Find out about this complex issue by reading the links below. Click on the icon to jump to the section.
The Basics The Causes
Why are the Salvatorians involved in this?
The Basics (Back to Top)
The the most recent and most comprehensive US federal law addresses "severe forms of trafficking in persons" defining it as:
sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion OR
sex trafficking in which the person induced to perform a commercial sex act has not attained 18 years of age, OR
the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjugation to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
Is it the same thing as "sexual abuse?" (Back to Top)
Sexual abuse is related to the issue of trafficking, but they are not necessarily the same crime.
Trafficking often, but not always, includes sexual abuse. See the definition of severe forms of trafficking .
Is it the same thing as "prostitution?" (Back to Top)
Prostitution is related to trafficking, but they are not necessarily the same crime.
Victims of trafficking often end up, through force, coercion, or fraud, to become part of commercial sex trade. Also, according to the TVPA, above, when the person induced to perform a commercial sex act has not attained 18 years of age, commercial sex is considered to be trafficking. In other words, anyone profiting from sexual involvement with a person under age 18 is a trafficker of children.
Prostitution is one of many forms of exploiting women and children. When we talk about the trafficking of women, or slavery of women in the sex trade, we add to this the sale of human beings, the transportation of humans for "labor or services" through the use of force, coercion, or fraud for the purposes of involuntary servitude, debt bondage, peonage, or slavery.
Is it the same thing as "illegal immigration" or "smuggling?" (Back to Top)
Human trafficking is not alien smuggling or illegal immigration. Smuggling involves a contractual relationship between the person being smuggled and the coyotes or other agents, for the purpose of crossing an international border. Once in the destination country, the relationships among the individuals end because the fee has been paid up front.
According to US law, alien smuggling is a crime against the state. Both the agent and the individual being smuggled commit a crime against the state.
Human trafficking, on the other hand, is a crime against a person- the person being sold or transported for labor or services through the use of force, coercion, or fraud for the purposes of involuntary servitude, debt bondage, peonage, or slavery.
Is trafficking actually a problem in the USA? (Back to Top)
Definitely. Trafficking of women and children for the sex industry, for labor in sweatshops, plantations, mines, on farms, as beggars, and as domestic servants is nearly invisible, but an estimated 50,000- 70,000 women and children are trafficked annually to the United States.
Trafficking also includes illegal adoptions where children are sold, and trafficking in organs.
Most are trafficked by small crime rings and loosely connected criminal networks.
Trafficked persons live in every state. Visit here to see recent press coverage.
Trafficking also includes those who are transported within the US.
Trafficking victims in the US traditionally come from Southeast Asia and Latin America, however, increasingly, they are coming from the New Independent States and Central and Eastern Europe.
Are there US laws that prohibit trafficking? (Back to Top)
The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude (holding another in service through force or threats.)
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 (TVPA), effective in 2000, and reauthorized in 2003, 2005, and 2008, supplements existing laws that apply to human trafficking, including those laws passed to support the 13th Amendment. TVPA also established new tools and resources to combat trafficking in persons, and requires an array of services and protections for victims of severe forms of trafficking. The TVPA applies to victims physically present in the fifty states of the USA, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Under the TVPA, the following are federal criminal offenses:
slavery and peonage (holding someone to work off a debt) are criminal acts,
unlawful confiscation of a victim's documents is a federal offense,
sex trafficking of children and adults is an offense.
There are also federal criminal statutes that may apply in specific cases. The following are criminal acts under US laws:
Transportation for prostitution or any criminal sexual activity,
importation of aliens for unlawful activities, including prostitution, organized crime, racketeering, fraud, and false statements, money laundering, and visa fraud.
Prior to the TVPA, trafficking was still illegal, but it was considered a violation of sovereign borders under the Mann Act, rather than a criminal act against an individual victim. Prior to the TVPA, perpetrators were prosecuted, but victims were not necessarily protected. Violations of the Mann Act do not require proof of involuntary servitude; TVPA rules do require that proof. Thus, US attorneys typically use these two laws in tandem to persecute traffickers. Convictions can include prison sentences of up to thirty years for some offenses, and up to life for others. Convicted traffickers may also be required to pay substantial fines and must provide full restitution to the victims. They may also be subject to forfeiture of their property.
The PROTECT Act of 2003 (Prosecuting Remedies and Tools Against Exploitation of Children Today) is an attempt to improve victim services and increase federal ability for apprehending and prosecuting those who sexually abuse children. Among other things, this federal law:
makes sexual tourism (traveling with the intent to engage in sexually exploitative behavior) illegal,
provides for harsher penalties for those convicted of sexual child abuse,
increases sentences for those convicted of exploiting children through child pornography,
This law is often used in tandem with trafficking legislation in situations where children are being sexually exploited.
