Although the exploitation of people for profit is not a new phenomenon, in the late 1990s and early 2000s international leaders, advocates, and the public became increasingly concerned about the risks of exploitation inherent in labor migration and commercial sex work. In 2000, the U.S. government passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA), which defined a new crime of human trafficking and directed law enforcement agencies to begin identifying and responding to this form of victimization. Following passage of the TVPA, U.S. media interest in human trafficking as a crime increased steadily, though the framing of the problem, its causes, and its solutions has changed over time. Media coverage of human trafficking spiked around 2005 and has risen steadily since that time. Human trafficking has become a “hot topic”—the subject of investigative journalism and a sexy plot line for films and television shows. Yet, the media often misrepresent human trafficking or focus exclusively on certain aspects of the problem. Research on human trafficking frames in print media revealed that portrayals of human trafficking were for the most part oversimplified and inaccurate in terms of human trafficking being portrayed as innocent white female victims needing to be rescued from nefarious traffickers. Depictions of human trafficking in movies, documentaries, and television episodes in the United States have followed a rescue narrative, where innocent victims are saved from harmful predators. Additionally, traffickers are commonly portrayed in the media as part of larger organized crime rings, despite empirical evidence to the contrary. Incorrect framing of human trafficking in the popular media may lead policymakers and legislators to adopt less helpful antitrafficking responses, particularly responses focused on criminal justice system solutions.
Rachel Austin and Amy Farrell
Fariyal Ross-Sheriff and Julie Orme
Human trafficking (HT), also known as modern-day slavery, has received significant emphasis during the last decade. Globalization and transnational migration trends continue to amplify economic disparities and increase the vulnerability of oppressed populations to HT. The three major types of HT are labor trafficking, sex trafficking, and war slavery. Victims of HT are exploited for their labor or services and are typically forced to work in inhumane conditions. The majority of these victims are from marginalized populations throughout the world. Although both men and women are victims of HT, women and children are heavily targeted. Interdisciplinary and multi-level approaches are necessary to effectively combat HT. Combating HT is particularly relevant to the profession of social work with its mission of social justice. To address the needs of the most vulnerable of society, implications for social workers are discussed.
The definition of human trafficking generally includes the commercial exploitation of persons for labor or sex. Although the International Labour Organization estimated in 2012 that exploitation through forced labor trafficking is up to three times more prevalent than forced sexual exploitation, sex trafficking seems to receive greater media and public attention. This article provides a historical context for sex trafficking, some discussion about the political evolution of sex trafficking legislation, current knowledge, and practice.
Robert G. Blanton and Shannon Lindsey Blanton
While various forms of slavery and forced labor have existed throughout human history, trafficking in humans is a relatively new area of global concern, as specific laws date back only to 2000. As a legal concept, human trafficking is defined according to its requisite acts (recruitment, transport, harboring of victims), means (use of force, fraud, or coercion), and purpose (exploitation). As a basis for scholarly analysis and public policy, trafficking can be viewed in terms of multiple dimensions, as it constitutes a criminal activity, an egregious abuse of human rights, and a pervasive illicit market. Each of these frames suggests different scholarly approaches to examining trafficking, as well as different policy responses to combat it. For example, a criminal activity frame connotes a prosecutorial response toward traffickers by state agencies, while a human rights-based approach suggests increased attention and services to trafficking victims. There is a significant, though underdeveloped, body of scholarship on the causes of human trafficking. Broadly put, extant work focuses on economic, political, and demographic variables, each of which are part of the wider array of factors that can make trafficking more or less likely. Economic factors can be assessed at both micro and macro levels, ranging from the cost–benefit analyses of traffickers to macroeconomic factors such as poverty and globalization. Political correlates of trafficking include armed conflict, the presence of peacekeepers, and the strength and capacity of domestic political institutions. For their part, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can also play a significant role in shaping state responses to trafficking. As trafficking commonly involves the movement of people across borders, some of the same demographic factors that drive migration are also associated with trafficking flows. Taken as a whole, there are still many underexplored avenues for future research. While well over a thousand articles and books have been published on human trafficking since 2000, a majority of extant research is non-empirical in nature, including general overviews of trafficking or analyses of relevant laws. A key factor contributing to this relative dearth of empirical literature is the lack of comprehensive data that reflects the complex and nuanced nature of trafficking. Given the policy-relevant nature of human trafficking, as well as its implications for human rights, there remains a great need for additional evidence-based research in this area.
