Trafficking as a Migration and Refugee Issue

The following is an overview of what I think is human trafficking. It is a broad overview toward an understanding that trafficking does not stand alone. It stands within our global culture and is part and parcel of this world we are shaping in so many ways every day.

I posit that trafficking is not something that can be fought, beaten back, or simply eradicated like pulling a sliver out of one’s finger.

It is not something where, if we do away with one or two bad guys, it will go away.

The fact is that it is becoming embedded in our global culture. We are all the culprits. We are all implicated. It is happening on our watch, in our world.

It is something that will end only as we transform our world into a world of justice using legal and social actions, forming public policies, and advocacy. We all have a responsibility to take part, both actively and in our passive habits of consumerism and social liberalism.

Trafficking is something that will end only as we engage in creative transformation, of an activist kind and a contemplative kind. A kind of revolution.

Hmmmmmmm….Well, you may say I’m a dreamer…but I’m not the only one…

Root causes of trafficking are poverty, gender-based violence, war, and other political conflict.

Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery in which people are forced, defrauded, or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. It deprives people of their human rights and freedoms, reducing them to a commodity that is bought and sold.

It is a global problem involving almost every country in the world in some way. International Human Trafficking is a crisis that shames us all. In many ways, the world is waking up to the reality of a modern form of slavery in our midst. Let us wake up and see it in its entirety, even as it grows around us like a cancerous disease.

Human trafficking needs to be seen in a broader context than the focus that has been placed on the rescuing and restoring to health of those forced or fraudulently lured into a job. There would be no trafficking unless there was a demand for the services that they give. This also includes our comfort with an economy where we can buy cheap goods and services, whether they are produced in the US or any other country.

Very little has been done to address the demand for those areas where trafficked persons are recruited and misused such as for cheap labor in the agricultural industry, in fast food shops, in construction, and in almost any job that is on the low end of the pay scale. Many of the men and women doing the hard labor part are from another country. Many come legally though contracts who have little oversight.

These workers are not coerced or forced to do what they do, but there is very little monitoring of when this type of labor moved over the line and becomes trafficking. These workers brought here legally are often working side-by-side with the illegal workers.

As a business, Human Trafficking has the same driving factors as any other business: supply and demand. Countries of destination are predominately representing the demand side while countries of origin are the supply. In essence, a supply translates to a group of vulnerable people. The most vulnerable people groups in our world today would arguably be refugees, migrants, and internally displaced persons.

The demand side of trafficking feeds into every aspect of our society from the inexpensive food we eat, clothes we wear, houses we live in, songs we listen to, and that demand for sexual services that some men feel they need. If there were no demand in our society for cheap labor helping us to maintain our economic comfort level, there would be no labor trafficking. If there were no demand by men to use women for sexual services, there would be no trafficking for sexual exploitation of women and girls.

Porn also drives demand for sex trafficking. According to Shared Hope International’s report on the demand for sex trafficking, pornography is the primary gateway to the purchase of humans for commercial sex. Why this is so becomes clear when we think critically about what pornography is and how it affects its consumers. Pornography comes from the Greek words porne, meaning “prostituted woman” or “prostitution,” and the word graphos, meaning “writings.” If we can begin to comprehend that what is depicted in pornography is not simply sex or sexuality, but commercial sexual exploitation, we can begin to rightly appreciate the negative and corrosive effects of this content.

Prostitution flourishes everywhere in the country from brothels to conventions to casino hotels to massage parlors to fraternity parties to rites of passage for boys and to street prostitutes controlled by traffickers. 75% or more of trafficked persons are women and girls being used for commercial sexual exploitation.

The approach of trafficking of women for commercial sexual exploitation must be included under the umbrella of the prevention of violence and exploitation of women and girls.

Trafficking of women for prostitution is but the tip of the iceberg on any society’s attitudes toward the value of women and girls. It begins in the early years of socialization of both boys and girls where stereotypes are applied in that women are weaker than men, are not as intelligent as men, and should be submissive. In contrast, our cultural norms socialize boys in being strong, aggressive, controlling, and dominant. These cultural norms play into all aspects of our social life, including entertainment, sports, dating, and marriage.

So what can we do?

  1. Broaden our knowledge about trafficking and look at the demand of pornography sides.
  2. Explore agricultural and industrial practices using migrants and immigrants. Explore the justice in wages, working conditions.
  3. Ask ourselves: Are we ready to pay more for goods and services by pushing for just wages for everyone so that the demand for migrant/illegal labor is reduced?
  4. Support legalization that addresses the crime of trafficking.
  5. Support curriculum in schools that address gender issues relating to gender violence.
  6. Assist those projects that are trying to meet needs of internationally and domestically trafficked persons.
  7. Ask ourselves: Where does trafficking live in the neighborhood of our life? That is, where are we likely to discover the creative transformative action that may ask us to leap into the unknown, take a lonely stand, or do something we are unsure of?

2 thoughts on “Trafficking as a Migration and Refugee Issue

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