Human Trafficking is a Serious Crime and Requires Prevention

Must read

Washington DC – Human trafficking is prevalent in all societies. It has been widespread worldwide, irrespective of any society’s political, religious and civil code of ethics governing the day to day activities of the society. It is only recently that it has been determined that it is an evil situation that needs combating urgently and should be dealt with forcefully and legally. A victim should have recourse for this act of cruelty of the evil doer. It is now considered a crime which is punishable and the perpetrators should be prosecuted for any such acts.

Trafficking is fundamentally a crime of exploitation – an assault against humanity. It is an act of violence and denial of one’s basic human rights. Everyone living in a free society should have the ability to live without any intimidation. Mostly, the human trafficking is conducted by an individual who is powerful and can use that might against the powerless, who are generally the young children and women. The tormentor shows no respect in violating the right of victims and the integrity of the tormented person.

In traditional society, young children and women are generally exploited for forced labor and coerced for sexual acts under duress. In societies where child labor, child kidnapping, domestic violence and dowry-related cases go unreported, that is where the tormentor uses the opportunity to exploit children, women and in some cases even men. It is perhaps partially due to the laws governing these societies, which are generally quite weak, and the process for recourse, which is much too complicated and expensive to follow, and the institutional and societal support, which is almost nonexistent. For these reasons, the powerless continue to suffer from such abusive situations of exploitation.

A news story reported recently of an Indian sister-in-law who was indicted and convicted in a nonjury trial. The announcement was made by Rockland County (New York State) District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe and comprised of two counts of labor trafficking and one count of assault, both classed as “D” felonies, in the Clarkstown slave labor case. The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Amanda Doty and Chief Assistant District Attorney Arthur J. Ferraro. This news item brought to surface the memory of other incidences from the past that I had sort of forgotten, but prompted me to think about those less fortunate who are subjected to such unfortunate situations. Some incidences get reported but others stay undiscovered.

I am remembering an incident from my youth days, living in South Delhi, India, when I used to voluntarily teach young women English. Mostly these young girls and women were doing domestic chores and babysitting for the elite and diplomatic families living in the neighborhood. Speaking good English ensured them good salaries. I vividly remember a young Nepalese girl whose name escapes my memory. She was brought to India to earn a living so she could send money home to support young siblings and parents living in Nepal.

She came for several weeks and then did not show up for couple of weeks to learn English. When she returned she brought me a pair of ear rings from Nepal and explained her absence for the missed two weeks. I accepted her gift joyfully even though I knew she was only earning a small amount of money. She was so thoughtful, genuine and considerate and wanted me to have this gift for my act of kindness towards her and others. Shortly thereafter she stopped coming altogether and out of curiosity I asked others who were known to her and were also doing domestic work about her whereabouts, but no one knew anything about her.

After couple of months, I was waiting for a bus to get on to go to college when I spotted her in a limo – she was well dressed, seated next to a non-native dark skinned man in the back seat and the limo was driven by a driver. I waved at her and out of excitement, even took few steps forward towards the car, in an effort to get noticed by her. She looked at me but did not wave back and the limo drove away. Until today, I wonder why she never connected with me again; who was the well-suited gentleman seated next to her? Why did she choose to ignore me? It was not her nature to show such coldness. Was her life better or worse? Maybe she was being exploited for a few privileges and was later deserted. All questions remain unanswered and then I left the country to come to the United States. With the passage of time, my memory of her became faint but somehow she had touched my heart with her sincerity and simplicity.

Another incidence comes to my mind and this is from the time when I lived in Southern California. My family was contacted by a Sri Lankan attorney for help to mediate a case where two Indians were involved. A rich Indian man brought an Indian servant to work as a domestic worker from India. The servant was accused of a theft of an expensive watch and the authorities wanted an attorney to intervene because the servant’s passport was with the owner and the servant did not speak good English or have the means to pay fines or stay in the country without a passport.

The servant said that the owner was getting exceedingly unhappy with his services and he was searching for a way to leave him and had found another family who was in need of such services. He elaborated that when the owner discovered this from another friend, he was revengeful and threatened not to give him his passport. He also reported the theft of the expensive watch that the owner had gifted to him earlier to the police. Fortunately, this case was resolved amicably and the watch was returned to the owner and the servant was able to find a legal solution.

I also remember another case where a young dancer was calling community people around and had also asked me to help her by going with her to the court date for the custody of her daughter. She had no relatives in the country. She was helpless and was ready to live with anyone willing to give her shelter. This young lady’s spouse was an American, who, when he was in India traveling, had gotten married to her and brought her to live in America without her parent’s knowledge. Now living in Southern California, due to family and marital problems, he had thrown her out on streets without any financial support and taken her young child away from her who was born in America.

She was not very educated and lacked support of family or friends. She was able to get community and institutional help. Fortunately, she was trained in Indian classical dances and did manage to survive economically by teaching dance to young girls. To the best of my knowledge, she was able to get some visiting rights granted to her by the court and was able to get some situational help to become self-sufficient economically. However, not all cases of immigration or physical and mental abuse get resolved quickly and then there are many who suffer for years and many times the outcome for them is not always positive.

Several years ago, the newspapers had reported of a very wealthy and well known restaurant owner and caterer living in Berkeley, California, whose apartment was raided and he was found guilty of bringing young women from a village in South India for the pretext of employment in his restaurants and was accused of using these women for sex purposes. It went on undetected until one young woman found the courage and escaped and reported the ongoing sex abuse to the authorities.

