Human Trafficking and the Factors Cultivating Vulnerability | Teen Ink

Human Trafficking and the Factors Cultivating Vulnerability

March 8, 2010
By Midnight SILVER, Aurora, Illinois
Midnight SILVER, Aurora, Illinois
5 articles 4 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote: <--I'm starting a library in Nicaragua.

At age thirteen, Rosa already has a job working at a restaurant in the small Mexican town where she lives. She is ambitious, and when a woman she knows says she can make ten times as much money in America, Rosa jumps at the chance. The lady arranges a meeting with the men who will facilitate Rosa’s journey to Texas, and they reassure her that they will furnish all travel documents and return her home if she so desires. However, once Rosa arrives in Texas she is transported to Florida where she learns the men sold her to a brothel. Even though Rosa is rescued within a year, she must wrestle with PSTD, STDs, depression, and the effects of two forced abortions (Kramer-Walthall, 2003).
How did this happen, and why is this seemingly outlandish case study remarkably commonplace? Rosa’s story represents many tales from all over the world; each story is unique, yet they all have striking similarities. Examining the similarities of the cultures in which they take place may help to explain what put them at risk. Societies become vulnerable to human trafficking through a variety of factors including a high degree of socio-economic stratification, proximity to accessible trafficking routes, and lack of adequate governmental regulation. The sooner and better these factors are understood, the more effectively preventative measures can be employed.
Poverty is indisputably a driving factor for migration. However, the very lack of resources which forces them to leave their home country means that the poor will need to find more creative means to do so. Unfortunately, according to Cameron and Newman (2008), it is the citizens who can already afford to live in the country who are able to leave it legally with little hassle. Since there have been significant technological advances in the last few decades, countries have faced a growing economic disparity, particularly between agricultural and urban communities (“Women Trafficking,” n.d.). As the richer individuals gain wealth, a consumer platform for superfluous and vulgar trafficking businesses is created, including sex tourism and domestic servitude for personal fulfillment, as well as trafficked factory workers for business fulfillment. This demand for people as products places those looking for a means of migration at greater risk of being trafficked.
Particularly in some cultures, men and women will find themselves predisposed to poverty, perhaps because they do not have enough money for higher education; they have strong family ties; or based on their race, gender, and social status, society has set low expectations for them. What makes these people notably vulnerable to trafficking is their dependence on a lifestyle they cannot themselves escape without social change or relocation. Young members of these communities traditionally feel responsible for supporting their families, but have less tying them down than an older member of the community, thus increasing the trafficker’s appeal. Challenges for someone who wants to leave—such as language, lack of outside connections, and lack of familiarity with the other places—become advantages for a trafficker, making disorientation, isolation, and intimidation simpler. Trafficked people frequently come from economically challenged areas, giving families of trafficked persons little protection from the groups of organized crime that Murtha (2003) says are used as a threat to keep the victim in line.
While traffickers may find excellent possible victims, they are not going to attempt to recruit those people unless there is a way to move them, which indicates the necessity of a discussion on trafficking routes. A noticeable trend in trafficking routes is the movement of trafficked persons from rural areas into more densely populated, urban areas. Logically, it is a strategic move, because a victim will blend in easier; there are more international travelers, such as sex tourists, in cities versus in the country; and there are more businesses, means of transportation, and resources in general. The route from Estonia and Latvia to Finland described by Kyle (2003) exemplifies this on a basic level, as the combined total population of the two supplying countries—Estonia at 1,299,371 (“Estonia,” 2009) and Latvia at 2,231,503 (“Latvia,” 2009)—is less than the population of the receiving country according to its Population Register Center (Finland, n.d.). Another factor to be considered related to trafficking routes is civil or governmental unrest. The country Thailand has already been mentioned, but the near-civil war conditions in some areas of the country has not ( “High Risk,” 2007). Since “between 2 to 14 percent of the gross national product” is being generated by sex-trafficking alone, is it any wonder that Thailand is the center of trafficking in Southeast Asia (Kyle, 2003)? Kosovo is another instance of the connection between national unrest and trafficking. Since the first need for international peacekeepers ten years ago, organized prostitution has greatly increased (“Kosovo: Trafficking,” 2006).
One of the reasons for this trend corresponds with the discussion on governmental regulation and trafficking. For those living in the region, it is well known that soldiers, police officers, and other people who are meant to protect the disadvantaged instead frequent the brothels and bars containing trafficked women. Even when these offenses are exposed, action is not always taken as Louisa Waugh records in her book, Selling Olga: Stories of Human Trafficking and Resistance. In the case of Kosovo, some regulations are in place—for instance, there are lists of suspected businesses servicemen are not to enter—and the issue is more that of corruption than cultural predisposition, as it is in Nepal. As an institution, the government is not independent of other institutional influences and can only change in conjunction with the beliefs of the culture as a whole.
Historically, Nepalese women were viewed as possessions, according to Richardson. The sale of women even coincides with the Hindu religion which once used women as sacrifices and still uses them as temple prostitutes. Parents to this day rejoice at the birth of a daughter because her sale can generate up to 10 years' worth of income. As one of the poorest Asian countries, Nepal also has outrageous illiteracy and unemployment levels and a population swiftly outgrowing available land. The border between Nepal and India is under-patrolled and easily penetrated by traffickers. From a sociological perspective, Nepal's situation has everything going wrong for the citizens—and everything going right for traffickers. Generations of prostitution and abuse have desensitized the people to the devastation of these common practices. Although child prostitution is illegal in Nepal, two pillar institutions—family and religion—condone it. In addition, the Nepalese government has very few specific laws or adequate punishments in place to combat trafficking, and the ones in place are sporadically enforced due to the vested interest of some officials.
While Richardson found that education in Nepal directly correlates with status, the mostly literate and often well-educated women in Georgia still find themselves unemployed. The difference is prostitution holds more of a stigma in Georgia, and some women deceived into trafficking will go to great lengths to prevent their families from finding out—even as far as continuing the life of prostitution. Unlike their Nepalese counterparts, Georgian officials are actively pursuing ways to combat human trafficking, although their resources are limited. Similarly, connections to corrupt officials are suspected. Both countries have inadequate trafficking enforcement and policies, but Georgian women culturally have better achieved and ascribed statuses than their Nepalese counterparts (Murtha, 2003).
The conclusion of the matter is this: the factors cultivating human trafficking are so vast and interconnected that a simple plan for eradication does not exist. Socio-economic inequality will continue, but measures can be taken to protect those who fall into the Conflict Theory's category of exploited. By providing education, sustaining jobs, and food, people at high risk of being trafficked will have resources available to prevent the desperation which leads to trafficking. Organizations to provide these needs can be set up by the public as well as governments, which have many other preventative measures to take. First, stricter punishments for trafficking in all forms must be adopted worldwide, including checks and balances to prevent corruption. Rather than enforcing extremely conservative immigration laws, the focus should be on supplying needs, because unyielding immigration laws merely push desperate people towards the traffickers (Kyle, 2003). As these standards are met internationally, accessible routes will diminish even as potential victims are no longer neglected, but given the opportunity to be valued as human individuals in the very societies that once exploited them.

