Human Trafficking In Asia: Case Study


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Posted on Dec 17 2011 - 5:40pm by Nikky Raney


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This is a paper I wrote for my Contemporary Global Issues class regarding Human Trafficking in South East Asia. If you would like to see my bibliography don’t hesitate to e-mail me.

Nikky Raney
December 2011
Contemporary Global Issues
Brian Jones
Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia
Human trafficking is a global issue that is not spoken about to the degree that it could be, and in America it seems as though the government is taking measures to control this – however, in Southeast Asian countries there is still a lot that needs to be done in order for human trafficking to be more resolved. Throughout the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, China, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia there are so many women and children being sold as servants as well as prostitutes (Harf). Although human trafficking is also a large issue in Europe this paper will focus on human trafficking in Southeast Asia and what preventative measures are being taken by the aforementioned countries as well as the statistics and what is currently going on there.

Dina Francesca Haynes’ shares some shocking statistics within her piece Used, Abused, Arrested, and Deported: Extending Immigration Benefits to Protect the Victims of Trafficking and to Secure the Prosecution of Traffickers in the textbook. She writes that the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimates that “traffickers earn $250,000 for each trafficked woman.”

The United Nations Factsheet from 2007 estimated that there were at least 2.5 million people being forced into human trafficking and 55 percent of these people (around 1.4 million) are in Asia and the Pacific. The Factsheet explains that the majority of victims are between 18 and 24 of age, but there are at least 1.2 million children being trafficked each year. Most (95 percent) of human trafficking victims have experienced sexual or physical violence. Forty-three percent of victims are forced for “commercial sexual exploitation” and 98 percent of the aforementioned are women and girls. Thirty-two percent of victims are said to be used for forced economic exploitation and 56 percent of that group is female. In Asia and the Pacific alone $9.7 billion is generated from the forced human trafficking. Although there is so much going on in 2006 there were only 5,808 prosecutions and 3,160 convictions throughout the world meaning that for every 800 trafficked people only one person was convicted (UN.GIFT).

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes gives some insight into the elements of human trafficking which are three (UNODC.org):

“The Act: Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons.
The Means: Threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim.
The Purpose: For the purpose of exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs.”

The aforementioned is within the Trafficking Persons Protocol and is meant to provide constancy throughout the world in regards to the definition of human trafficking. Human trafficking must be criminalized under this legislation as well as attempts to commit a trafficking offense, participation as an accomplice and organizing or directing others to commit trafficking.

On December 7, 2011 CBS reported that 178 children were rescued in China from a human trafficking bust. It reports:

“Child trafficking is big problem in China, where traditional preference for male heirs and a restrictive one-child policy has driven a thriving market in baby boys, who fetch a considerably higher price than girls. Girls and women also are abducted and used as laborers or as brides for unwed sons (CBS).”

Such a recent post shows that there are things being done to help curb this, but with so much of it going on and so little of it being covered it is really hard. This is an issue that more people need to be educated upon.

An Asian news site called VOA News reported on August 19, 2011 that the United Nations urged Asia to Enforce Human Trafficking Laws. Ron Corben writes that many countries (such as Thailand and Cambodia) are failing to comply with the existing laws that are aimed at combatting human trafficking. This is especially important when it comes to children, because trafficking fuels child prostitution and child pornography.

In 2002 Akira Seki wrote an article for the New York Times entitled Human Trafficking: A rising tide in Asia in which Seki speaks of men and women (and children) who venture to new places in search of a new life, but then they end up getting caught in human trafficking. Families are sometimes desperate for money and will do anything – they go looking for work and they get manipulated and taken advantage of. Seki writes:

“Human trafficking is on the rise in Asia as people flee poverty and conflict…According to a recent study by the Swedish government, human trafficking ranks third, behind drugs and arms smuggling, in the scale of organized crime (Seki).”

It is astonishing that human trafficking can be ranked so highly within organized crime, and yet rarely is it ever talked about in the news and even more rarely is it ever spoken about in the classroom. Human trafficking has been studied and leaves people with so much mental abuse. There need to be effective ways of reducing this from happening which Seki writes includes to address the factors that render women and children vulnerable:

“Traffickers target families who are poor or socially excluded. In societies where women and girl have a low status and severely limited life options, they are easy prey. To make women and children less vulnerable, they must be empowered by giving them more access to, and control over, resources like education, basic health services, skills and leadership training (Seki).”

