Human Trafficking A Geographical Inquiry by Renuka Adhikary

Human Wellbeing: the desire to live well and have a good life. It is the desire for health, happiness and/or prosperity. It involves factors such as physical, emotional, social, financial and environmental wellbeing.

Wellbeing is something everyone aspires for, however there are many issues around the world that can affect and put in danger, people's wellbeing. Human trafficking is a threat to wellbeing and is a widespread issue. Trafficking in persons is a serious crime and is a violation of human rights. It affects all countries; whether they are a place of origin, transit or destination for human trafficking. Although it affects all nations, some make more of an effort to tackle the issue than others. In my geographical inquiry, I will explore the causes, effects and governmental and non-governmental responses to human trafficking.

What are the causes of human trafficking?

Human trafficking is the state of putting or keeping someone in an exploitative situation for profit. It is the illegal transport of people for forced labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, child soldiers and organ theft. Human trafficking is an industry that is driven by supply and demand. Akin to modern day slavery, it runs on the demand for cheap labour for longer working hours. The crime type is one that currently holds opportunities for traffickers to make high profit with very little risk, as it is a vastly hidden crime. Lack of protection, poverty, lack of access to employment and education, discrimination of minorities and cultural practices are all leading factors that put children and adults at risk of being exploited. People who are unaware of their rights are more vulnerable to being tricked, manipulated or forced into human trafficking. Compared to drugs and arms trafficking, human trafficking is relatively low risk for traffickers and generates a profit of $150 billion per year. Devaluation of women and children in some societies make them an easy target and more susceptible than men. They are also wanted for the high demand for women in the sex industry and prostitution. Females make up around 98% of victims that are trafficked for sex. It is the fastest growing crime industry in the world and the second largest after drug trafficking.

What are the impacts of human trafficking and who does it affect?

Tiers given to the countries that do or don't meet the minimum standards of the TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection Act's). Tier 1 means the country fully complies with the minimum standards whereas Tier 3 means they do not comply.

It is estimated that approximately 75-80% of human trafficking and slavery is for sex. The rest are forced into labour exploitation, servitude and forced marriage. Consequences are hidden and difficult to find and see. Trafficked persons have limited access to basic necessities such as food, safety, sleep, hygiene and medical care. All victims are subject to physical, psychological and/or social impacts. They experience harsh physical impacts due to excessive work or use of force by trafficker. Victims are exposed to serious health risks such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Insecurity
  • Fear
  • Trauma
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Suicide

Studies indicate high levels of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in former trafficked individuals. Trafficked minors are even more vulnerable to these risks due to their young age. Exploitation can significantly affect children's emotional, physical and overall psychological development. Individuals can also experience social ostracism. They are isolated from their social circles, leaving them unable to reach out for help. Victims can also be trafficked internationally, therefore not being able to convey their situation due to language barriers and/or geographic and cultural familiarity. Persons trafficked for sex have described facing stigma and other negative responses particularly from family and friends. Trafficking also affects interstate and foreign commerce. Involuntary servitude, peonage, and other forms of forced labour can have an impact on nationwide employment and the labour market. Despite being the second most profitable criminal activity, human trafficking impedes national and international economic growth.

Case Study: Thailand

An example of human trafficking in a country is Thailand. Known as a "trafficking hub", the country sends and recruits people all over the world to work in prostitution, unfair labor situations, forced marriage, sex tourism and other crimes. The most reported cases of human trafficking in Thailand are in prostitution. However, the largely unregulated fishing industry sees a lot of human trafficking cases go unnoticed by the government and police. The fishing industry of Thailand sees many migrant men being held on fishing boats against their will and threatened with violence for the production of shrimp and other seafood. This form of trafficking is still largely in practice, and with new laws enforced to prevent, traffickers have found new methods to remain hidden which make it even harder to detect the crime.

What are the government and non-governmental responses to human trafficking?

Anti-trafficking action in Thailand

The Thai government has implemented laws and acts against human trafficking, however it can not be assured that these laws are being strictly reinforced. The government has insisted that it is working on ways to curb the crime, and their ranking in the world has risen from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List in 2016, although many people were outraged as they thought they saw no improvement. The laws in Thailand against human trafficking are as follows:

In June 2008, Thailand introduced the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. Besides this act, there are a handful of other acts which criminalise human trafficking activities and offences as well. These laws severely penalise individuals who are guilty of charges for exploitative labour, prostitution, forced begging and/or other inhumane acts. The anti-trafficking actions are:

  • Protection - policies and procedures for victim identification, shelters and post-harm assistance
  • Prosecution - specialist units and resources for prosecution of cases
  • Policy - significant policies or developments which impact victims or perpetrators
  • Prevention - bilateral agreements on recruitment of migrant workers and key awareness raising campaigns in 2009
The penalties for human traffickers in Thailand

The anti-trafficking actors in Thailand include ministers and officers, non-governmental organisations such as UN agencies, NGOs such as World Vision Foundation for Thailand and the intergovernmental International Organisation for Migration all act together to prevent and respond to the issue of human trafficking in Thailand.

Human trafficking is a violation of human rights and is a serious offence that plagues all countries. It is driven by a supply and demand system, impacts people who are unaware of their rights and are vulnerable due to their circumstances and generates a response on a global level. The responses by the governmental and non-governmental organisations sees a plan and potential, making a point to try and eradicate trafficking of persons to somewhat of a degree. However, the laws made need to reinforced in a strict and tireless way to stop the offenders. Further actions need to be taken by Thailand to meet the minimum requirements of the TVPA and laws for traffickers need to hardened. In this way, we can prevent the crime from extending and can ensure better human wellbeing.


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