Human Trafficking and Slavery

October 16, 2012 – Volume 6, Issue 20
Are governments doing enough to eradicate the illicit trade? By Robert Kiener


Wang Bangyin sobs as he hugs his son (AFP/Getty Images/STR)
Wang Bangyin sobs as he hugs his son, one of 60 children rescued from human traffickers in Guiyang in southwest China. Last year Chinese police rescued more than 15,000 abducted women and 8,660 children from 3,200 human trafficking gangs. China's thriving black market in stolen children stems in part from its strict one-child policy. The trafficked women and children usually are exploited for labor or the sex trade. (AFP/Getty Images/STR)

Long hidden and often denied, the global epidemic of human trafficking and slavery is finally being exposed on the world stage. A five-year-old chained to a rug loom in India, a domestic servant enslaved and beaten in the Middle East and sex slaves trafficked within the United States are among the 21 million men, women and children held in some form of bonded labor, slavery or forced prostitution around the world today. With millions of vulnerable victims being trafficked across international borders, this inhuman crime racks up more than $32 billion in profits each year. As nations seek effective ways to combat what President Barack Obama recently called “a debasement of our common humanity,” some experts say legalizing prostitution and some forms of child labor might remove financial incentives for the illicit trade. While some nations have cracked down on traffickers, resulting in increased prosecutions and convictions, many more need to join the fight, according to activists, who say the biggest obstacle to halting the trade in human beings is the lack of political will.

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As Walusungu Msondo and some friends were fishing near their village in the impoverished Southeast African country of Malawi, some strangers approached and offered them lucrative jobs. For 10-year-old Msondo, the offer was too good to refuse.

“They coaxed us with some money and told us that they had well-paying jobs for us in Tanzania,” he remembers.1

Some of the boys backed out when the men warned them not to tell their parents about the job offers, but Msondo left with the men. After arriving in Tanzania, however, he realized he had made a big mistake. Surrounded by other children lured by the job offer, he learned he would have to fish for nine hours a day in crocodile-infested Lake Lukwa to earn less than 25 cents. When he asked to leave, the men refused. With no one to come to his aid, Msondo had become a slave, dependent on his traffickers for survival.

The traffickers held Msondo for 10 months. During that time, some children died from malnutrition or cholera; others were killed by crocodiles. Finally, without having been paid, Msondo and some other abducted children were driven to the Malawi border and abandoned. He eventually made his way back home.

Msondo is one of the lucky ones. The U.S. State Department has identified Malawi as “a source country for men, women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.”2 Each year more than 5,000 women and children are trafficked from Malawi for sex exploitation abroad.3

Children denounce child trafficking (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Children denounce child trafficking during a march in New Delhi, India, on March 22, 2007. According to the U.S. State Department, nearly 450,000 children were trafficked for labor in India in the past three years, but only 25,000 cases were prosecuted. The United States has urged India to pass a comprehensive anti-trafficking law and boost convictions, which reportedly are often blocked by “official complicity.” (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Although slavery was banned worldwide more than a century ago, millions of people are still victims every year. “People think slavery ended years ago,” says Cambodian human rights activist Somaly Mam, winner of the department's “Heroes of Anti-Trafficking” award for her work in the field. “However, they are amazed to discover that slavery and trafficking exist today and are flourishing in countries all around the world.”

Even the United States is not immune. The government estimates that up to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year. And prosecutions are on the rise: In 2011 prosecutors filed 118 cases against traffickers in the United States — up 19 percent over 2010 and the most ever charged in a single year.4

In a powerful speech in September at the Clinton Global Initiative detailing his administration's new anti-trafficking program, President Obama called the crime “a debasement of our common humanity.” He continued, “I'm talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.”5

Slavery is defined as one person completely controlling another person, through violence or intimidation, and exploiting them without payment. “Slavery implies ownership,” says Susu Thatun, a child protection specialist at UNICEF, the U.N. agency that oversees child welfare. Human trafficking, on the other hand, is the process of transporting someone for the purposes of enslaving them against their will. “Trafficking is about exploitation of others, not necessarily ownership.”

“We often describe trafficking as ‘compelled service,’” says Mary Ellison, director of public policy for the Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking organization in Washington, D.C.6

Finding reliable statistics on human trafficking is difficult. “Given the hidden, criminal nature of trafficking, it's difficult to get precise numbers,” explains Louise Shelley, author of the 2010 book Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective and an expert on transnational crime at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va.

Like Msondo, many modern slaves were lured to other countries with promises of a better life, only to find themselves forced into hard labor or prostitution. According to the U.N.'s International Labor Organization (ILO), 21 million victims of forced labor currently are “trapped in jobs into which they were coerced or deceived into and which they cannot leave.”7 More than half of them — 56 percent — are in Asia, 18 percent are in Africa and 9 percent are in Latin America.8 However, developed countries are not immune: There are 1.5 million forced laborers and sex slaves in the European Union, the United States, Canada and other developed Western economies.9

Slavery and Human Trafficking Trap 21 Million Victims

Besides those who are promised a job, other victims are kidnapped — and not just in the developing world. Homeless men reportedly have been abducted from U.K. streets and forced to work in Europe.10 A staggering 2.5 million people — most of them children — have been kidnapped or forcibly conscripted into government or rebel military forces around the world.11

Many of today's slavery victims are bonded laborers: forced to work off their own or their relatives' debts. “In countries such as India, Nepal and Pakistan there are entire families kept like cattle, supposedly paying off their debts,” says Paul Donohoe, spokesman for the London-based human rights group Anti-Slavery International. Although international law bans bonded labor, millions of laborers are working off debts across the globe.

Despite growing international awareness of the problem, increasing numbers of people are falling prey to what U.N. General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser recently called “an appalling form of human rights abuse.”12

Recent examples of rescued victims illustrate the scope of the abuse and exploitation:

  • Siyathon, an 8-year-old in Burma taken by traffickers from his home near the Thai border, was forced to beg and sell flowers in Bangkok. For six months he was paid nothing but was regularly beaten by his captors before being rescued last April by human rights workers and Thai police.13

  • Linda MuyimbaFootnote * was lured from her home in Uganda by the promise of a job as a retail clerk in Asia. Instead, traffickers confiscated her passport and forced her into prostitution. She became pregnant, miscarried and contracted HIV. “I just wanted to get some money,” she explained. “I never imagined this would happen.”14

  • Pakistani father Muhammad Ahsan “gave” his son, Sajjad, to his employer to pay off a $1,176 debt. The 10-year-old now works as a domestic in the employer's Lahore home, washing dishes and cleaning floors. “I am ashamed because I have in fact ‘sold’ my son,” said the father, “and ended his schooling to do so.”15

Human trafficking is booming, with an estimated $32 billion a year in profits, according to the ILO.16 “It's been growing dramatically since the mid-1980s, thanks to factors like the ending of the Cold War, disappearing borders, globalization, deteriorating economies and the growth of international crime syndicates,” explains Shelley.

Profits are high because expenses are so low. The potential supply of slave labor is massive — and cheap. The average annual cost of capturing, transporting and supporting a slave in the American South in 1850 was about $40,000 in today's money; today, a slave costs an average of $90 a year.17 Because of the abundant supply, traffickers do not spend a lot of money on their maintenance. If a slave gets sick or injured, outlives his usefulness or becomes troublesome, he may be “dumped or killed,” according to the Washington, D.C.-based group, Free the Slaves.

Forced Labor Most Prevalent in Asia

As the problem has grown, the world has responded by adopting several treaties against slavery and human trafficking. The United Nations adopted an international treaty banning trafficking in 2000, and the United States' Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), also passed in 2000, mandates the cutoff of nonhumanitarian aid for nations that do not adequately address trafficking. Other countries have adopted similar anti-trafficking laws, using the U.N. treaty as a framework.18

But, as many observers have noted, the number of successful prosecutions has been disappointing. “This is the only category of serious crime treated with such leniency by the courts worldwide,” said Shelley.19 Others, such as TVPA co-author Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., say existing laws are sufficient but are not being enforced properly.

As experts debate how to stem a growing illicit trade that touches every corner of the globe, here are some of the questions being asked:

Are anti-trafficking laws tough enough?

While experts may differ on the effectiveness of today's anti-trafficking legislation, they all agree there are more laws on the books now than ever before.

Various forms of anti-trafficking legislation were passed in the late 20th century, including the 2000 Trafficking in Persons Protocol. Commonly known as the “Palermo Protocol,” it was the first international legal instrument to define and criminalize trafficking. Unlike many other U.N. treaties, the protocol was created as a law enforcement treaty; parties that signed it were required to create domestic penalties for human trafficking. So far 117 countries have signed the treaty, but only 64 have outlawed all forms of human trafficking.20

When the U.S. Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, it targeted both domestic and international trafficking and established the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. During his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative, Obama announced a new initiative to boost federal prosecutions and convictions of traffickers.21

Besides the 64 countries that have passed anti-trafficking laws, 49 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have followed suit.22 And in 2008 the Council of Europe's Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings went into effect. “This domestic and international legislation is a testament to the growing awareness of human trafficking,” says the Polaris Project's Ellison.

But with trafficking on the rise, many are asking whether the laws are tough enough. “The short answer is no,” says George Mason University's Shelley. “Penalties need to be harsher and existing laws need to be better enforced. Given the size of the problem, there are almost no cases. And traffickers are often given minimal sentences because of corruption. There is a lack of political will to get tougher.”

