In many ways, we would like to think that the days of indentured servants and slavery are a thing of the past. But human trafficking–the selling and buying of people for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor–is a widespread practice, and it takes various forms. The most common types we usually think of include trafficking, prostitution, and pornography. But we can also include child labor, the buying and selling of organs and tissue, forced marriages, forced pregnancies, mail-order brides, dowry and bride price, human smuggling, and kidnapping, among others.
The buying and selling of humans for various reasons has been, and continues to be, big business all over the world. And this is steadily increasing, though as the United Nations reports, there are regional differences in the types of exploitation: “Countries in Africa and in Asia generally intercept more cases of trafficking for forced labour, while sexual exploitation is somewhat more frequently found in Europe and in the Americas.” The report also states that “[t]rafficking victims from East Asia have been detected in more than 60 countries, making them the most geographically dispersed group around the world.” In Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, Richard Burger writes that human trafficking and kidnapping in China is “… more lucurative than even the trafficking of drugs or weapons.” Droves of European men, especially Scandinavians, travel to Thailand to buy sex even though prostitution is illegal–officials often look the other way because of tourism profit–or search for wives. At the same time, the trafficking rates for young girls and boys is increasing: “Girls now constitute 15 to 20 per cent of the total number of all detected victims, including adults, whereas boys comprise about 10 per cent,” according to the UN report.
Human tracking laws have been established in many countries to protect the victims and punish the offenders, but these can be difficult to implement. The forms of human trafficking vary, but they are spurred by the same objective: monetary profit combined with a complete lack of human rights and value.