Are there state laws that prohibit trafficking? (Back to Top)
Yes. Many but not all states currently have state anti-trafficking legislation which complements and strengthens national legislation.
State laws help to strengthen federal laws and involve local law enforcement directly (rather than only the federal law enforcement agencies).
State laws also raise awareness of the crime of trafficking on a local level.
Are there international laws that prohibit trafficking? (Back to Top)
There are international "standards," "protocols," and "Conventions" that provide a framework in which the countries can address the issue of trafficking. When signed and ratified, these instruments are binding at the juridical level.
There are also several Declarations and Programs of Action of the major United Nations World Conferences that call for concerted action by governments, by inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, and others to stop and prevent such crimes. While these are not binding at a juridical level, they have both a political and ethical influence and can therefore be helpful at national, local, and regional levels.
Some examples of these international Conventions include:
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which prohibits slavery, servitude, and the slave trade, as well as torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
U.N. Convention for the Suppression of the Traffick of Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1949), which provides a variety of measures against all forms of trafficking in women and the exploitation of prostitution.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), which includes a provision dealing specifically with trafficking of women and requires that all of the ratifying countries to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of trafficking in women and the exploitation of prostitution of women.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which requires that all ratifying nations protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, to prevent the abduction of, sale of, or traffic in children for any purpose or in any form, and require provision of recovery and reintegration for all child victims of these crimes.
United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000).
An annotated guide to the UN Anti-Trafficking Protocols is located here.
Types of Slavery Today
Child Sex Tourism
Domestic Servitude including nannies, maids, gardeners, etc.
Slavery in Manufacturing, Agriculture, Begging
Bonded and Peonage Labor
Children as Slaves including child soldiers
Sale of body parts
Illegal adoptions of children and babies
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The Causes (Back to Top)
Vulnerability due to:
Poverty, particularly when it causes survival-based decision making
Lack of education, including in connection to access of survival resources, employment, and needed services,
Economic conditions/lack of life-sustaining work in country of origin
Cultural factors including equity and equal rights of women, equal rights of children, history of bonded labor, customs of early or involuntary marriage.
Inequity related to ethnic, cultural, or language demographics..
Social and political instability including escaping war, persecution, violence, poverty, environmental disasters, or human rights violations.
Greed, including: (Back to Top)
Exploitation of labor to maintain low cost structures in response to end consumers' demands for very inexpensive products, corporate promotion of cheap human and material goods and services, and Western consumer demand for cheap goods,
Trafficking is lucrative. It is the third largest criminal industry in the world today, after arms and drug dealing, and is the fastest growing. Traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits every year while victimizing millions of people around the globe. A US Government report published in 2004, estimates that 600,000-800,000 people worldwide are trafficked across borders each year. This figure does not include those who are trafficked internally.
Sex trafficking is one of the most lucrative sectors of the trade in people, and involves sexual exploitation in prostitution or pornography, bride trafficking, and commercial sexual abuse of children. Labor trafficking is widespread not only in situations of domestic servitude and small-scale labor operations, but also in sweatshops and farms that are subcontracted to major multinational corporations.
Market demand for commercial sexual exploitation continues to increase, which overwhelmingly impacts women and girls and fuels the growth of human trafficking. This includes first-world and local demand for sex tourism and pornography.
Globalization as it reflects the global flow of migration, labor and capital, the feminization of migration, violations of human rights and corporate practices which destabilize grassroots communities and thwart alternative livelihood economic policies.
Corruption in government,
Corruption in law enforcement,
Corruption of fundamental human values.
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Salvatorian Involvement (Back to Top)
Why are the Sisters of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians) responding to this issue?
We, like our founders, are attentive to the needs of the world and we hear the cry of women against violence, discrimination, and oppression. We reclaim the design proclaimed in Genesis: man and women created in partnership, both equal in realizing the plan of God.
As an international community, the Sisters of the Divine Savior unite with more than a million other religious Sisters from all over the world and publicly declare our determination to address, insistently and at every level, the abuse and exploitation of women and children, with particular attention to the trafficking of women and children that has become a lucrative multi-national business.
We, worldwide, have established this as one of our top mission priorities. In the years ahead, each unit of the Sisters of the Divine Savior, around the entire world, will respond boldly to this priority.
In the US Province, we will involve our members in addressing the issue of trafficking of women and children by engaging in a process that will raise awareness, engage members in critical analysis, and result in concrete personal and communal responses.
Moreover, we will unite with others in our Salvatorian Family. In collaboration with members of the Lay Salvatorians and the Society of the Divine Savior, we will work to respond to a call for justice rooted in both the Gospel and in Catholic Social Teaching.
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