Activists in Europe complain that traffickers have “working relationships” with the police.23 “We have had cases of police officers being complicit in the trafficking themselves,” said Petya Nesporva, an expert on human trafficking at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.24

“Other than the meager chance of being caught, there is almost no real risk to being a sex trafficker, because of the anemic penalties prescribed in the law,” said Siddharth Kara, a fellow on human trafficking at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. For example, as Kara noted, in India there is no financial penalty for sex slavery; Italy and Thailand also have no financial penalties for sex trafficking.25

Some experts suggest that laws should target traffickers' bank accounts. “Too often trafficking is seen as a high-profit, low-risk crime. One way to change that is allow traffickers' assets to be confiscated and turned over to their victims,” says Anti-Slavery International's Donohoe.

Kara calls for drastically increasing trafficking penalties. For instance, he said, the financial penalty for drug trafficking in India is “one hundred times more severe than the current fine for sex trafficking.” To abolish trafficking, he wrote, the global community must be pressured to increase the financial penalties of human slavery “to a level at least equal to that of drug trafficking.”26

As part of its ongoing worldwide investigation of anti-trafficking efforts required under the TVPA, the U.S. State Department issues annual (so-called “naming and shaming”) reports on nations with weak, anti-trafficking legislation. In its most recent report, for instance, the State Department criticized India — where traffickers snatch tens of thousands of children a year — for its low conviction rate.27

More Than Half the Victims Are Female

“Nearly 450,000 cases of children trafficked for labor were reported in the past three years, but prosecutions were launched in just 25,000 of those cases, and 3,394 employers were convicted,” according to The Washington Post. 28 The report urged India to pass a comprehensive anti-trafficking law and boost convictions, which it said are often blocked by alleged “official complicity.”29 Other critics point out that India's Immoral Trafficking of People Act fails even to define trafficking and that both citizens and legislators lack the will to halt the practice.30

Other countries need to strengthen their anti-trafficking laws as well. Libya, Sudan, Algeria, Syria, Cuba and North Korea are among the 17 countries the State Department has blacklisted as “Tier Three” nations — those doing little or nothing to combat trafficking. Under the TVPA, the United States may withhold or withdraw nonhumanitarian, non-trade-related foreign aid.

Critics say the TVPA, now awaiting congressional reauthorization, needs beefing up. For example, the United States critiques itself in the TVPA's annual report. “It's simply not ethical to rate yourself,” says Norma Ramos, executive director of the New York-based Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW). “You need an impartial third party.”

Some believe the TVPA annual report treats allies too kindly. “It upgraded India [a tier on the TIP report], and that makes no sense at all,” says Ramos. “India still has a huge sex trafficking industry, including open-air slave markets!”

Shelley agrees. “All countries are not treated equally in the report,” she says. “It is still soft on some countries, such as the Gulf States.”

TVPA sponsor Smith recently attacked the Obama administration as “unconscionable” for declining to invoke sanctions against several countries, such as Algeria, Kuwait and Yemen that were doing little to control human trafficking as mandated by the TVPA. “It's time to get serious with countries that enable or are complicit with human trafficking,” he said.31

The Polaris Project's Ellison acknowledges that while there may be shortcomings in the State Department's annual rankings, the report “has shone a light on the problem of human trafficking.” In addition, she says, nongovernmental organizations often understand there may be gaps in TVPA reporting for political reasons, but they can then use what has been reported as a basis for further investigation.

Others say the law and its naming and shaming reports force countries to address trafficking. Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large for the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said the threat of sanctions and loss of foreign aid is “a major motivation” to get countries to comply with at least “the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”32 The possibility of losing substantial U.S. funding is a powerful tool for countries to improve their anti-trafficking efforts.

To increase convictions, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) helps countries develop and strengthen anti-trafficking legislation. Thanks in part to such international assistance, Vietnam now has one of the highest trafficking conviction rates in the world.33

“Prosecutions and convictions are increasing. That is good news,” explains UNICEF's Thatun. “But one person trafficked is one person too many.”

Would legalizing prostitution reduce sex trafficking?

Nearly everyone involved in combating human trafficking and slavery finds prostitution a difficult subject.

“I've never seen so politically explosive a topic,” says Andreas Kotsadam, a postdoctoral fellow at Norway's Oslo University and co-author of a study on prostitution and sex trafficking. “Both sides are ideologically motivated and are quick to ignore any data that doesn't support their arguments.”34

The question of how to treat prostitution is loaded with issues of ethics, morality and politics. “Many use the topic as a political football,” says Anti-Slavery International's Donohoe. “This can undermine the seriousness of the anti-trafficking debate.”

U.N. agencies prefer to let member states decide for themselves whether to legalize prostitution. “It is a very emotional issue, and UNICEF doesn't take a position on prostitution,” says Thatun, the UNICEF child-protection specialist.

Abolitionists say banning prostitution would put traffickers out of business. “Prostitution should be outlawed. Period,” says CATW's Ramos. “It is oppression, it is violence against women and we envision a world free of it.”

Legalizing prostitution, on the other hand, “is like hanging up a ‘Welcome’ sign to traffickers,” she says. “Countries that have done so have seen an increase in demand for prostitution and the amount of sex trafficking it fuels.” Amsterdam saw an increase in the number of trafficked women after it legalized prostitution, she says. She also cites a 2004 U.S. State Department report, which said, “Where prostitution is legalized or tolerated, there is a greater demand for human trafficking victims and nearly always an increase in the number of women and children trafficked into commercial sex slavery.”35

But sex workers and more liberal proponents say legalizing or decriminalizing prostitution would make it easier to prosecute traffickers. Sarah Walker, a sex worker and member of the Prostitutes Collective in London, says, “Continuing to outlaw prostitution merely drives it underground, treats women as victims and does nothing to stem trafficking.”

She and other legalization advocates cite New Zealand, which decriminalized prostitution in 2003 but saw no large, verifiable increase in sex trafficking. And sex trafficking fell in Sweden and Norway, in 1999 and 2009, respectively, after they outlawed procuring sex — but not selling it (charging clients but not the prostitutes).

“Trafficking of persons for commercial sexual exploitation is least prevalent in countries where prostitution is illegal, most prevalent in countries where prostitution is legalized and in between in those countries where prostitution is legal but procuring illegal,” said one study.36

Abolitionists are quick to point out that sex trafficking rose in the Netherlands and Germany after those countries legalized prostitution, but abolition opponents claim the higher numbers reflect more efficient prosecutions rather than an increase in trafficking.

“The likely explanation for the increase is the intensification of investigations by the police and the public prosecution service, as well as the growing attention to human trafficking,” a government report in the Netherlands noted. “It is also possible that there is greater awareness … of the need to report victims of human trafficking.”37

“The problem here lies in the clandestine nature of both the prostitution and trafficking markets, making it difficult, perhaps impossible, to find hard evidence establishing [a] relationship” between legalizing prostitution and increased trafficking, economists Seo-Young Cho, Axel Dreher and Eric Neumayer write in a recent study.38

In Sweden outlawing the procurement of sex reportedly has cut down on trafficking. “The prohibition against the purchase of a sexual service has had a direct effect on trafficking in human beings,” reported Kajsa Wahlberg, the country's National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings. “Victims of human trafficking for sexual purposes have told the police that traffickers and procurers talk about Sweden as a bad market for prostitution activities.”39

But looking deeper, Sweden's success looks less certain. “The picture that advocates of the Swedish model are painting outside of Sweden is clearly very different [from] the reality inside Sweden,” points out Wendy Lyon, a blogger and human rights activist in Ireland. “Furthermore, the Swedes don't seem unaware that they still have significant issues with prostitution and sex trafficking — they just don't want the rest of the world to know about it.”40 For instance, she noted, a Swedish county police commissioner recently claimed that sex trafficking in Sweden was “a business with huge income and little risk.”41

Should all forms of child labor be outlawed?

As he crouches down to scrub a dirty motorbike, 6-year-old Nabeel Mukhtar begins to cry. The young Pakistani is forced to work nine hours a day, six days a week instead of attending school. “I want to study and become a doctor,” he says, “but we don't have any money.”42

Nearby, his mother Shazia explains, “From the bottom of my heart I want to send my son to school, but we have so many expenses…. We struggle to put food on the table.”43

Despite international and national laws prohibiting most child labor, 215 million children, ages 5-17, are working illegally around the world.Footnote * Illegal child labor is defined as work a child is forced to do that prevents them from being educated or endangers them. And more than half of the world's child laborers are engaged in hazardous work, such as mining, waste-picking or other jobs that expose children to dangerous solvents or explosives.44

Experts say child labor abuses are directly linked to trafficking and slavery. Because children are not able to resist, most child labor is considered coerced, according to child welfare specialists. “Children rarely have a say when it comes to working, and their conditions can be slave-like,” says UNICEF's Thatun.

Children are regularly sold by their parents or are kidnapped by traffickers to work as virtual slaves for little or no pay. In addition, thousands of child soldiers have been forced to fight in civil wars.45

While most people agree that forced or bonded labor should be illegal for children, some people question whether children shouldn't be allowed to work in certain circumstances. In impoverished countries where children must contribute to their family's income, child labor is a “necessary evil,” say parents and government officials in developing countries.

