By: Arun Kumar Acharya, Ph.D.
Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries. Since the United Nation’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons was signed into law in 2001 and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed in 2000, much research has been conducted around the world. According to the U.S. State Department there are approximately 600,000 to 800,000 victims trafficked annually across borders internationally. The International Labor Organizations (ILO) estimates that at any given time there are approximately 12.3 billion people globally in forced labor, bonded labor, sexual servitude and/or involuntary servitude (ILO, 2005). In Mexico, every year nearly 10,000 women are trafficked to six important cities (Cancun, Acapulco, Mexico City, Tijuana, Juarez city and Monterrey) for the purpose of sexual exploitation (Acharya, 2009).
Human trafficking is now a worldwide epidemic and is a human rights violation including the violation of rights to life, liberty, personal security, privacy, mental and physical integrity, freedom from slavery, and freedom from torture and other forms of inhumane or degrading treatment. Trafficking in persons especially of women is connected on the one hand to feminization of migration, and on the other to the general supply of commercial sexual services.
Poverty, unemployment, family disintegration, gender-based discrimination and a history of sexual and physical violence are some factors that make women and children vulnerable to traffickers. In many parts of the world (for example in some Asian countries) young girls and women are abducted and sold, while some are deceived into consenting by the promise of a better life or a better job in cities and abroad. Once trapped, they are held and exploited in slavery-like conditions.
Irrespective of the causes that en-route most women towards trafficking network, they suffer extreme sexual, physical, emotional exploitation, as well as violations of their human rights, including the right to liberty, the right to dignity and security of person. It has a profound impact on the health and well-being of women. The forms of abuse and risks that women experience, in many cases, has forced them to consume drugs and alcohol.
Sex trafficking is now recognized as a global public health issue. Our study in Mexico has identified that trafficking of women for the purpose of sexual exploitation is highly associated with health risks such as psychological trauma, injuries from violence, sexually transmitted infections, HIV and AIDS, other adverse reproductive health outcomes, and substance misuse. Apart from that, we have seen from the study that trafficked women experienced a wide range of health problems, for example, frequent fever, back pain, stomach pain and sleep disorder (Acharya, 2014).
However, it is important to note that currently in Mexico there are about more than 150 thousand persons living with the deadly virus of HIV (CONASIDA, 2011). Most of the studies reveal that there is a pervasive attitude that stigmatize and blame prostitutes for the spread of diseases and identify the sex workers as a major source of sexually transmitted diseases. This has resulted women in prostitution being seen as the cause of disease rather than the consequence of economic marginalization. Inevitably, it has also helped to draw attention away from male sexual behavior, and put the onus of disease prevention on the women. Therefore in order to control the HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases, it is necessary to address the trafficking problem in a multidimensional level (municipal, state and federal), so as to make it visible, as well as spread awareness in society not only about HIV infection but also about trafficking of women.
- Acharya, Arunkumar (2014), Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Women and Girls in Mexico: An Analysis on Impact of Violence on Health Status, Journal of Intercultural Studies, Volume 35, Issue 2.
- Acharya, Arunkumar (2009), Una nueva forma de esclavitud humana: el tráfico de mujeres en México, Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo León, Mexico.
- International Labour Organization (ILO) (2005), A global alliance against forced labor, International Labor Office, Geneva.
- Centro Nacional para la prevención y el control del VIH/SIDA (CONASIDA) (2011), Vigilancia Epidemiológica de casos de VIH/SIDA en México: Registro Nacional de Casos de SIDA, Government of Mexico, Mexico City.
Dr. Arun Kumar Acharya is professor at Institute of Social Science Research, Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon, Monterrey, Mexico. He has published more 50 research papers in various international journals on the issue of Migration, Trafficking and gender violence, also 6 books on Migration and Human trafficking in Mexico. He is also member of National Council on Science and Technology (CONACYT) level II.
Image by Mark J Sebastian from Wikimedia Commons.