Lisa Katayama for the Mother Jones publication wrote about sex trafficking in May 2005. She spoke of Congress passing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act which was made to monitor the human-trafficking records of countries around the world. Sex trafficking is the most prevalent in human trafficking around the world, especially in Southeast Asia. Some women in Philippines and Japan use it as a way to support their families. She writes:

“Many women see sex work as a profitable occupation, often moving to countries where they can earn an even better living and then send remittances home to their families. FIlipino women working in the sex and entertainment industry in Japan, for instance, send home anywhere from $450 million to $1 billion a year (Katayama).”

The amount of money that is made in this degrading industry is a disgusting amount, but some women really do see it as an opportunity to help their family, and they make their family’s well-being their first priority; despite the physical and emotional trauma that can come from this lifestyle.

In September of 2004 South Korea passed an anti-prostitution law which included prison sentences as well as fines not only for the traffickers, but for the women who were choosing to work in the sex industry; women who had been trafficked would not be imposed with these fines or punished (Mother Jones).

According to NotfotSaleCampaign.org, a site that is devoted to helping end human trafficking, the sex industry is defined as including brothels, massage parlors, strip joints and lap dance bars – some of the aforementioned are legal in Southeast Asia, but there needs to be a crack down on those being forced into this line of work. Another terrible way is through “mail-order” brides, which also can be considered a form of human trafficking. Sex trafficking is said to be most popular in Southeast Asia according to this site.

Some people do no see a link between sex trafficking and prostitution, and for those individuals Donna Hughes, an influential activist in the campaign to stop the flow of sex trafficking told the U.S. House Committee:

“To not understand the relationship between prostitution and trafficking is like not understanding the relationship between slavery in the Old South and the kidnapping of victims in Africa and the transatlantic shipment of them to our shores (Not For Sale).”

The Not For Sale Campaign also includes information about who is in charge of the human trafficking. Thailand has such a large percentage of humans being sexually trafficked that it has gained the name the “Disneyland for sexual escapades.” That is terrible especially since a lot of the escapades are done with children. The report says that every night in Bangkok the streets are filled with middle-aged men who are walking and holding hands with teenaged girls. The details get quite graphic:

“These sex tourists have traveled fro all over the world to be here and play out their private fantasy. Some men pay for quick sex, but most prefer to buy a ‘girlfriend’ for an entire night or several days…Specialized travel agencies around the globe promote ‘exotic sexual adventures’ with Asian women ‘who know how to please a man.’ After sex tourists experience first hand how easy it is to buy young girls, they frequently make their own arrangements for return visits (Not For Sale).”

All forms of human trafficking are terrible, but when it comes at the expense of the innocence of a child it is on a whole new level of inappropriate:

“Male clients from Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan drive the demand for young girls who are virgins. In these Asian cultures, sex with a virgin is thought to bring good luck to a new business venture.”

That may seem shocking, but what is reported next is even more unexpected:

“The lucrative market in virgins tempts parents to sell their preadolescent daughters to a brothel for a high premium. It’s a bizarre business: a john must pay $750 for one night with a young girl, and one week later that same girl may be seeing ten clients a night for $2.50 a session..A growing number of parents marker their daughter’s virginity like an independent talent agent, selling her to the highest bidder for one-time sexual experience once she reaches the age of twelve or thirteen.”

Twelve or thirteen? Some girls have not even reached puberty at that time, and twelve and thirteen are still very innocent ages – it is completely unlawful and morally incorrect for parents to be putting their daughters up for sex. Parents are supposed to love and protect their children and help them maintain their innocence for as long as possible – not offering their children up for sex for a small fee. That money can not pay for the mental abuse and aguish that the child is going through. A 12-year-old is not mature enough to fully understand what is happening and certainly does not know how to work in a brothel. The parents should also be considered pedophiles for exploiting their underaged child to this lifestyle.

Parents manipulate their children into feeling guilty and feeling as though the reason that their family is living in poverty is their faults. Families trick daughters into joining these terrible lifestyles. The Campaign continues with a section called Shame as a Weapon:

“It starts when young girls from impoverished families are blamed for the destitution of their parents. ‘Good’ daughters adage the health and welfare of their mother and father. Their suffering translates into their shame, so she is willing to make any sacrifice to change their condition.”

In Japan and China men may even pay parents years in advance to “sponsor” a daughter – meaning the families receive money regularly to raise a healthy daughter so that when the sponsor is ready he can come and have sex with her; parents who value money over the dignity of their child deserve the criminal charges against them for allowing this trafficking to occur. It is also common for fathers to pay for their son’s first sex experience in a brothel – so a father paying for his son to have sex with an underaged girl. It’s no wonder this subject is so taboo, and it would be surprising to hear of someone in the United States of America having the same thoughts on selling their daughters as the families do in Asia. Although this does occur in USA it is on a whole different level and is being covered by another student. It is just worth mentioning that in the American society it is not likely that a parent will condone a daughter of any age being sold into sexual exploitation. It’s sick to think of what people are willing to sacrifice in order to have some money.