“Working children are essential for survival in many families, as they were in our own heritage until the late 19th century,” explains economist Thomas DeGregori of the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington. “So, while the struggle to end child labor is necessary, getting there often requires taking different routes.”46

For instance, Indian lawmakers have long argued that young children must be allowed to help support their families. Indeed, although India ratified the Rights of the Child Convention in 1992, it declared that the provision would be “progressively implemented” because “it is not practical immediately to prescribe minimum ages for admission to each and every area of employment in India.”47 Thus, after years of falling below international guidelines on child labor, India is just now addressing the problem. Parliament is considering a law banning the employment of all children under 14 and 14- to 18-year olds in hazardous occupations.48

Only 80 Countries Have Laws Combating Trafficking

According to child rights activists, India's tougher legislation is long overdue. “Employers preferred children, as they could be paid less, made to work longer hours and beaten into submission,” explained Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, co-director of the New Delhi-based HAQ: Centre for Child Rights. “The only way to address child labour and poverty was to ensure that child labour was banned.”49

But Canadian professors Sylvain Dessy and Stephane Pallage say banning the “worst forms” of child labor — such as drug trafficking, working in rock quarries or deep sea fishing — would lead to an overall drop in children's wages because more children would be available for the non-hazardous jobs, thus increasing poverty in developing nations. “The market for the worst forms of child labor helps to keep wages for the ‘good’ forms of child labor sufficiently high to help poor families finance their children's education,” they wrote.50 In Bolivia a union of young workers successfully lobbied the government to drop a proposed ban on all forms of child labor — which members feared would cost them much-needed jobs and income — for a less restrictive ban on forced and exploitative labor.51

Banning all child work can have negative consequences. When the United States suggested banning textile imports produced in Bangladesh by child labor, 500,000 children lost their garment factory jobs, and, according to DeGregori, many were forced into “prostitution and other dangerous behavior.”52

Stung by the international criticism, Bangladesh in 2006 banned children from working in the textile factories but did nothing to ban child labor or abuses in other industries.

As with child trafficking and slavery, lack of enforcement exacerbates the child labor problem. For instance, in the West African country of Guinea, a law banning employment for anyone under 16 has had little effect, according to a recent report. Children as young as 5 reportedly are working in dangerous farming, mining and fishing jobs. “Guinea is good at developing laws, but applying them still poses some problems,” said Gregoire Tonguino, an official with Guinea's Ministry of Children and the Family. Few child protection experts even know about the nation's child labor laws, he said.53

Child labor also keeps children from being educated, handicapping future generations and depriving societies of economic growth and development. “Until more governments introduce stricter child labor laws and give children back their lives, these children — and the children they will someday have — will be doomed,” says Cambodian human rights activist Mam. “There is a direct link between child labor, slavery and trafficking.”

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*Not her real name.

*Child labor is forbidden by the 1973 International Labour Organization's Convention No. 138 on the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment and the 1990 Convention of the Rights of the Child.


Ancient Practice

Slavery is nearly as old as human civilization, historians say. Indeed, some even say it existed in prehistoric hunting societies.54 Slavery certainly existed in ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia and ancient Greece, China, India, Africa and pre-Columbian America.55 The first recorded mention of slavery is in a law found in the Sumerian Code of Ur-Nammu, a tablet from around 2000 B.C.56

The later Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (1760 B.C.) contained numerous edicts on owning slaves, such as:

  • “If any one take a male or female slave of the court, or a male or female slave of a freed man, outside the city gates, he shall be put to death.”

  • “If any one find runaway male or female slaves in the open country and bring them to their masters, the master of the slaves shall pay him two shekels of silver.”57

In ancient societies slaves most often were taken as war booty. Others were abducted by pirates. Criminals were sometimes sentenced to slavery, as were delinquent debtors. Slaves usually worked as farm laborers or domestic servants. And, while slavery was accepted through much of the ancient world, the Essenes and Therapeutae — two early Jewish sects — forbade it.58

Slaves were a part of everyday life in ancient Greece, as early as the seventh century B.C., working jobs such as domestic servants, mineworkers, shopkeepers and ship's crew members. Sparta and Athens owed much of their success to slave labor. Historian Ursula Cliff wrote: “Slave labour allowed the citizens of Athens and Sparta to focus on the aspects of life they thought important, whether that be developing a grand system of government and culture or creating a military society to rival that of anywhere in the ancient world.”59

In the fifth century B.C., slaves made up more than a third of the population of Athens, and many households had several slaves.60 Slaves in Athens were generally treated better than elsewhere in Greece, and some could even earn their freedom. In Sparta, slaves were owned by the state and outnumbered their masters by about 10 to one.61

In ancient Rome, slaves performed a wide range of skilled and unskilled duties. As the Roman Empire expanded, conquered peoples were often enslaved. Many were common laborers, but some became teachers or even physicians.

Treatment was often brutal. Many who tried to escape were branded “FGV,” Latin for fugitivus or “fugitive.” Many mineworkers were whipped to make them work harder, farm workers often worked in chain gangs; others were made to work as prostitutes and sex slaves. Most infamously, some were forced to become gladiators, fighting wild animals, or one another, to the death for the amusement of Roman audiences.

Slave revolts, such as the uprising led by the slave-gladiator Spartacus in the first century B.C., were punished brutally, often by crucifixion. Indeed, after the Third Servile War, led by Spartacus in 73 B.C., more than 6,000 slaves were crucified along Rome's Appian Way.62

Although treatment was generally harsh in Rome, slaves — unlike in Greece — could earn their freedom. After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century A.D., slaves were more commonly used as household servants, office workers and soldiers than as gang laborers. Many were tied to a local lord's land and became serfs, dependent on their owners for their livelihood and survival.

Arabs were active in the slave trade, transporting millions of Africans, Europeans and Asians across the Mediterranean and northern Africa. Religion was no barrier: Muslims, Christians and Jews widely accepted slavery. However, the Catholic Church did not oppose slavery until Christians were being enslaved by what the church termed “infidels.”63 In 1488 Pope Innocent VII accepted 100 slaves as a gift from King Ferdinand of Aragon and offered them to some of his cardinals.64

Slavery flourished during the Middle Ages. The Vikings raided Britain and abducted slaves that they sold as far afield as Istanbul. In the 10th century, as the Germanic tribes expanded eastward, they captured so many Slavs that their name gave rise to the term “slave.”65 Slavery also existed in the Americas; North American Indians, Aztecs, Mayans and Incas all used slave labor.

Slave Trade Expands

The age of international exploration, expansionism and colonialism that began in the 15th century led to a dramatic increase in slavery. As the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English established new colonies, they enslaved indigenous people to work in the mines and harvest sugar, cotton, rubber and tobacco.

Slavery became so entrenched that governments issued laws and edicts regulating the practice. King Louis XIV's Code Noir spelled out slaves' duties and how they should be treated throughout the French Empire. It proclaimed, “We declare slaves as movable property” and dictated punishments such as whipping and branding for minor crimes.66

Disease and poor conditions decimated the ranks of indigenous slaves, however, forcing the colonial powers to turn to Africa. African slaves were prized over their European counterparts because they were heartier, used to working in a tropical climate and resistant to many tropical diseases. They also usually had agricultural experience and expertise in handling livestock.

The Portuguese inaugurated the Atlantic slave trade, one of the earliest examples of mass trafficking in humans, followed by the Spanish. Between the middle of the 16th century and the mid-19th century, more than 10 million Africans were enslaved and shipped across the Atlantic to what is now Brazil, Haiti, Cuba and the Americas.67

Although the Portuguese, Dutch and others took part in the Atlantic slave trade, by the 18th century the British dominated the “triangular trade” in slaves. To ensure maximum return on their investment, ships brought firearms, cotton goods, alcohol and other items from Britain to West Africa, where they were traded for Africans captured in the interior. This human cargo was then transported to the Americas under the most horrendous conditions for the six- to eight-week journey known as the “middle passage.”68

According to a U.N. report: Slaves were “chained together, with scarcely room to turn, traveling for months, seasick, surrounded by the filth of vomit-filled tubs, into which children often fell, some suffocating. The shrieks of the women and the groans of the dying render the whole scene of horror almost inconceivable. Death and disease are all around.”69 About one in six slaves died during the trip.70

Completing the triangle, the ship owners would sell their surviving human cargo in the West and buy rum, sugar, molasses, tobacco and hemp for sale in Europe.

In the 18th century, abolitionists protesting slavery met with widespread opposition from proponents, many of whom — anxious to retain the economic advantage of free labor — argued that the slaves were better off than in their homelands. “We ought to consider whether the negroes in a well-regulated plantation, under the protection of a kind master, do not enjoy as great, nay, even greater advantages then when under their own despotic governments,” Liverpool merchant Michael Renwick Sergent noted in 1778.71

During the European Enlightenment of the latter 18th century, intellectuals and politicians began debating the morality of slavery. In 1774 British Quakers moved to expel any church member involved in the slave trade. In the United States, Massachusetts became the first state to abolish slavery, in 1780. Other Northern states soon did the same.

But Southern slave owners argued that slavery was an economic necessity. In 1787, the Southern states pressured the Constitutional Convention to agree that no law against slavery would be passed for 20 years.

France first abolished slavery in 1789, during the French Revolution, but Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte restored it in the French colonies in 1804, including an unsuccessful attempt to reimpose slavery in its Caribbean colony, Sainte-Domingue, where slaves had begun a revolution in 1791. They later declared their independence from France, effectively ending slavery in the country they renamed Haiti.72

In 1807 the slave trade, but not slavery itself, was outlawed in Britain and its colonies and in the United States. However, there were so many slaves working on American plantations and giving birth to new slaves that the ban on new arrivals did little to reduce slavery.

Elsewhere, slavery was beginning to disappear. Spain's colonies in South America, which gained their independence in the early 1800s, banned slavery. Britain, spurred on by Quakers and abolitionists such as William Wilberforce and John Wesley, banned slavery in 1833. France definitively abolished it in 1848, freeing all the slaves in its colonies. But slavery continued in the American South throughout the 1800s, spurred by a boom in cotton production ushered in by Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin in 1793.

It would take the Civil War to break slavery's hold on the South. In 1863, as the war raged, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in states “in rebellion against the United States.” In 1865, after the war ended, slavery was abolished in all of the United States with passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Spain outlawed slavery in Puerto Rico in 1873 and in Cuba in 1886; Brazil followed suit in 1888.

