Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery in which people profit from the control and exploitation of others. It is a criminal act that includes being forced to labor with inadequate or no pay or forced into prostitution. It can include the movement across borders but it can also happen in one place without any movement at all. It is a crime that affects people all over the world, including the state of Michigan.
Officially, the US government defines human trafficking as the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.
- Force can include: physical violence including beatings and sexual assault; rape or gang rape; torture; confinement or other similar practices
- Fraud can include: making false promises; withholding wages and documents; lying about working conditions or the promise of a better life; blackmail and extortion.
- Coercion can include; threats of serious harm to victim or others; intimidation; humiliation; emotional abuse; controlling daily life; and modeling abusive behavior and the like.
There are 2 primary forms of human trafficking.
- Labor trafficking refers to being trafficked into an exploitative work situation or forced to labor. Forced labor practices include but are not limited to involuntary servitude, debt bondage, or slavery. Victims of labor trafficking frequently are forced into domestic service, factory or agricultural work or into dangerous industries. The practice includes the recruitment of child soldiers.
- Sex trafficking refers to the exploitation of a person for sex or sexual acts for money or anything of value using force, fraud or coercion or any person induced to perform sex acts who is under the age of 18.
Often, Americans think of human trafficking as a practice that happens to foreigners in other countries around the world. YES, human trafficking is an international problem. But human trafficking also happens here in the United States to US citizens in every state. It happens in Michigan.
Why Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking is a business. There are low start-up costs, minimal risks, high profits and a large demand. A human being can be sold many times over, making it one of the most profitable and growing criminal enterprises in the world today.
Who are the Victims?
Human trafficking victims come from diverse backgrounds and span all demographics. Victims are of all ages, races, genders, ethnicities, religions, cultures, citizenship, nationality, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. What they have in common is their vulnerability. Women and girls are disproportionately the victims of human trafficking because they are disproportionately affected by poverty, lack of access to education, chronic unemployment and lack of economic opportunities. Runaway and homeless youth and victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war or conflict or social discrimination are frequently targeted by traffickers.
Take Action: To learn more about human trafficking in the state of Michigan visit the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force .
Carrie Booth Walling is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Albion College where she teaches courses on international politics and human rights.