Essay on Human Trafficking

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Human trafficking is becoming a global threat to women, men, and children. It is an injustice which is affecting millions of people belonging to different countries. Unfortunately it is prevailing in every continent and striking people at all socioeconomic levels. Human trafficking is carried out in very organized manner and considered to be quite profitable business which is generating one fifty billion dollars every year. Of which 99 billion dollars are coming from sex trafficking carried out in prostitution industry. The latest worldwide estimate conducted by the International Labor Organization revealed that human trafficking is affecting around 21 million people globally. Roughly it is estimated that 4.5 million of those victims are traded for sexual purposes. Most of the human trafficking victims belong to Asia and the Pacific region. There is an increase in the rate of human trafficking taking place in Africa as compared to the estimation carried out in year 2005. The International Labor Organization also reported that the most common victims of human trafficking are women and girls who constitute 55 percent of overall human trafficking and 98 percent of trafficking done for sexual exploitation. (Exodus Cry, 2018).

Human trafficking was defined by United Nations as the transportation, harboring, selection for particular job, shifting or receiving of any person by the use of threat or force or other methods including fraud, deceiving, kidnapping, or the use of power or taking advantage of vulnerability, giving or receiving money for the purpose of achieving consent of a person or to gain control over another person and the motive behind is exploitation.

Humans are being trafficked all over the world for different purposes. The three common kinds of trafficking which the world is facing are forced labor, debt slavery and sex trafficking. According to the US. Department of State, the largest sector of human trafficking constitute forced labor which involves serving someone involuntarily. Debt slavery is another type of human trafficking in which a person is obliged to do work as he has to pay the pending debt. On the other hand, sex trafficking involves participating in commercial sex acts unwillingly. Women and children are the ones who are disproportionately affected by sex trafficking. The child under the age of 18 involved by sex traffickers in commercial sex acts is regarded as a victim of sex trafficking in the United States. Among people who are trafficked internationally, 80 percent of them are women and girls. One million children are exploited by sex traffickers yearly. The general perception about human trafficking is that women being involved in prostitution by force. But reality is that men and children are also the victim of human trafficking. Prostitution is just one form of human trafficking. Other types of labor in which victims are forced to serve include domestic work, manufacturing, agriculture related work, construction, janitorial servitude, caretaker of elder, services in hotel, work in hair and nail salons and club dancing while being stripped. Sometimes women are deceived through the offers of marriage. They assume that they are travelling to another country for marriage but they are enslaved by traffickers (Human Rights Commission).

            Shelley (2010) identified various reasons behind increasing rates of human trafficking. She reported that with Globalization, increase in illegal trade and the end of Cold War, trafficking has greatly increased. The globalizing process has resulted in free trade, free markets, increased economic competition and a failure of states in introducing interventions in the economy. The globalization has also led the world towards increased movement of people and goods and more fast communications. The areas which are quite distant from each other are now part of the global economy. Yet the prosperous countries have strict rules regarding entrance to their countries. Limitations on job opportunities in these countries for foreign people clash with the growing requirements of global economy. As a result many people adopt illegal ways to enter developed countries because they have greater labor demand. The political instability in the world has also escalated the human trafficking. The breakdown of USSR has led to many small states which have weak control over their borders making them paradise for human traffickers. Additionally the regional conflicts going on in different regions of the world has provided great space for human traffickers. In chaos and war situation, it is quite effortless for the traffickers to carry over their activities.

Another political factor helping traffickers is statelessness of many people in different regions of the world. It was estimated in 2009 that around 12 million people in the world are currently stateless and deprived of registration at birth, education, health care facilities, job opportunities and legal traveling. The people who are stateless are more vulnerable to forced labor and human trafficking. The great barrier for them is that they are unable to receive any protection from the police as well as they don’t have any access to legal authority. Therefore, such people are soft targets for the traffickers as there are less chances of being caught by the police (as cited in Shelley, 2010).  