International Efforts

During the 20th century, several international treaties banned slavery around the globe as well as human trafficking, a relatively recent phenomenon.

Unlike slavery, trafficking was universally illegal. In 1904 The International Agreement for the Suppression of White Slave Traffic was ratified by 12 nations, including the United States. It sought to prevent the abduction of women for prostitution rings — dubbed “the white slave trade” — primarily in Europe and Asia.73

The League of Nations held an international conference in Geneva in 1921 to deal with “white” slavery, which they renamed as the more internationally (and racially) inclusive “trafficking in women and children.” Thirty-three countries signed the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children.74

The League also addressed slavery with its 1926 Slavery Convention, which required signatories to “prevent and suppress the slave trade.”75 Research reports, created as part of the treaty, alerted the world to the growing problem of international trafficking.76

In 1948, the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights held that “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” The next year the U.N.'s Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others became the first legally binding treaty on trafficking. It prescribed procedures for the extradition of alleged traffickers. So far 82 of the world's 192 nations have ratified the convention.77

Until the 1980s, trafficking often was seen as related to prostitution. But a dramatic rise in international trafficking forced the world to broaden its understanding of the more widespread nature of trafficking. Since the mid-1980s, “Trafficking has increased dramatically with globalization, the rise of illicit trade and the end of the Cold War,” writes Shelley, the transnational crime expert. “Human trafficking has flourished in the last two decades, and there is no end in sight.”78

Shelley and other experts cite various reasons for the increase in trafficking: the breakup of the U.S.S.R., which led to floundering Eastern European economies as well as a rise in corruption and an increase in transnational criminal gangs. And, as globalization led to greater demand for goods and improved mobility, international cargo shipments skyrocketed, making human trafficking easier. Likewise, the elimination of border checks in Europe after creation of the European Union in 1993 paved the way for increased trafficking.

Meanwhile, “Human trafficking has gained increased prominence around the world over the past few years as has been evidenced by numerous international conferences and initiatives,” according to Alayksandr Sychov, Belarus' permanent representative to international organizations.79 In 2000 the U.N. passed the Palermo Protocol against trafficking, which expanded on the 1949 convention by defining human trafficking and outlawing all forms, not just prostitution-related trafficking.80

The Palermo Protocol also is notable because, unlike other U.N. treaties, it was created as a law enforcement instrument. In addition to requiring signers to penalize trafficking, it also required them to pass domestic laws that protect victims and offer them temporary or permanent residence.

When it enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, the United States announced that it intended to target both domestic and foreign trafficking. The act, which must be regularly reauthorized by Congress, was allowed to expire in September 2011 and is now awaiting reauthorization.

Pursuant to the law, each year the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking reports on what countries are doing to end the trade, stressing the importance of the “three P's”:81

  • Prosecution: criminalizing trafficking and prosecuting offenders,

  • Protection: identifying and aiding victims and

  • Prevention: raising awareness of the trade.

Because human trafficking is a transnational crime, regional laws play a key role in combating the problem. Besides the U.S. law, the Council of Europe's Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings for the first time aimed to protect trafficked victims in Europe, something many earlier agreements lacked.82 And in 2005 several Asian nations (China, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam) established an initiative, COMMIT, to create anti-trafficking measures to serve as guidelines for each state's local anti-trafficking laws.

International and regional anti-trafficking treaties are only effective if local laws are strong and enforced. Individual countries are responsible for investigating, prosecuting and convicting human traffickers, but the complex nature of the crime makes this difficult. “It is a crime that goes beyond borders and one that is very complex to investigate and prosecute,” says Elaine Panter, director of programs and planning at Georgetown University's Protection Project. Putting together a successful case against a trafficker who operates in several countries and violates laws in each is complicated and costly. “In many countries that have limited resources, it can be difficult to enforce these laws.”

Training is another roadblock. Border guards, police, and federal officers all must be aware of both international and national anti-trafficking laws. To help educate and train anti-trafficking personnel the U.N. in 2007 established the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (GIFT) to coordinate and promote the global fight against trafficking.

“We are still in the early days of legislating and fighting this inhuman traffic,” explains Panter. “There are international treaties and local laws in place, but much more still needs to be done.”

“Human trafficking is a crime of such magnitude and atrocity that it cannot be dealt with successfully by any government alone,” says a description of GIFT's mission. “This global problem requires a global, multi-stakeholder strategy that builds on national efforts throughout the world.”83

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Current Situation

Boosting Enforcement

Slavery still exists worldwide, President Obama said in his dramatic September speech to the Clinton Global Initiative, which made international headlines.

“Now, I do not use that word, ‘slavery’ lightly,” he said. “It evokes obviously one of the most painful chapters in our nation's history. But around the world, there's no denying the awful reality. When a man, desperate for work, finds himself in a factory or on a fishing boat or in a field, working, toiling, for little or no pay, and beaten if he tries to escape — that is slavery. When a woman is locked in a sweatshop, or trapped in a home as a domestic servant, alone and abused and incapable of leaving — that's slavery. When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that's slavery. When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family — girls my daughters' age — runs away from home or is lured by the false promises of a better life and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists — that's slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.”84

For human rights activists Obama's speech was confirmation that trafficking and slavery are finally receiving the attention they deserve. “The president is telling the world that trafficking and slavery are growing problems and that the United States will pursue them. His speech and policy announcements represent a turning point in the fight against human trafficking,” says the Polaris Project's executive director Bradley Myles.

Obama also announced new methods to strengthen the legal fight against traffickers. Many human rights experts believe this will underscore the importance of prosecutions. “It's important to keep pressuring nations to investigate, prosecute and convict these traffickers,” says Slavery International's Donohoe.

Some say recent arrests and convictions suggest the problem is being taken more seriously by governments around the world:

  • China — In 2011 police broke up 3,200 human trafficking gangs and rescued more than 15,000 abducted women and 8,660 children.85 This past June police arrested 802 people on suspicion of child trafficking and recovered 181 children.86 China's trafficking problems stem from its strict one-child policy, which has created a large black market for stolen baby boys, the preferred gender in many Chinese families. Additionally, a critical shortage of baby girls has led to increased trafficking of women and girls to serve as laborers or wives for unwed sons.87

  • Romania — More than 900 human trafficking cases were investigated by police in 2011, up from 717 in 2010, and 480 traffickers were indicted, with more than half convicted. Some were sentenced, for the first time, to more than 10 years in jail.88

  • Nigeria — Police rescued 300 children, ages 10-15, being trafficked inside the country.89 In September Nigeria announced plans to set up anti-trafficking police units in each of its 36 states.90

The global fight against human trafficking and slavery is relatively new and is, as UNICEF's Thatun says, “Just beginning to show results.”

Policing Suppliers

Corporations, concerned that human trafficking, slavery or forced labor may be contaminating their supply chains, have joined the battle against trafficking.

In fact, Obama noted in his September speech that in addition to harming companies' reputations, trafficking “distorts markets” when some companies use unpaid or underpaid “slaves” to manufacture goods.

Companies are taking steps to eliminate the potential for trafficked labor in their operations and supply chains. Iconic companies such as Coca Cola, Exxon-Mobil, Microsoft and Delta Airlines recently formed the Global Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking (gBCAT).91

Nestlé has willingly opened its supply chain to outside inspectors and uncovered child labor abuses. The Fair Labor Association (FLA) recently examined Nestlé's cocoa supply chain in the Ivory Coast and uncovered child laborers harvesting and processing the product. Nestlé not only made the report public but pledged to prevent further abuses. “The use of child labour in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything we stand for. As the FLA report makes clear, no company sourcing cocoa from Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) can guarantee that it doesn't happen, but what we can say is that tackling child labour is a top priority for our company,” said José Lopez, Nestlé's executive vice president for operations.92

Campbell's Soup recently gave suppliers detailed standards they must meet in order to sell produce or other products to the company and announced new measures to “expand training on slavery and human trafficking” for everyone in their supply chain.93

Gap has a code of vendor conduct that bars factories producing Gap products from using involuntary labor of any kind. Other firms, from Microsoft to Best Buy, have similar codes.

But while many companies claim to investigate their supply chains, some have been criticized for “handing off” that responsibility to their suppliers or outside auditors. “Companies have to resist outsourcing ethical responsibility,” says Anti-Slavery International's Donohoe.

“The global business community must invest more resources to ensure they are not facilitating human trafficking,” says George Mason University's Shelley.

Legislators, often influenced by anti-trafficking activists, have begun mandating supply chain inspection. California's recently passed Supply Chain Transparency Act requires companies doing business in the state to disclose how they are ensuring their supply chains are free of trafficked and slave labor. Proponents are pushing for a similar federal law, and in fact the Obama administration recently introduced similar standards for federal contractors.

Cyber Trafficking

Since the invention of the Internet, a sex slave or a child laborer is now only a mouse click away. In the United States and much of the world, the Internet is now the primary platform for traffickers buying and selling women and children for sex.

“The Internet has opened a whole new front in the war with human trafficking — allowing demand to run free without practical obstacles,” said TVPA co-author Smith.94

“Victims trafficked through pimp-controlled sex trafficking, escort services, in-call and out-call services, chat rooms, pornography and brothels disguised as massage parlors are commonly marketed” on websites, according to the Polaris Project.95 “Individuals advertising online for commercial sex are often made to appear that they are working independently, when in fact they are victims of sex trafficking,” Polaris' Ellison says.