Then there are the cases of immigration-related abuses by the entrepreneurs who bring young bright workers on temporary visas and provide these workers temporary housing and salaries in dollars. These workers are recruited in India by brokers and who promise them good housing and salaries. Once in the country, these individuals are made to work extended hours and asked to stay in crowded apartments without the provision of necessary means to support themselves comfortably or live independently. Since their employment visa status is dependent on the business owner, the victims face unkind behavior and abuse. The said entrepreneur did get reported to the authorities in Virginia and his headquarters were raided.

In the United States, only a little over eleven years ago, in October 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) (Public Law 106-386) was enacted. Prior to that, no comprehensive federal law existed to protect victims of trafficking or to prosecute their traffickers.

TVPA is founded on the principles of The Palermo Protocols. According to Wikipedia, The Palermo Protocols are three protocols adopted by the United Nations in 2000 in Palermo, Italy, together with the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (the Palermo Convention). They are: 1) The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children; 2) The Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air; and, 3) The Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition. These supplement the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The protocols and convention fall within the jurisdiction of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The fact sheet of TVPA lists that human trafficking is increasingly committed by organized, sophisticated criminal groups, and is the fastest growing source of profit for organized criminal enterprises worldwide. It further elaborates that the profit from the trafficking industry contributes to the expansion of organized crime in the US and worldwide.

TVPA lists three goals: 1) Prevent human trafficking overseas; 2) Protect victims and help them rebuild their lives in the U.S. with federal and state support; 3) Prosecute traffickers of persons under stiff federal penalties.

Prevention, protection and prosecution are the three-pronged approach that the United States has implemented as measures in combating human trafficking. It is amazing to see that this evil is present in this advanced country founded on high principles and more modern traditions than the rest of the world with outdated traditions and cultural patterns. But it is heartening to note also that the United States is much more tuned to human civil liberties and democratic freedom. You can only imagine the havoc that human trafficking is causing in those traditional societies where the male is considered much superior than the female and as the head of the household, capable of making the decision to reward or punish others in the household or in extended family for the desired outcome.

TVPA lists very clear prevention measures which include the authorization of educational and public awareness programs. It offers protection and assistance for victims of trafficking and makes housing, educational, health care, job training and other federally-funded social service programs available to assist victims in rebuilding their lives.

For the immigrant community, it is important to note that the law also has established the T visa, which grants victims of trafficking temporary residency in the US. The TVPA authorizes up to 5,000 victims of trafficking each year to receive permanent residence status after three years from issuance of their temporary residency visas. The T visa signifies a shift in the immigration law policy, which previously resulted in many victims being deported as illegal aliens.

The law also makes victims of trafficking eligible for the Witness Protection Program and for benefits and services under federal or state programs, once they become certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS.)

Adult trafficking victims must be certified as a pre-condition for their eligibility for benefits and services. Once certified, they are eligible to apply for benefits and services under any federal or state funded programs, to the same extent as refugees, including cash, medical assistance and social services. Victims under the age of 18 do not need to be certified. HHS issues these victims letters of eligibility so that providers know they are eligible for services and benefits.

Victims of human trafficking who are non-US citizens are eligible to receive benefits and services through the TVPA to the same extent as refugees. Victims who are US citizens do not need to be certified by HHS to receive benefits; as US citizens, they are already eligible for many benefits.

According to the consciousness raising web site,, these are some of the statistics: Approximately 8o percent of trafficking involves sexual exploitation, and 19 percent involves labor exploitation. It is estimated that there are approximately 27 million slaves around the world and 68 percent of female sex trafficking victims meet the clinical criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. Around half of trafficking victims in the world are under the age of 18. More than two thirds of sex trafficked children suffer additional abuse at the hands of their traffickers.

President Obama’s Interagency Task Force and Senior Policy Operating Group, comprised of members from the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Agriculture, Transportation, Homeland Security, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, U.S. Agency for International Development and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have worked together along with NGOs and prepared a comprehensive report on accomplishments of the administration for combating trafficking in person.

On June 19, 2012, Secretary Clinton, while releasing the report, said, “In the United States today, we are celebrating what’s called Juneteenth. That’s freedom day, the date in 1865 when a Union officer stood on a balcony in Galveston, Texas and read General Order Number 3, which declared, “All slaves are free.” It was one of many moments in history when a courageous leader tipped the balance and made the world more free and more just. But the end of legal slavery in the United States and in other countries around the world has not, unfortunately, meant the end of slavery.”

Much pleased with the findings of the annual report and to honor some Trafficking in Person heroes present at the event in Washington, DC, including Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, she said, “Now, this year’s report tells us that we are making a lot of progress. Twenty-nine countries were upgraded from a lower tier to a higher one, which means that their governments are taking the right steps.”

Secretary Clinton thanked Will and Jada Pinkett Smith for their presence and said, “Thank you and through you, your daughter.” The Secretary elaborated, “I am so pleased that she (Willow) has taken on this cause. And we look forward to working with you.”

Will and Jada’s daughter is Willow Smith, an 11 year old who has already recorded music and gained fame at such an early age. After watching the KONY 2012 video (about a Ugandan warlord), she did her own research and realized that there were young girls her age in this country who were being trafficked for sex. Willow Smith told her mother, “I’ve got to give my voice to this.”

The United States Departments of Health and Human Services has established a resource center with a toll-free line. If you think you have come into contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. The NHTRC can help you identify and coordinate with local organizations that protect and serve trafficking victims. For more information on human trafficking visit: Check the Victim Assistance fact sheet, the Certification for Adult Victims of Trafficking fact sheet, and the Child Victims of Human Trafficking fact sheet.

Angela Anand
+ posts

More articles

Latest article