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Reilly Flora
AP Lang. & Comp.
11 December 2017

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Human Trafficking: A Deplorable Industry
A twelve-year-old girl has been torn from her family and shipped all around India to endure the unthinkable. A young mother is forced to stand on a dark street corner in a busy city choking back tears from physical and emotional trauma. A naive European girl is smuggled into the U.S. facing a life of servitude. They are all victims of human trafficking, which the Department of Homeland Security defines as “modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act”, thus our society needs to have a different view and approach on the issue (Department of Homeland Security). 

Slavery is often thought to be a trouble of the past. Slaves built the walls of the Ancient Mesopotamian empire, they built the magnificent pyramids of Ancient Egypt, worked the fields of Medieval Europe, and worked in factories in Colonial America. The 18th century Transatlantic Slave Trade made the sale of humans a common occurrence and a popular practice; millions of West Africans were sold to American settlers by their own people in return for food or weapons. In Germany during World War II, hundreds of thousands of Jews were incarcerated and forced to work in concentration camps against their will. A more modern example, just a few years ago during the Sudanese Civil Wars, thousands of men, women, and children were sold into slavery (Murphy). These are all notorious examples of labor enslavement, but sex enslavement plays just as big of a role in modern society. 

Women have been sexually exploited for centuries. Beginning way back in European brothels, women were put up for auction and people would pay for acts of sex with money or with products worth trading for. What happened to the women after they were sold was a meager concern for the people making money off of their bodies Finally in 1904, the issue of sex trafficking was brought to the light by the International Agreement for the Suppression of White Slave Traffic. This acknowledged rights for only white women, excluding all children and any woman of another race. This act was somewhat lenient, and was said by some to have been “only put into place in order to control the number of European women who were seeking to find jobs abroad.” (Yong). 

The act had no control over what went on in secret, for example in Japan. During World War II Japan had a system that forced women all over Asia into prostitution in “comfort stations”. These stations were small, unsanitary, and overall very unsafe. The women forced into these cubicles were punished for any sign of defiance and were often beaten without reason. They were there to provide sexual relief to the Japanese soldiers and in return for their sexual acts, the soldiers would keep the military’s secrets (Yong). This extremely immoral system of just one example of sex trafficking in history. 

Though the sale of humans has an extensive history, it is an especially overlooked issue in society today. As of January 2017, it is estimated that the human trafficking generates billions of dollars of profit, just behind drug trafficking as the most commercial transnational crime (Department of Homeland Security). According to the International Labour Organization, there are “20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally; 68% of them are trapped in forced labor, 26% of them are children, and 55% are women and girls.” (National Human Trafficking Hotline). 11.5 million women and girls being trafficked around the globe, most if not all of them being treated harshly and most are sexually abused. 11.5 million is equal to the entire population of Ohio, imagine that every single person in Ohio is forced into sex trafficking. Yet, people still believe they are not affected by the trafficking and therefore cannot do anything to stop it. Little has been done to shut down the profitable slave industry and this must change.

The sale of women is much like it was in the antebellum slave era: the auction blocks are now Craigslist, the merchants who sold the slaves are now pimps on street corners. “Four hundred years after slavery, pimps and traffickers are using the same lines, the same rationale, the same tactics as their predecessors in the antebellum South.” (Lloyd, Girls Like Us 97). This being said, pimps are getting smarter and better at taking advantage of vulnerable girls. 

Some pimps purposefully get into relationships with women that they see as vulnerable and once they notice the girl or woman is comfortable with them, they coerce her into the sex industry. The girls are often unknowingly given drugs and then are faced with threats to their families or to their own lives if they refuse. Other pimps may have no intention of getting close to the women first. They kidnap girls off the streets and use physical force to keep them under their control. Pimps are using both physical and psychological abuse to assert control over women who know no better than to let themselves be controlled. If anyone was asked if it was okay to treat people like so, the answer would be no. Everyone can agree that it is immoral to assert control over someone through abuse, yet pimps thrive in America, where the slave-system is justified and ignored (Lloyd 97). 

Bystanders pose questions like “Why not just leave?”, if only it were actually this easy. The victims are hardly left by themselves and are seldom allowed to use telephones. They are already punished for the slightest disobedience and if they were to be caught trying to contact authorities or attempting to escape, the punishment would be much worse and possibly fatal for them. Also, many of the victims have developed a sense of learned helplessness in which they accept that bad things will take place and they will have little control over them (Nuvvula). The women begin to believe that it is their fault that they are in the situation in the first place and believe that there isn’t anything that they can do to help. Therefore it is not so easy just to leave, in fact the women who try to escape the sex industry often face threats to their lives. 

