By Father John Flynn, L.C.
ROME, 20 JUN. 2010 (ZENIT)
The fervor of millions of fans around the world, glued to their
television screens as they follow the World Cup is matched by
concern that the event will propitiate an increase in human
Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, the archbishop of Durban in
South Africa, mentioned this to Zenit in an interview published
May 5. He said that there were signs that organized crime rings
were smuggling people to provide sexual services during the
Coincidentally, just after the start of the World Cup, the
U.S. Department of State released its Trafficking in Persons
Report 2010. It's the tenth anniversary of these reports that
track the human trafficking trade. A fact sheet accompanying the
report admitted that the push against human trafficking is still
in the initial stages. Many countries are still learning about
it and exploring ways to deal with it effectively, it noted.
Although much media attention is focused on trafficking for
sexual ends, the State Department pointed out that more people
are trafficked for forced labor than for commercial sex. Even
so, traffickers often do use sexual violence as a way to coerce
women in their work in fields or factories.
Some of the main findings of the 2010 report are the
12.3 million adults and children are in forced labor, bonded
labor, and forced prostitution around the world, with 56% of
these victims being women and girls.
The value for traffickers of this trade is estimated at $32
The prevalence of trafficking victims in the world is calculated
to be at the level of 1.8 per 1,000 inhabitants. This varies by
region with it reaching 3 per 1,000 in Asia and the Pacific.
There were 4,166 successful trafficking prosecutions in 2009, a
40% increase over 2008.
There are still 62 countries that have yet to convict a
trafficker under laws in compliance with the Palermo Protocol (a
document adopted by the United Nations on human trafficking).
No less than 104 countries are without laws, policies, or
regulations to prevent victims' deportation.
The report explained that the Palermo Protocol was the first
time an international instrument existed on the issue of human
trafficking. It called for an approach based on a "3P" paradigm:
prevention, prosecution, and victim protection. It is not
sufficient to prosecute traffickers, the report stated, if there
is no assistance to the survivors and steps taken to ensure that
no one else is victimized.
Trafficking can take many forms, the report commented. At
times it can involve deceiving and kidnapping of unwitting
victims, but often it involves coercing and exploiting people
who initially entered a particular form of service voluntarily
or migrated willingly.
The State Department cited recent studies that show the
majority of human trafficking in the world takes the form of
forced labor. According to estimates by the International Labor
Organization, for every trafficking victim subjected to forced
prostitution, nine people are forced to work. Often this
practice is facilitated by circumstances of high rates of
unemployment, poverty, discrimination and corruption.
One type of forced labor is through the use of a bond, or
debt. This occurs when traffickers or recruiters used by them
exploit an initial debt the worker assumed as part of the terms
of employment. This can also be inter-generational. In South
Asia it is estimated that there are millions of trafficking
victims working to pay off their ancestors' debts, according to
Involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, child
soldiers, and child sex trafficking are some of the other main
forms of trafficking in persons.
The wide range of the forms of trafficking mean that this
matter is not only a human rights issue, but it can also be
viewed as related to fundamental issues of civil liberties, the
State Department noted.
Not a priority
In spite of the seriousness of this problem the report
lamented the small number of prosecutions. The report affirmed
that while trafficking in persons is a crime akin to murder,
rape and kidnapping, the number of prosecutions each year is
"dismally low" in comparison to the scope of the problem. With
only a bit over 4,000 prosecutions last year this is a sign that
the injustices committed are not viewed as a priority by
authorities, the report accused.
Too often the victims of trafficking are seen as society's
throwaways, not important enough to be a matter for concern.
Even where action is taken it is frequently limited to punishing
the perpetrators, without offering assistance to the victims
beyond ensuring their testimony to help obtain a conviction. In
fact, the report commented, if the victims are in the country
illegally they are often interned and forcibly repatriated to
their country of origin.
Such a response, the report observed, may be in the
self-interest of governments by ridding themselves of potential
burdens, but it does little to help the victims. For a start it
impedes efforts to help them overcome the traumas suffered
during their period of enforced labor.
Then, sending victims back home to the country of origin,
often without informing them of what other options exist, not
only exposes them to possible trauma associated with being
identified as a trafficking victim, but it also simply returns
them to the same conditions and pressures that contributed to
their initial trafficking experience.
Given the problems in dealing successfully with trafficking
the report recommended greater cooperation between authorities.
This includes cooperation both between governments and with
As well, specialized task forces should be set up, and
protocols need to be established with business associations to
assist in ensuring that the supply chains of commerce are freed
from the use of slave labor.
The report also advocated using means such as consumer
spending and corporate investment as means to put pressure on
traffickers. If both consumers and investors demand greater
transparency and accountability then it will be harder for the
modern slave traders to make money.
One of the more interesting points made by the report is the
need to view the problem of trafficking in persons in a wider
context. For example, the State Department observed that the
problem of corruption of public officials is a major impediment
in dealing with issue.
Indexes that rank countries on civil liberties and corruption
show that governments that rate poorly on the matter of
trafficking also have low ranks on corruption and civil
Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical
Council for Migrants and Travelers, addressed the participants
at the Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking, held Feb 13-15,
2008, about the problem of human trafficking.
He clearly stated that "trafficking in human beings is a
dreadful offence against human dignity."
Easy solutions do not exist, Archbishop Marchetto admitted.
What is needed, nevertheless, is a solution not only punishes
those involved in organizing this trafficking, but also acts in
the best interests of the victims.
He encouraged all efforts to deal with such criminal
activities and to protect the victims of human trafficking. But
he also pointed out that it is necessary to deal with the demand
side of this exploitation.
While attention is normally focused on the criminals and
victims the point raised by Archbishop Marchetto is worth
reflecting on. If we want the products and services we purchase
to come from ethically correct sources then as consumers then we
also have a part to play in ensuring that this comes about.