final employer, who will derive a profit from the exploitation of the trafficked person. In some cases, the same person carries out all these trafficking activities. With increased possibilities for travelling and telecommunications, and with a growing demand for cheap labour in the developed world on the one hand, and increasingly restrictive visa regulations on the other, possible channels for legal labour migration have diminished. Private recruitment agencies, intermediaries and employers may take advantage of this situation and lure potential migrants into exploitative employment.
Not only is the journey hazardous for the victims, but upon reaching their destination they are subject to low paying menial work which is often degrading and work that they have to undertake in conditions close to slavery and bondage.
Trafficking for Forced Labour: Bonded Labour
One form of force or coercion is the use of a bond, or debt, to keep a person in subjugation. This is referred to in law and policy as "bonded labour" or "debt bondage." It is included as a form of exploitation related to trafficking in the United Nations protocol on trafficking in persons. Many workers around the world fall victim to debt bondage when they assume an initial debt as part of the terms of employment, or inherent debt in more traditional systems of bonded labor. In South Asia, this phenomenon exists in huge numbers as traditional bonded labor in which people are enslaved from generation to generation.
Trafficking for Forced Labour: Involuntary Servitude
People become trapped in involuntary servitude when they believe an attempted escape from their conditions would result in serious physical harm or the use of legal coercion, such as the threat of deportation. Victims are often economic migrants and low-skilled laborers who are trafficked from less developed communities to more prosperous and developed places. Many victims experience physical and verbal abuse, breach of an employment contract, and may perceive themselves to be in captivity- as often they are.
Trafficking for Forced Labour: Domestic Servitude
Domestic workers may be trapped in servitude through the use of force or coercion, such as physical (including sexual) or emotional abuse. Children are particularly vulnerable to domestic servitude which occurs in private homes, and is often unregulated by public authorities. For example, there is great demand in some wealthier countries of Asia and the Persian Gulf for domestic servants who sometimes fall victim to conditions of involuntary servitude.
Trafficking for Forced Labour: Child Labour
Most international organizations and national laws indicate that children may legally engage in light work. By contrast, the worst forms of child labour are being targeted for eradication by nations across the globe. The sale and trafficking of children and their entrapment in bonded and forced labor are particularly hazardous types of child labor. Forced conscription into armed conflict is another brutal practice affecting children, as armed militias recruit some children by kidnapping, threat, and the promise of survival in war-ravaged areas.
Victims of trafficking for forced labour lose their freedom, becoming modern-day slaves. They usually experience permanent physical and psychological harm, isolation from families and communities, reduced opportunities for personal development, and restricted movement. Victims are often wary of law enforcement and psychologically dependent on their traffickers. Child victims are denied educational access, which reinforces the cycle of poverty and illiteracy.
Trafficking for Organ Trade
While it is commonly believed that trafficking only takes places for commercial sexual exploitation or for forced labour, trafficking in fact takes many forms such as trafficking for forced marriage and trafficking for organ trade among others.
Trafficking in organs is a crime that occurs in three broad categories. Firstly, there are cases where traffickers force or deceive the victims into giving up an organ. Secondly, there are cases where victims formally or informally agree to sell an organ and are cheated because they are not paid for the organ or are paid less than the promised price. Thirdly, vulnerable persons are treated for an ailment, which may or may not exist and thereupon organs are removed without the victim's knowledge. The vulnerable categories of persons include migrants, especially migrant workers, homeless persons, illiterate persons, etc. It is known that trafficking for organ trade could occur with persons of any age. Organs which are commonly traded are kidneys, liver and the like; any organ which can be removed and used, could be the subject of such illegal trade.
Trafficking in organ trade is an organized crime, involving a host of offenders. The recruiter who identifies the vulnerable person, the transporter, the staff of the hospital/ clinic and other medical centres, the medical professionals, the middlemen and contractors, the buyers, the banks where organs are stored are all involved in the racket. It is a fact that the entire racket is rarely exposed and therefore, the dimensions are yet to be appropriately fathomed.
Human Trafficking and HIV/AIDS
With approximately 40 million people living with HIV globally, there is an immediate need to address the causes that heighten the vulnerability of women and girls to trafficking and HIV. The twin problems of trafficking and HIV are influenced by the same set of factors - such as poverty, discrimination and unsafe mobility, especially in the context of gender and human rights.
Vulnerability: Though there is not necessarily a direct causal correlation between trafficking and HIV/AIDS always and everywhere, once a person is trafficked they generally face a new and powerless situation in an alien environment which increases their vulnerability HIV/AIDS.
Being female: The susceptibility of a trafficked woman to HIV/AIDS is certainly higher than that of a person who engages in sex work out of choice. The reason is this. In addition to being exposed to forced and unsafe sex with multiple partners, victims may be injected with drugs to increase their compliance, or they may choose to inject drugs as a coping mechanism. Victims may also receive medical and/or surgical treatment which may have included forced or voluntary pregnancy terminations, in unsanitary conditions, by unqualified practitioners, using contaminated instruments and/or unscreened blood supplies. There is therefore a risk of trafficking victims becoming vectors of HIV - as they drift back into their communities or move onwards to a new destination - without knowing their HIV status. Women who are living with HIV have less access to health care as compared with men. They generally also have less free time to access whatever facilities are available. They tend to have less money at their disposal and cannot afford medical care. The clandestine status of trafficking victims, makes them invisible and further reduces their access to health services, particularly those that focus on HIV/AIDS.
Most victims of human trafficking are poorly educated. Their knowledge of HIV risk factors is therefore likely to be low. With the exception of the very young, most victims of trafficking for the purpose of forced labour are of an age grouping which is likely to be engaging in sexual behaviours and/or experimenting with drug use, exposing them to HIV infection through these routes.
Evidence base: Until recently, there was lack of scientific evidence that validate a clear linkage between HIV and human trafficking. Though this recent research is starting to demonstrate conclusively that forcing trafficking victims into unprotected sexual acts with multiple partners is a significant factor in the spread of HIV, there is still a need to strengthen the evidence base.
Tackling the twin issues: It has been recognized that both HIV/AIDS and trafficking are development issues. They require an integrated response to reduce the dual vulnerabilities of women and girls. Although much is being done to address the issues of HIV and trafficking, there are still no integrated approaches that view the linkages between the two issues.
While every effort to prevent human trafficking should be supported, regrettably the crime is likely to continue for at least the short to medium term. And that means, we will continue to have people vulnerable to human trafficking who are put at increased risk of HIV. This in turn means that we need to be able to provide timely HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services to people vulnerable to human trafficking.
People who are trafficked are at an increased risk of contracting HIV. This is why it is important to stop human trafficking. At the same time, the increased risk of HIV infection as a result of human trafficking should be minimized at all stages during the process of human trafficking (e.g., pre-departure, transit, arrival, exploitation, identification, rehabilitation repatriation, reintegration). It is imperative, therefore that these factors be borne in mind, while developing a comprehensive response to address Trafficking and HIV/ AIDS.