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July 30, 2019

Human trafficking is a crime that happens around the world. It is an international problem, and impacts many countries at the national level as well. Due to the large number of trafficking victims, the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children (henceforth, the Protocol) went into effect in 2003 to supplement the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

One of the most important aspects of the Protocol was the adoption of the concept of trafficking in persons, as it had not been clearly defined. However, this continues to be a problem in many countries when it comes to passing legislation.


The Protocol states that human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.


Despite the existence of the Protocol and a manual related to its contents, many States have problems linked to the criminal justice system and judiciary in regard to human trafficking. According to the manual, trafficking crimes are difficult to submit to criminal action in States for some of the same reasons that they are difficult to investigate. The nature of the crime, the frequent need to depend on evidence obtained abroad, the possibility that victims and witnesses are traumatized and may be intimidated or that public officials may be corrupt, the need for interpreters and translators and other aspects mean that these acts pose new and difficult problems for judges. In this sense, there is a clear need for greater international judicial cooperation, effective collaboration with victims’ assistance services and the establishment of more vigorous measures for protecting witnesses as part of any strategy for addressing those obstacles [1].

States should streamline legislative reforms and take action to prevent this crime given the overwhelming numbers associated with human trafficking globally. This situation has been corroborated by United Nations data as well as data provided by NGOs that fight trafficking, as we will see below:

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that human trafficking is present in at least 106 national territories around the world. In 2010, it was determined that India was the country with the largest number of victims of human trafficking [2].

Sexual exploitation is one of the most common purposes of trafficking, and has the highest demand. One fourth of victims are children and over half are girls and women. The countries with the highest number of victims in Latin America are Colombia, which ranks third, and Mexico and Brazil. These individuals are exploited both inside the country and abroad. The main international destinations of victims of human trafficking are Spain, the Dominican Republic, China, Japan, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Argentina, Panama, Paraguay and the United Arab Emirates according to data from the Attorney General’s Office [3].

Today there are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves worldwide [4].

According to the US Department of State, some 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, 80% of whom are women and half of whom are children [5].

Human trafficking is the third largest criminal industry (behind illegal drugs and weapons). Reports suggest that it generates profits of $32 billion each year. Of these, $15.5 billion are made in industrialized countries [6].

Various government officials report on human trafficking for domestic servitude, child beggars, forced marriage, organ extraction and ritual killings. These types of cases are only occasionally reported, which means that the real numbers may be much higher [7].

The basic causes of trafficking are diverse and frequently vary from one country to the next. Disadvantaged people often fall into the hands of criminals who take advantage of their desire to seek a better life and exploit them. Economic difficulties, conflicts, crime and social violence, natural disasters and adverse factors put millions of people into desperate situations, making them vulnerable to various forms of exploitation and slavery [8].

Despite the limited data presented, it is clear that human trafficking is a crime with many invisible victims and that States need to generate international cooperation networks in order to end this scourge. JSCA has joined the fight against trafficking and invites everyone to learn about it and find out how to help combat this crime, making July 30 a true day of struggle against trafficking in persons.

 

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