Almost 21 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women/girls and 9.5 million men/boys. Of those exploited by individuals or networks, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation (Fact Figures, 2017). Trafficking persons is an increasing problem that involves both sexual, emotional and physical exploitation of its victims. Trafficking affects all regions of the world, with the victims primarily being women and girls, typically trafficked for sexual purposes. Traffickers excessively target women because they are disproportionately affected by poverty and factors that impede their access to employment, educational opportunities and other resources (Greve, 2014).
Exploitation as a tool of war
During WWII, Japan created a horrifying system where women across Asia were forced into sexual slavery. Women were forced to live in what are now known as ‘Comfort Stations’. The conditions in these stations were appalling, with each woman detained in a cubicle, and constantly abused and harmed if they were defiant. Because of this, many women ultimately died of disease, malnutrition, exhaustion, and suicide. The stations were also fenced by barbed wire, making the escape near impossible. The Japanese government built these stations in hopes of preventing rape crimes in public and to prevent the spread of STDs (Rutgers University, 2017). This was a sad part of history where women lost all autonomy over their bodies and sexuality. Their identities were stripped away in being sold as objects of sexual pleasure for their masters to take advantage of.
How do women become trafficked today?
Sex and labor trafficking of women is a complicated phenomenon with many forces that affect women’s decisions to work abroad. The strongest factor that plays a part in why women are forced into this trade is desperate economic situations which impact the availability of satisfactory employment in many countries for women more severely than men.
Women may become victims of trafficking when they seek assistance to obtain employment, work permits, visas, and other travel documents. Traffickers prey on women’s vulnerable circumstances and may entice them into crime networks through deceit and false promises of decent working conditions and fair pay. Women may go abroad knowing that they will work in the sex industry but without awareness of the terrible work conditions and the physical abuse that accompany trafficking. Other women may find themselves responding to job advertisements for positions abroad such as dancers, waitresses, and nannies, only to find themselves held against their will and forced into prostitution/sexual slavery.
In destination countries, women are subjected to physical violence, sexual assault and rape, battery, imprisonment, threats and other forms of coercion (Greve, 2014). The other argument for why women and girls are trafficked more is that women are more vulnerable and naïve so fall into the traps of traffickers. However, this may stem from other biases in society, women and girls are often depicted as sexualised objects.
“A Return to Enslavement” is the notion of a “woman’s nature” struck Simone de Beauvoir (1997) as further oppression. She called ‘motherhood a way of turning women into slaves’. Women were seen as second-class citizens and having no freedom/liberties to do what they want as they might have been forced into motherhood in certain restrictive cultures and religions. The ideologies and representations of Motherhood are regarded as unimportant in society all the time. But these representations, are often oppressive and associated with feminine passivity implying that they have no power, dominance or authority to lead. This often plays into women being disregarded by their male counterparts.
How widespread is human trafficking in the UK?
Trafficking takes place in the UK. In 2015, 3,266 people were identified as potential victims of trafficking. This is a 40% increase in 2014 figures. Approximately 53% of victims in the UK are women, and 46% are men (Fact Figures, 2017).
To begin raising awareness of the issue and to prevent trafficking crimes in the future, men and women (including celebrities) across the world have taken the roles to become activists and campaigners in the fields of human rights, campaigning for gender equality and to put an end to global modern slavery. The United Nations, World Peace Federation, Global Citizen and The Women Empowerment organisation, for example, have many female advocates, human right activists and campaigners young and old campaigning for gender equality across the world.
The options of every woman have the chance to lead their own lives and pursue their own dreams are not openly available if some women and girls are forced into manual labour or get themselves caught into the modern-day slavery traps in trafficking crimes globally as they have no freedom or liberty to lead their own lives or empower themselves with confidence to do so.
Overall this article has highlighted there is a higher percentage of women and girls trafficked than men and boys due to the reasons mentioned. Over the decades, feminism and female empowerment by charities such as Global Citizen Anti Modern Slavery and others has enabled both women and girls, men and boys trapped in the sphere of modern trafficking to become emancipated and has given them a new lease of life away from their traumatic pasts.
By Neelam Shah
Rutgers University Timeline of Human Trafficking. Retrieved from: http://www.eden.rutgers.edu/~yongpatr/425/final/timeline.htm
Agatucci, Cora. “African Timelines Part III: African Slave Trade & European Imperialism.” African Timelines. Central Oregon Community College, 01 Jan. 2010.
Hilde Lindemann Nelson & James Lindemann Nelson (1997). Feminism and Families. Routledge: London.
Melissa Mayntz http://family.lovetoknow.com/definition-nuclear-family
Ashley Greve, Associate Director of Advocacy Human trafficking: What about the men and boys? 2014 http://humantraffickingcenter.org/men-boys/
Trafficking in Women http://www.stopvaw.org/trafficking_in_women
Facts and Figures http://www.unseenuk.org/about/the-problem/facts-and-figures
Other articles by Neelam Shah can be found here: