10 Things You Need to Know About Human Trafficking

by World Vision Church Team on July 6, 2015


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Dramatic images of women being trafficked into brothels and children trafficked into the commercial sex industry where foreign men prey on their vulnerabilities may have grabbed the world’s attention. But the true picture of trafficking in South East Asia is more subtle, more hidden and less understood. Here are 10 things you need to know about human trafficking.

1. Girls are trafficked into many industries besides brothels
Because of its sensational and heartbreaking exploitation, the selling of underage girls into brothels is the main trafficking story covered by media. It is a fact that women and girls are being trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation but it is also a fact that many women and girls are trafficked for other purposes. In fact, the majority of trafficking of girls and women takes place for purposes other than for sexual exploitation. Forced labour and slavery-like practices in workplaces including factories, private homes, fisheries and agricultural plantations across the region make it possible for these industries to remain profitable.

2. Trafficking is visible; trafficking is accepted​
The lines of exploitation are so blurred between child labour, migrant labour, exploitative labour, illegal labour and trafficking, that it can be easy to lose sight of the issue at hand.

3. Dirty jobs fuel trafficking demand
It is essential to understand trafficking within the framework of migration and movement. Worldwide, labour known as “3D” – dirty, dangerous and degrading – attracts people who are desperate for work. And it is this desperation that feeds the trafficking industry.

4. People smuggling is not considered trafficking​
The definition of trafficking is surrounded by misconceptions and misunderstandings. The assumption that most trafficking victims are kidnapped and moved across borders for exploitation does not portray a true image of the dynamics of trafficking in the Greater Mekong Subregion. In fact, most trafficking takes place within the framework of migration, where the trafficker/facilitator has initial consent from the victim. Once the victim is coerced or tricked into exploitative labour or the denial of their rights, trafficking has occurred.

5. Trafficking victims most often “rescue” themselves
Victims of trafficking are often portrayed as powerless people who are incapable of changing their situation. However, many of them do challenge or escape their captivity, prosecute or speak out against their traffickers, and find the strength to move forward in freedom and confidence. Some even overcome the trauma of their exploitation and stand up publicly. These survivors of trafficking make powerful advocates, raising awareness and action on the issue.

6. Adoption is still a trafficking risk
Amidst unconfirmed reports of the sensational and sinister - babies adopted by brothels or trafficked into organ donation - “baby- snatching” into the homes of childless couples is still a trafficking reality. Where people live in poor, drug-affected, violent or transient communities, traffickers can easily prey on new-borns. Children of rape victims or sex workers are particularly vulnerable to forced adoption. Some families choose to sell one child in order to provide for the other children.

7. As many as 1 in 5 trafficking survivors fall prey a second time
One reason for this is weak social integration after being trafficked. When a trafficking victim returns home, either through official channels or their own initiative, life can be even worse than when they left. For most trafficking victims, the reason for leaving home in the first place still exists – the sense that they are responsible for the fortunes of their families.

8. Boys and men are trafficked too
The vulnerabilities of men and boys have rarely been addressed in past anti-trafficking efforts. The misconception has been that men are in control of their migration while women and children are trafficked. Little is known about the patterns of trafficking that affect men. Because they have not been able to claim trafficking status until recently, they do not figure in statistics of returned trafficked victims.The figure often quoted of an estimated 800,000 trafficked victims worldwide include only around 20% males.

9. Disability is attractive to traffickers
The very factors that challenge people living with disabilities to take an active role in their communities are the same ones that make them attractive to traffickers. People with disabilities are often worth less to their community and potentially more to traffickers, especially in the begging industry or in brothels. Their lack of participation or perceived value to the family, or even in some cultures a sense of shame or embarrassment to have a disability in the family, means that families may even seek out traffickers to relieve themselves of responsibility.

10. There is no one profile of a trafficker
The profiles of the traffickers are hard to detect and analyse. They often involve people who know the victims well enough to invite trust. In Vietnam UNICEF found that 41% of child sex workers are introduced to the commercial sex trade by a friend or acquaintance.

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