Brief Background of Human Trafficking

Trafficking, in the form of human trafficking, sex trafficking and sexual slavery, has grown to become one of the world’s worst and most prevalent forms of human rights violation. As one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world, trafficking causes grave and far-reaching social, political and economic implications.

Estimates by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) put the value of global trafficking in the neighborhood of a staggering 8 billion US dollars as of the year 2001. There are obvious links between the issue of trafficking and insecurity and discrimination against marginalized communities. The following data chart, courtesy of IOM, shows the number of reported human trafficking cases across the world during the years 2010 to 2012.

So, what drives this deplorable industry? Victims are often deceptively lured by false promises of decent employment and marriage while others are coerced, threatened, abducted and sold off to merchants. Often times the victims are women and children.

Human Trafficking

The Impacts of Trafficking

According to a 2009 journal by Alexis Aronowitz titled: Human Trafficking, Human Misery: The Global Trade in Human Beings, the reasons why accurately measuring the scale and impact of global trafficking is challenging can be attributed to the following:

  • Its clandestine nature
  • Inadequate national definitions
  • Inexperience in handling the matter
  • Lack of political will
  • The victims’ inability or unwillingness to cooperate
  • Lack of political will

Estimates by the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) put the number of illegal immigrants reaching Europe and the US annually at 400,000 and 850,000 respectively. A good number of these figures represent trafficked victims.

Economic Impacts

The countries from which people are trafficked suffer lost opportunities in the form of loss of human resources. Not to mention the direct costs of trafficking involved denies these countries (which are often developing countries) remittances which would otherwise be channeled into development initiatives. Also, the worst forms of child labor, negatively impact their future productivity which would otherwise be put into good use. (US Department of State, 2008: Trafficking In Persons Report)

Societal Impacts

It is hard to quantify the direct impact of families and the community left behind. Not only does trafficking undermine family ties but also lead to neglect of children and the aged – in cases where women have been trafficked. Victims who are fortunate to return home often suffer stigmatization and in some cases irreparable mental damage. This can lead to substance abuse and/or a spike in criminal activities.

Health Impacts

Health impacts associated with sex trafficking come in different forms. The first one is during the victims’ transportation. Often times they are cramped together placed in unsanitary conditions which lead to spread of infectious diseases, injury and/or death.

There have also been countless cases of emotional, sexual and physical violence by traffickers against the victims. It is even worse for sex trafficking victims who are often exposed to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. While the sexual slavery victim is obviously directly affected, these diseases are often spread on to the greater population of the destination country.

National Security and Rule of Law

According to a report by Governance and Social Development Resource Centre (GSDRC), “Organized criminal groups often combine human trafficking with other types of criminal activities, and its profits fuel other criminal activities, which present huge security threats to countries, such as the drug trade, particularly as some of the trade routes, which they control, are the same”. This puts citizens at risk while making it harder for law enforcement agencies to function properly.


Resources and Additional Information