One of today’s biggest human rights crises is the international trafficking of women and girls (and, to a lesser extent, boys) into sex slavery. Human trafficking is the third largest criminal industry in the world, outranked only by arms and drug dealing. The United Nations estimates that trafficking in persons generates $7 to $10 billion annually for traffickers.
How Does Human Trafficking Take Place?
Traffickers acquire their victims primarily from developing countries where poverty is rampant, commonly through some means of force or deception. Victims are typically very young, most ranging in age from eight to 18 years old. Some are as young as four or five years old. A common scenario involves a poor Asian or Eastern European girl who is offered a “better life” as a housemaid, restaurant server or dancer in a wealthy country such as the United States, Great Britain, or Italy. When she arrives at her destination, her passport is taken away, she is physically and sexually abused, and she is forced into prostitution in a country where she neither speaks the language nor has any friends, relatives or means of support. She is forced to service 8-15 clients a day and does not receive any pay. Rather, the money is used to pay off her “debt” to the trafficker and brothel owners for transportation, food, lodging and so on. After some period of time, she will be resold to another brothel owner, often in another country, and the cycle will continue all over again. She is likely to acquire HIV/AIDS, and to pass it on to her clients and their wives, all around the world. She has a greater chance than most of dying early, and is certain to live a horrible existence in whatever short years she has. Even if she is eventually rescued and repatriated to her country and community, she is likely to be ostracized as a result of her involvement in prostitution.
Government and police corruption, primarily in under-developed countries, play a large role in the perpetuation of the sex slave industry, with blind-eyes being turned toward openly active brothels and payoffs being accepted by those officials charged with the enforcement of national and international laws prohibiting trafficking, prostitution and child sexual exploitation.