Illicit online employment agencies, marriage bureaus and chat rooms have been used to recruit “traffickable” victims. “If you don't think that most of the online dating and foreign bride sites are fronts for prostitution and human trafficking, then you have your head in the sand. Just Google it,” said anti-trafficking activist Kathryn Griffin Townsend, founder of We've Been There, Done That, an organization to rehabilitate women who have been rescued from prostitution.96 She and others say simply Googling “buy foreign women” reveals numerous questionable sites.

Closing these sites has been difficult. After public pressure, some sites, such as Craigslist, have agreed to remove sex-related listings. Others, such as, have refused. The Communications Decency Act protects the owners of websites by absolving them of responsibility for the content of postings by site users. Critics claim closing down these sites, in a “whack-a-mole” fashion, is wrong-headed, because the owners will merely move their sites to another country. They recommend investing in programs to help those most vulnerable to trafficking and cooperating with sites to investigate and remove advertising that promotes trafficking.

Human rights advocates also propose using the Internet and other high-tech tools to combat traffickers. In his speech on trafficking, Obama said the State Department is using technology, such as the website, to identify goods made with slave labor. In many countries, such as Ghana, villagers have been given cell phones to help report trafficking incidents. Microsoft, Google and Facebook are cooperating with authorities to help identify potential traffickers. Databases that contain traffickers' methods of operation help law enforcement uncover them.

“Traffickers are always one step ahead of us,” says Ellison. “We need to use whatever technology we can to go after them.”

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Shifting Perceptions

Although the high-tech battle against human trafficking and slavery is still in its infancy, activists are optimistic that the world is taking the subject seriously. For example, 20 years ago few Westerners knew that slavery existed within their own countries or had any idea of the global reach of the human trafficking industry.

UNICEF's Thatun remembers giving a talk on human slavery in Australia in 2007. When she asked, “Is there any trafficking here?” she remembers “Everyone said no, trafficking only happens in less developed nations. Today they know better.”

Hundreds of organizations are now on the Internet devoted to publicizing and fighting trafficking. “There were far fewer a decade ago,” says Polaris Project director of communications Meagan Fowler.

“We have been working on anti-trafficking issues since the late 1980s, and it's reassuring to see the world growing more and more aware of the extent of this problem,” says Thatun. “The more the public and private sectors are aware of trafficking and slavery, the faster the problem will be solved.”

Perceptions also are changing. Optimists point to developments such as the State Department's Trafficking in Persons report and its (“naming and shaming”) country rankings as proof that the world is taking positive steps to deal with the problem. “I've seen a huge shift in the perception of these problems over the last 30 years,” says Ramos of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. “We have a long road ahead of us, but we are making progress.”

As more businesses — often under public pressure — regulate their supply chains, slave labor should lessen, activists say. And late last year Google gave $11.5 million to nonprofit and academic organizations for the fight against trafficking. “Our support will free more than 12,000 people from modern-day slavery and prevent millions more from being victimized,” Google said.97 Microsoft recently awarded $185,000 in research grants to explore how technology facilitates trafficking.98 Other companies and organizations have joined the campaign as well.

Although the number of trafficking and slavery cases seems to grow larger each year, many experts attribute the increase to more victims being willing to come forward. “What was once taboo is now more accepted,” says Thatun. “It has taken over a decade for that mind shift.” Better reporting and improved law enforcement also have contributed to the increase.

While some say the increased international focus is helping to reduce slavery and trafficking, others disagree. “This is a growth field. It will only get bigger over the next decades,” says Shelley. The transnational crime expert at George Mason University explains that climate change, which is already displacing people living on islands and coastal lowlands, could displace millions of others, who will be desperate to feed themselves and their families. The growing economic disparity in the world will also fuel the growth in trafficking, she says.

“Sadly, there is a growing supply of people vulnerable to traffickers,” she says. “I am not optimistic.”

Others are encouraged that attention now is focusing on prevention and protection of victims rather than just on convicting traffickers. “In the past, we too often waited for victims to come to us,” says Thatun. “Now we are more focused on helping before they become victims.” And victims are receiving crisis intervention, emotional assistance, financial help, rehabilitation and more.

In the final analysis, however, more countries must have the political will to combat the problem, activists say. If they don't, “Trafficking will be the defining issue of the 21st century,” wrote Shelley in her global investigation of trafficking. And “humanity will be diminished by its prevalence.”99

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Would decriminalizing prostitution reduce sex trafficking?


Cari Mitchell
Spokeswoman, English Collective of Prostitutes, London, England. Written for CQ Global Researcher, October 2012

Decriminalizing prostitution increases sex workers' safety by dismantling a legal system that forces women to work in isolation at risk of violence. The most compelling evidence comes from New Zealand, which decriminalized it in 2003. Sex workers are safer, attacks are cleared up quicker and women find it easier to leave prostitution, since they no longer are barred from other jobs by a criminal record.

But it's difficult to talk about this because trafficking has been so misrepresented. Fabricated or “speculative” figures about the numbers of victims are seized on by politicians, the media and what The Guardian called an “unlikely union of evangelical Christians with feminist campaigners” to justify claims that “80 percent of women in prostitution are controlled by traffickers.” Britain's 2009 Policing and Crime Act, which increased the criminalization of sex workers under the cover of measures to criminalize clients, was the culmination of this moralistic crusade.

Prostitution has been pushed further underground and sex workers left more vulnerable to abuse and violence, exploitative working conditions, police illegality, rape and trafficking.

Three quarters of sex workers in London have suffered rape and other violence. Has this prompted soul-searching by government, police and the authorities? No. Instead, raids, arrests, convictions and even imprisonment of sex workers have risen.

Victims of trafficking have fared no better. A parliamentary inquiry found they are frequently deprived of “protection, access to services and justice” and “treated as immigration offenders facing detention and removals.” Child victims, forced to work as servants, recently got compensation because the police systematically refused to investigate the horrific abuse they suffered.

It's no wonder prostitution is increasing in the U.K., given that at least 70 percent of sex workers are mothers and poverty caused by rising unemployment and benefit cuts is forcing one in five mothers to skip meals to feed their kids. Public concern about violence against female prostitutes is also increasing. The anti-rape initiative SlutWalk, with its purposeful inclusion of sex workers, is countering those prominent feminists who conflate prostitution with trafficking and dismiss sex workers.

Decriminalizing sex work would make it easier for trafficking victims to come forward and for police to pursue rapists and traffickers rather than sex workers and clients.


Norma Ramos, Esq.
Executive Director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, New York, N.Y.. Written for CQ Global Researcher, October 2012

At its core, prostitution is the world's oldest oppression: a social injustice that arises primarily out of gender inequality exacerbated by poverty, racial and ethnic marginalization and childhood sexual abuse. In short, prostitution stems from lack of choice, not choice.

Prostitution creates a class of human beings who are not allowed to say no to unwanted sex. Many survivors of commercial sexual exploitation refer to prostitution as prepaid rape. Societies that care about social justice and gender equality do not look for ways to make a place where this gender-based violence can take place under “safer” conditions. “Safer prostitution” is an oxymoron.

The way to address oppression is to end it — not to legalize it, regulate it or make it more tolerable. Legalizing prostitution is not only a betrayal of the promise of equality for women and girls, it creates the legal and social conditions that encourage human trafficking and inevitably leads to an exponential expansion of sex trafficking.

Countries that either decriminalize or legalize prostitution send an unmistakable signal to human traffickers that they are welcome to conduct business in their country. Those countries that have legalized prostitution, such as Germany, have released official reports admitting that legalization has failed to make prostitution workable and safer, even going so far as to state that prostitution should not be considered a way to make a living.

The most effective way to address this commercial sexual exploitation is to penalize the buyers and offer those caught up in sex trafficking a way out, as has been done in Sweden, Norway and Iceland. Known as the Nordic model, this approach has discouraged sex trafficking. It is premised on the idea that women and girls have the right not to be bought and sold for sexual exploitation.

Prostitution teaches men and boys that women and girls can be rendered into sexual commodities that can be bought or sold for sexual use and abuse. It creates a callousness among men that undermines the human rights of all women and girls. Those who care about human rights and women's rights increasingly see legalization as a failed social policy and are embracing the Nordic model, the world's first law based on both human and women's rights. It is premised on the notion that women and girls are human beings and cannot be bought or sold for sex.

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Ancient TimesSlavery is legal and flourishing as a way of life.
2000 BCThe first recorded mention of slavery is found in the Sumerian Code of Ur-Nammu.
7th Century BCSlaves are part of everyday life in ancient Greece; as many as 100,000 are in fifth-century Athens alone.
73 BCAfter the Third Servile War, led by Spartacus, more than 6,000 slaves are crucified along Rome's Appian Way.
1500s–1700sColonial expansion leads to increased slavery around the world, especially in the Atlantic Ocean, where a triangular trade involving slaves develops between Europe, West Africa and the New World.
1500sPortuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English establish colonies and enslave indigenous people…. In mid-1500s Portugal establishes Atlantic slave trade. One in six slaves die during the journey from Africa to the Americas.
1780Massachusetts becomes first U.S. state to ban slavery.
1800sAbolitionist movements end the slave trade.
1807Britain and the United States pass laws outlawing the slave trade, but not slavery itself.
1833Britain bans slavery in its empire…. France follows suit in 1848.
1863In the middle of the U.S. Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in the confederate states.
186513th Amendment abolishes slavery in the United States.
1900sInternational organizations and treaties outlaw slavery and trafficking.
1926League of Nations adopts the Slavery Convention, charging the governments that sign it to suppress all forms of slavery.
1948U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits slavery and the slave trade, but bonded and forced labor continue worldwide.
1949U.N. adopts a convention prohibiting human trafficking.
1990s-PresentElimination of European border controls and the collapse of the Soviet Union spur increase in human trafficking, prompting a global response.
1991Soviet Union's collapse leads to a surge in trafficking in Eastern Europe.
2000International Labour Organization's Convention 182 to eliminate the worst forms of child labor goes into force after being ratified by more than 100 countries…. United States passes Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which increases penalties for trafficking in the United States and aids trafficking victims. U.N. adopts Trafficking in Persons Protocol, the first binding international instrument to define and criminalize human trafficking.
2002U.S. State Department's first “Trafficking in Persons” report grades nations on their effectiveness at combating human trafficking.
2008Council of Europe's Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings goes into effect.
2011Police in China break up 3,200 human trafficking gangs, rescuing more than 24,000 abducted women and children…. California requires companies to ensure their products are not made with trafficked or slave labor.
2012In a landmark speech to the Clinton Global Initiative, President Obama calls human trafficking “modern slavery” and announces new steps to combat exploitation of more than 20 million workers and children in the United States and abroad. He said victims include workers who toil for little pay, are abused and barred from leaving their jobs, child soldiers and impoverished girls sold into the sex trade.

