An overview of Human Trafficking in the Austral-Asia Region

The prevalence of human trafficking; a brief overview:

Human trafficking denies hundreds of thousands of people their basic human rights, it poses a serious public health risk, is a threat to our national security through transnational crimes. Human trafficking is one of the biggest sources of income for organised crime globally.

Human Trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, second only to the Drug Trade, and has overtaken the international arms trade.

The international crime of human trafficking victimises the vulnerable, and takes various forms.

  • Trafficking is a $49 Billion a year industry (Global Slavery Index);
  • The United Nations estimates that trafficking in persons generates $US 10 billion annually for traffickers;
  • There are over 36 million slaves in the world today, 2 million of whom are children (UNICEF);
  • 78% of the 30 million slaves in the world today are in the Austral-Asia region (Global Slavery Index);
  • The average price of a human being is around $90.

According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, victims are trafficked from 127 different countries and undergo exploitation in 135 countries around the world (UNODC 2006).

According to a United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime Report, the crime of trafficking in persons affects virtually every country in every region of the world. Most victims of trafficking in persons are foreigners in the country where they are identified as victims - more than 6 in 10 of all victims - have been trafficked across at least one national border.

The majority of trafficking victims are subjected to sexual exploitation.

The UNODC Report goes on to reveal that approximately half of all detected trafficking victims are adult women.

The prevalence of human trafficking globally:

In a world where no country is immune to human trafficking according to the UN, and where the trafficking of children is on the rise according to the United Nations, There is no place in the world where children, women or men are safe from human trafficking as stated by the UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov.

According to the Global Slavery Index, there are 36 million known slaves in the world today, and every year, 2 million children are being trafficked according to the International Labor Organization’s 2002 estimation in the Every Child Counts, New Global estimate on Child Labour Report. 

Human trafficking of vulnerable women and children is on the rise, and the legalisation of prostitution is creating a demand for the trafficking of such persons.

Trafficking in persons is, in itself, a human rights violation, and one which can result in a series of further abuses, involving debt-bondage, forced labour and slavery-like conditions, as well as rape, torture, imprisonment and even murder.

The treatment of human beings as commodities, or products to be bought and sold, is considered a violation of their most basic rights to freedom, autonomy and human dignity by the United Nations (UN) and international human rights groups (Anti-Slavery International 2004; Human Rights Watch 2004; United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2005).

Human trafficking has to be viewed from a human rights perspective, a criminal justice perspective, from the perspective of the victim and from the perspective of the perpetrator. We therefore have to take a holistic approach to viewing this insidious international crime that robs so many of their fundamental human rights.

Women and children are trafficked the most: 

There is general acknowledgement internationally and domestically that a lack of reliable data exists on people trafficking largely due to the clandestine nature of the crime. Victims do not often self identify as victims, they do not know who to trust, at times do not speak English, and live in fear, as they have been abused, threatened, coerced and are at times in situations of debt bondage.

Women comprise the vast majority of the detected victims who were trafficked for sexual exploitation.

In some regions, particularly in Asia, most of the victims of trafficking for forced labour were women.

Since UNODC started to collect information on the age profile of detected trafficking victims, the share of children among the detected victims has been increasing. Globally, children now comprise nearly one third of all detected trafficking victims. Out of every three child victims, two are girls and one is a boy.

The UNODC Report also revealed that for nearly all crimes, male offenders vastly outnumber females.

Human trafficking is often the result of various push and pull factors:

- Men's demand for prostitution and pornography has been identified as the number one factor.

- 79% of all global trafficking is for sexual exploitation.

- Sex Trafficking is a $7-10 Billion per annum industry.

- Sex trafficking is fuelled by a demand industry from 'Johns'.

- The demand for sexual servitude is also fueled by the pornography industry.

The 2012 study published in ‘World Development’ titled: “Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking?” investigates the effect of legalised prostitution on human trafficking inflows into high-income countries. 

The study’s findings concluded that countries with legalised prostitution are associated with higher human trafficking inflows than countries where prostitution is prohibited.

The study also concluded that the type of legalisation of prostitution does not matter — it only matters whether prostitution is legal or not, and that there is a 13.4% higher probability of receiving higher inflows in a democratic country than otherwise.

Human trafficking is fuelled by a demand for prostitution - it works on the simple economic principle of supply and demand, and as a former victim put it: men paying for sex are addicts using women’s bodies as drugs, and that men believe the time they have purchased to be with a woman puts them completely in control, which makes the woman vulnerable to abuse – and worse.

Human Trafficking happens in Australia:

Australia has been reported as being a destination country for human trafficking - with victims being trafficked from predominantly China, Korea and Thailand, with many being coerced into exploitative conditions.

Australians have been identified as child sex tourists in 25 tourist destination world wide - predominantly in the Asian and Pacific countries, and identified as the largest group of sex tourists prosecuted in Thailand.

Between 1995 and 2006, Australians made up the largest percentage of perpetrators arrested and prosecuted for Child Sex tourism in Thailand. 60% of Australian men who visit Thailand are there as sex tourists

There are various push – pull factors of trafficking including poverty, gender inequality, unemployment, lack of education, exploitation, coercion, deception, debt bondage and also cultural pressure and harmful ideologies in matriarchal societies.

The biggest reason for trafficking of persons is the demand for trafficked persons in labor industries, in sexual servitude, as child brides, through adoption and for organ harvesting, coordinated by international criminals.

It is also important to see trafficking through the lens of migration theory – the utilisaiton of economic perspective in terms of the demand-pull factors and supply-push factors.

Australia is a destination country for people who have been trafficked. The exact number of people trafficked to Australia each year is not known, but between 2003 and 30 June 2015, the AFP received 588 referrals for human trafficking and slavery-related offences.

In 2014-15, the AFP received 119 new referrals.

This is an increase from 70 new referrals in 2013-14, indicating the growing number of trafficking cases that are being identified as part of the developing Australian response.

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime  (UNODC) Human Trafficking Case Law Database contains approximately 1,000 case briefs from 80 countries in which all three constituent elements of the internationally agreed upon definition of trafficking in persons: the act, the means and the purpose of exploitation.

There are various forms of trafficking, including: trafficking for the purpose of sexual servitude, labour trafficking, the trafficking of child brides, organ transplant tourism and child trafficking through inter-country adoptions.

A video resource that summaries Australia's position on human trafficking: 

This educational video resource produced by Anti-Slavery Australia outlines the reality of trafficking in Australia and the legal parameters in criminal law that seeks to prevent this abhorrent crime. 

Anti Slavery Australia - Educational Video on Human Trafficking in Australia

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