Human Trafficking of Women and Research Paper
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143). In this regard, Yen cites the case of one-4-year-old child who was sold to a child sex-trafficking ring operating in the United States. According to Yen, "She was enslaved for twelve years, servicing mostly American men. To keep the children obedient, her traffickers frequently abused them psychologically and physically" (p. 653). Although truly alarming, this case is certainly not unique and Yen stresses that children ranging in age of "toddlers to teens" are being offered for sale by international human traffickers (Yen, 2008, p. 653).
In response to this growing problem, the United States together with 117 other countries adopted the anti-trafficking protocol from the United Nations in 2000 that defined "trafficking in persons" as being the "recruitment, transportation and harboring of another person for the purpose of exploitation" (United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, G.A. Res. 55/25, U.N. GAOR, 55th Sess., Annex II, at Article III (a), U.N. Doc. a/55/25, 2000). Clearly, the typical fates that await victims of human trafficking (i.e., sex jobs and involuntary domestic servitude) can be regarded as "exploitation" for the purposes of the UN Protocol, but it is apparent based on current statistics that the majority of women and children who become victims of human traffickers will be exploited for sex in some fashion. In fact, while some men are also victims of human trafficking, the overwhelming majority are women (up to 80%) and children (up to 50%) (Yen, 2008). Likewise, Hodge (2008) more recently reported that, "Among those trafficked internationally, estimates indicate that approximately 50% are children and 70% to 80% are female. Among females, roughly 70% are trafficked for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation" (p. 144). Besides accounting for the largest percentage of human trafficking, sexual trafficking has increased significant in recent years (Hodge, 2008).
Not surprisingly, organized criminal elements in these countries, and others, were believed to be responsible, particularly the so-called "Mafiya" in Eastern Europe (Destefano, 2007). The collapse of the Soviet Union during the early 1990s was also cited as being a precipitating factor in the increase in human trafficking from Eastern European countries. In this regard, Macklin (2003) emphasizes that, "In the early 1990s, the source region for foreign exotic dancers shifted from the United States to Eastern Europe. The reasons for the escalation in emigration of Eastern European women as exotic dancers are rooted in the gendered impact of the economic and political upheaval and the proliferation of organized crime in the region" (p. 464). The "economic and political upheaval" that accompanied the transition from a state-controlled economy to a free economy has adversely affected women in far greater numbers than their male counterparts. According to Macklin, "In most states of the former Soviet Bloc, the anticipated transition from communism to capitalist democracy actualized as a convulsive lurch to a dysfunctional market economy. In much of Eastern Europe, the process stalled at a stage characterized by varying degrees of chaos, corruption, economic decline, massive unemployment and wrenching social dislocation" (p. 465). An inordinately high percentage of women were affected by this transition, with between 66-90% of all newly unemployed in Eastern Europe being women (Macklin, 2003). Almost all of these women are literate and as many as 70% of women with graduate degrees in these Eastern European countries have been unable to secure meaningful employment (Macklin, 2003). According to Macklin, "Social services such as daycare, preschool, maternity leave and public health care have collapsed with the transition to a market economy, leaving even professional women with no work and no recourse to private or public support" (p. 465). In this environment, it is little wonder that some women find themselves victimized by organized criminal organizations that take advantage of their desperation to escape. As Macklin emphasizes, in Eastern Europe, "Women have a choice now: they can be prostitutes on the street, or they can be prostitutes in the office. A growing number of women and girls conclude that they might as well take their chances abroad" (p. 466). In some cases, women lacking employment opportunities in Eastern European countries are attracted to mail order bride organizations, legitimate or otherwise, because they offer a legal avenue for entry into the United States or other countries with restrictive immigration policies (Macklin, 2003).
Despite the efforts of the United States, the European Union
and United Nations to address the problem of human trafficking, these laws alone are insufficient to resolve the underlying forces that drive the enterprise in the first place. In this regard, Macklin observes that, "Traffickers would not exist absent the citizen clientele in the host country or without the web of restrictive immigration and, in this case, sex trade laws that entangle those who would attempt lawful entry" (p. 466). This author is quick to add, though, that restrictive immigration laws are not the sole reason that the problem of human trafficking is so complex, but stresses that in the past-9/11 world, these laws have exacerbated the problem for many women seeking better lives for themselves in other countries (Macklin, 2003). As Macklin concludes, "In other words, host countries and their citizenry are actively and directly implicated in the human rights violations encompassed under the rubric of trafficking. One need not renounce the concept of borders to acknowledge their role in structuring a regime that leads to the violation of human rights" (p. 467).
In response to this growing problem, the United Nations and the European Union have taken steps to provide various protections for human trafficking refugees from Eastern European countries (Occhipinti, 2003). These efforts on the part of the international community are not expected to prove effective, though, unless there is ongoing commitment and support from the more affluent nations of the European Union, which has not been consistently forthcoming (Potts, 2003). Some European countries, such as Sweden and the Netherlands, have taken matters into their own hands and have created law enforcement task forces that are designed to counter the flood of human trafficking victims across their borders from Eastern European nations (Mattar, 2008). As Mattar (2008) emphasizes, however, it may be impossible to develop a truly effective response to human trafficking unless and until the full extent of the problem is known and ongoing evaluations of the effectiveness of the initiatives being taken to address the problem by various governments and international organizations are conducted and well publicized.
Taken together, the review of the relevant literature showed that not only is the problem of human trafficking still around, it has become more severe in recent years in Eastern Europe, due in large part to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the introduction of the Internet. While the international community continues to debate the best approach to addressing this growing problem, millions of women and children continue to become victims of human traffickers in Eastern Europe who are motivated by profit only with little regard for the misery and suffering these cause in the process. In the final analysis, it may require an international effort on the level of the International Space Station to develop a comprehensive, broad-based approach that can begin to reverse these ugly trends in the trafficking of human beings but the research was also consistent in emphasizing that such a commitment has not emerged from the industrialized nations of the world to date.
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Hodge, D.R. (2008). Sexual trafficking in the United States: A domestic problem with transnational dimensions. Social Work, 53(2), 143-144.
Lindee, K.M. (2007). Love, honor, or control: Domestic violence, trafficking, and the question of how to regulate the mail-order bride industry. Columbia Journal of Gender and Law,
Macklin, a. (2003). Dancing across borders: 'exotic dancers,' trafficking, and Canadian immigration policy. The International Migration Review, 37(2), 464-465.
Mattar, M.Y. (2008). Comparative models of reporting mechanisms on the status of trafficking in human beings. Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, 41(5), 1355-1356.
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