Modern Sex Trafficking: The Failed Legacy of the Abolition Movement

In recent years, the human trafficking industry — the modern-day slave trade — has seen increased activity worldwide in industrialized and developing states in virtually all regions of the world. It seems clear that the legacy of abolitionism — the worldwide political movement to end the slave trade and the practice of slavery — has left freedom unrealized for millions of victims of trafficking every year. Once a ubiquitous global social movement to protect natural inalienable rights of freedom and political and social liberties to all humans, the modern abolition movement has failed to establish adequate political, economic, social, and sexual freedoms to millions of people. In spite of the pervasive nature of global abolition efforts, and the prohibition of slavery in the vast majority of states, human trafficking — the majority of which is in women and girls for the purpose of forced prostitution — exists ubiquitously on a massive scale, and shows little or no sign of future decline.

Trafficking in humans is generally defined as the recruitment, transport, transfer, or receipt of persons through force, coercion, deception, or other abuse of power in order to exploit them for sexual services, forced labor, or slavery.1) Any real estimates on the prevalence of the human trafficking industry are difficult to make since there simply is not any comprehensive information on the subject. It is a very lucrative enterprise; UN estimates of the international trafficking industry are in the range of $5-7 billion every year.2) Studies show that hundreds of thousands — if not several millions — are trafficked every year worldwide, and that the number of trafficked women and girls is acutely disproportionate to their male counterparts.3)

Sex trafficking and forced prostitution of women and girls represents the majority of the human trafficking industry today. In this paper, I seek to explain the need to regard sex trafficking as a form of slavery, and thus, the need to secure the basic human rights set forth by the abolitionist movement. I first set out to define sex trafficking and forced prostitution within the lines of slavery. This characterization may appear obvious; however, since many national governments and international organizations consider it, rather, to be a matter of labor, immigration, and illegal border-crossing,4) it appears necessary to clarify the slavery-like characteristics of sex trafficking and forced prostitution and depict these activities as a human rights concern.

Secondly, I analyze the forces of the current systems of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, address their causes, and show the factors that enable these systems to remain so firmly established across the globe so that they may be more readily dealt with. The structural inadequacy of states to combat sex trafficking in terms of domestic trafficking legislation and enforcement of such legislation, the failure of states to adequately empower women economically, socially, and sexually, and the lack of authority on the part of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to address sex trafficking will be key points of discussion in analyzing the circumstances, causes, and prevalence of sex trafficking across the globe.

Women and girls who fall victim to sex trafficking enter into a world of slavery not so different from the slave systems of the transatlantic of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Economically, socially, and psychologically, sex trafficking recreates the power dynamics of historic slavery. Both pimps — domestic sex traffickers — and slave masters of the antebellum period have and had significant economic investments in women’s sexual functions.5) The antebellum slave master sought to exploit the female victim for her sexual reproduction — which induced profit through the slave trade and by sustaining the slave system — as well as sexual favors; similarly, the interests of the sex trafficker lie in exploiting the victim for profit and for sexual favors. The economic systems of modern-day sex trafficking and those of transatlantic slavery are nearly identical in economic interests and means of implementation.

Just as the slaves of the transatlantic system, who were forced to sleep with their masters and with other men, sex trafficked prostitutes today are forced against their will to have sex and to be exploited in various ways by their masters. Just as masters of old worked with law-enforcement officials and other agents to return fugitive slaves, modern sex traffickers work within sophisticated networks of corrupt police and border patrols to return escaped trafficking victims and perpetuate the industry. It is clear that sex trafficking and forced prostitution implicate several of the social, psychological, and physical characteristics of slavery — treating slaves as economic capital, physical abuse, absence of free will, the employment of forced labor, and social stratification.6)

It seems absurd to, as many independent states and international organizations have elected to, regard this modern-day slave trade as a labor or immigration concern, which paints victims of sex trafficking not as victims of human rights violations but as illegal migrants and opportunists seeking to exploit foreign markets. However, accounts of the recruitment and sale of women into forced prostitution very much refute this view. A Bangladeshi journalist in Karachi provides an account of a clandestine auction of sex-trafficked women, very similar to accounts of slave auctions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries:

