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Oftentimes, we are unaware of what’s going on behind closed doors. When we think of human trafficking, we think of young women getting kidnapped in busy and poor countries such as India, China, and Russia, and being forced to commit sexual acts for their kidnapper’s profits. A $150 billion industry, human trafficking comes in many different forms (Human Rights First, 2017). Human trafficking is no longer solely a problem in the developing world but it has become a widespread issue all over the world. It affects many kinds of people but mainly poor, marginalized, young women and children. They are trafficked into forced labor, organ trafficking, seuxal slavery, and forced marriage. Although they are all very important, I feel that sexual slavery has the most impact and is the most damaging form of human trafficking right now. In a world where profit is chosen over a greater good for humans, I will be arguing that trafficking women for sexual slavery is driven by poverty, the greed for profits by traffickers, and a patriarchal control of society.
The issue of human trafficking has become one of the most critical issues that the world currently faces. Countries throughout the world see the devastating effects that human trafficking causes. The issue of human trafficking is rooted in many issues, however, one of the most influential is poverty. Poverty causes countless problems for many people in the world that lead them to voluntarily or forcibly be trafficked. Countries that are in a state of poverty often do not have the financial resources to provide proper education to the population, especially young girls. The lack of education in many countries poses significant restraints on possible opportunities for these young girls as they become young women. Children and women in third world countries face the most exploitation with respect to the sex market (Poulin, 2013). The reason why women are exploited the most in human trafficking is due to the fact that in many third world countries that are ridden with poverty, women are not provided with the same opportunities as men are. These opportunities range from lack of access to nutrition, employment, education and health services that are vital for women to succeed. The result of a lack of opportunities and education is that often times women search for alternative means as a source of income which are not always legal or safe. Often times, women also do not know fully what they are getting themselves into due to lack of education and social services. Sex traffickers often times give false promises to women about how much money they will earn and the living conditions they will be provided with (Hamal Gurung, 2014). Many traffickers put women in very undesirable situations where their safety and well being is compromised. Traffickers objectify and exploit the women that are working for them economically, emotionally, and physically (Truong, 2006). Frequently, the result of this, is that women face the same, if not greater economic disparities than they did before they were sex trafficked. Therefore, women who become involved in the sex trade in order to escape poverty, are often trapped in a repetitive cycle of poverty and exploitation that is inescapable for many which means they continue to be trafficked.
While poverty is arguably the main cause of sexual slavery, the growing greed traffickers have for profits in the form of money, is equally as big of a cause of sexual slavery. Compared to many jobs where a worker has to do work either in the form of manual labor, providing a service, or typing up reports, a sex trafficker does not have to do any of that, but still gets paid. In the sex trade industry, the woman is the person who does all of the work while the trafficker is the one who reaps the majority of the financial benefits. While human trafficking earns around $150 billion a year for traffickers, sex trafficking and exploitation earns traffickers roughly $99 billion (Human Rights First, 2017). On average, one sex trafficked woman will make $100,000 a year, but she never sees barely any of it as most of that goes to her sex trafficker (Human Rights First, 2017). Many sex traffickers have more than one woman which means, for them, it is highly profitable with very little work for them to do themselves, as the trafficked woman does most of the work.
The greed for wealth can be seen in drug cartels around the world, but specifically in Central America. There has been a rise in drug cartels actively participating in human trafficking. This is made possible by their capabilities and resources gained since being active in the drug trade. In Mexico specifically, drug cartels take advantage of the low security southern border to smuggle not only drugs, but vulnerable people to be used as sex slaves, forced laborers, and children soldiers (Davila, 2016). This shows how an already wealthy group like a drug cartel, uses its resources and knowledge to further their wealth by participating in other forms of trafficking. It is arguably easier for a drug cartel to become involved in human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, in a country like Mexico where corruption is widespread. The plentitude of poverty and people looking for a better life in the United States also plays a big role in human trafficking operations in Mexico. Many people in poverty cannot make it to the United States by themselves because of how little money they have which leads them to turn to a human trafficker. Because they are indentured to the trafficker, they are often exploited through sex or labor to pay back their smuggler. The greed for wealth is a major cause of human trafficking, specifically sexual slavery.
While poverty and profit play a big role in human trafficking, a patriarchal control of society has a strong impact on how human trafficking can take place, especially sexual slavery. Violence is a fundamental aspect to human trafficking. Mostly men, use physical violence to instill fear and gain control over young women in the human trafficking industry. This violence takes place through forms such as beatings and rapes. Other forms of abuse such as psychological and emotional abuse can take place through manipulation and coercion. These forms of male violence are seen as the root cause for sexual appropriation of women’s bodies (Jóhannsdóttir, 2009). In the sex trade industry, women and their bodies are seen as commodities for men to use. This is shown through how a man pays for sex in the sex trade industry, like he would pay for a good or service at a store  . The violence that male sex traffickers use against women, is a strategy specifically used for women. It would be a lot more difficult for a man to use violence on another man to instill fear in him and control him.
For exploitation to take place, there must be a hierarchy. In a world dominated by patriarchal views since the beginning of time, there is a hierarchy between men and women. This hierarchy occurs in many forms, one being a sexual hierarchy. The sexual hierarchy present in a globalized world leads to many challenges for specifically women, in the form of sexual exploitation. The way it works, is that individuals that are elevated in a hierarchy, can use and abuse their power to benefit themselves and to exploit the individuals who are subsidiary to them (Nikiforakis, 2014). The ongoing act of sexual slavery and exploitation of young women is influenced by patriarchal views on women and the sexual hierarchy they create which enables sexual slavery and the abuse of women that occurs within it.
All together, while there are numerous pressing issues in the world, the issue of human trafficking poses a significant threat to today’s society. Human trafficking takes many various forms including forced labour, organ trafficking, forced marriage, and sexual slavery. While each of these subcategories are critical, the most detrimental form of human trafficking is sexual slavery. Sexual slavery is the attaching the ownership over a person with the intention of forcing them to commit sexual activities for profit. While many argue that there are various causes behind the origin of sexual slavery, it is rooted and driven by poverty, the greed for profits by traffickers, and a patriarchal control of society. These three sources have given rise to the explosion of human trafficking in the form of sexual slavery that is present in today’s world.
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