Monday, March 28, 2011

The Culture of Human Trafficking

I attended a lecture that addressed the international epidemic of human trafficking. Charles V. Lemento spoke passionately about his work to illuminate human trafficking on an international stage. He recently joined Global Hope Network International's newly created Criminal Law Policy Center. After battling legislation concerning the sex trade as an attorney in Missouri, Lemento moved to Prague, a prominent location of the import and export of human slaves, in the hopes of promoting anti-trafficking international laws.

It shocked me to learn that although the sex trade is indeed the largest form of human trafficking, there also includes child labor, and forced physical labor. Human trafficking for human labor is prominent in the agricultural field. Women are sold predominately as sex slaves but also as wives and into forced servitude. Men are sold into forced labor for physically demanding slavery. Children are sold for child labor, forced servitude and sexual exploitation. The underground human trafficking trade generates between 1 to 7 trillion dollars every year and is the fastest growing organized crime. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are at least 2,450,000 persons are currently being trafficked across international borders. The U.S. State Department estimates that between 15,000 and 18,000 individuals are being trafficking into the U.S. every year. Eighty percent of all human trade are women and fifty percent of them are sold into forced prostitution.

On an anthropological level, this is a huge societal, cultural, economic, and psychological factor. This effects the culture and practices of communities, regions, countries, continents and international relations. The specific country's major businesses and economies effect the type of trafficking present. For instance, north eastern South America has a highly lucrative agricultural economy and thus has a large presence of indentured male land laborers. China is economically successful in improving technology for the mass production of lower quality goods and thus traffics menial laborers to large factories and sweat shops. America has a high rate of human trafficking due to Mexican native exploitation and the underground sex trade.

The underground community of traders and victims are a culture all their own. The traders use a system of ‘othering’ to torture, starve and drug victims to break them and suppress revolt. The victims themselves go through an enormous amount of mental and physical torture that alters their psychological and mental health for the remainder of their lives.

Anthropologists that have studied the anthropological effects of human trafficking include Kay Warren, professor at Brown University, Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor at Radcliff Institute of Harvard University. Scheper-Hughes studied the sale of “fresh organ” or live donors in Brazil. The donors were promised $6,000 to be trafficked to Africa where they would undergo live organ harvesting that would be sold on the Black Market. “All the male members of some families from the watery slums of Manila carry the telltale scar of a kidney sale on their abdomens; it’s their attempt to support their families, ‘a kind of rite de passage’,” says Scheper-Hughes. Thus the human trafficking epidemic effects global wealth and relations as well as community economics, norms, and definitions of transgressions.

1 comment:

iliana said...

I am so happy that I read this material. I am a new student tryint to learn and understand the link between Cultural and Social Anthropology and Human Trafficking. This is a topic that not too many are aware of and most universities believe it belongs to Government or Criminal Justice. I am not saying it does not but I believe that in order to understand the reasons we must understand the culture of it.