“At night, girls were brought to the slum and auction took place indoors. There was no bidding as such because there was always an understanding between the procurers and the customers before auction. Usually the younger and more beautiful girls were sold quickly and at higher prices. The unmarried and virgin girls were sold for 15,000-20,000 taka (U.S. $450-600). Also a group of 10-20 girls was sold together for 50,000-200,000 taka (U.S. $1,500-6,000) to brothel owners and pimps…The auction ended. Those who were sold went with the buyers. The rest returned to the place they came from. Everyone remained silent. It seemed that the girls were homeless, stateless, helpless, and speechless.”7)

A close look at a sex trafficking auction indicates that the women sold there are treated no differently than slaves at slave auctions — as chattel. Just as younger and more beautiful girls fetched higher prices, younger and more physically endowed slaves demanded higher prices as well. Just as women were sold in lots to brothel owners and traffickers, slaves were sold in lots to plantation owners. The image of buying and selling women as property and not as humans is indicative of past slave systems where slaves were viewed economically as just that — property and capital investment. From an economic standpoint, the treatment of forced prostitutes is visibly characteristic of slavery.

Another main aspect of the issue of properly defining sex trafficking as slavery pertains to the mechanisms of implementing and maintaining the institutions — the use of force and violence, the restriction of various freedoms, and the relation of domination within the master-slave relationship. The reality of sex trafficking is that whether or not its victims voluntarily enter prostitution, they are subjected to violent domination, ill-treatment, and slave-like conditions once having entered the sex trafficking trade — most often rape, violent sex, and savage beatings.8)

The tragic story of Nung, a Thai victim of sex trafficking in Japan, sheds light on the powerlessness and violence that these modern slaves endure: “[Master] took me into a room and told me to sleep while he lay down next to me…I was falling asleep when I realized what that Master was trying to do. I tried to escape, but he punched me in the stomach and I lost consciousness.”9) Victims are often also subject to whippings, torture, starvation, and other various forms of ill-treatment. V.P., an Albanian girl forced into prostitution from the age of sixteen, tells of her experiences with her pimp—her sex trafficker and master: “The first thing I experienced in the morning was beating and torture by him. He would hit me with his belt and tie me up with rope for 24 hours at a time without anything to eat.”10)

Other testimonies of sex trafficking survivors indicate the slave-like characteristics of modern trafficking. The story of “F,” a twenty-year old Albanian woman — presumably far younger when she was forced into prostitution — recreates horrific images of the abuse and violent nature of forced prostitution:

“One day as I was coming back home as usual, a car stopped at my feet and two men kidnapped me by force. They used violence…they kept my eyes closed…They abused me physically, sexually and psychologically as well…We all had to work as prostitutes in the streets. For sure I refused to work, but you would never believe what kind of persons they are and what methods they use to keep you feeling as a prisoner, as a victim. One time when I could hardly withstand the torture, they threatened to kill my family and to kidnap my little sisters who were only children at that time, so I accepted the work.”11)

F’s testimony provides a clear picture of the force and violence used in sex trafficking. The recollection of her violent kidnapping is analogous to images of brutal slave kidnappings by transatlantic slave traders on the African coast. Just as the abhorrent threat of violence towards not only F, but her family, was used to keep her under psychological and physical control, the constant threat of violence similarly pressured slaves in the transatlantic slave systems, in which they were regularly beaten to death and maimed as a warning to other slaves not to rebel.

The stories that victims of sex trafficking and forced prostitution tell draw vivid parallels to historic slave systems. Constantly threatened with rape and bodily harm, vicious beatings, physical bondage and torture, and unhealthy conditions, sex trafficked women are subject to the extreme relation of domination indicative of slavery. Forced into positions of ultimate powerlessness, they lack any power to negotiate their situations physically, sexually, and socially. As Orlando Patterson points out, slaves — just as sex trafficking victims — are subject to a relation of power that serves simply “as a substitute for death, usually violent death.”12) As such, the lives of sex trafficking victims, like slaves, are reduced to nothing more than an extension of their masters’ power and will.

As Patterson indicates, another crucial aspect of slavery is the definition of the slave as socially dead — ceasing to “belong in his own right to any legitimate social order”13) — and as being in a position of natal alienation — “the loss of ties of birth in both ascending and descending generations…a loss of native status…and from any attachment to groups of localities other than those chosen for him by the master.”14) Victims of forced prostitution and sex trafficking too are subjected to these conditions. Trafficked women are often illegal immigrants. As such, they are frequently treated as persons without rights — as entities in society with no class or place, subject to the social death present in all slave systems. Victims, especially those trafficked to foreign regions are often stripped of all identification and kept in isolation to prevent communication and to keep them in these positions of powerlessness and vulnerability.15) These tactics serve to alienate sex trafficked women from parents, children, relatives, and anyone socially or genealogically linked to them. Thus, it is clear that victims of sex trafficking are subject to the social death and natal alienation that Patterson points to as criteria for the individual slave’s condition.

