Human trafficking is akin to the earlier centuries’ slavery and slave trade. It is the biggest form of organized crime after the crimes of dealing with illegal drugs and weapons. Human trafficking is defined in Article 3 (a) the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of a person by threatening or using force and or any other form of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, or abusing power to gain control of another human being with the aim of exploiting that person.
There are three main elements of human trafficking under this United Nations protocol, which is inclusive of the act of, for instance, recruitment, transportation, or harboring of persons, the means such as the use of coercion, fraud, deception, or even the abuse of power, and finally there is the element of the purpose, as to why human trafficking is done, which is usually exploitation of such individuals (United Nations, 1900).
Human trafficking is a criminal offence internationally and under domestic laws. Other acts that are incidental to human trafficking have also been outlawed, such as an attempt to commit human trafficking offenses relating accomplices in human trafficking offences and the organization and management of other people to commit human trafficking.
A factsheet done by the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Global Human Trafficking indicates that an approximation of two and a half million persons in the world are in forced labor, which is inclusive of sexual exploitation at any one given time. Fifty six percent of these individuals are in Asia and the Pacific region, while ten percent of the persons, who are trafficked in the world, are in the Caribbean and the Latin America. The Middle East and the Northern part of Africa account for nine point two percent, while the industrialized countries and countries in transition account for ten point eight percent and eight percent of the total trafficked persons respectively.
One hundred and sixty one countries have been reported as being affected by human trafficking, either as a source, a transit, or even a destination of the individuals, who are being trafficked (Territo & Matteson, 2012). One hundred and twenty seven countries are most affected by the trafficked persons, who are normally exploited in approximately one hundred and thirty seven countries around the world.
The victims of human trafficking are majorly young people between the ages of eighteen and twenty four years. It is estimated that one point two million children are trafficked annually. Ninety five percent of the victims of human trafficking undergo physical violence, sexual exploitation, or both during trafficking.
After being trafficked, forty three percent of the victims are taken to force commercial sex, in which ninety eight percent of this percentage is girls and women. Thirty two percent of the victims are engaged in economic exploitation that is forced, of which fifty six percent are women and girls. An approximation of only one person is convicted for every eight hundred persons, who are trafficked.
Consequences of human trafficking
It is estimated by the International Labor Organization that human trafficking annually generates thirty one point six billion dollars of illicit profit globally. A human trafficker could earn up to two hundred and fifty dollars per victim annually by sexually exploiting the victim, where the victim is either paid meagerly or is not paid at all.
Victims of human trafficking are used in the production processes, where they provide cheap or free labor. Being forced to engage into the labor is not only against the human rights; furthermore, it is a hindrance to employment opportunities, which, in turn, reduces the per capita income of a state, slowing the economic growth of a country (United Nations, 1900). The victims are in most cases overcome by burden of debt, since they are not paid, or the little pay is not enough to even feed oneself. Therefore, the victims are pressured to provide the forced labor.
These human trafficking crimes have the effect of disrupting free market by promoting smuggling and money laundering to enable these organizations to support their human trafficking ventures. These gangs that venture into human trafficking are often large networks that are well-funded and not only do they victimize individuals, but in other cases they victimize the state governments that are not powerful or stable enough to stop the organization from human trafficking.
Victims of human trafficking are in most cases left immobile by confiscation of their travel documents and identification documents. This makes them picked for crimes, since they cannot defend themselves due to the lack of their documents. Victims are normally hosed in poor living conditions, clothing, and inadequate and non-nutritious food. They are often abused by their employers physically and sexually.
Most victims, who are forced into the sexual exploitation, run the risk of getting infected with HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. They are also not able to access health care. In other instances, to ensure that the victims are bonded, they are forced to take drugs by the traffickers making them addicted.
International legal framework and initiatives on human trafficking
International law is the most important conduit in combating human trafficking, since it is done in national cross borders, and human trafficking is against percepts of human rights, such as slavery, torture, inhuman, and degrading treatment and/or punishment, human dignity, interests of the child, and sexual exploitation. Some of these include:
United Nations convention on the rights of the child
The convention on the rights of the child provides for the treatment and protection of the child. The convention emphasizes on ensuring that the state and persons handling the child should use the criteria of ensuring that the best interests of the child are paramount (United Nations, 1900). The convention binds its member states to ensure that they implement the convention. It has been ratified by all states apart from the United States of America, Southern Sudan, and Somalia; therefore, has a far reaching jurisdiction. The implementation of its objects by member states is done by the United Nations Committee on the rights of the child.
The convention has optional protocols. The first one is on the restriction of involvement of children in military conflicts. The second protocol is on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography, which is important in the prevention of trafficking of children, since it seeks to protect children from being traded and eventually being exploited either sexually or by means of forced labor or engagement in military activities (United Nations, 1900).
United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
Human trafficking, being second in the largest organized crimes order, is covered by this convention. Transnational organized crimes are the crimes that are carried on and coordinated across national borders, which involves networks of persons working in more than one state with the aim of planning and executing illegal ventures (Centre for International Crime Prevention, 2002). These groups use corruption and systematically execute violence in order to achieve their objectives.
United Nations Convention against Torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and/or punishment
This is an international human rights instrument, whose ambit is to prevent torture, cruelty, and degrading treatment or punishment. State parties are to ensure that they take all the necessary legislative and enforcement steps in order to curb torture within their territories or even allow the transportation of persons to other states, where they have a reason to believe that such person would be tortured.
Torture refers both to physical and psychological threat. Most persons, who have been trafficked, are usually sold out as property of their buyers. This implies that the individual’s freedoms are limited and the master could do as he wishes including torturing the person. Psychological torture occurs when such an individual is mentally disturbed in relation to broken ties with family members and the mandatory change of environment without his consent. Article 8 of the convention provides for universal jurisdiction, where a court sitting in any country can try cases of torture. This convention, therefore, is important in ensuring that acts such as human trafficking that cause physical and mental torture are criminalized and eliminated.
United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking
This initiative was conceived to ensure and promote the international fight against human trafficking through international agreements and treaties. It has a wide net of cooperation with other organizations that deal with the prevention and elimination of human trafficking (United Nations, 1900). It was launched by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and works closely with International Labor Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the International Organization on Immigration.
Principles of jus cogens and customary international laws
Where a state has not ratified among the conventions relating to the elimination of the human trafficking menace, the general principles of international law apply. These principles are either customary international laws that have been accepted as binding upon the states by constant use and backed by the legal norms, or they can be peremptory norms under the principle of jus cogens, which stipulates that all civilized states of the world are mandatorily bound by the certain principles, such as slavery, and slave trade is accepted as criminal offence against an individual.
Legalizing Sale of human organs and its effect on human trafficking
Science has bequeathed the ability to transplant human organs from one individual to another. However, the source of the human organs is the main question that creates difficulty. Today human organs needed for transplant are normally donated by the persons, who agree to allow their organs to be used, if they are not of use to them; for instance, when in a coma for a certain period. However, the sale of human organs is a thriving business in the black market and it is criminalized.
In legalizing the sale of human organs, the ripple effect will be felt worldwide, where people will be trafficked to have their organs “harvested”, increasing human trafficking and mass murders (Territo & Matteson, 2012). In as much as people will be save using the organs, the ethical dilemma would be to evaluate how many healthy persons will be murdered in order to cater for the legal market for the organs, which would be unreasonable.
There are alternatives to this question, where there is encouragement of prosthetic organs and where not possible, the sensitization of people on the need to voluntarily donate their organs in the cases, where their own bodies have totally failed, but still have some organs as viable.