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Short Features

Many “legitimate” businesses enable the trade.

Up to 17,500 people are trafficked into the Unites States each year and subjected to “forced labor, debt bondage, involuntary servitude and sex trafficking,” according to the U.S. Department of State.1

In its annual “Trafficking in Persons Report,” the department lists the United States as “a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children — both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals” — who are forced to work as prostitutes, maids, farm laborers, restaurant workers or in other jobs.

Most foreign trafficking victims in the United States come from Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand, Guatemala, Honduras and India.2 They often end up in California, Florida, New York and Texas — all major international transit hubs — where they become “virtual slaves,” owned and controlled by their traffickers. Slavery and human trafficking have been documented in at least 90 U.S. cities, according to the Washington, D.C.-based group Free the Slaves.3

According to the 2012 “Trafficking in Persons Report,” recent U.S. trafficking convictions include:4

  • Sex and labor traffickers who used threats of deportation, violence and sexual abuse to compel young, undocumented Central American women and girls into hostess jobs and forced prostitution in bars and nightclubs on Long Island, N.Y.

  • A Mexican-U.S. sex trafficking ring that resulted in sentences of up to 37 years' imprisonment for three traffickers.

  • A defendant in Chicago who used beatings, threats and sexual assault to force Eastern European women to work in massage parlors and prostitution.

Federal trafficking prosecutions are up significantly since 2000, when Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which beefed up penalties and protected trafficking victims in the country illegally, making them more likely to cooperate in prosecutions. While the Department of Justice prosecuted only two human trafficking cases in 1998, federal prosecutors last year filed 118 cases — the highest number in a single year and 19 percent more than in 2010.5 The average prison sentence was 11.8 years.

Human trafficking in the United States also involves Americans who were not brought into the country from outside. American minors — especially homeless and runaway children — are prime targets for pimps, who are considered sex traffickers if their victims are working involuntarily or are under 18.

“Brianna” was just 12 when she ran away from her New York City home. She stayed with a friend's older brother, who refused to let her return home. “I tried to leave, and he said, ‘You can't go; you're mine,’” she told The New York Times. She was beaten and sold for sex many times before being rescued.6

Katarlina, became a victim of domestic sex trafficking (Getty Images/Sun Sentinal/Carey Wagner)
Katarlina, who at age 13 became a victim of domestic sex trafficking in Miami, Fla., is now an anti-trafficking advocate and teaches a course in trafficking at Trinity International University in Davie, Fla. (Getty Images/Sun Sentinal/Carey Wagner)

In June, the FBI's Operation Cross Country rescued 79 minors — 77 of them girls — being held as sex slaves in 57 cities. “The youngest kid was 13, while another told of being held as a sex slave since age 11,” said Kevin Perkins, head of the FBI's Criminal Division.7

Despite such high-profile rescues, human rights activists say the United States is not doing enough to address the problem. “Only a tiny fraction of the nation's law enforcement resources are directed at slavery and trafficking in the U.S.,” says Karen Stauss, director of programs for Free the Slaves.

The federal anti-trafficking budget, about $61 million a year since 2001, is 33 times less than the money the government spends to fight the war on drugs, according to Siddharth Kara, a fellow on human trafficking at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.8

In September, President Obama announced a new campaign to boost federal trafficking prosecutions by providing additional training for prosecutors, law enforcement officials and immigration judges. And federal contractors and subcontractors will be required to guarantee that their supply lines do not involve products manufactured with forced labor. He also backed efforts to give victims access to treatment, legal and employment services and a simplified visa process for those brought into the United States against their will.

Experts say trafficking in America will only be eliminated when ordinary citizens become aware of the problem and hold accountable those businesses that enable the trade — from hoteliers who rent rooms to traffickers to factory owners who employ trafficked laborers and website owners who advertise sex slaves.

As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who has campaigned relentlessly against human trafficking, wrote, “Sex trafficking is just as unacceptable in America as it is in Thailand or Nepal.”9

— Robert Kiener

[1] “Trafficking in Persons Report 2012,” U.S. Department of State, 2012, p. 359,

[2] Ibid., p. 360.

[3] “Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United States,” Free the Slaves and Human Rights Center, September 2004, p. 10, Also see “About Slavery FAQ,” Free the Slaves,

[4] “Trafficking in Persons Report 2012,” op. cit.

[5] Ibid. Also see Stephanie Hanes, “Human Trafficking: A misunderstood global scourge,” The Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 9, 2012,

[6] Nicholas D. Kristof, “Not quite a teen but sold for sex,” The New York Times, April 19, 2012,

[7] “FBI saves 79 kids held as sex slaves in U.S.,” Fox News, June 25, 2012,

[8] Siddharth Kara, Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery (2009), p. 196.

[9] Kristof, op. cit.

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Trafficking definitions have been broadened.

The definitions of human trafficking are inexact and have evolved over the years. In the past, victims could be considered “trafficked” only if they had been transported into an exploitative situation, either domestically or across borders.

“The term is broader now,” says Mary Ellison, director of public policy for the Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking organization in Washington, D.C. “It includes many different forms of exploitation and is less concerned with the means of trafficking.”

According to the U.S. government, the phrase “trafficking in persons” denotes all the criminal conduct involved in forced labor and trafficking. “Despite a term that seems to connote movement, at the heart of the phenomenon of trafficking in persons are the many forms of enslavement, not the activities involved in international transportation,” says a U.S. State Department web page defining trafficking.10

Similarly, the U.N. defines trafficking as “the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, or fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation.”11 The key elements of both definitions are the recruitment, transfer or harboring of victims, the use of force or coercion and the carrying out of activity for the purpose of exploitation.

Given the global nature of human trafficking, it's not surprising that it takes so many different forms. They include:

Sex Trafficking — The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that one-fifth of all trafficking involves sexual exploitation, which falls into two categories. The first includes adults who have been coerced, forced or deceived into prostitution. Even if an individual initially agreed to engage in prostitution but then was held in service through physical or psychological force, he or she is still considered a trafficking victim. The second category is child sex trafficking, which includes all children exploited sexually for commercial reasons.12

Forced Labor — Includes people forced into labor inside their own country as well as those trafficked across borders. For example, a domestic worker kept as a virtual slave in her employer's quarters would be considered a victim of forced labor. Some forced laborers may also be referred to as slaves. Forced labor differs from slavery, however, in that slavery usually implies a physical abduction followed by forced labor without pay, where the victim is under the perpetrator's complete control. According to the State Department, a child is considered a forced laborer when “the child appears to be in the custody of a non-family member who has the child perform work that financially benefits someone outside the child's family and does not offer the child the option of leaving.”13 The ILO estimates that 68 percent of all trafficking is done for labor exploitation.14

Bonded Labor — Also known as “debt bondage,” this includes workers forced to “work off” or “pay back” a debt they may have agreed to as part of the terms of their employment. Some bonded laborers, many of whom are children, may have “inherited” the debt from a parent, relative or friend.

Child Soldiers — Children under 18 are considered to have been trafficked if they are recruited into armed forces by threats or other verbal coercion, physical force or fraud by government, paramilitary or rebel forces. Child soldiers might work as combatants, cooks, servants or spies or even be forced to have sex with adult combatants. According to Child Soldiers International, an advocacy group in London, 20 countries have used children in hostilities since 2010.15

— Robert Kiener

[10] “What Is Trafficking in Persons?” U.S. Department of State,

[11] “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime,” United Nations, 2000,

[12] “Trafficking in Persons Report 2012,” U.S. Department of State, June 2012, p. 45.

[13] “What Is Trafficking in Persons?” op. cit.

[14] “Trafficking in Persons Report 2012,” op. cit.

[15] “Louder than words: States still using child soldiers,” Child Soldiers International, Sept. 12, 2012, Also see John Felton, “Child Soldiers,” CQ Global Researcher, July 1, 2008, pp. 183–211.

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Voices from Abroad

A collective effort

Sina Chuma-Mkandawire
Director, International Labour Organization, Nigeria
This Day (Nigeria), August 2012

"Victims of human trafficking require complex assistance in order to regain their confidence and reintegrate into the society. This involves medical help, psychological support, legal assistance, shelter and everyday care. It is impossible for one organisation or agency to meet all these needs, hence there are many actors working to support victims of human trafficking. In order to have an effective response to these needs, there is an obligation to set up channels of coordination, collaboration and effective and proper communication amongst organisations providing services to trafficking victims."

Not all are trafficked

Eilis Ward
Political Science Lecturer, National University of Ireland, Ireland
Irish Times, October 2011

"It is important to remember here that not all women in prostitution are trafficked. Not all women in prostitution consider themselves victims in need of rescue. Nor do they all believe that selling sex means that an act of violence is committed upon them. Moreover, not everyone in prostitution is female, and not all clients are male."