Aimee Wodda and Meghna Bhat
Commercial sex continues to be an object of debate in the realm of criminological and criminal justice. The regulation of commercial sex in a global context varies due to local law, culture, and custom. Global criminolegal responses to selling sex include criminalization, decriminalization, abolition, neo-abolition, and legalization. In recent decades, global public policymakers have become increasingly concerned with the public health aspects associated with negative outcomes related to the criminalization of the purchase, facilitation, and/or sale of sex. These concerns include violence against those who sell sex, stigma when attempting to access healthcare and social services, increased risk of sexually transmitted infections or diseases (STIs or STDs) including HIV/AIDS, and economic vulnerability that leaves many who sell sex unable to negotiate the use of condoms and at risk of police arrest for carrying condoms. Those most at risk of harm tend to be young people, LGBTQ populations, and people who are racial or ethnic minorities within their communities—these are often intersecting identities. Organizations such as Amnesty International, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, Human Rights Watch, UN AIDS, and the World Health Organization recommend decriminalization of commercial sex in order to reduce stigma and increase positive health outcomes. Scholars have also examined the challenges faced by migrant sex workers and the problematic effects of being labeled a victim of trafficking. Contemporary strategies geared toward reducing harm for those who sell sex tend to focus on rights issues and how they affect the well-being of those who sell sex.
Yvonne C. Zimmerman
The prominence of religious groups, religious motifs, and religious and theological claims in the anti-trafficking movement is useful for exploring how social movements are shaped by religious actors and claims and, in turn, use religion in the process of creating social change. The anti-trafficking movement can be situated in relation to three key previous social movements: the 18th–19th-century abolition movement that sought to abolish chattel slavery, the 19th–20th-century anti-white slavery campaigns of the social purity movement that sought to eliminate prostitution, and the late 20th-century movement that sought to address Christian persecution through promoting religious freedom. By highlighting the way that the anti-trafficking movement draws on and extends the moral claim-making of each of these social movements, these earlier movements are revealed as shaping the social movement ecology out of which the contemporary anti-trafficking movement emerges and in which it functions. Further, exploring the movement to end human trafficking in relation to these social movements suggests at least three significant ways religion matters in social movements: as a source of moral legitimacy, as a source of moral clarity, and as a cultural resource. As a source of moral authority, religion provides a source of grounding that lends credibility to movements’ moral claims by situating them in something larger than immediate interests and experiences. As a source of moral clarity, religion is a source of the moral values that animates social movements and sustains them through challenges. As a cultural resource, religious sensibilities influence how social movements perceive issues and formulate responses to them.
During the pre-colonial period, women were valued for their productive and reproductive abilities. When women married, their parents received bohali (bridewealth) from the man’s family. During the colonial period women became increasingly responsible for running the household while men were away. Although this gave women more power on a daily basis it also led to increasing domestic violence. In order to support themselves and their families, women have sought out domestic economic opportunities as well as participating in migrant labor. Historically, beer brewing and sex trafficking were two of the economic opportunities available to women in Lesotho and South Africa. Today, women make up the overwhelming majority of labor in the textile factories. Although Lesotho is a patriarchal society, women have made gains in terms of being elected to parliament and serving as regents, yet they are still not allowed to serve as a chief in their own right. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has hit women in Lesotho especially hard.
The transnational sex trafficking of women is an enduring social concern across a strikingly vast array of policy realms, activisms, and academic disciplines, including criminology, sociology, criminal justice, social work, political science, psychology, medicine, gender studies, and anthropology, among others. There are five prevailing themes across this vast body of multidisciplinary work: (a) transnational law and policy responses, (b) antecedents, (c) social organization and politico-economic considerations, (d) representations, and (e) interventions and carceral logics. The analysis featured is keenly attuned to each cited study’s unique disciplinary frameworks and methods, and it concludes with recommendations for future research on this critical human rights issue.
John T. Picarelli
Transnational crimes are crimes that have actual or potential effect across national borders and crimes that are intrastate but offend fundamental values of the international community. The word “transnational” describes crimes that are not only international, but crimes that by their nature involve cross-border transference as an essential part of the criminal activity. Transnational crimes also include crimes that take place in one country, but their consequences significantly affect another country and transit countries may also be involved. Examples of transnational crimes include: human trafficking, people smuggling, smuggling/trafficking of goods, sex slavery, terrorism offences, torture and apartheid. Contemporary transnational crimes take advantage of globalization, trade liberalization and new technologies to perpetrate diverse crimes and to move money, goods, services, and people instantaneously for purposes of perpetrating violence for political ends. While these global costs of criminal activity are huge, the role of this criminal market in the broader international economic system, and its effects on domestic state institutions and economies, has not received widespread attention from an international political economy (IPE) or political science perspective. Given the limits on the exercise of extraterritorial enforcement jurisdiction, states have developed mechanisms to cooperate in transnational criminal matters. The primary mechanisms used in this regard are extradition, lawful removal, and mutual legal assistance.