The author's comments:
Want to help combat human trafficking? Visit these great websites and take action!

Similar Articles


This article has 2 comments.

4Alyssa said...
on Apr. 6 2012 at 9:58 am
My daughter was trafficked in Pakistan.  Trafficking is real.

on Mar. 9 2010 at 8:59 pm
Midnight SILVER, Aurora, Illinois
5 articles 4 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote: <--I'm starting a library in Nicaragua.

Here are my references:
Cameron, S. & Newman, E. (Eds.). (2008). Trafficking in Human$: Social, Cultural and Political Dimensions. New York: United Nations University Press.
Estonia. (2009, August 28). The CIA World Factbook. Retrieved on September 4, 2009, from
Finland. Population Register Center. Retrieved on September 4, 2009, from http ://
High Risk of Civil War in Southern Thailand. (2007, February 21). Retrieved September 4, 2009, from http ://
Kosovo: Trafficking of Women and Girls. (2006, September 21). Amnesty International Canada. Retrieved September 4, 2009, from http ://
Kramer-Walthall, A. (2003). Trafficking in Children for Prostitution in the United States. TED Case Studies, xxx. Retrieved August 29, 2009, from http :// sex .htm
Kyle, D. (2003, September 22). Dying to Leave – Essay: Profiting from Disparity and Desperation. PBS. Retrieved August 29, 2009, from http ://
Kyle, D. (2003, September 25). The Business of Human Trafficking – Trafficking Routes. PBS. Retrieved August 29, 2009, from http ://
Latvia. (2009, August 28). The CIA World Factbook. Retrieved September 4, 2009, from
Murtha, D. (2003). Sex Trafficking in Georgia. TED Case Studies, 680. Retrieved August 29, 2009, from http :// sex -georgia.htm
Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. (2009). Trafficking in Persons Report 2009. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved August 29, 2009, from http ://
Richardson, E. (n.d.). Nepal Sex Trade. TED Case Studies, 509. Retrieved August 29, 2009, from http ://
Tigno, J. Trafficking in Human Beings from the Philippines: Examining the Experiences and Perspectives of Victims and Non-Governmental Organizations. (n.d.). United Nations Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings. Retrieved August 29, 2009, from http ://www.childtrafficking .com /Docs/perspectives_of_victims_0807.pdf
Waugh, L. (2007). Selling Olga: Stories of Human Trafficking and Resistance. London: Phoenix.
Wilson, J. M. & Dalton, E. (2007). Human Trafficking in Ohio: markets, responses, and considerations. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation.
Women Trafficking from Thailand to Japan. (n.d.). TED Case Studies. Retrieved August 29, 2009, from http ://