More effort needed

Joy Ngozi Ezeilo
Special Rapporteur on Trafficking, U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Switzerland
The New Times (Rwanda), April 2012

"The UAE must be commended for its strong commitment to combat trafficking in persons both at the domestic level and in the Gulf region. However, it needs to devote greater attention to identification of countless victims of all forms of trafficking and guarantee their right to effective remedy."

Against their will

Folen Murapa
Spokesperson, International Organisation for Migration, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Standard, March 2012

"Victims of trafficking to South Africa, Mozambique and Angola are reportedly being forced to perform duties against their will for the benefit of the trafficker. These include sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude — under horrific, ruthless and hazardous working conditions."

An appalling trend

Sergei Belyaev
Head, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Turkmenistan
Trend News Agency (Azerbaijan), October 2011

"Trafficking in human beings is in all cases an extremely grave crime, but trafficking in persons with disabilities is especially appalling."

The cartoon image showing of sex trafficking (Seattle Post Intelligencer/David Horsey)
(Seattle Post Intelligencer/David Horsey)

Rescue not wanted

Nok (anonymous)
Sex worker, Thailand
The Nation (Thailand), March 2012

"Before I was arrested I was working happily, had no debt and was free to move around the city. Now I'm in debt, I'm scared most of the time, and it's not safe to move around. How can they call this ‘help’?"

Not much evidence

Elena Jeffreys
President, Scarlet Alliance, Australia
New Zealand Herald, July 2012

"Australia's anti-trafficking laws have resulted in thousands of raids, resources devoted to surveillance and investigations, but have found very little evidence of trafficking."

Different manifestations

Madeleine Rees
Attorney against sex trafficking, England
Birmingham (England) Evening Mail, November 2011

"Trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation still goes on in most western countries — including here. It manifests differently in a post-conflict country like Bosnia because it can be characterised by extreme violence, and it is very obvious."

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Bales, Kevin, and Ron Soodalter , The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today , University of California Press, 2010. A co-founder of the anti-slavery group Free the Slaves and a professor of contemporary slavery at the Wilberforce Institute at the University of Hull in the U.K. (Bales) and an anti-slavery activist (Soodalter) explore various forms of slave labor.

Batstone, David , Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It , Harper Collins, 2010. A journalist profiles the modern generation of abolitionists.

DeStefano, Anthony M. , The War on Human Trafficking: U.S. Policy Assessed , Rutgers University Press, 2008. A journalist explains how the U.S. government is combating trafficking.

Kara, Siddharth , Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery , Columbia University Press, 2010. A fellow on human trafficking at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government examines the size, growth and profitability of the sex trafficking industry.

Shelley, Louise , Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective , Cambridge University Press, 2010. A leading expert on transnational crime examines the human trafficking business.


“Nobbling nasty networks,” The Economist, Aug. 1, 2012. The magazine surveys new high-tech approaches to combating human trafficking.

Cabitza, Mattia , “Peru takes its ‘first step’ in the eradication of child labour,” The Guardian, July 16, 2012, A pilot project in Peru seeks to reduce child labor.

Denyer, Simon , “India slowly confronts epidemic of missing children,” The Washington Post, Sept. 22, 2012. About 90,000 children are abducted by traffickers each year in India.

Sharma, Nandita , “The old anti-trafficking propaganda,” Counterpunch, Sept. 5, 2012, An investigation into human trafficking concludes that many women rescued from brothels entered the industry voluntarily.

Skinner, E. Benjamin , “The Fishing Industry's Cruelest Catch,” Business Week, Feb. 23, 2012, A journalist reports on his six-week investigation into debt bondage on fishing ships in New Zealand waters.

Stuart, Elizabeth , “Stolen innocence: The battle against modern-day slavery in the U.S.,” Deseret News, Dec. 10, 2011. Profiles of several trafficked Americans offer a glimpse into the U.S. sex trafficking industry.

Reports and Studies

“Collateral Damage: The Impact of Anti-Trafficking Measures on Human Rights Around the World,” Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, 2007, A nonprofit group that works to prevent trafficking of women assesses the results of anti-trafficking measures in eight countries.

“Global Report on Trafficking in Persons,” U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, February 2009, Based on data from 155 countries, a U.N. study provides the first global assessment of human trafficking.

“Trafficking in Persons: International Dimensions and Foreign Policy Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, April 20, 2012, Trafficking affects human rights, criminal justice, migration, gender, public health and labor issues.

“Trafficking in Persons Report,” U.S. Department of State, June 2012, The State Department's annual analysis of modern slavery ranks nations on their attempts to eradicate human trafficking.

Jakobsson, Niklas, and Andreas Kotsadam , “The Law and Economics of International Sex Slavery: Prostitution laws and trafficking for sexual exploitation,” University of Gothenburg, June 2010, Norwegian academies show how trafficking for sexual exploitation is affected by laws governing prostitution.

Lagon, Mark, and Diana Taylor , “Slavery and Supply Chains: What Businesses Can Do to Fight Human Trafficking,” Council on Foreign Relations, May 14, 2008, Video explains how the U.S. government advises businesses to prevent trafficking in their supply chains.

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The Next Step

Child Labor

“Child Trafficking Rampant in Gujarat, NCPCR Tells Govt,” Times of India, Jan. 3, 2012, Large-scale trafficking and child labor are rampant on the cotton seed farms of India's North Gujarat state.

“Rehabilitating Victims of Human Trafficking, Child Labour,” This Day (Nigeria), Aug. 28, 2012, Forced and child labor are flourishing in Nigeria and other African countries due to high unemployment.

Yardley, Jim , “Maid's Cries Cast Light on Child Labor in India,” The New York Times, April 5, 2012, p. A1, Poverty often leads desperate families to sell their offspring into child labor.


Christie, Kevan , “Our Sex Slaves Shame,” Daily Record (Scotland), Nov. 28, 2011, p. 1, Human trafficking has thrived in Scotland because of weak laws against it, says a report from Britain's Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Farrell, Dominique , “U.S. Partners With Costa Rica to Combat Human Trafficking,” Tico Times (Costa Rica), Nov. 29, 2011, The United States is backing a Costa Rican law that would impose harsher penalties for human trafficking.


“Legalising Prostitution Adds Fuel to Fire of Abuse,” WeekendPost (South Africa), April 21, 2012. Decriminalizing prostitution has less to do with the human rights of women and more to do with global human trafficking, say opponents of legalizing prostitution.

Chrisafis, Angelique , “Minister for Women Seeks Abolition of Prostitution in Europe,” The Guardian (England), June 23, 2012, p. 26, France's minister for women is finding ways to abolish prostitution in her country and across Europe.

Sessou, Ebun , “Legalising Prostitution —Women Give Ekweremadu Hard Knocks,” Vanguard (Nigeria), Oct. 15, 2011, Nigeria's deputy senate president says the country should legalize prostitution.

Ward, Eilis , “Prostitution Law May Cause Harm to Women,” Irish Times, Oct. 19, 2011, p. 16, Criminalizing prostitution in Ireland may make prostitutes more vulnerable to harm, says an Irish political science lecturer.


“2.4 Million Victims of Human Trafficking,” New Zealand Herald, April 5, 2012. About 2.4 million people are victims of human trafficking at any one time, says the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

“Human Trafficking Increasing in Cyprus, Says MIGS,” Financial Mirror (Cyprus), Nov. 25, 2011, Human trafficking is growing in the Eastern Mediterranean island nation despite efforts to combat the trend, according to the Mediterranean Institute for Gender Studies.

Hoath, Nissar , “Human Trafficking Cases Drop Sharply,” Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates), April 28, 2012,§ioncrime. The number of trafficking cases in the United Arab Emirates has decreased significantly since the country began an anti-trafficking campaign.

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Anti-Slavery International
Thomas Clarkson House, The Stableyard, Broomgrove Rd., London SW9 9TL, United Kingdom
+44 20 7501 8920
A 170-year-old organization that works to eliminate slavery worldwide.

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)
P.O. Box 7427, JAF Station, New York, NY 10116
Works to end human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children worldwide.

Free the Slaves
1320 19th St., N.W., Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036
Promotes freedom for enslaved victims.

Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking (GIFT)
P.O. Box 500, 1400 Vienna, Austria
+43-1 26060-5687
A U.N. organization that supports the global fight against human trafficking based on U.N. treaties.

International Labour Organization
4 route des Morillons, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland
+41 22 799 6111
Founded in 1919, a U.N. organization that collects data on forced labor around the world.

International Prostitutes Collective
P.O. Box 287, London NW6 5QU, United Kingdom
+44 20 7482 2496
An advocacy group that campaigns against prostitution laws that criminalize sex workers and advocates economic alternatives and higher benefits and wages.

Polaris Project
P.O. Box 53315, Washington, DC 20009
Grass-roots organization that fights human trafficking and modern slavery and promotes legislation to combat both.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
3 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017
Works to assure improved quality of life for children worldwide.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
Vienna International Centre, P.O. Box 500, A 1400 Vienna Austria
+43 1 26060
Assists member states in their struggle against illicit drugs, organized crime and terrorism.

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[1] Henry Mhango, “Malawi children falling victim to human traffickers,” The Guardian, July 16, 2012,

[2] “Trafficking in Persons Report,” U.S. Department of State, July 2012, p. 323,

[3] Madalitso Kateta, “Child and women trafficking high in Malawi,”,

[4] “Trafficking in Persons: U.S. policy and issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, Dec. 23, 2010, p. 20, Also see “Trafficking in Persons Report 2012,” op. cit.

