In today’s world there is a renewed sense of cooperation between law enforcement agencies across the world, specifically in the areas of crime that cross borders in countless countries. There are few crimes that are classified as global problems, but human trafficking is one of those that effects people of all income levels across the world. Not only is it one of the top economic crimes in the world today, but it also affects families in different areas of the world on different levels. This crime can affect children, women, and the families who are missing the victims of this terrible act who through a variety of circumstances are either coerced into selling their loved ones into slavery or tricked into believing they are giving up these victims so they are given the opportunity to have a better life. It also negatively affects the people who either adopt the children illegally from human traffickers or worse purchase these human beings for more sinister purposes. This paper will examine the definition of human trafficking, how it affects different parties in different parts of the world and what can be done to stop this activity from happening so often across the globe and keep these innocent victims at home where they belong.
For starters, it is important to have a clear understanding of what the accepted definition of human trafficking is. According to Lee (2013), the generally accepted definition of human trafficking is the illegal movement of human beings, typically for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation exchanged for money. Often young children in developing countries are sold to commercial labor brokers who will take them to European countries, or to America, so they can be sold as house workers to wealthy families. Kyle and Koslowski (2011) argue that these children are taken from their parents who are told by these slave brokers that they will be well cared for and have an opportunity at a better life when in fact they are being placed in situations where they are being forced to work long, hard hours and given no compensation. These children are barely fed and clothed in compensation for all of the tedious work they are forced to perform in exchange for these wealthy families and are given no medical care or any type of education. In short, these children are being forced into a modern day type of slavery where they are given no freedom or compensation for the hard work they are forced to do for their rich employers (Kyle and Koslowski, 2011). Even though many claim the children’s parents are manipulated into giving away their children to endure this type of hard life, some have claimed that the parents should be held criminally liable for this type of action.

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There is a great deal of controversy as to whether or not parents should be held criminally liable for their actions regarding the welfare of their children. Oram et al (2012) write that in the Criminal Justice field there is a great deal of controversy as to whether or not there should be any type of criminal liability for parents who do send their children off with traffickers, whether it is knowingly or through false pretenses. Granted that some parents in poor developing countries are selling their children to a ‘labor broker’ in order to support the rest of their family, but this act in turn has been hotly debated as one that should be criminalized, but opponents of this argue that parents are only going by what the brokers are telling them and are not aware their children are being sold into situations that put them in harm’s way. However, Jakobsson & Kotsadam (2013) summarized that it would backlog the international court system if parents of these victims were prosecuted along with the brokers; it would be a waste of time and resources if the courts did not focus on the real criminals of this field who are the individuals who kidnap, sell and exploit these children for profit. This would make is more of a social issue than a criminal issue, but it has the potential to cross the line into being a criminal issue that needs immediate attention.

One thing to keep in mind in sex trafficking is that it is not only children who end up as victims in these rings. Young women in developing countries, including Eastern Europe, are also victims in human trafficking for sex slavery. Many victims are literally pulled off the streets, taken to undisclosed locations, and are sold to different pimps and madams across the globe for profit (Kyle and Koslowski, 2011). Many of the brothels these women are sold to are controlled by the mob, while some are independently operated. Some of these establishments force these women to have sex with countless men for money, and are even forced to perform acts on camera so their bosses can profit. It is difficult to capture and prosecute these individuals because these women are so intimidated not to talk; most of them are under threat that if they talk to authorities their families back home will be harmed or killed (Oram et al, 2012). This is one of the main reasons why international authorities have such a difficult time stopping human trafficking in various areas of the world.

The question that comes to mind when attempting to resolve the question of human trafficking is if prostitution was made legal, would it significantly decrease the demand for human trafficking? This is a question that is hotly debated in the United States as well as other European countries, and is more of an issue of morality than it is one of criminality. According to Cho et al (2013), legalizing prostitution would contribute to a decrease of human trafficking, but in certain areas of the globe, namely Eastern Europe, the authors sis not feel that it would make much of a difference, namely because of cultural and moral beliefs. While Western countries would consider legalization of prostitution a way to decrease human trafficking and would open the sex trade as a legitimate means of employment for young women, it would not do the same in other areas of the world. It would still be looked upon as not only illegal, but immoral and therefore still a criminal enterprise that should be exploited by the criminal element (Cho et al, 2013).

In conclusion, the issue of human trafficking is a great deal more complicated than one might first anticipate. There is a sexual as well as a non-sexual component to this crime, and there is a great deal of controversy as to who should be held responsible for the victims being allowed into this situation in the first place. Additionally, there is a great deal of intimidation of victims which makes it difficult to prosecute those responsible for this crime. Without the victims talking to law enforcement there is little to no chance of bringing these criminals to justice. Additionally, if moral issues such as prostitution are made legal it is not a full-proof solution to ending human trafficking. This problem is a long way from being resolved by law enforcement and is more than just a simple criminal act.

  • Cho, S. Y., Dreher, A., & Neumayer, E. (2013). Does legalized prostitution increase human trafficking? World Development, 41, 67-82.
  • Jakobsson, N., & Kotsadam, A. (2013). The law and economics of international sex slavery: prostitution laws and trafficking for sexual exploitation. European Journal of Law and Economics, 35(1), 87-107.
  • Kyle, D., & Koslowski, R. (2011). Global human smuggling: Comparative perspectives. JHU Press.
  • Lee, M. (Ed.). (2013). Human trafficking. Routledge.
  • Oram, S., Stöckl, H., Busza, J., Howard, L. M., & Zimmerman, C. (2012). Prevalence and risk of violence and the physical, mental, and sexual health problems associated with human trafficking: systematic review. PLoS medicine, 9(5), 615.