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Trafficking of Children and Women: A Global Perspective Essay

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Updated: Mar 7th, 2022


Human trafficking is a rampant crime in both the North and the South. Men, women and children are trafficked in this dirty activity. However, women and children are the most vulnerable when it comes to abuse of their human rights.

The scale of women and children trafficking is very large but difficult to put a figure on the actual number of women and children trafficked all over the world. The trafficking of women and children has increased in the recent past and become a major social problem. The problem is borderless but very organized crime and very difficult to combat (Ghosh, 2009).

The crime of human trafficking is very secretive and remains a clandestine activity. Many cases of human trafficking are not reported while many of those reported are untraced. The problem of human trafficking is deep despite there being international initiatives to push governments to take action against the vice. Women and children are the easiest victims of human trafficking due to their vulnerability. The vulnerability of women and children makes them an easy target for traffickers.

Definition of human trafficking

Human trafficking is the movement of children, women and men against their will using force or deception with the purpose of exploiting them sexually and economically. Some are forced into the sex industry, forced labour or domestic servitude (Bernat & Winkeller, 2010).

The council of Europe describes human trafficking as a threat to the fundamental human rights and values. Human trafficking violates the basic rights of a human being according to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The rights violated include the right of freedom of movement as the victims are taken to places against their will and prohibited from any kind of movement.

They are denied the right to security, liberty and life. Their right to be free from slavery is denied. In addition, the right to free choice of employment is denied to the victims of human trafficking because they are made to work against their will in deplorable conditions. Moreover, they are not given an opportunity to choose the kind of work they would like to do rather they do the work they are forced by their abductors (Carrabine & Lee, 2009).

Reasons for increased human trafficking

The rate of trafficking has increased in the recent past due to globalisation. Globalisation has led to an easy flow of people across borders. The ease of movement makes it easy for traffickers to operate without notice. There are many causes of human trafficking such as poverty, conflicts, weak governance and discrimination.

The causes of trafficking vary from one society to another. Human trafficking can be likened to modern day slavery. It is estimated that about 27, 000, 0000 people are victims of human trafficking globally and about one to two millions are trafficked each year (United Nations Population Fund, 2009).

Other estimates show that the vulnerability of women and children is high in number. According to the United States, government between 600,000 and 800,000 people have been trafficked worldwide and eighty per cent of the total number is female. 50 per cent of them are minors or children. 70 per cent of the trafficking victims are exploited sexually (Shelly, 2010).

Vulnerability of women and children

Women and children are very vulnerable compared to men thus making them easy targets for trafficking. Human trafficking and child trafficking in particular has increased in many countries. The demand is very high in Asian countries and in Latin America. The demand is driven up by the high profits accrued from the activity. The United Nations estimates that profits from human trafficking drug come second to drug sale and arms sale. For instance, in 1997, human trafficking raked in about $7 billion dollars according to International Organization for Migration (Shelly, 2010).


The need for children to work in sex tourism has led to the increased demand. Social cognitive factors during socialisation of children make them an easy target for human trafficking; they may have socialized to appreciate and respect adults making traffickers have an easy “catch”.

Trafficked children are different from trafficked adults because some do not even realize the situation they are in hence they cannot seek for help, as an adult would do. Some of the children who are trafficked are difficult to identity thus combating child trafficking becomes very hard.

Moreover, children and women who are initially trafficked to provide domestic labour mostly end up being abused and used sexually. Women are also trafficked for marriages (Shelly, 2010). Men and boys are usually trafficked to be exploited economically. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that about 300,000 children who are under the age of eighteen years are trafficked to serve as child soldiers in conflict areas.

According to Estes & Weiner, 2001, children trafficking in the United States of America have an average of fifteen thousand every year; the research further shows that about seventy per cent of the children trafficked into America is exploited sexually and they get entry into the country with some kind of visa (Estes & Weiner, 2001). The other thirty per cent of the trafficked children enter the country uninspected.

Most of the children trafficked into the country gain entry through an intermediary country rather than directly from their countries of origin. The major source for trafficked children into America is Central America and Mexico. A good number also comes from Asia, and Africa. Children and women are trafficked in Africa as well; however, the crime is not well documented. The vulnerable position of the human trafficking put the women and children at a greater risk of being trafficked than their male counterparts.

Conflicts and wars make children vulnerable to human trafficking. War leads to hunger and impoverishment and hungry children are very easy to lure with foodstuffs. Traffickers take advantage of the dire situation of the children and promise them better lives elsewhere hence they follow then voluntarily.

Young girls are given promises of jobs and marriages hence fall victims of human trafficking. Children are easy to manipulate hence traffickers have an easy time in luring them. The high demand for children and the fact that traffickers see them as commodities increases their exploitation and. Children are also easy to hide from the scrutinizing eye of the public hence from legal protection.

Moreover, children fall for promises of better life or education easily. Once they are taken, out of the country, they become disoriented and without papers, they are forced to endure suffering in prostitution or as domestic servants. Some are pushed into early marriages and others forced to work in hazardous environments (UNICEF, 2003). Women refuges also fall victims of human trafficking easily especially from war prone regions such as Darfur in Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Children are vulnerable to trafficking because they are a good source of cheap labour. Most children under the age of sixteen years serve as domestic servants in many homes across the world. The demand for cheap domestic labour makes it necessary to smuggle children to foreign countries.

