What is Human Trafficking?

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What is Human Trafficking?

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United NationsThe United Nations defines human trafficking as:

“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring 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.”

San Francisco is not immune to the problem, and has been considered a prime destination for human trafficking due to its ports, airports, industry, and rising immigrant populations. Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world with as many as 27 million individuals living in slavery-like conditions throughout the world.  

  

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Types of Human Trafficking

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The 3 most common types of human trafficking are sex trafficking, forced labor, and debt bondage. Forced labor, also known as involuntary servitude, is the biggest sector of trafficking in the world, according to the U.S. Department of State. Debt bondage is another form of human trafficking in which an individual is forced to work in order to pay a debt.

Sex trafficking disproportionately affects women and children and involves forced participation in commercial sex acts. In the United States, any child under the age of 18 who has been involved in a commercial sex act is considered a trafficking victim. Women and girls make up 80% of the people trafficked transnationally. Yearly, traffickers exploit 1 million children in the commercial sex trade.

Perceptions of human trafficking often involve women forced into prostitution. This is just one aspect of human trafficking. Survivors of trafficking also include men and children, and these survivors are exploited by any number of means. Victims may be forced into any of the following types of labor, among others:

• domestic servitude
• agricultural work
• manufacturing
• janitorial services
• hotel services
• construction
• health and elder care
• hair and nail salons
• prostitution
• strip club dancing

Some survivors are “mail-order” brides who believe they are going to a new country for marriage, but instead are enslaved.  All nationalities and ethnic groups are vulnerable to human trafficking. Any given country may be a source of forced labor, a place of transit, or a destination. 

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The Needs of Survivors of Human Trafficking

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Survivors of human trafficking are forced, tricked or misled into modern-day slavery.  If they are able to escape a shrouded abduction and hidden enslavement, they have specific needs that are unique to their situation. Survivors may have experienced profound trauma, lack linguistic skills in the country of their escape, and struggle with basic functioning after trafficking.  The United Nations, the United States government, the State of California, and the City of San Francisco are all committed to meeting the unique needs of human trafficking survivors, with the aim of ending this particularly heinous crime once and for all.  

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Signs of HumanTrafficking

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A person who has been trafficked may:

  • Show signs that their movement is controlled
  • Have false identity or travel documents
  • Not know their home or work address
  • Have no access to their earnings
  • Be unable to negotiate working conditions
  • Work excessively long hours over long periods
  • Have limited or no social interaction
  • Have limited contact with their families or with people outside of their immediate environment
  • Think that they are bonded by debt

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Examples of Human Trafficking

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Forced Labor: A family gives up a child to an adoption agent in Nepal because they cannot afford to care for him. He is then, in turn, sold to a sweatshop owner who forces the child to learn to sew garments without pay for hours each day. The child receives minimal nutrition and does not attend school.

Sex Trafficking: Two women from Korea are brought into San Francisco under the pretense that they will receive jobs as hostesses or waitresses. When they arrive, they are held captive and forced into prostitution, while their captor controls the money they receive. 

Debt Bondage: A young woman from Russia has amassed grave credit card debt and is desperate to pay it off. A man who identifies himself as an employment agent offers her a job in the United States as a domestic employee.  She arrives in the San Francisco with a valid visa but it and her passport and taken from her. She is brought to a home where her movement is restricted. She is then told that she must work as a housekeeper to pay off the cost of her travel or her family will be killed.

Child Sex Trafficking: A 15-year-old boy runs away from his home in San Francisco to Oakland, where he lives on the street. He is seduced by a pimp who coerces him into participating in a prostitution ring and controls all the profits generated.   

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Suggestions for Additional Reading

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All of the books on the following list can be found at the San Francisco Public Library.

Non-Fiction:

  • A Crime So Monstrous, E. Benjamin Skinner
    A journalist reports back on modern day slavery from locales around the world
  • Disposable People, Kevin Bales
    Pioneering study done on human trafficking in the global economy
  • Ending Slavery, Kevin Bales
    A practical call to arms to join the budding abolitionist movement
  • Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
    Treatise on human trafficking and the importance of investing in women’s health and autonomy worldwide
  • Little Princes, Conor Grennan
    The story of one man’s promise to bring home child survivors of human trafficking in Nepal 
  • Not For Sale, David Batstone
    The story of modern day abolitionists and the global movement to end slavery
  • Slave: My True Story, Mende Nazer and Damien Lewis
    Biography of Nazer’s kidnapping and enslavement in Khartoum
  • Slavery Today, Kevin Bales and Becky Cornell
    A primer on the full range of issues related to human trafficking around the world
  • Slavery Today , Ronald D. Lankford, Jr.
    A compilation of anti-trafficking articles aimed at young adults

Fiction:

  • Sold, Patricia McCormick
    Heartbreaking tale of 13-year-old Lakshmi who is sold into sexual slavery in India

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