Human Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery
Julie A. Geary-Bernstein
Western Governors University
This paper focuses on the social problem of human trafficking within the United States. The extent in which human trafficking affects the United States in various ways will be discussed. Sociological theory will be used to discuss multiple causes of human trafficking. Primary focus will be on Conflict Theory and how it can explain causes of human trafficking.
Keywords: human trafficking, conflict theory
Human Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery
There are many social problems facing the United States today ranging in complexity across many spectrums. In order to be considered a social problem, by definition, the issue must influence and be opposed to by members of society. Human trafficking is thought of by many citizens of the United States to be a foreign social problem. This issue has become a social problem for the United States with statistics showing that 63% of human trafficking victims are U.S. Citizens (Kotrla, 2010, p. 183).
Commonly referred to as modern-day slavery, human trafficking takes place all over the world, in almost every country. This is the fastest growing criminal industry with approximately 12.3 million adults and children being trafficked throughout the world (Clawson, 2009). The victims of human trafficking are men, and more commonly women and children of all ages. Certain risk factors such as poverty, age, lack of education, previous sexual abuse, mental and health challenges and lack of family support are very common among victims of trafficking. However there are those victims that are looking to better their current situation and are coerced into the world of trafficking with the promise of a better life. There are also the victims who are obtained by illegal means, kidnapping or abuse of systems such as foster care (Dean, 2013).
Human trafficking is not just about sex trade, though that is the largest component. Other forms of trafficking include forced/bonded labor, debt bondage, involuntary domestic service, child labor and even child soldiers in certain countries. Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States every year (Department of State, 2010). The United States is a destination country for human trafficking. Traffickers promise the victims a ‘better life’ in the United States. However, once in the U.S., traffickers destroy victims’ legal documents, threaten victims’ families with harm and trap victims in debt amounts that cannot be repaid (Clawson, 2009).
The United States not only contributes to the supply in human trafficking, but also the demand for it. Sex tourism is when a person travels outside of their own country and engages in sexual exploitation in a foreign destination such as Southeast Asia. Approximately 25% of all sex tourists are from the United States and Canada (Department of State, 2010). Even here in the United States, there is a large population within the sex industry who are not there by choice. A large percentage of people in the sex industry are victims of trafficking. A recent study cites that approximately 20% of American men who have bought sex know that they are buying someone or something trafficked and continue to do so (Clawson, 2009).
The extent to which human trafficking affects the United States is staggering. Those victims who are identified/rescued within the United States are eligible for many benefits provided by the United States Government including housing/shelter and temporary or possibly permanent visas regardless if they are U.S. citizens or not. In 2010, Congress funded worldwide efforts to end human trafficking at the cost of 70 million dollars in taxpayer’s money (Department of State, 2010). The United States of America is known as the land of the free. Human trafficking goes against this core value of Americans by denying people freedom in every way...
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