Worldwide Trafficking of Women and Children in Prostitution
The 60-year history of modern sex trafficking includes the brothels for U. S. troops that Japanese police officials and businessmen established at the end of World War II. Thousands of Japanese women provided cheap sex for 15-60 U. S. troops a day. The leadership of the U. S. occupation initially condoned the troops’ use of the prostitutes
immigration officials, travel agents, and bankers—are also involved (Finnegan, 2008). The fact that one trafficked sex worker can earn between $75,000 and $250,000 a year for her "employer" provides enormous financial incentives to all involved (Farr, 2004). The worldwide exploitation of children and women through sex trafficking is estimated to generate $7 billion to $10 billion in profits each year (Cwikel & Hoban, 2005).
Instead of giving people the legitimate employment they have promised, traffickers sell them to others who force them into sex work, primarily in wealthier, more stable nations or in locales known for sex tourism (Farr, 2004). For example, after the fall of communism in Europe during the 1990s, traffickers falsely promised legitimate employment in Western Europe to Eastern European women facing poverty in their home countries (Thompson, 2008). Some women are lured into prostitution by promises of marriage in a foreign country. Traffickers also rely on kidnapping. Due to the chaos caused by the U. S. occupation of Iraq, for example, by 2011 criminal trafficking gangs had abducted an estimated 5,000 Iraqi women and girls (Naili, 2011b). Iraqi women and children who fled Iraq to escape the U. S. war also face the fear of being sold into prostitution by male relatives who are desperate for money (Soguel, 2010).
Traffickers also buy children from parents when the children are more of a financial burden than the family can manage. Orphans whose parents died of AIDS or were killed in the ethnic and tribal wars of Africa and Eastern Europe are highly vulnerable to exploitation (Hodge, 2008; Rios, 1996). Younger and younger children are sought for prostitution because customers regard them as more likely to be free of HIV. It is estimated that in Nepal each year about 7,000 girls as young as 9 years old are sold to "employers" who promise them good jobs; they end up in brothels in Mumbai, India, where HIV-positive men have sex with them, believing that having sex with a virgin will cure them (Kottler, 2008). Once the girls are infected, they are often sent back home. Consequently, sex trafficking plays a major role in the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections across South Asia (Silverman et al., 2008).
It is impossible to know how many women and children are trafficked across the world. The U. S. State Department estimates that 2 million children are subjected to prostitution across the globe (Spitzer, 2011). Destination countries tend to be wealthy and/or industrialized nations. A CIA-State Department report estimated that within the United States alone, 50,000 women and children from more than 40 different countries of origin are essentially slaves in the sex industry, and more are imported each year.
In tourist and convention cities across the nation, it is estimated that one third of street prostitutes are children (Hodge, 2008; Leuchtag, 2003). Cities where major sports and entertainment events occur, such as the Super Bowl, bring a surge in trafficked sex workers (Goldberg, 2011b).
The harm to women and children who have been trafficked is severe. Studies of women from various countries who have been trafficked found that the slave-like existence of confinement, abuse, and systematic rape these women endured over months or years resulted in continued psychological and physical problems even after they found a way out of being trafficked (Zimmerman et al., 2011). The women often blamed themselves for failing to recognize deceptive recruitment tactics. During transit, women faced the risk of arrest and death from dangerous modes of
transport and border crossings. Traffickers confiscated their identity papers and threatened to kill them or their families back home if they tried to escape. They were deprived of food, held in solitary confinement, and forced to use drugs to coerce their compliance. Over 96% were physically or sexually assaulted, and 100% were coerced into sex acts, including unprotected sex, anal and oral sex, and gang rape. Most had to service 10 to 25 clients a night; some had as many as 40 to 50. Twenty-five percent had at least one unintended pregnancy and abortion. Nearly 40% had suicidal thoughts during or after their ordeal (Tsutsumi et al., 2008; Van Hook et al., 2006; Zimmerman et al., 2003).
Poverty provides traffickers with unlimited opportunities to exploit vulnerable individuals (Footner, 2008; Gjermeni et al., 2008). Women’s organizations and other human rights groups have consistently advocated for women’s educational and economic empowerment to eradicate the connection between poverty and sexual exploitation. Private organizations in many countries have developed programs to assist women escaping from trafficking (Katongo, 2012). In 2011 Google donated $11.5 million to help leading organizations combat human trafficking (Horn, 2011).
The United States made human trafficking a federal crime in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which defines human sex trafficking as a commercial sex act involving a minor or induced by force, fraud, or coercion (Spitzer, 2011). Prior to that law, no comprehensive federal law existed to protect victims of trafficking. However, many states continue to charge prostituted children and send them to juvenile detention centers.