Early History of Sex Trafficking
Women and children have been the victims of sex trafficking for
thousands of years. This practice, going on throughout the centuries,
finally became a political issue in the early 1900s. In 1902, the
International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic was
drafted. Its purpose was to "prevent the procuration of women and girls for
immoral purposes abroad" (www.protectionproject.org). After a few years it
was ratified by twelve countries around the world. This eventually led to
the United States passing the Mann Act of 1910 which "forbids transporting a
person across state or international lines for prostitution or other immoral
purposes" (www.protectionproject.org). With the problem of sex trafficking
still growing in the middle of the century, the United Nations felt it
necessary to address the problem. This was done by the 1949 Convention for
the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the
Prostitution of Others which was ratified by forty-nine countries around the
Common trafficking Patterns
Regardless of the acts and conventions that have been passed earlier
in the century, the occurrence of sex trafficking is not decreasing.
Millions of women are still being kidnapped and transported from their homes.
Some are even sold by their families for meager amounts of money.
There are a number of common patterns for sex trafficking around the
world. In many places, particularly developing nations, women are lured into
trafficking by the promise of a good job in another country. Having no
better options in her home country, the woman decides to move away, unaware
of the torture that lies ahead. Arrangements are made for her departure and
she is appointed an escort. Upon arrival at her destination the woman is
taken directly to her employer. At this point she has absolutely no control
over the conditions of her employment. After discovering the true nature of
her employment it is too late and escape is impossible and dangerous if
Besides being lured with promises of a good job, there are other
situations in which women can fall into sex trafficking. Sometimes women
receive false marriage proposals from men who plan to sell them into bondage.
There are also instances when young girls are sold into the sex trade by
their parents who are trying to earn some money. And, of course, many times
the women are simply kidnapped.
Sex trafficking frequently results in debt bondage. This involves the
woman being held by her employer until she earns enough money to repay the
employer for the expenses he paid to acquire her. The set amount usually far
exceeds the actual costs and may take the woman years to pay off. Even then,
it is common for the woman to be forced to continue working or for her
employer to sell her back into debt bondage and back into a system from which
she cannot escape. This, of course, is only possibly if the woman has not
died from a disease such as AIDS.
U.S. Policy Recommendations
In February of 2000, the United States spoke at a testimony before the Senate
Committee concerning the International Trafficking of Women and Children. In
this hearing, the United States proposed the following recommendations:
- Define trafficking to encompass trafficking into all forms of forced
labor and servitude including trafficking into forced marriage.
- Actively investigating, prosecuting, and punishing those involved in the
trafficking of persons and imposing penalties appropriate for the grave
nature of the abuses they have committed.
- Exempting trafficking victims from prosecution for any immigration
violations or other offenses that have occurred as a result of their being
- Ensuring that trafficking victims have the opportunity to seek remedies
for the human rights violations they have suffered, including compensation
for damages, unpaid wages, and restitution.
- Taking strong precautions to ensure the physical safety of trafficked
- Protecting women's rights and addressing the inequality in status and
opportunity that makes women vulnerable to trafficking and other abuses.
- Sex trafficking is 90% women and girls.
- Over 50,000 women are trafficked into the United States every year.
- Asian women are sold to North American brothels for $16,000 each.
- 2 million children are forced into prostitution every year. Half of them
live in Asia.
- Maiti Nepal crusades for the prevention of girl trafficking, rescue,
rehabilitation, and reintegration of trafficked victims. This group is
involved in a number of activities including interception and rescue,
rehabilitation for victims, finding employment for victims, and setting up
prevention camps in rural villages where girls are most susceptible.
- International Justice Mission is a Christian-oriented group focused on the
interception and rescue of victims of sex trafficking.
- Human Rights Watch Campaign Against the Trafficking of Women and Girls
focuses on passing legislation in the United States to combat trafficking.
- Global Network to Protect Children Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation
protects children against sex trafficking and all other sexual exploitation.
- Coalition Against Trafficking in Women is a group trying to eliminate all
forms of sexual exploitation.
The Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation by Donna Hughes, Laura Joy
Sporcic, Nadine Mendelsohn, Vanessa Chirgwin, Coalition Against Trafficking
in Women. 1999.
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