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UN Says Human Trafficking Appears To Be Worsening

Three-quarters of those exploited as modern-day slaves work in the sex industry.
Three-quarters of those exploited as modern-day slaves work in the sex industry.
(RFE/RL) -- In a new report, the United Nations says human trafficking for the sex trade or forced labor market appears to be getting worse, not better, because many countries aren't paying attention to it.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) surveyed 155 countries for its report on modern-day slavery, but didn't say how many people it believes are victims of human trafficking. Estimates range from 800,000 new victims each year, according to the U.S. State Department, to 2.5 million, according to the International Labor Organization.

UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costa told a news conference at UN headquarters in New York that 40 percent of the countries where the problem exists have not convicted one person of trafficking charges.

A large percentage of the perpetrators of human trafficking are women, UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costa says.
Even when there are convictions, Costa said, they're not as plentiful as convictions for crimes involving far fewer victims. In these countries, he said, authorities either ignore the problem or don't have the resources to fight trafficking -- or both.

"According to the statistics, about 80 percent of these crimes are concentrated on sexual exploitation," Costa said. "But I warn you. This may be an optical illusion in the sense that it is the most commonly reported [crime], it is the most commonly visible [crime], and it is especially visible in rich countries -- Europe, if you wish, [and] North America."

Overall, the report said, 20 percent of those forced into the sex trade are under 18 years of age. But in Southeast Asia and parts of Africa, it said, minors make up the majority of sex slaves.

But enslaved children aren't limited to the sex trade, according to the report. Because their hands are small, it says, they're exploited as cheap labor -- to untangle fishing nets, pick delicate berries, or do intricate sewing.

Seventy-nine percent of slavery is for sex, according to the UNODC, while about 18 percent is for forced labor, forced marriages, or forced organ donation. And although the victims of sex trafficking are usually women and girls, those in charge of the trafficking are women, too.

"In this specific case, the specific case of human trafficking, we see a very large presence of women. In some Eastern European countries, some former [Soviet Union] countries, Central Asian countries, even 60, 70, 80 [percent] -- 83 percent in one case -- of the perpetrators are women," Costa said. "In some of the African countries, the majority of the perpetrators in this business unfortunately are women."

Border Security Not A Factor


Fighting human trafficking might be easier if it were an enterprise that always involved crossing borders. After all, Costa said, well-designed border security might intercept a significant percentage of the victims.

But that isn't the case.

"It is not only trafficking from Southeast Asia into other parts of Asia or into Western Europe, it's not only from Latin America to North America -- these are the kind of flows which you probably have in mind," Costa said. "There is a lot of exploitation within countries, large countries like the United States, large countries like some of the African countries, but also in smaller countries."

There is some good news in the UNODC report.

In 2004, the UN enacted a special protocol to fight human trafficking. Since then, it said, 63 percent of the 155 countries surveyed have enacted laws against the practice.

But there was little else in the report to inspire much optimism. In fact, Costa said, the worldwide economic crisis is driving even more illicit business to the traffickers, particularly for cheap labor.

"The budget situation, the bottom line of so many enterprises, including the multinationals, who have been known in the past to use forced labor, cheap labor, child labor, in their supply chain -- their budget, their financial situation, their financial predicament being so much more difficult than it was in the past -- may very well induce them to use more than in the past cheap sources of labor," Costa said. "Namely, the ones stemming from modern slavery."

RFE/RL Washington correspondent Andrew F. Tully contributed to this story
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by: LALMADHO from: PAKISTAN
February 15, 2009 03:51
IT IS THE RESULT OF THE POLICIES ADDOPTED BY TH DEVELOPED COUNTRIES SINCE LAST FIVE CENTURIES, SUCKING THE BLOOD FROM AFRICA, INDIA, AUSTRALIA AND THROUGHOUT FROM THEIR COLONIES WHAT THEY DID WITH REAL AMERICANS THE RED-INDIANS. THEY (DEVELOPED/RICH COUNTRIES)ARE STRICTLY PERUSING THE SAME POLICIES. THE SAME GOALS BUT THE METHODS CHANGED, PREVIOUSLY THEY WERE RULING DIRECTLY NOW THEY ARE RULING THROUGH I.M.F,WORLD BANK, ASIA BANK AND OTHER TACTICS.WHO WAS THE BIGGEST IMPORTER OF SLAVES FROM AFRICA?? WHO USED THE ATOMIC BOMBS IN JAPAN? AND SO ON REFER THE HISTORY PLEASE

by: DENNIS JUNIOR from: NYS/USA
February 15, 2009 04:14
I have to concur with the United Nations opinion about human trafficking is getting worse!

by: Eric from: USA
February 16, 2009 16:00
It is interesting that someone in Pakistan is so prepared to condemn others for human rights violations with attacks in Mumbai so fresh in our collective memory. It is true that allot of the present evil in world has had it's origins in the US under the Bush administration. Many of the corporations that have culpability sensed that the tide was changing here in the US and have moved their headquarters to places like Central Asia. It remains to be seen what will happen under Mr. Obama's watch. <br />Mr. Bush seems to be avoiding any consequences for possibly criminal acts he committed while in office. Regardless the issue is much more complex then anyone who has commented has realized. There is plenty of blame to go around. As for the history of slavery in the US.. it would not have been possible without the influence of Muslim Nations and African Monarchs who procured and sold slaves to British Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish traders for the &quot;middle passage&quot; across the Atlantic. American colonials wouldn't have found it economical if Muslims and the Kings of Africa hadn't allowed their greed to overcome their compassion for their fellow man.

by: MaGioZal from: S&#227;o Paulo - SP, Brazil
February 16, 2009 19:58
Okay, that’s right to fight against child exploitation and forced prostitution. But we must acknowledge that many women do choose to be prostitutes as a way to get money, and in fact many countries arrest immigrant prostitutes using “human traficking” laws even when the person acted on its own will.

by: Eddie from: USA
February 17, 2009 07:50
It is exactly that type of mentality, &quot;the women choose to go into prostitution&quot;, that has kept anti-trafficking laws from developing.

by: Nerissa from: Miami, Fl
February 19, 2009 13:54
Human Trafficking needs immediate attention from the government! I've written a book for children, &quot;Sarafina's Wish, A young girl's flight for freedom&quot; on this horrendous practice. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both referenced this disaster and the need for change.

by: Pasha
February 20, 2009 16:22
Interesting article <br />

by: Martin Bright
February 26, 2009 20:00
If you have no work options, or the jobs available pays a pittance, you have no choice but to sell yourself. If you could not enter in better positions because the education the state give to you was useless, you have no choice but the sex trade in order to have decent earnings. That is the root of the sex trade. Poverty.<br />On the other end, we are the customers, we men pay for sex, so, as long we pay for sex and there are girls aout there without decent jobs, there will be commercial sex. <br />On the other hand, there are girls who enter the trade againts their will, and are raped, beated, and forced to sell their bodies. That must be punished, punishing the customers who knowingly buy sex from trafficked women, and the pimps. <br />I think we must not penalize the girls that enter the trade willingly, nor those that are in there againts their will.<br />Puinish the customer and the trader, not the traded.

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