The children working as domestic servants are often abused by their employers but they cannot do anything about it, as they have no power. For instance, in Ghana many children are trafficked to work in the fishing industry both from within and outside the country.

Children are also vulnerable to trafficking for adoption. Childless couples in both Europe and North America often do not want to go through the red tape in child adoption process. Most will look for an easier way of getting a child and trafficking becomes the next better option.

Traffickers will look for young children to be adopted by such couples and they are encouraged by the ready market for young children. for example, in Guatemala between 1000 and 1500 babies are trafficked from the couple to be adopted by couples in North America and Europe (Child Trafficking, 2010).


Women are vulnerable to human trafficking due to their economic dependence. They lack the means to support themselves financially and depend on the men in their lives. Poverty can be said to have the face of women due to feminization of poverty (Sen & Ahuja, 2009).

The women are often from very poor backgrounds and when they get a hope of a job that might enable them to support their families they do not hesitate the offer. The traffickers lure such women with the promises of jobs and once they smuggle them out their country they do whatever they will with them. The abductors may sell the women to work as domestic servants in foreign countries. The women may be mistreated by their employers but will endure the mistreatment if they are threatened to be returned to their home country.

They will often persevere because they cannot bear the thought of going back home to live in poverty as they consider this the only way to earn a living and save their families back at home from the misery of poverty (Hart, 2009). In other instances, the traffickers threaten the trafficked women that they will harm their family members if they dare run away hence the women endure all the kinds of suffering thrown their way (Sen & Ahuja, 200 9; Tapia, 2003).

The demand for women to work in prostitution is high. Trafficking for prostitution is one of the fastest growing forms of transnational crime. The highest number of human trafficking victims comes from Asia. Eastern Europe and Russia also form large source of women to be trafficked to work in the commercial sex industry in North America and Europe.

The flow of traffic of women trafficking is higher toward the developed countries; they are mostly fetched from less developed countries. When the women are trafficked into the foreign countries, they are taken to big cities, tourist cities and around military bases because the demand is high in such areas (Troubnikoff, 2003).

Women are not valued in most societies. They come second to boys and thus they are discriminated against in terms of educational and employment opportunities. The families especially if poor view the women as burdens. Such families will not hesitate to sell their daughters off to traffickers as long as there are promised to get immediate payoffs (UNICEF, 2003).

Some will also sell their daughters especially from societies where the girls pay dowry so that they can skip its payment because the dowry is usually very high. Such families living in poverty cannot afford to pay dowry and thus when an opportunity to get rid of the daughter presents itself it is not passed (Troubniko, 2003). In other instances, the traffickers might approach the families of the women and promise to offer them job opportunities abroad and many take the offer only to end up as trafficking victims.

Other women opt to look for job opportunities abroad because they lack such opportunities in their home countries. This happens because most women do not have power rather they occupy low positions when it comes to power hierarchies. Many are unskilled and lowly educated if at all they get a chance to go to school. The women see the opportunity to work abroad not only as an opportunity for economic liberation bust also as a chance for personal freedom (UNICEF, 2003; Schloenhardt, 2003).

Some families will also sell their daughters of in early marriages especially in many African societies. Young girls are sold of to old men to become wives.

Their families sell them mainly due to poverty. The old men pay high dowries hence the families take it to enable them survive economically at the expense of the young innocent girls. Some families may also hire out their girls to men or in some cases in Ghana; girls are given to priests so that their families can get protection (UNICEF, 2003). The girls are often abused and some opt to runway.

Once they run away from their husbands, they cannot go back to their homes for fear of reprimanding thus some will run away to towns. Once they reach towns they need up in working in brothels to make money for survival. The brothels become a very good environment for the traffickers to prey on the young girls. Some of the traffickers will promise the girls a better life and once they win their trust and move them across borders they become slaves to be used in the sex industry.

The collapse of the former Soviet Union and the consequent economic hardships and conflict in the then Yugoslavia increased the vulnerability of women and children to human trafficking. The lack of opportunities to advance economically makes them eager to leave their countries. The traffickers often advertise better paying jobs abroad in the local dailies, which any desperate women are wiling to take.

The lure of better opportunities abroad make the young and women easy prey for the traffickers who entrap them with false promises of a better life. Moreover, the law enforcement organs are weak in such areas and thus it is easy for criminals to run their activities unperturbed. The organized criminal gangs operate hand in hand with the law enforcers and women have no chance against such a combined force (Troubnikoff, 2003).

The demand for people to work in the sex industry increases the vulnerability of women and children. Moreover, the demand is high for domestic servants and cheap labour. Children are needed to work in sweatshops and in sex tourism, as the women are required for domestic servitude and in prostitution.

The traffickers get high profits from providing cheap labour hence they work very hard to traffic as many children and women as they can. Furthermore, the use of the same people to provide cheap labour ensures that they traffickers continue to make huge tax-free profits. It therefore becomes necessary to have women and children working under bondage (Troubnikoff, 2003).