In accordance with Patterson’s final main criterion for the condition of the slave, the sex trafficking victim is utterly devoid of honor as well. The culmination of the sex trafficked woman’s social death and natal alienation is her lack of honor in society. To traffickers, women — forced into debt bondage — lack any social existence of power except as their surrogate. To law enforcement authorities, trafficked women are most often seen not as victims of human rights violations, but as illegal immigrants attempting to violate labor and immigration laws. Without citizenship, many trafficked women lack any recognition of human rights as governments generally choose to deport victims back into the hands of their exploiters.16) Thus, women put under the slavery-like circumstances of forced prostitution often fear stigmatization and returning home. In some places, such as the Philippines, women that are raped — a common result of sex trafficking — remain in sex trafficking work because they feel it is “what they deserve.”17)

Similarly, the story of a girl fallen victim to sex trafficking from Rim Mon village in Thailand indicates the self-blame and self-hatred that Patterson describes as the “outward expression of this loss of honor”:18)

“I feel inferior. I’m afraid my friends will hate me for what I’m doing…We are no longer as close as before. I’m different from them. I’m no longer a virgin. I’m afraid their parents will say things about me behind my back. They may think I’m trying to lead their daughters astray. Some of my friends invite me to their houses. I don’t want to go.”19)

Women that fall victim to forced prostitution may take on these characteristics of self-blame, self-hatred, and fear of judgment indicative of Patterson’s notion of the slave’s lack of honor. Stripped of their identities and disgraced, they often feel unable to return to their old lives. It is clear that sex trafficked women suffer the violent domination, social death, and lack of honor that slaves have historically endured. Victims of sex trafficking are powerless, without any independent social existence, and with a complete absence of social or public worth. Thus, evidence from journalists and trafficking survivors gives a clear indication that modern sex trafficking, in terms of economic and social implications and structural institutions, very much embodies the essential characteristics of slavery.

The root causes of this form of modern slavery lie in its supply and demand mechanisms. The main aspect of the industry’s causes is the demand for women for sexual services, demand which has increased in recent years. The recent expansion of middle classes in many countries — such as Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines — has increased “the capacity and even the motivation for men to buy sexual services.”20) Growing economic development has also lured increasing numbers of women into the industry to satisfy growing demand for sex tourism, which has become a burgeoning industry in recent years. In some regions, such as Southeast Asia, prostitution is considered socially acceptable in order to satisfy an uncontrollable male prowess.21) Naturally under these circumstances, an increasing demand for women is a key root cause of the sex trafficking industry.

A key development of sex trafficking, fueled by demand for sex trafficked women, is its supply mechanisms in countries of origin — those countries which supply the majority of sex trafficking victims to transport and destination countries. Poverty and unequal gender relations fuel the supply for the sex trafficking industry, underpinning demand for women’s sexual services to form an economically tenable system. Women in middle and low-income countries experience “high unemployment, low wages, lack of child care, and a high frequency of sexual harassment in the workplace as well as gender violence.”22) Accordingly, many women in countries of origin voluntarily enter prostitution for lack of other economic choices as it often represents one of the sole means to financially support oneself and one’s family. Other women, severely restricted economically, seek means for trafficking into legitimate work only to be coerced into prostitution once in the hands of traffickers.23) Thus, poverty and gender inequality fuel the supply mechanisms for the sex trafficking industry while the desire for women for sexual services fuels demand.

Just as historic chattel slavery was proven economically tenable through its lucrative nature and the vast profits attained by planters and slave traders, the notion that the business of sex trafficking is economically defensible is clear. The industry brings in billions of dollars annually, the vast majority of which is reaped by traffickers. This immense profit motive serves to solidify the place of sex trafficking as an established economic institution — albeit a marginalized and criminalized one — and to establish the criminal networks that serve as the medium for sex trafficking today, impelling the major actors in the trafficking industry to mobilize its supply and demand mechanisms.

