Forced labor, or labor trafficking, is the largest form of trafficking throughout the world. It is the “recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining – involved when a person uses force or physical threats, psychological coercion, abuse of the legal process, deception or other coercive means to compel someone to work”. The ILO (International Labor Organization) identified 6 factors of forced labor which included threats of physical or sexual violence, restriction of movement of the worker, debt bondage where the employer may provide food and accommodation at such inflated prices that paying off the debt is extremely difficult for the worker, withholding wages or refusing to pay the worker, retention of passports and documents and threat of denunciation to the authorities.
The most vulnerable population to this kind of trafficking is migrants. In fact, many researchers describe human trafficking as migration gone awry. These are individuals who are looking for work and may be trafficked into other countries or forced into labor in their own countries. This section of trafficking is unbelievably difficult to understand, as it is enormous. Slave labor contributes to the products of at least 122 goods from 58 countries around the world.
EVERYONE is affected by this form of trafficking, from the clothes you wear that could have been produced in forced labor to the stones in your jewelry that were mined in potentially similar circumstances. Some of the most common areas of forced labor include agriculture (crops and livestock), fishing and aquaculture, logging, mining, construction, factories, restaurants, hotels and private homes.
These are all areas that have various levels of public visibility, yet somehow these people stay “hidden.”
An increasing challenge in understanding labor trafficking is the fact that this sector already has multiple issues with working conditions, illegal immigrants and low pay. An already exploitative field, many migrants labor in modern-day sweatshops where employers get away with paying poverty wages under bad conditions because they know they have the upper hand, as their victims fear detection and deportation.
In simple terms, sex trafficking is the “recruitment harboring, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act”.
Variations on sexual exploitation occur all over the world, here are just a few examples of sexual exploitation.
In Switzerland, young girls are brought in on “artist” visas as exotic dancers. They work as striptease dancers to meet their visa requirements, but are often forced into prostitution as well. In Germany, “bar girls” are women who work in the bars or clubs but are also sold by the bartender or bouncer to men for the evening. During the 1980s Japanese sex tours to Thailand began, where Japanese businessman would visit Thailand for what is now referred to as sex tourism. Sex tourism continues to be a booming industry today. Brothels are located all over the world and can be hidden so that only locals may be aware of them, or out in the open for all to see and visit. Brothels may be large or small establishments holding anywhere from 10 to 300 prostitutes. Club brothels, which act as dance clubs, have prostitutes for purchase as well. Karaoke clubs in Southeast Asia offer a night of singing and partying, but you may also purchase a young woman to take home for the evening. Pornography is also a growing trend because someone can exploit someone over and over again by continuing to sell the pictures or video. What is often misunderstood is the fact that sexual exploitation in private homes by individuals who often demand sex and work (in the home or even outside the home) is categorized under many laws throughout the world as labor exploitation or labor trafficking, rather than sex trafficking It is important to stress that sex trafficking and sex work are very different. Some choose to be in this work and are referred to as sex workers, they are still free to live and to leave as this is their job.
The ILO estimates that female sex trafficking or exploitation accounts for only 22% of the human trafficking industry, and it is important to remember that men and boys are exploited in this industry as well. Although we don’t know how accurate this statistic is, it is important to realize that number is not 100% as though the media shows human trafficking is just sex trafficking. There are other forms of trafficking that are being ignored. Despite that sex trafficking is one of the heaviest types of human trafficking pushed in the advocacy world, the information is still woefully inadequate and misdirected.
Children are used in every sector that adults are used in, and the conditions are usually worse, as they are put in more dangerous situations, being small and naïve. Most laws have followed the U.N. definition of human trafficking when they define the role of children in their laws, but how the children are exploited is further defined. For example, most laws state that when a child (under 18 years of age) is recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided, obtained or maintained to perform a commercial sex act, proving force, fraud or coercion, it is not necessary for the offense to be characterized as human trafficking”
When it comes to forced child labor, in many countries it is legal for children to work, therefore child labor is defined by criteria of age, duration of labor and type of economic activity. Some flags of possible forced labor of a child include situations where the child appears to be in the custody of non-family members who require the child to perform work that benefits someone not involved with the child or their family, and similar to trafficked adults, the child does not have an option of leaving.
Commercial sexual exploitation of minors are commonly overlooked, misunderstood and unaddressed forms of child abuse. The range of this sector is extensive and includes the following: using a minor for the purpose of sexual exploitation, exploiting a minor through prostitution, exploiting a minor through survival sex (exchanging sex/sexual acts for money of something of value [e.g., shelter, food, drugs]), using a minor in pornography, exploiting a minor through sex tourism, mail order bride trade and early marriage, and exploiting a minor by having her or him perform in sexual venues (e.g., peep shows or strip clubs).
Some other forms of child trafficking that are more common are those in forced labor. This includes scavenging the streets and landfills for recyclables to sell in India, begging and stealing in western Europe, working in the fields gathering poppies that will be made into opium or heroin in Afghanistan, collecting cacao beans in Africa, household work in the U.S, factories in Bangladesh and construction South America. Note that all of these sectors exist globally.
One emerging trend is that of child soldiers. UNICEF estimates there are over 300,000 children being exploited in over 30 armed conflicts throughout the world. While the majority of child soldiers are between the ages of 15-18 years old, some are as young as 7 or 8. Child soldiers are the unlawful recruitment or use of children, either through force, fraud, or coercion, or by armed forces as combatants or other forms of labor. Perpetrators may be government armed forces, parliamentary organizations or rebel groups. Some children are abducted to be used as combatants, while others are used as porters, cooks, guards, servants, messengers or spies. Both male and female child soldiers are often sexually abused and some are used as sex slaves, all of which put them at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
One industry that receives perhaps the smallest amount of press and research but is very much a concern is the trafficking of organs. More than 114,000 legal organ transplants are performed every year around the world, but this only satisfies less then an estimated 10% of the global need for organs such as kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs and pancreases. This shortage of organs, combined with the desperation experienced by patients in need of transplants, is driving an international shadow market.
The sale and purchase of organs themselves, while illegal in many countries, is not necessarily human trafficking. The crime of trafficking in persons requires the “recruitment, transport or harboring” of a person, this time for organ removal through coercive means. To constitute trafficking, the person must have been alive when the organs were taken, which means the organs that are donated from deceased donors who have died from natural causes do not involve human trafficking.
Recipients of the organs are generally independently wealthy or supported by their governments or private insurance companies, while the victims and owners of the organs are usually poor and from poorer countries, often employed and with a low level of education. The passports or documents of the victims will be withheld as a means to control the participants so that if they try and back out of the agreement or operation they encounter violence or threats of violence.
A recent study by the U.S based Coalition of Organ Failure Solutions has documented the use of debt bondage and extortion as a means of coercing organ “donation.” Victims are given the opportunity to sell a kidney to pay down their inflated debt, but this is very risky, as the conditions for the surgery and post-care are not safe, and the debt is never fully paid off.