To continue with the Shane as a Weapon section of the Not For Sale Campaign, it talks about how this can be a double edged sword, offering the daughters up at such a young age. Because in these societies in Asia (and this holds true across the globe) sexual purity is valued:

“Once an unmarried girl has lost her virginity she is considered despoiled. It does not matter if a family member sexually abused her or a stranger raped her. Purity is all or nothing – either you have it or you don’t. Her family will treat her as a blight to its honor, and no ‘respectable’ man will want to marry her. The girl might as well be sold into a life of prostitution, for she has lost her innocence (Not For Sale).”

So after putting the daughters up for sale on the sex market she is then blamed for being sexually impure. For the same parents who chose to give up their daughter’s innocence for money to be bashing and ridiculing the same daughter for now being impure is hypocritical and morally disgusting. Making a girl sell her body for sex and then admonishing her once she does what she has been forced to do. Then the cultural values are used to manipulate these young girls even further. Saying that since the girls are no longer pure and have been used sexually that they may as well just continue to have sex for money so that they can get money for their families and such.

The United States has done a lot when it comes to the prevention of human trafficking not only within the United States, but within the countries discussed in Southeast Asia. For example, the U.S. Department of State recommended that the Philippines government should:

“…make greater efforts to combat internal trafficking by increasing public awareness activities and vigorously prosecuting those exploiting victims as well as making greater efforts to prosecute and convict public officials who profit from or are involved in trafficking (HumanTrafficking.org).”

The current protection right now that the Philippines has is 42 temporary shelters, temporary residency status, relief from deportation, access to medical, legal and psychological services to trafficking victims within the Philippines.

Thailand has it the hardest, because that is where most of the human trafficking notoriously exists. It is said that this is due to its relative affluence in the Greater Sub-Mekong Region. HumanTrafficking.org reported the following:

“The Thai Government was placed in Tier 2 in the 2007 U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report for not fully complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but making significant efforts to do so.”

China has put out a plan called China National Plan of Action on Combating Trafficking in Women and Children (2008-2012):

“On December 13, 2007, the Government of China agreed upon the China National Plan of Action on Combating Trafficking in Women and Children (2008-2012).  The Plan of Action has been developed in order to: effectively prevent and severely combat the criminal activities of trafficking in women and children, actively provide assistance and give appropriate aftercare to rescued women and children, earnestly safeguard the legal rights and interests of women and children.”

A majority of what goes on in China is that the women and children are recruited by false promises of employment and then it ends up they are coerced into prostitution and forced labor. In the rich areas women are sold into the sex industry at massage parlors, hair salons and bath houses. It is considered to be a transit country. China is similar to Thailand:

“The Chinese Government was placed in the Tier 2 Watch List in the 2007 U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report for not fully complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but making significant efforts to do so. The P.R.C. is in the Watch List because it has not increased its efforts to combat trafficking since 2005. There were reports of local officials who are complicit in trafficking, including village leaders who sought to prevent police from rescuing victim (HumanTrafficking.org)”

The three tier system that ranks the countries was implemented in October 2000. On the international level the legislation has the United States State Department issuing an annual report evaluating the performance of individual governments when it comes to dealing with human trafficking and the way that they choose to confront and prosecute these criminals. The report includes the incidence of trafficking within the country and examines the laws, policies and practices put into play by the government and then ranked into tiers (NotForSale).

Tier One is a country whose government fully complies with the act’s minimum standards. Tier Two is a country whose government does not comply with the act’s minimum standards but is making significant efforts to become compliant with the standards. Tier Three is a country whose government does not comply with the standards and is not even making a significant effort to comply.

Countries that fall under Tier Three are said to be “sufficiently embarrassed” to change their behaviors. They are subject to stiff sanctions including cuts to foreign aid and the U.S. opposition to its application before the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (Not For Sale).

JusticeforYouth.org has a shocking statistic saying that an estimated 30 thousand people die each year from abuse, disease, torture or neglect while being trafficked for sex. Some of these victims are under the age of six years old.

From January 9, 2005 – Dateline NBC has a video as well as a lengthy article where it discusses the children of Cambodia who are sexually trafficked. Chris Hansen, who is also known for To Catch a Predator, talks about he sex trade that victimizes 30 thousand Cambodian children and about how to stop this. The Dateline team went under cover along with a human right’s group as they covered this and the entire thing is quite shocking as well as almost surreal. It is heartbreaking really to see that this is real and the video really puts it into perspective more than just reading many articles about it – to actually see the faces and hear the voices of the children that are being trafficked is immense.

