“They would not call it slavery but some other name. Slavery has been fruitful in giving herself names and it will call itself by yet another name; and you and I and all of us had better wait and see what new form this old monster will assume, in what new skin this old snake will come forth.” – Frederick Douglas
What is Trafficking in Persons?
The phrases “trafficking in persons,” “modern-day slavery,” and “human trafficking” are often used interchangeably. The definition of trafficking in persons is found in the federal legislation first passed in 2000:
…’Severe forms of trafficking in persons’ means—(A) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or (B) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
Trafficking in persons is illegal under international law and under the laws of every country in the world. Yet it is widespread. As the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, said this upon the release of the 2014 TIP Report: “[m]ore than 20 million people, a conservative estimate, are victims of human trafficking.” This is a global problem that affects everyone and every nation. Despite the global nature of the problem, it is so varied and multi-faceted that people are still often confused about what constitutes trafficking in persons, and what we can do to fight it.
The Many Faces of Slavery
The different types of slavery are organized on this site into five general categories: sex trafficking, bonded labor, child labor, domestic servitude, and forced labor. While this is not an exhaustive list, these categories provide a good starting point for highlighting the varied ways in which people are enslaved around the world today.
Sex trafficking is probably the most well-known. Sex trafficking happens in every continent around the globe. Somaly Mam was trafficked in Cambodia. Ganbayasgakh Geleg in Mongola runs a shelter for sex trafficking victims on the China-Mongolia border. Charimaya Tamang was trafficked from Nepal to India for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Bonded labor is a type of slavery that is most common in South Asia. Kari Siddamma, for example, works with a low-caste tribal group in Tamil Nadu, India, who were extremely vulnerable to various types of bonded labor. This type of enslavement is usually enforced through a debt that is often unpayable. Another example of this is found in Japan, where Ippei Torii works. There, migrant workers are often charged fees in order to be put into a government-run trainee program, and then the fees are held over their heads as their debt.
Child labor crosses several categories, but is an important type of enslavement. In some countries, such as in Lithuania where Kristina Misiniene works, girls below the age of majority will be trafficked for sexual purposes. Young boys are sold to fishermen to work on Lake Volta in Ghana, a problem that people like Chief Togbega Hadjor and Patience Quaye have tried to address. Forced begging is also a problem, among the street kids in Senegal that Moussa Sow works with, as is trafficking for the purposes of producing child pornography, a problem that Monica Boseff has seen in Romania. The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi also works with child labor, and has freed an estimated 83,000 children from forced labor in industries such as the carpet industry in India.
Many people around the world move across borders for work. One common profession that has always attracted migrant workers is that of domestic servitude. However, domestic servitude can become a form of slavery. Nirmala Bonat, for example, moved from Indonesia to Malaysia to work as a domestic servitude. She was brutally beaten and mistreated, and forced to work without pay. The Reverend Peter Nguyen Van Hung, from Vietnam, runs an office in Taiwan where he helps women and men who have come to Taiwan for help. Susan Ople similarly runs a center dedicated to overseas Filipino workers, many of whom work in domestic service. Forced labor is a broad category, and encompasses a wide variety of slave-like practices. There are many ways in which workers are exploited and forced to provide labor services. Vannak Anan Prum was trafficking in Cambodia, and forced to work on a Thai fishing boat. He was enslaved for seven years. Adiba Umarova uncovered a trafficking ring in Tajikistan for forced labor in Moscow. Brother Xavier Plassat works with the Pastoral Land Commission in Brazil to address forced labor in the rural areas of the country. Even in the United States, Laura Germino and her organization, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, fight against forced labor in the tomato growing industry in Florida.
The Many Faces of Abolition
The scope of the issue can be overwhelming. The problem seems unconquerable. However, just as there are many ways to enslave, there are many ways to free. Abolition also comes in many forms, and this site sorts those forms into five categories: awareness building, policy making, prosecution, rescue, survivor empowerment, and victim aftercare.
Awareness building is spreading the word that slavery still exists. It exists, and it’s at our back door. It helps make our clothes, and it happens in our alleys. Filmmakers and actresses, like Guy Jacobson and Adi Ezroni, have helped spread the word by making films that highlight and explain human trafficking. Natalia Abdullayeva works to spread pamphlets and materials to workers in remote areas of Uzbekistan about forced labor in the cotton fields. Anas Aremeyaw Anas, an investigative journalist in Ghana, has repeatedly risked his life to uncover rings of traffickers. Government officials, like Iren Adamne Dunai in Hungary; prosecutors, like Lucy Blacio in Ecuador; politicians, like Eva Biaudet in Finland; and academics, like Anne Gallagher in Australia make policies that help people better understand and combat this problem.
Prosecution is no less an important piece of the puzzle. Human traffickers should be held accountable for their crimes. This can include victims who relentlessly pursue their cases in court, like Jhinna Pinchi who fought for years for her traffickers to be brought to justice. But it can also just be prosecutors, like Darlene Pajarito in the Philippines. It can be judges who hear cases and help provide victim centered adjudication, like TN Kunwar of Nepal. Prosecution can’t happen until survivors are rescued. People like Gary Haugen of IJM help to rescue people from a variety of human trafficking situations. Often, police are involved in rescues, including Katrin Gluic of Croatia.
Once they are rescued, however, survivors have to learn how to heal. This is the purview of victim aftercare. People like Philip Hyldgaard provide shelters for survivors, safe places where they can stay and work through what has happened. Iana Matei in Romania provides residential and psychological services to survivors, and Gilbert Munda helps children who were once child soldiers become normal children again. The next step of that process is being empowered. This often involves finding employment and functioning as a member of society. Pierre Tami helps survivors do this through a catering business, and through a restaurant. Bhanuja Sharan Lal helps child survivors of trafficking catch up on their education through community-based schools.
Come and See
This site, as you can see, is a collection of incredible people working against modern-day slavery. The heroes I have mentioned above are only a small portion of the dedicated abolitionists featured on this site. No matter what form slavery may take, these people stand up for freedom in diverse and amazing ways. Browse around this site and get to know them. Get to know the faces of modern abolition.