Instead of blaming the victims of trafficking for not leaving or shunning them for their choices, we should be helping rehabilitate them and facilitate a smooth transition back into normal society. The girls who are exploited by pimps have many of their essential needs met- shelter, food, resources, protection- and they are also provided with a sense of belonging to a family. More often than not, girls in the trafficking industry come from damaged families so it is a new feeling for them to have a “family”, even if it is just a pimp and his girls (Lloyd 229). Society should continue to provide the essentials, but also needs to incorporate an environment where victims will feel safe and like they belong. Overall, the judgement that society places on women in the sex industry does nothing but keep them from looking for help. 

In addition to a general change in society’s approach to victims, changes need to be made in government policies. Our government as well as governments abroad have decided to punish the victims of sex trafficking rather than attack the issue and fix the system. Women who are forced into prostitution are labeled as “whores” and are often incarcerated for their actions instead of placed in therapy for their traumatic experiences. Children who have been pulled into the industry without even knowing the laws and consequences are being thrown into adult correctional facilities on charges of prostitution. For example, the case of Cyntonia Brown has been trending on social media. At the age of just sixteen years old, Cyntonia was raped and forced into prostitution by a forty three year-old man. One night when she was forced to have sex with an older man, she feared for her life and ended up shooting and killing him. She was then placed on trial on charges of first degree murder and prostitution and she is now serving a life sequence (Willingham). The justice system continues to fail young girls like Cyntonia and this will not be addressed unless policy is more strictly enforced and changed. 

The government’s first major step to countering human trafficking was the passing of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. This was the first piece of U.S. legislation in the fight against CSEC, commercial sexual exploitation of children.  (U.S. Department of Justice). Then in 2003, Congress passed the PROTECT Act to help fight Americans abroad who were committing sexual exploitation of children. Both of these acts were a step in the right direction as the number of CSEC investigations, case filings, convictions, and sentences to prisons have increased each year since the laws were passed (U.S. Department of Justice). But have they been enough? The number of these investigations is growing because of the growing industry, not because the enforcement of somewhat relaxed laws. The acts have been too loosely enforced, and there are even suspicions of corrupted authority being paid by pimps to look the other way, without enforcing the policies put in place to protect victims. 

The only way to stop the exploitation of women and young girls is to address the pimps and the traffickers. Legislation that punishes any and all acts of selling a human needs to be drawn up and enforced. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, yet millions of people in the U.S.  have been sold on “underground tracks”. This legislation must be strict in punishment, putting anyone who is involved in trafficking behind bars for life. Hopefully by incarcerating some, the act would serve as a deterrent for others. The difference between this proposed act and the current legislation in place is how it is to be enforced. Authorities will look at trafficking in a way they see murder, an act that must be punished in the harshest way possible. Harsher laws and stricter enforcement are the only ways that something will be done to address the issue. 
Human trafficking is one of the most primeval and appalling crimes our world has faced. This being said, trafficking is a growing crime that often goes without punishment. Millions of people all over the world are victims of trafficking, as it is a crime that touches most every nation in some manner. Women and girls are placed in horrible situations where they are forced to make money off of their sex or face severe punishments. Worldwide efforts have been established to try and stop the trafficking of people, especially children, but have yet to have a major impact. The United States has enacted laws such as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and the PROTECT Act of 2003 which have helped resolve some of the domestic issues, but have yet to have a global impact. However the U.S. is not especially strict with the enforcement of these laws and is often criticized for the treatment of victims. 

Trafficking is one of the most profitable international crimes and must be stopped. By targeting vulnerable women and keeping them under control both physically and psychologically, pimps are hardly exposed and punished. The U.S. and other nations globally must enact strict laws that target the pimps who are supplying women for purchase. Authorities must be educated how to recognize trafficking in their communities. Thus, the only way to eliminate human trafficking is to combat the pimps by enacting rigid legislation and enforcing it strictly. 

Works Cited
History.com Staff. “Slavery in America.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009,  

“Hotline Statistics.” National Human Trafficking Hotline, N.D.,  

Murphy, Kiah. “Slave Trade and Ethnic Divisions.” South Sudan, 11 Nov. 2014, 

Nuvvula, Sivakumar. “Learned Helplessness.” US National Library of Medicine National 
Institutes of Health, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 7 Oct. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5141652/.

“Research & Resources | Girls Educational & Mentoring Service (GEMS).” Girls  
Educational & Mentoring Service, www.gems-girls.org/about/research-resources.

“The Facts.” Polaris, 26 Oct. 2017, polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/facts.

“What Is Human Trafficking?” Department of Homeland Security, 21 Nov. 2016,    

Willingham, AJ. “Why Cyntoia Brown, Who Is Spending Life in Prison for Murder, Is All 
over Social Media.” CNN, Cable News Network, 27 Nov. 2017,

Yong, Patricia. “Timeline of Human Trafficking.” Human Trafficking Timeline, 2011,