Sex Trafficking and Globalization: Dr.

Manini Associate Professor Amity Business School

Babita" was thirteen years old when she was recruited by an agent for work in Thailand. Her father took $480 from the agent with the understanding that his daughter would pay the loan back out of her earnings. The agent took "Babita" to Bangkok, and three days later she was taken to the Ran Dee Prom brothel. "Babita" did not know what was going on until a man came into her room and started touching her body and then forced her to have sex. For the next two years, "Babita" worked in various parts of Thailand in four different brothels, all but one owned by the same family. Economic hardship, discrimination, and violence have driven millions of women to work in the sex sector around the world, and their numbers will increase as a result of the current global economic crisis. Unless the underlying factors pushing women to opt for selling sex to support themselves and their families are remedied, many women will continue to have few other options. Police

raids on several hundred buildings in the United Kingdom have recovered

dozens of sex trafficking victims, mostly from East and South-East Asia, and led to legal charges against dozens of suspects, according to a United Nations report released today. Sex trafficking has become a great problem for the civilized world. Unfortunately it has developed more rapidly with the pace of globalization. As the business of the world is becoming larger, this nuisance is also expanding its feet. Infact, sex trafficking is an epidemic. Millions of women and children are forced or sold into prostitution each year where they live a life of hopelessness and brutality. What can be done? If trafficking remains profitable how can it be stopped? Former investment banker Siddharth Kara has a proposal. For close to a decade, this investment banker-cum-abolitionist visited brothels, shelters and villages around the world, interviewing hundreds of trafficking victims, their families, law-enforcement officials and NGO workers. It is a severe blot on the human face, he says.

Human trafficking and other forms of slavery are thriving in the shadows. At the end of 2008 there were as many as 28.4 million slaves who were sold by their parents, abducted or coerced into a life of forced labor, bonded labor or sexual servitude. And yet, mainly due to its underground criminal nature, this violent exploitation remains ill-understood by governments and is rarely adequately tackled. “What we know is the tip of the iceberg, but [we] have no assessment of the iceberg itself,” said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in a recent interview with the BBC. In 2008, the average net profit margin of sex trafficking was 70%, while Google, General Electric and Exxon Mobil posted margins of 29%, 12.8% and 10.8%, respectively. Even within the slave industry, which according to Mr. Kara brought in $152.3 billion in revenues in 2007, trafficked sex workers are by far the most lucrative slaves—although only 4.2% of the world’s slaves are trafficked sex slaves, they generate 39.1% of slaveholders’ profits. What makes this illicit business so immensely profitable, according to Mr. Kara, are the relatively low costs and risks involved with running it? The fixed cost of purchasing a slave, for instance, is on average a mere $1,800, with some parents selling their children to traders for as little as a few hundred dollars. Exacerbating the problem is the fallout from unregulated economic globalization, which, has deepened rural poverty, disenfranchised the poor, and produced a vast and vulnerable population that can be procured and transported more cheaply and easily than ever before. The rapid opening up of market economies following the fall of the Berlin Wall precipitated the macro movement of slaves from South Asia, East Asia and Eastern Europe to wealthier countries in the Middle East, Western Europe and North America, as well as to Asian city centers. The decreasing price of sex, which the use of slaves has allowed, has opened up the prostitution market to low-wage laborers who would not otherwise have the means to purchase sex. This analysis ultimately indicates that the best way to combat sex trafficking would be to erode its profitability by increasing the cost of obtaining and exploiting sex slaves. To begin with, laws against human trafficking should be at least as aggressive as those for drug smuggling. In India, for instance, the financial

penalty for drug trafficking is currently 100 times more severe than fines for trafficking sex slaves. As the world falls deeper into economic depression, it remains unclear whether the sex trafficking industry will expand or contract. In a recent announcement concerning the UNODC’s Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, Mr. Costa reported that the number of slaves will be likely to increase during this global economic downturn. Mr. Kara’s analysis, which shows the correlation between global economic expansion and the ascent of human trafficking, might suggest otherwise. What is clear, however, is that even in times of economic crisis, governments should not relinquish efforts to combat modern slavery. There are still slaves today, even though slavery is illegal in every country in the world. By my calculation, there were 28.4 million slaves in the world at the end of 2006. These slaves were in three primary categories: 18.1 million debt bondage/bonded labor slaves, 7.6 million forced labor slaves, and 2.7 million trafficked slaves (slaves who were coerced or deceived then transported into a forced labor or debt bondage situation). Of these trafficked slaves, 1.2 million were sex slaves. Only after understanding how sex trafficking functions, as a profit-driven business, can a more effective abolitionist movement be deployed that will attack the business by dismantling its fundamental premise: the exploitation of a vast supply of potential slaves to meet the demand for ever-greater profits in the worldwide commercial sex industry. This is alarming situation which is running parallel to the corporate sector. This deviations will make India the largest number of AID Positives in coming years.

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