Sexual trafficking and exploitation of people for labor has greatly increased as a result of altering social conditions of people. The population comprising youth has drastically increased in the developing world. In the absence of capital and adequate job opportunities, the trend of migration from rural areas to urban areas has increased and it has damaged the traditional values prevailing in these areas. The communities which were well established before are destroyed now. In turn global economy has amplified the discrimination held against girls, women and minorities. The two important demographic factors which have contributed to the increase in human trafficking are growth of population and disproportion of men and women in many countries of the world. The world population has doubled in the last forty years and the maximum growth in population has occurred in the developing countries. The unemployed youth and children roaming in the streets in the overflowing cities of the third world are vulnerable to traffickers who exploit them for labor and sexual purposes. Asia is considered as the center of human trafficking where women population is less than 50 percent. China has policy of bearing one child that has led to the abortion of female fetuses. As a result number of women has become less than men. Same is the case with countries like India, Nepal, Bangladesh and other countries in South Asia. In such countries, imbalance in gender population is regarded as both the cause and consequence for the prevalence of human trafficking. Women from different Asian countries are trafficked to China to be the wives of Chinese men. It was found that many victims of trafficking die prematurely in South Asia (as cited in Shelley, 2010).

Every traumatic experience has its psychological consequences. The people being trafficked face lots of hardships and are exploited in many ways. They were severely mistreated by the traffickers and other people who they serve. The mental health problems identified in the people being trafficked would not be a surprise because of their circumstances. The same fact is investigated by few researchers. Altun, Abas, Zimmerman, Howard and Oram (2017) reported that mental health problems are prevalent in survivors of human trafficking. The psychological problems like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are quite common among people who were trafficked for different purposes. They pointed out that some survivors of trafficking had contacted secondary mental health services offered by England.

There are other mental health disorders which were identified in trafficked people. Research indicated that apart from depression and anxiety, such people are involved in self-harming and attempting suicide and it is quite common in people who had contacted refugee services. The studies were also conducted to investigate the prevalence rate of mental health problems. One such study reported that 40% of men and 78% of women showed symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. There is also evidence of other mental illnesses like schizophrenia and psychotic disorders in people being trafficked which indicates the severity of psychological consequences. One important point brought into surface by researchers is that it is not necessary that mental health problems are identified in survivors of trafficking instead people having poor mental health increase their vulnerability to trafficking. The reason behind is that such people have poor decision making abilities and are increasingly dependent on others. Thus there is a bidirectional association between mental health problems and trafficking. The risk factors which make trafficked people vulnerable to mental illnesses include abuse faced before trafficking, time period of exploitation, restricted mobility and violence during trafficking, increased number of needs which are not met and experiencing least social support after trafficking. There are certain responsibilities of mental health professionals regarding people who suffered from trafficking. Such people are usually afraid of disclosing any kind of information as they feel threatened. They have fear of being deported or may have repressed feelings of guilt or shame. Due to trauma they face difficulty in recalling their past experiences accurately. Mental health professional should accept their condition and provide crisis care treatment to them (as cited in Altun, Abas, Zimmerman, Howard & Oram, 2017).

With increased globalization there is an increase in communication among people in different countries. Media no doubt play an important role in this communication process. The coverage of incidents by media greatly affect the mind set of people regarding any issue. The message conveyed through movies, soap operas and documentaries largely influence the opinion of general public. The coverage of sensitive issues like human trafficking and characters portrayed by media determine the attention that the particular incident will attain. Austin and Farrel (2017) investigated the role of media in human trafficking and revealed that media was misrepresenting facts related to human trafficking and they usually focused on certain aspects of that issue while neglecting others. It was reported that the interest of media in crimes like human trafficking peaked in 2005 and after that it has increased steadily. The topic of human trafficking is considered as the “hot topic” which has become the point of investigation for journalists and attractive plot line for various movies and dramas. Yet, there is misinterpretation and incorrect portrayal of certain facts related to the issue. Research conducted on themes about human trafficking in print media revealed that human trafficking was taken in oversimplified manner and sometimes the information reported was incorrect. The victims were usually innocent white females who needed to be rescued from wicked traffickers. The television shows, movies and documentaries in the United States followed the narrative of rescue in which simple innocent victims were prevented from cruel predators. In addition, the traffickers were usually portrayed as members of large crime rings which was quite opposite to the original evidence available. The incorrect framing of trafficking would lead to the formation of less helpful anti-trafficking rules by the legislators and policy makers. There would be less measures taken by legal authorities and it would affect their response regarding solutions.