Although sex trafficking appears by all accounts to constitute slavery, and thus warrants treatment as an urgent matter of human rights, it is widely regarded as a concern of labor and migration. The status quo for managing the sex trafficking issue has been wholly inadequate, partly because of the structural inadequacy of individual states to deal with the issue. Since the international character of the trafficking industry limits the methods for individual states to contest the problem, national governments often seek to simply limit sex trafficking within their borders. Primary methods to do so center on tightening visa and residence qualifications, making arrest and deportation of trafficked prostitutes the primary — often the only — action to combat forced prostitution within state borders.24) Thus, the causes and circumstances of sex trafficking go largely unnoticed and unaddressed.

An obvious failure of efforts to end sex trafficking is the outright lack of legislation on the institution within state borders. In Israel, for example, there exists a set of circumstances that unquestionably enable and even aid in the trafficking of women inside its borders. The state lacks any laws regarding the sale of persons or the trafficking of women into the country. A facilitator to the sex trade in Israel is its Law of Return — which grants the right of citizenship to Jews, documented or not; it is widely abused by traffickers to legally transport their victims into the state. Upon arrest within the country, foreign women are deprived of legal protection; they are deported, putting them back into the hands of sex traffickers. Clearly, the lack of legislation to prohibit the sale of humans and on behalf of trafficking victims and foreign women constitutes a clear failure of the Israeli government to address laws — and lack thereof — that for years, have propagated the sex trafficking and forced prostitution of women within its borders.25)

Another aspect of the structural inadequacy of states to combat the issue of sex trafficking is the enforcement of domestic legislation. Police corruption is arguably the most significant obstacle to suppressing human trafficking, and corruption at all levels of government and local law enforcement worldwide exists. In several of the former Soviet states — the predominant origin states for women trafficked to Israel — the salaries of many civil servant posts fell below the poverty level after the collapse of their socialist systems. Consequently, criminal activities, including sex trafficking, are carried out with the assistance of various local and border police in many countries in the regions of the former Soviet Union.26)

Elsewhere, police corruption, existing within sophisticated organized crime networks, is ubiquitous. Corrupt border police assist traffickers in transporting their victims across state borders in exchange for monetary gain, as well as for personal sexual favors. Reports allege that police at the Bangladeshi-Indian border keep girls in their custody and sexually abuse them as a form of bribery from sex traffickers. Traffickers and their agents are also known to rape women who are brought to national borders.27) Aside from the corruption of border police, local law enforcement officials widely facilitate the sex trade through bribery and corruption. Despite the reporting of identities of traffickers by victims to local police, authorities are frequently unwilling to prosecute them. Widespread bribery results in altered police reports and weak evidence against traffickers;28) the mutual relationship between sex traffickers and authorities is undeniably a constant threat to the human rights of victims of trafficking and an obstacle to the suppression of the industry.

In fact, due to the reciprocal nature of police-trafficker relationships within sophisticating networks, reports of arrests of traffickers by local and border police often cast a misleading representation of the prevalence of sex trafficking. Usually, these relatively rare arrests are no more than a signal that negotiations over bribes between the police and traffickers involved have temporarily collapsed.29) However, since there are so few indicators of the magnitude of sex trafficking, these reports can often be mistaken as estimates of such. The truth is that widespread police corruption and bribery — and failure on the part of individual states to enforce domestic anti-trafficking legislation in general — is a considerable factor in the propagation of the global sex trafficking industry.

The social empowerment of women is unrecognized, which presents a significant obstacle to the anti-trafficking movement and ensures little opportunity for women. It is in this sense that past abolitionist strategies to combat sex trafficking have been short-sighted. For example, the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others insists that by suppressing the institutions that violate women’s human rights — prostitution and trafficking — supply for the industry will disappear and thus, the system will collapse.30)

Unfortunately, the issue is too complex to be seen solely in terms of victimization of women, as the Convention suggests; sex trafficking is noticeably also the result of socioeconomic gender inequalities, indicated by the disproportionate number of women and girls that are introduced to the sex trafficking industry. The factors that push women into sex trafficking are numerous but among the most significant is the issue of women’s disproportionate burden of poverty as a result of their unequal status in society. Often prohibited from professional, governmental, and decent-paying employment, ever-increasing numbers of women are migrating out of low-income states. Thus, women’s lack of socioeconomic empowerment results in an outpouring of impoverished women vulnerable to forced prostitution.31)

