Human Trafficking – The Market for Modern Day Slavery

Human Trafficking - The Market for Modern Day Slavery

Human trafficking is ever-present and growing market in Southeast Asia, Central America, South America, Eastern Europe, the US, and Canada. Wait, rewind… The US and Canada, the same countries that have advanced human rights, democracy, and the rule of law? Where tolerance is advocated and acceptance has grown to become a social norm?

In fact, a little known truth is that North American market for human trafficking is quite large and is growing.

Before we begin, let us first determine: What exactly is human trafficking?

Human Trafficking: What is it?

Synonymous with “modern day slavery” and “trafficking in persons,” human trafficking is defined under U.S. federal law as an umbrella term for activities involved with a person “[who] obtains or holds a person in compelled service”. This can include forced labour, sex trafficking, the organ trade, etc…

Trafficking in persons, or human trafficking, is defined by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as:

[The] recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

According to the United States, the common elements to each of these situations include “force, fraud, or coercion that [is] used to control people […that] is tied to inducing someone into commercial sex acts, or labor or services”.

Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that annually there are 2.5 million victims of human trafficking. Women, and young girls, are especially exposed given that prostitution counts for about 43% of human trafficking worldwide.  However, forced labour, which accounts for about 32% of global human trafficking, also victimizes numerous men and children.

The Market for Human Trafficking

On Sunday February 3rd, the first kickoff of the 2013 Super Bowl represented the start of two games: that of football and that of heightened sales in human sex trafficking.

The human trafficking market is one of the most profitable industries in the world. Sex trafficking is the most common form of it.

The human sex trafficking ring brings thousands of prostitutes to the Super Bowl to please male fans looking to pay for sex. Forbes reports that pimps in search of greater profits, prostituted upwards of 10,000 girls at the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami.  Clemmie Greenlee, former sex trafficking victim and Super Bowl day prostitute, reported that she was expected to sleep with anywhere between 25 to 50 men a day. When she failed to reach the number of men dictated to her, she was tortured as consequence.

The human trafficking market is driven by the laws of supply and demand. Meaning that as long as there remains a demand for pornography, strip clubs, and illegal sex, there will remain a supply of individuals willing to profit from its sale. Consequently, the supply will be sustained and the sex trade will continue to abduct, buy, sell, rape, and exploit young women for the purpose of supplying such a demand.

Sex trafficking is a $32 billion dollar industry, greater than the profits of Nike, Google and Starbucks combinedThe average slave today earns their exploiter a several hundred percent return per year of sex trafficking. According to Joy Smith, a Canadian Member of Parliament, “Sex trafficking is a $32 billion dollar industry, greater than the profits of Nike, Google and Starbucks combined”.

The result? A market for human trafficking.

What is the Difference between Historical Slavery and Modern Day Slavery?

Slavery today functions with the same purpose it has historically: maximization of profit through the minimization, or in some cases, the elimination of the cost of labor. The differences, however, lie in the increased accessibility exploiters have to the global economy and the decreased cost of acquiring and transporting slaves.

Slavery still exists in its modern-day form of human trafficking.

Siddharth Kara, one of the world’s foremost experts on human trafficking and modern day slavery, suggests that it is the income generated which serves the main driver of modern day slavery.

Human Trafficking in Your Own Backyard – Canada

In Canada, the reality of human trafficking is grim and cannot be ignored.  Youth are being targeted for exploitation across cities in every province and territory. With promises of a life filled with money and luxury, pimps convince young vulnerable girls to willingly join their rings. If subjected to such circumstances, these Canadian born youth will be transferred from city to city through the existing circuit of human trafficking. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) estimates that domestic sex traffickers earn an average of $280,000 annually from every victim under their control.

Human Trafficking in CanadaIn an attempt to derail human trafficking in Canada, action has been taken at the federal level. Launched in June 2012, Canada’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking is supported by 18 federal departments and serves as “a comprehensive blueprint to guide the Government of Canada’s fight against the serious crime of human trafficking”. Once passed, motion M-317 will declare February 22nd Canada’s National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

In order to support this action, changes to federal legislation have been made. Bill C-49 amended the Criminal Code to specifically prohibit trafficking in persons in Canada. Bill C-268 created a new offence for child trafficking with a five-year mandatory penalty. Finally, Bill C-310 allowed the Canadian government to prosecute Canadian citizens and permanent residents who engage in trafficking outside of Canada. Bill C-310 also serves to enhance the definition of the offence of exploitation in the trafficking of persons.

What are other countries doing about human trafficking?

On September 25, 2012, President Barack Obama addressed the Clinton Global Initiative and identified human trafficking as modern day slavery, suggesting that it is one of the “great human rights causes of our time” that “… ought to concern every person, because it’s a debasement of our common humanity”. 

The same day, President Obama signed the “Executive Order to strengthen protections against trafficking in persons in Federal contracting”.  This prohibits human trafficking in all federal government contracting, both within and outside of the US. Furthermore, this new policy is expected to significantly curtail human trafficking in the global supply chain of goods and services – given that the U.S. Government is the single largest purchaser of goods and services world-wide.

In countries such as Norway and Sweden, a ‘target the market’ model has been adopted to target the human trafficking market by eliminating demand, supporting victims, and placing the ownership for these crimes on the perpetrators. In doing so, these countries have made substantive progress toward eliminating human trafficking.

According to journalist Nicholas D. Kristof, “It’s time for a 21st-century abolitionist movement in the U.S and around the world”; I happen to think he is right.

Chelsea Sauve

Chelsea Sauve

Chelsea has had the fortune of traveling to countries in Europe, North America, Asia, and Central America. This exposure has enabled her to provide analysis from various vantage points as a Foreign Affairs columnist for Mindthis. Chelsea is now a Masters student at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. In her gap year, Chelsea worked as a pre-school teacher both in Ottawa and Panama, and led a teen travel tour in Costa Rica. To clear her mind, Chelsea enjoys swimming, tea, working out, improving her guitar skills, reading and travelling. Chelsea hopes to use her academic and real world experience to manifest provocative ideas that generate conversation among young professionals in the world of international affairs.