[5] “Fact Sheet: Obama administration announces efforts to combat human trafficking at home and abroad,” The White House, Sept, 25, 2012,

[6] “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime,” Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,

[7] “ILO hails campaign against modern slavery,” International Labour Organization, Sept. 28, 2012,

[8] “ILO 2012 Global Estimate of Forced Labour,” International Labour Organization, June 1, 2012,

[9] Ibid.

[10] Alison Holt, “British men forced into ‘modern slavery’ abroad,” BBC, Feb. 1, 2012,

[11] “Forced Labour,” International Labour Organization, Also see “Children and Human Rights: Child Soldiers,” Amnesty International, For background, see John Felton, “Child Soldiers,” CQ Global Researcher, July 1, 2008, pp. 183–211.

[12] “General Assembly president calls for redoubling of efforts to end human trafficking,” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, April 3, 2012,

[13] “Thailand: Children trafficked to sell flowers and beg,” IRIN News, June 4, 2012,

[14] “Uganda: Women trafficked into sex work,” IRIN News, March 5, 2012,

[15] “Pakistan: Selling children to pay off a debt,” IRIN News, June 6, 2011,

[16] “ILO action against trafficking in human beings,” International Labour Organization, 2008,

[17] “About Slavery: Modern Slavery,” Free the Slaves,

[18] See “International Anti-Trafficking Legislation,” The Protection Project,

[19] Louise Shelley, Human Trafficking (2010), p. 12.

[20] “The Protection Project Review of the Trafficking in Persons Report 2012,” The Protection Project,

[21] Mark Memmott, “Obama focuses on ‘outrage of human trafficking,’” NPR, Sept. 25, 2012,

[22] “International trafficking in persons laws,” U.N. Inter-agency Project on Human Trafficking,

[23] Nikolaj Nielsen, “Human traffickers evade conviction,” EU Observer, June 25, 2012,

[24] Ibid.

[25] Siddharth Kara, Sex Trafficking: Inside the business of modern slavery (2010), p. 40.

[26] Ibid., p. 209.

[27] Simon Denver, “India slowly confronts epidemic of missing children,” The Associated Press, Sept. 22, 2012,

[28] Ibid.

[29] “Trafficking in Persons Report 2012,” op. cit.

[30] Namita Bhandare, “A blot on our conscience,” Hindustan Times, Feb. 17, 2012,

[31] Chuck Neubauer, “Libya's record won't stop US aid,” The Washington Times, Sept. 17, 2012,

[32] Chuck Neubauer, “Top human traffickers need not fear Obama,” The Washington Times, July 29, 2012,

[33] “Prosecuting human traffickers,” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,

[34] Niklas Jakobsson and Andreas Kotsadam, “The Law and Economics of International Sex Slavery: Prostitution laws and trafficking for sexual exploitation,” University of Gothenburg, June 2010,

[35] “The Link Between Prostitution and Sex Trafficking,” U.S. Dept. of State, 2004,

[36] Ibid., p. 16.

[37] “Trafficking in Human Beings: Ten Years of Independent Monitoring,” Bureau of the Dutch National Rapporteur, 2010,

[38] Seo-Young Cho, Saxel Dreher and Eric Neumayer, “Does legalized prostitution increase human trafficking?” Economics of Security, June 2012, p. 21,

[39] Speech by Kajsa Wahlberg, Dec. 6, 2010,

[40] Wendy Lyon, “‘There was no lack of buyers’ — Swedish sex trafficking trial concludes,” Feminist Ire, May 20, 2012,

[41] Peter Linnaeus, “Severe punishments of trafficking scandal,” Goteborg Post, Feb. 2, 2012 (translated),

[42] Serena Chaudry, “Millions pushed into child labor in Pakistan,” Reuters, Feb. 7, 2012,

[43] Ibid.

[44] “Accelerating action against child labor,” International Labour Organization, 2010,

[45] For background, see John Felton, “Child Soldiers,” CQ Global Researcher, July 1, 2008, pp. 183–211.

[46] Thomas DeGregori, “Child labor or child prostitution,” Cato Institute, Oct. 8, 2002,

[47] “Convention on the Rights of the Child,” United Nations Treaty Collection, Aug. 10, 2012,〈en#EndDec.

[48] Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, “Finally the will for the right ban,” The Hindu, Aug. 31, 2012,

[49] Ibid.

[50] David Harrison, “It's official: Child labor is a good thing,” The Telegraph, Jan. 30, 2005,;

[51] Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, “In Latin America, looking at the positive side of child labor,” Time, Nov. 16, 2011,,8599,2099200,00.html.

[52] DeGregori, op. cit.

[53] “Guinea-Mauritania: Worst forms of child labour still widespread,” IRIN News, Oct. 10, 2011,

[54] Kristina Kangaspunta, “A short history of trafficking in persons,” Freedom From Fear, Sept. 15, 2012, Also see “A brief history of slavery,” New Internationalist, Aug. 1, 2001,

[55] Hugh Thomas, “World History: The Story of Mankind from Prehistory to the Present,” 1996, pp. 54–55.

[56] “Ur-Nammu,” Ancient Encyclopedia History,

[57] L. W. King (translator), “The Code of Hammurabi,” The Avalon Project,

[58] “Faith In Action: Judaism,” Free the Slaves,

[59] Ursula Cliff, “Slavery in Ancient Greece,” Clio, 2009,

[60] Robert A. Guisepi, A History of Ancient Greece (1998),

[61] Ibid.

[62] Lewis Napthali and Meyer Reinhold, Roman Civilization: The republic and the Augustan Age (1990), p. 245.

[63] “A Brief History Of Slavery,” New Internationalist, Aug. 1, 2001,

[64] Rodney Stark, “The truth about the Catholic Church and slavery,” Christianity Today, July 1, 2003,

[65] “Slovak, Slavic, Slavonic, “University of Pittsburgh,∼votruba/qsonhist/slavicslovak.html.

[66] “Breaking the silence: Lest we forget,” United Nations,

[67] “Assessing the Slave Trade,” Voyages, The trans-Atlantic slave trade database,

[68] “The Middle Passage,” Recovered Histories,

[69] “Breaking the silence: Lest we forget,” op. cit.

[70] Ibid.

[71] “Pro Slavery Lobbies,” Recovered Histories,

[72] For background, see Marjorie Valbrun and Roland Flamini, “Rebuilding Haiti,” CQ Global Researcher, Oct. 2, 2012, pp. 449–472.

[73] “International Agreements,” Fight Slavery Now,

[74] “International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children,” United Nations Treaty Collection, Sept. 30, 1921,〈en.

[75] “Slavery Convention,” Office of the United Nations Hugh Commissioner for Human Rights,

[76] Kangaspunta, op. cit.

[77] “A Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others,” United Nations Treaty Collection, March 21, 1950,〈en.

[78] Shelley, op. cit., pp. 37–58.

[79] Alayksandr Sychov, “Human trafficking: A call for global action,” Globality Studies, Oct. 22, 2009,

[80] United Nations Treaty Collection,〈en.

[81] “Trafficking in Persons Report 2011,” U.S. Department of State, June 2011,

[82] “Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings CETS No. 197,” May 16, 2005,

[83] “About UN GIFT,” U.N. GIFT,

[84] “Remarks by the President to the Clinton Global Initiative,” White House, Sept. 25, 2012,

[85] “Thousands of Chinese trafficking victims rescued by police,” The Associated Press, March 11, 2012,

[86] “China: Police crack down on child trafficking rings,” The Associated Press, July 6 2012,

[87] For background, see Robert Kiener, “Gendercide Crisis,” CQ Global Researcher, Oct. 4, 2011, pp. 473–498.

[88] “Romania, Bulgaria make trafficking cases a priority,” Turkish Weekly, Sept. 19, 2012,

[89] “Human Trafficking: Army rescues over 300 underaged in Kogi,” Leadership, July 30, 2012,

[90] “Nigeria police state commands to get anti-trafficking units,” Afriquejet, Sept. 26, 2012,

[91] “Global Business Coalition Announces Human Trafficking Initiative,” Travel Blackboard, Sept. 26, 2012,

[92] Emma Thomasson, “Nestlé pledges action on Ivorian cocoa child labor,” Reuters, June 29, 2012,

[93] “Campbell Soup Company Disclosure Statement on Human Trafficking and Slavery in the Supply Chain,” Campbell's Soup Co., December 2011,

[94] Peter J. Smith, “Congressman says Internet-fueled sex trafficking too big for government alone,” Lifesitenews, Sept. 17, 2010,

[95] “Internet based,” Polaris Project,

[96] “Letter from National Association of Human Trafficking Victim Advocates,” U.S. House of Representatives, March 29, 2012,

[97] Chenda Ngak, “Human trafficking gets attention from Google,” “TechTalk,” CBS News, Dec. 14, 2001,

[98] Samantha Doer, “Microsoft Names Research Grant Recipients in Fight Against Child Sex Trafficking,” Technet, June 13, 2012,

[99] Shelley, op. cit., p. 324.

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About the Author

Robert Kiener, author of this month's edition of Global Researcher

Robert Kiener is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in the London Sunday Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, Reader's Digest, Time Life Books, Asia Inc. and other publications. For more than two decades he lived and worked as an editor and correspondent in Guam, Hong Kong, Canada and England and is now based in the United States. He frequently travels to Asia and Europe to report on international issues. He holds an M.A. in Asian Studies from Hong Kong University and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University.

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Document APA Citation
Kiener, R. (2012, October 16). Human trafficking and slavery. CQ Global Researcher, 6, 473-496. Retrieved from
Document ID: cqrglobal2012101600
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