Sometime in the 1990s, we wrote a statement that was distributed at the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria -- the first time that trafficking was characterized as a "modern form of slavery." Since then, the phrase has entered the lexicon of the cause-oriented.
The UN Office on Drug and Crime has issued these new statistics on trafficking:
... the most common form of human trafficking(79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. In some parts of the world,
women trafficking women is the norm.
The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labour
(18%), although this may be a misrepresentation because forced labour
is less frequently detected and reported than trafficking for sexual
Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children.
However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are
the majority (up to 100% in parts of West Africa).
These figures are important in the current tendency to consider women's issues as secondary, and gender as less important than class or race or sexuality.
Here in the US, we're beginning to see trafficking via the "seasonal worker visa" whereby batches of 30-50 men and women are brought in to work for approximately 10 months at labor-intensive, manual jobs. Living conditions are execrable, with one instance of 27 people living in one house. The workers are not paid directly by the companies they work for; instead, they receive their wages from the agency that brought them here -- with all kinds of deductions. On the average, they receive between $400-$600 a month.
The usual offshoot is that these workers run away and join the millions of undocumented -- largely because they are unable to earn enough to pay back what they borrowed to make the trip to the US.
What happens to the women -- well, every step is fraught is peril. -- ##