Just as post-abolition compensatory policies — which stripped freed slaves of virtually any social status or economic opportunity while generously compensating former masters — created a system of structural coercion, in which freed slaves were forced into debt bondage to their former masters, the current policies of states ignore modern structural coercion — the need to earn a living. Thus, women who migrate to find work are often forced into sex trafficking out of poverty and economic inopportunity.32)

In virtually all states that represent the source of trafficked women — circumstances and policies exist that deprive foreign migrants, especially women, who are already the victims of inequality of economic opportunity. For example, the propiska system in Russia, which prohibits persons from obtaining legal employment without a residence permit, forces women to seek employment in illegal settings. Without money or family connections to obtain residence permits, countless women who already suffer diminished economic opportunity are limited to employment outside of legal venues.33) Russia, which is a global trafficking center for both sending and receiving trafficked women, possesses domestic policies that are indicative of the structural coercion of women. Naturally, most women who are forced to seek illegal employment are forced into prostitution and are subjected to the slavery-like conditions of the sex trafficking industry.

If women are forced by poverty into migrant prostitution — which almost undoubtedly injects them into the sex trafficking industry — it seems clear that they, like women forced into prostitution through other means, are stripped of their natural freedoms and are the victims of human rights violations. Just as American and British slaves were structurally coerced into dependence on and economic enslavement by former masters, millions of women are structurally coerced into prostitution—exposing them to slavery-like lives of exploitation. At the root of the modern issue of slavery and sex trafficking is a lack of socioeconomic empowerment on behalf of women.

An intricately related factor that facilitates the propagation of sex trafficking and presents an obstacle to the anti-trafficking movement is the overall lack of social and sexual empowerment of women, which naturally results in their subjugation within society. Patriarchal conventions are common in many regions of the world, greatly adding to the deprivation of social status of women. Women ubiquitously face unequal social and political rights, limited control of their own lives, lack of child care, sexual harassment, and gender violence. Some women are goaded by their husbands — and some children by their parents — into sex trafficking.34)

The inadequacy of states’ empowerment of women in providing protection of their human rights in the absence of gender equality in the social and sexual spheres becomes clear in analyzing recent social transformations and sex trafficking activities in Bangladesh. In the past two decades, the socioeconomic empowerment of women has increased significantly: political participation has drastically increased, and the proportion of women in the country’s labor force has risen from 4.5 to 50.6 percent.35) Considering Bangladesh’s predominantly Islamic society — which traditionally assumes the presence of patriarchal characteristics, such as relegation of women to the private and domestic spheres — this is a significantly positive development. However, as a significant origin country for trafficked women that has only seen increased trafficking in recent years, the country serves as a beckoning example of the shortcomings of current definitions of gender equality, which, by highlighting only the socioeconomic and political characteristics of the issue negate social conventions that enable the propagation of sex trafficking.

Patriarchal traditions — conventions of male dominance that include sexual harassment, gender violence, and subjugation of women — are rampant in the Middle East, South and East Asia, the former Soviet Union, and Latin America, and to a lesser a degree, everywhere. These conventions undoubtedly add to the vulnerability of women and girls to the slavery-like conditions of sex trafficking. Anecdotal evidence shows that female victims of gender violence, sexual harassment, or sexual abuse may enter prostitution and make especially susceptible targets for sex traffickers.36) F, the sex trafficked Albanian girl discussed earlier, made it a point in her story to convey the gender inequity that women in her culture face: “We have always been living under a patriarchal mentality where the man of the family has the right to judge and decide for everything and everybody.”37) Her description of male-dominated society echoes an attitude of acknowledgement — even acceptance — on her part that male domination is simply a fact of life for women. As one analyzes the social institutions of countries with high magnitudes of sex trafficking, it becomes clear that physical and psychological exploitation of women on social and sexual levels play a crucial role in producing the vibrant modern slave trade that the sex trafficking industry has come to represent.

