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Human Sex Trafficking
Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Victims experience a loss of freedom and exploitation at the hands of their traffickers who buy and sell them in pursuit of profit. As a result, human trafficking is commonly known as modern-day slavery.
In human trafficking situations, traffickers gain complete control over victims and force them into the labor, services, or commercial sex industry in order to generate profit from their labor and commercial sex acts. Some of the forms of violence traffickers use to control their victims include brutal beatings, rape, lies and deception, threats of serious harm or familial harm, and psychological abuse.
Virtually every nation in the world is engaged to some extent in this tragic trade, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims. UNICEF estimates that one million children alone are forced, sold, abducted, or coerced into the commercial sex trade annually. The average age worldwide is 13.
It is essential to remember that education, wealth, age, or social standing does not guarantee invulnerability to becoming a victim of human trafficking. Traffickers often prey on people who are hoping for a better life, lack employment opportunities, have an unstable home life, or have a history of sexual abuse - conditions present in all portions of society.
The U.S. State Department estimates that 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the U.S. annually. The National Runaway Switchboard estimates that every year thousands of American children are lured into the trafficking industry.
Both foreign national and U.S. citizen victims have been identified in cities, suburbs, and rural areas in all 50 states and in Washington, DC. They are forced to work or provide commercial sex against their will in legal and legitimate business settings as well as underground markets. Some victims are hidden behind locked doors in brothels and factories. In other cases, victims are in plain view, but the widespread lack of awareness of trafficking leads to low levels of victim identification by the people who come into contact with them. For example, women and girls in sex trafficking situations, especially U.S. citizens, are often misidentified as being voluntarily in the sex industry.
Although human trafficking often involves transportation and physical abuse, it is essential to remember that under U.S. federal law:
Trafficking is not smuggling or forced movement.
Trafficking does not require transportation or movement across borders.
Trafficking does not require physical abuse, force, or restraint. Often, traffickers use psychological manipulation or abuse to control their victims.
Estimates of women and children trafficked across international borders each year range from 800,000 to four million. In the United States alone, the U.S. State Department estimates that as many as 18,500 men, women, and children are trafficked into the U.S. each year, many for sexual exploitation (2004).
As for profitability, it is estimated that slavery has exploded into a $12 billion a year global industry with sexual trafficking constituting a major part. A girl who is purchased by a trafficker for as little as $150 can be sold to customers as many as ten times a night and can bring in $10,000 a month profit. With minimal expenses, police as co-conspirators, and almost unlimited victims to prey upon, trafficking for sexual exploitation is surpassing the sale of illegal drugs as the preferred industry for criminals. In India, there are approximately 10 million prostitutes, and an estimated 300,000 - 500,000 of them are children. In the city of Mumbai, 90 percent of the 100,000 women in prostitution are indentured slaves.
For the unlikely few that do attempt to get out, it can take up to fifteen years for them to purchase their freedom. And, the economics behind the freedom are staggering. Typically, a brothel owner or madam (often a woman) receives a paying customer's money up front and then gives the girl her cut which often is quite minimal. To pay for movies, clothes, make up, and extra food to supplement a diet of rice and dal, the girls borrow from moneylenders at an interest rate of 500 percent. All of these debts make it virtually impossible for the girls to financially secure a life outside of the brothel.
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