On the other hand, the laws against human trafficking do not protect women and children against trafficking adequately. The laws are very lenient and the fines given to human traffickers are even lower than those for pushing drugs are and selling illegal arms are.

Moreover, trafficking victims are often treated as criminals making it hard for them to seek assistance from the police or other authorities. The women caught in prostitution are considered criminals and end up in jails or face deportation to their home countries. Many law enforcers do not take time to distinguish between women who work in the sex industry voluntary and those there against their will.

In some cases, the women are kidnapped and taken out of their countries of origin forcefully. Their disadvantage position in the society does not help them, as most are victims of domestic violence.

The discrimination puts the women and children in great risks of being trafficked, as the society does not offer them adequate protection because they are not considered important in the first place. Some societies view women and children, as objects that can be disposed and hence selling them to traffickers is not considered a crime (UNICEF, 2003).

The long discrimination of women is deeply rooted in some societies such that trafficking is seen as a norm and it is morally acceptable. Hence, with such perceptions towards women their vulnerability increases as the society works with traffickers (UNICEF, 2003). Unfortunately, reporting the women as missing persons does not help much as many are never traced. In other cases the women are sold by people, they know who collude with the traffickers and the women go along with their plans unsuspecting.

Moreover, violence against women and children is rampant in both the private and public spheres in many areas across the globe (Locher, 2007; United Nations, 2011). The women endure cases of physical abuse from their male counterparts. The trend of violence increases the probability of the women being trafficked twofold.

In addition, there is a perception that women and the girl child are weak and inferior to men and boys. Due to this perception, the women and children are often forced to work and inhabit destitute conditions. The men in such women and children’s lives may also recruit them or force them into the hands of traffickers (UNICEF, 2003).

Human trafficking in the global south

The Global South is acts as the source for trafficking. Women and girls end up in the commercial sex industry where they are forced to work in inhuman conditions by their abductors who keep their travel papers so that they have no way of running away. The children are trafficked in sex tourism.

Increased sex tourism in the Southeast Asia region has led to an overflow of human trafficking victims. Children are in high demand to serve sex tourists who come from countries such as Japan, Australia, Europe and North America (Kohlweg, 1998). Paedophiles also take advantage of sex tourisms and visit the southeast region. The favourite travel destinations for sex tourism are countries such as Cambodia, Philippines and Thailand.

On the other hand, Japan acts as the largest destination for women trafficked from Asia. The women who end up in Japan are alleged to come from Thailand and the Philippines. The women from Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe are also brought to Japan. Other destinations for trafficked women are Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia. Vietnamese women are often trafficked into china and many hundreds of thousands of children and women sold into the sex industry in Thailand (Kohlweg, 1998).

Human trafficking in the global north

Many victims of human trafficking end up in the North. The North acts as a destination for many trafficked women and children. However, it is important to note that human trafficking also occurs internally with the North.

The problem of trafficking of women and children into the United States has not been major like in countries such as Japan or Australia but the problem has been on the increasing (Territo & Kirkham, 2009). Many human trafficking are taken to America from the south to work as forced labourers and serve in the sex industry. For instance, the state of Georgia has a high number of child prostitutes.

Children are trafficked from the south into the North. For instance, in the United States the problem of child trafficking is rampant. In spite of the efforts to stem out trafficking, it goes and the true grasp of the problem remains vague. The United States established the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000 to combat human trafficking.

The report for trafficking persons shows that about 50,000 persons were trafficked into the country in 2002 and 20,000 in 2003. The exact figure is hard to get because different agencies provide different figures and the figures might be higher than the ones provided (Gozdziak & MacDonell, 2007).

In a country such as Canada, it is estimated that about 800 people are trafficked into the country and about 2000 human trafficking victims are ferried through the country and taken to the united states. The victims are involved in prostitution, which is estimated at $400 million per year.

Mexico has a large human trafficking business. About $20 billion is made yearly making this criminal activity only second to the drug trade. Many children and women are trafficked from Mexico into the United States. Most of the victims end up in the sex industry. In the area called Chiapas, children are traded for as low as $100 and $200.

The area is very impoverished explaining why people take such little amount for their children. In addition, the area tops the world in the number of child prostitutes. Many female victims been molested, beaten and even killed in this country. The country receives many sex tourists from America (U.S. Department of State, 2009).


Finally, human trafficking has increased and combating the crime is a major challenge for many governments as the traffickers keep changing their means of carrying their trade. The era of globalisation has also made it easy for people to move across borders easily and human traffickers are able to move the human trafficking victims easily.

The increase in demand for children and women to be exploited sexually is worrying as more become victims of this inhuman activity that robs them of their human rights. The children and women suffer greatly in the countries they are trafficked to making their lives miserable. Trafficking of children denies them an opportunity to experience a normal childhood.

They are introduced into the adult world at a very young age and they suffer so much some with no hope for a normal life. The vulnerability of women and children has put them at risk of being trafficked. It is therefore imperative to deal with the factors that make it easy for criminal gangs to smuggle innocent children and women. More needs to be done to protect women and children from the modern day slavery.


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