Examples of Solutions to Human Trafficking

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I will use relevant academic literature from the fields of Political Science, International Law, Social work, Sociology and History I will also use official government documents. This diversity of sources is necessary because this is a venture that will require multidisciplinary as well as international collaborations. So far, after reviewing important works in each of the mentioned fields, I found that there is a gap in the academic conversation in regards to cultural narratives, the lag between legislation and effective implementation, and demand, specifically regarding religious and ethnic groups outside of the typical Western lens. This is a gap that that this thesis will attempt to bridge.

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Though the United Nations Trafficking Protocol entered into force on 25 December 2003 and there has been progress in the number of ratifications, there has been less evidence of its effective implementation. While the growing number of States Party to the United Nations Trafficking Protocol is an expression of the political will of Member States to combat human trafficking, ratification by itself is not sufficient to ensure its effective implementation and impact on the ground, hence the need for the conceptualization of more effective and holistic frameorks.

According to Siddarth Kara, migration is central to the contemporary human trafficking crisis, and it is crucial that we learn how traffickers prey on their victims in the context of mass migration events in order to devise more effective preventions and protections. There is a clear need for more nuanced understandings of the ways traffickers operate, lure and control their victims in order to conceptualize more holistic solutions to human trafficking . More importantly, he points out that “…slavery is a global business that thrives on the callous exploitation of the labor activity of a vast and highly vulnerable subclass of people whose brutalization is tacitly accepted by every participant in the global economy, from corporations to consumers. The relationship between slavery and global supply chains requires significant scholarly attention” . Realistically speaking, human trafficking is a two way street and should be treated as such. There is an increasing supply because there is high demand for bodies for cheap labor/sexual exploitation. The success of the global economy today can be owed largely to this exploitation, thus the insidious practice is implicitly accepted/encouraged. I argue in this paper that slavery has evolved to take on a form more easily practicable in modern society in the form of human trafficking because while no right-minded person continues to believe that any human being should be treated like chattel, the underbelly of our global economic order thrives on shadow labor markets which, in many cases, amount to treating people as property, or worse.

Matilde Ventrella in her work Identifying Victims of Human Trafficking at Hotspots by Focusing on People Smuggled to Europe highlights the inconsistency in information in major trafficking reports which demonstrates the ways lack of knowledge can make it difficult to understand the trafficking framework as a whole and the links between smuggling and trafficking and can leave many victims of trafficking unidentified (Ventrella,2017:70). This is problematic and shows the lack of a coherent data collection framework in the international system. If the data and identified issues are not accurate, how can effective solutions be proffered?

She further highlights the migrant and refugee crisis in the EU as a “…multifaceted problem which should be tackled by multifaceted actions oriented not only to asylum seekers and refugees, but also to economic irregular migrants because… in Europe there are mixed migration flows, made up of refugees and economic migrants who use the same routes and rely on the same smugglers”. However, identifying exactly how many people are refugees and how many are economic migrants looking for a better life in Europe, requires information about the cause of migration which is lacking as mentioned above. It is thus pertinent to focus on the root causes of migration from the migrants perspective to identify the categories of migrants who leave their countries of origin and their motivations for moving.

As the discourse applies to knowledge production, Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman in her work Race and the Politics of Knowledge Production calls for an approach that “integrates teaching and research [and policy making] in ways that forge equitable, reciprocal, and sustainable global partnerships to complement the work already being done…as part of a broader ‘emancipation methodological practice’”. This, she argues, will allow for rigid knowledge regimes/hierarchies of knowledge to be challenged together with assumption of research authority in a bid to recognize the expertise of local members of marginalized communities. It is imperative to explore the ways self-reflexivity and positionality impact transnational dialogues and knowledge production. An awareness of the role played by powerful nations like the United States in shaping international discourses and reinforcing hierarchies of knowledge is essential and needs to be addressed in order for there to be redress in the form of inclusion of insights from African voices/researchers. This is especially important because positionality informs the formation of research questions, selection of theory orientation and interpretation of the analysis and impacts notions of human trafficking.

David Okech in Seventeen years of human trafficking research in social work: A review of the literature takes a look at literature on human trafficking produced since the enactment of the Trafficking Victims Protection Acts (TVPA) and uncovers among other issues, the lack of a clear conceptualization and definition on the entire spectrum of trafficking as well as a lack of evidence-informed empirical research (Okech,2017). He highlights the work of Potocky  and Bromfield and Capous-Desyllas who point out the focus of policy on sex trafficking and a downplay of labor trafficking, perhaps owing to pressures from business groups in more powerfu nations who lobbied against the inclusion of labor as a form of trafficking. It was also found that the policy discourse surrounding the formulation of the TVPA was masked in a moral crusade to abolish all forms of sex work. These authors highlight the role of interest groups in the policymaking process that lead to a diminished focus on labor trafficking.

Numerous authors have called for culturally competent research and evaluation in an attempt to understand the implications and effects of anti-trafficking policies on the welfare of victims. These authors among many others place a disparate amount of focus on the effect of culture on anti-trafficking policies/interventions and not enough on the effect of culture on the motivations and behavior patterns of victims. Similarly, many authors including point to a need to consider not only victims of trafficking but their communities as well in the approach to address the issue. However, this conception is not applied to the realization of the role of community as an important factor in understanding cultural/social influences, but rather as a location for control in terms of stigma prevention. As a result, the community intervention “solutions” that ensued border around creating employment options, reintegration services and education for women among others. While these are beneficial, once again, the crux of the problem is overlooked.

In regards to the necessity for genuine relations built on mutual respect,  called for collaboration and support between the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and the Association of Social Work Education in Africa (ASWEA). They believe that this would result in developing curricula and training programs with cultural relevance. However, rightly warned against an international exchange model that assumes Western methods and models can be uncritically duplicated in developing countries.    

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