Human trafficking has become a sensational topic for mass media. Many movies are made which are following underlying theme of human trafficking. For instance, the film Taken (2009) showed a character which was played by Liam Neeson who fought alone with internationally organized network of crime to rescue his daughter from violence of sex trafficking. This movie gained popularity and did quite well on the box office. The result was creation of two more sequels based on the same theme. The popularity of movies based on such sensational topics was not related to just that movie. In 2001, a documentary was made on the topic of forced labor in the farms of cocoa located in the Ivory Coast. It covered the horrible conditions of African labors who were suffering from forced labor in cocoa farms. The film had also included painful graphic images of bodies of African workers to reveal the physical damage that was the result of trafficking. Those images turned out to be extremely powerful in creating strong reaction from the public regarding trafficking. The angry viewers boycotted chocolate and demanded actions to stop its sale from the Ivory Coast (as cited in Austin & Farrel, 2017).

Another inaccuracy was noted by the scholars in the coverage related to human trafficking that is preferring foreign victims over local victims. Lolyd who was the author of Girls Like Us and innovator of programs like Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) asserted that most Americans perceive that sex trafficking is something which happens only to the people outside America. They don’t accept the fact that victims can belong to their own country. In her book she revealed that Americans generally link sex trafficking with “juvenile prostitutes” who have chosen to be “in the life”. The denial of this population status of victim and adopting ideal victim has created problems for minorities as they are mostly viewed as guilty and the narrative established by media about them does not fit with their status as being victimized (as cited in Austin & Farrel, 2017).

The consequences of human trafficking are far-reaching as trafficking for sexual, labor and other types of exploitation has become global phenomena. All countries of different regions are now part of the global market for traffickers. It is a general conception that trafficking occurs because of the demand for cheap labor but it has long-term consequences related to human security. Like trade of drug, human trafficking is also a threat to the security of state. It can give rise to conflicts, can be helpful for the activities of terrorists, threatening to the order of state and detrimental for the principles of mature democracy. It may damage the social welfare abilities of the nations facing lots of trafficked victims. Human trafficking is a great contributor to the rise of crime in conflicting societies. As it is a latent social phenomena, it does not directly contribute to the visible violence but is an indirect source of problem. Much of the violence that occurred due to human trafficking was mostly on the individual level as victims were frequently brutally murdered. It was reported that trafficking victims are violently attacked in Russia depicting rise in political tensions in the presence of groups belonging to minority. The use of profits from human trafficking has resulted in prolonged political violence and conflict in certain regions. For instance, funding of conflicts going on in the Balkans and violent revolts taking place in Uganda and Nepal. The health consequences of trafficking are inevitable as it is the source of spreading many diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, venereal diseases, scabies and other physical diseases. The mental health consequences of human trafficking are also unavoidable as it lead to the further increase of violence in the society (as cited in Shelley, 2010).


Conclusively there is a dire need for taking fruitful steps to reduce human trafficking as it has long-term consequences on the lives of people individually and collectively. The intervention strategies should be developed by health professionals to deal with the psychological problems of victims of trafficking. Effective policies need to be formulated at national and international level to deal with the issue of human trafficking. It is not the problem of one nation so collaboration is necessary to reduce its intensity. It is necessary to save lives from human trafficking which could be traumatizing for the victims for the rest of their lives.


Altun, S., Abas, M., Zimmerman, C., Howard, L.M., & Oram, S. (2017). Mental Health and Human Trafficking: Responding to Survivors’ Needs. BJPsych International, 14 (1), 21-23.

Austin, R., & Farrell, A. (2017). Human Trafficking and the Media in the United States. Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Shelley, L. (2010). Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press.

What is Human Trafficking? Retrieved on April 14, 2018 from

What is Human Trafficking? Retrieved on April 14, 2018 from

August 01, 2023

Crime Social Issues

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