Their hidden cameras went to numerous brothels and found so many children – some as young as five years old. It showed these very young girls and said $30 for one young girl and $60 for two. These girls were so young and to know that they are being put up as sex slaves is sickening. To really think that someone can actually get pleasure and feel as though it’s okay to use these children in a sexual way is astounding.

Hansen goes on to show himself walking through a very third world looking village and talks about how (like explained previously) children feel forced to do this due to the family’s low income. In Cambodia the income of a family could be less than $300 a year (NBC).

Hansen says that some people are lured by being offered jobs as a waitress, but then it turns out to be a brothel job. It is nearly impossible to get out of the brothels – 37 girls were rescued and a dozen traffickers arrested during the bust that Hansen and the crew witnessed. One of the traffickers was an American Doctor (Dr. Albom) who bragged to an undercover Human Rights activist about his sexual exploits with these young girls where he says, “Usually I buy out three girls for 50 bucks. Take ’em for the whole night. I mean 15, 16 and older. Maybe a 14-year-old might sneak in if you can’t tell the age, but I don’t take the little, the really little ones.”

“One 14-year-old, who was recently freed from a brothel, says she came from an extremely poor family in the country next door, Vietnam. She says when she was walking home from school one day, she was approached by a woman offering work in a café. But the café turned out to be a brothel. With no money and no way to get home, she didn’t have much of a choice and was forced into sex with grown men, many of them American (NBC).”

Hansen talks about this in the article with Colin Powell, who was Secretary of State at the time. Hansen asked why child sex trafficking became such an important issue for the administration to which he responded:

“Because it’s the worst kind of human exploitation imaginable.  Can you imagine young children, learning their ABCs or whatever the equivalent is in their language, being used as sexual slaves for predators?  It is a sin against humanity, and it is a horrendous crime.”

He also says that they need to put pressure on Cambodia:

“Can you imagine the spread of disease that is taking place with this kind of activity? Can you imagine what will happen to these girls when they’re 15 or 20? What will become of them? They’ll have no education. They will be — they will have been used and tossed away and ruined… And a nation such as ours, which says we are a moral nation, and that we have a value system, that we would allow our citizens to go over and fuel that trade, by their presence and by their money and by their rotten exploitation of these children, we wouldn’t be living up to our values if we didn’t do something about it (NBC).”

In 2005 the United States government gave International Justice Mission ( a human rights group ) a $1 million grant to help battle sex trafficking in Cambodia.

It is really hard to stomach and think about these children being put in these situations. Innocent children contracting HIV as well as other diseases through sexual contact is not something that will ever be acceptable. There needs to be more ways for countries in South East Asia to get ahold of these brothels and other sex industry locations and shut them down. According to the textbook’s postscript on the matter of Do Adequate Strategies Exist to Combat Human Trafficking (Harf, 254):

“Nations are expected to establish comprehensive policies and programs to prevent and combat trafficking including research, information and media campaigns. Nations must attempt to alleviate the vulnerability of people, especially women and children. They must create steps to discourage demand for victims. Nations must also prevent transportation of traffickers and finally they must exchange information and increase cooperation among border control agencies (Harf, 254).”

This problem is so complex that the entire world needs to come together and agree and make it so that there is a universal understanding and agreement that human trafficking is wrong. It can no longer be acceptable in any culture for children, women and men to be sold into slavery of any kind. Trafficking is wrong and there needs to be a general consensus throughout the entire world on a way to combat against this atrocious problem. Clearly all the information provided and examples shown clearly can show that there is no way that human trafficking is being adequately taken care of. With the numbers so high and the rates of prosecution so low – there is a lot of problems that still need to be worked out and a lot of solutions that need to happen. Hopefully within the next few years all the countries can become Tier One and people can stop finding it acceptable to put other human beings through such torture mentally and physically.




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About the Author

Because I'm Nikky Raney & you're not. Student, blogger & aspiring journalist as well as editor. I have already been a paid journalist and I have a lot of experience. Worked for political campaigns as well as at a television station. I am currently attending New England School of Communications in Bangor, Maine. I was Managing Editor and was one of the creators in 2006 of the largest student run newspaper in New England: The Tide, at Dover High School in Dover, New Hampshire. I was born June 7, 1990 in the Philippines. My personal site is The Future of Journalism - NikkyRaney.com You can follow me on twitter - http://twitter.com/nikkyraney

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