An important aspect of the anti-trafficking effort is the work of nongovernmental organizations — NGOs. In spite of the position of most NGOs — one of scarce resources, training, and access to information — they generally constitute the most active players in fighting sex trafficking in their respective countries. A wide scope of organizations exists to combat the issue — from human rights and women’s groups to social services agencies and academic institutions.38) NGOs are in a particularly favorable position to deal with trafficking victims and anti-trafficking policies because as representatives of civil society, they are often viewed as the “conscience of government.”39) Trafficked persons — often undocumented and illegally situated people who lack any legitimate social identity, distrust state and law enforcement agencies which on one hand are riddled with police corruption and on the other have only one course of action — to arrest and deport trafficking victims. Accordingly, NGOs serve as an effective intermediary to deal with victims — providing social, psychological, financial, and legal assistance, counseling, and work training, among other services.40)

Women’s NGOs are often on the front lines of the anti-trafficking movement in raising awareness, lobbying for reform, and providing aid to victims because of their ability to provide a gender-sensitive environment for the predominantly female victims of sex trafficking. An important aspect to note about anti-trafficking NGOs is that within the scope of organizations exists a high degree of differing interests and opinions on pertinent issues. Women’s NGOs, in contrast to other organizations, have put gender relations at the forefront of their agendas, raising issues such as gender violence, protection of women’s human rights, women’s social and political empowerment to national and international attention.41) One cannot assume that because a particular group is affiliated with the anti-trafficking movement that the group is well-oriented with gender issues or that gender equality is of their primary concerns. In light of the position of gender inequality as a significant barrier to ending sex trafficking and forced prostitution, women’s NGOs represent an integral part of the anti-trafficking movement.

The anti-trafficking movement at the NGO level is confronted by significant obstacles to ending sex trafficking. Though a broad range of international legislation exists regarding the trafficking of women for prostitution and other forms of slavery, present laws have limited value due to the lack of authority that NGOs possess to hold states accountable for their actions regarding trafficking. For example, the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women, established in 1993, holds that trafficking in women violates women’s human rights — which individual states are accountable for — and that governments should be held accountable for condoning such activities. Nevertheless, the document’s use is limited as it cannot actually be used to hold states that condone sex trafficking within their borders legally responsible for such.42)

Similarly, other international laws continue to lack enforcement. The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, passed in 1979 in reaction to women’s human rights violations and to promote gender equality, condemns discrimination against women and consists of a women’s bill of rights. Though the document has been regarded as useful in articulating women’s human rights, it has yet to be fully adhered to by agreeing states, mainly because of its lack of enforcement provisions. Although states that have signed the treaty commit to advancing women’s rights, there is no judicial enforcement of the Convention.43) Thus, despite the continuing efforts to pass legislation in the anti-trafficking effort, the problem of inadequate enforcement of women’s human rights at the NGO level presents a constant barrier.

Kvinnoforum, a Swedish NGO, in reaction to increased trafficking of women from Eastern Europe to Nordic countries, conducted a survey of NGOs and governmental organizations working against sex trafficking to establish how trafficking was being confronted and to analyze the shortcomings of anti-trafficking efforts in the region. The survey results indicated a widespread lack of awareness of trafficking despite increasingly large numbers of trafficked women to the region and also a limited capacity on the part of anti-trafficking actors to combat the issue with so few NGOs and government agencies failing to pursue the cause. In addition, respondents pointed to differing viewpoints on sex trafficking and its proposed solutions and a need for better networking and co-operation among actors.44)

Although the survey pertained to the Nordic and Eastern European regions, it reflects recurring themes of the anti-trafficking movement at the NGO level: the limited authority of IGOs (intergovernmental organizations) and NGOs to hold states accountable for condoning and perpetuating trafficking; the widespread controversy over how to address the trafficking problem; and the insufficient number of actors and substantial activities to prevent trafficking. It is clear that more support is necessary at the NGO level to further promote a gender-oriented approach to the issue and to establish more powerful anti-trafficking legislation that will allow governments that perpetuate the sex trade to be held accountable as such.

Sex trafficking of women and forced prostitution is an intricate problem of gender inequality, socioeconomic structure, and poverty, among other issues. It is of utmost importance that governments and international organizations cease to view the problem as a concern of immigration, residency, and labor, but rather as a matter of human rights violations — slavery and the deprivation of natural, inalienable rights — that are deserved by no human. There are many obstacles to the suppression of sex trafficking: its international nature, lack of awareness of the problem, inability and unwillingness on the part of states to adequately address — or even acknowledge — pertinent human rights violations within their borders, and lack of authority on the part of inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations to hold states accountable for these violations. In order to accomplish tenable change and the suppression of sex trafficking in the future, it is clear that work against the sex trafficking industry must be conceived of within the context of equal gender empowerment.

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