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Human Trafficking Problem

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Human Rights
Wordcount: 4304 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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An Interdisciplinary Approach to Human Trafficking as a Global Problem


Throughout the world, there are thousands of women and children that get forced into human trafficking (for all words in bold, see Appendix A, Keomanivong, 2008). To most people, the thought of slavery seems like something that existed well before our time, but the truth is that it has taken a nasty turn into something that rids children of their innocence and adolescence. The heartbreaking truth of this criminal activity is that the majority of the victims are involved in the type of trafficking that engages them into some type of sex act or slavery (Kanics, 2003). Those that are trafficked are not only forced into the sex trade, but are relentlessly beaten, tortured, and then sent on to the next person. Human trafficking is a problem seen throughout the world, and is by no means excluded to just one country. For the most part human traffic crimes go unnoticed; possibly it is because of ignorance or due to a lack of information provided to the public. The sad reality of human trafficking is that this ‘unnoticed’ crime estimates a profit of over $7 billion dollars, with almost 4 million people trafficked each year (Kanics, 2003). The causes of human trafficking are very frightening, and range from instances like poverty to lack of intervention at the government level. In order to truly understand the severity of human trafficking and to determine what potential solutions there are, the sociological, political, and economic factors must all be considered.

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In order to vanquish human trafficking, a clear understanding of what it is and how it is operated is imperative in order to arrive at a solution. Human trafficking is a highly complex problem, and requires more than just one discipline to fully comprehend it (Repko, 2005). Various disciplines have attempted to analyze and create solutions for human trafficking, but with no success present, it only seems fitting that it be looked at in the sense of an interdisciplinary approach. By looking at it this way, human trafficking will be evaluated and seen in the views of multiple disciplines. Instead of being confined to just an overview of what human trafficking is an interdisciplinary approach will allow many perspectives and insights to be observed.

A variety of disciplines could be used to better explain human trafficking; some of them include political science, psychology, sociology, religion, economics, criminal justice, international law, anthropology, and mathematics. Although all of these disciplines could be used, for the purpose of this paper it will be limited to those disciplines that are most pertinent to help succeed when striving to come up with a solution. The three most significant disciplines that will help explain human trafficking are sociology, political science, and economics.

Sociology as a discipline can help explain human trafficking and the steps needed to come to a possible solution. Sociology not only presents the numbers and facts that lie behind human trafficking, but also the demographics and raw data needed to better understand it. Sociology also helps explain the pace of social change, and will allow for human trafficking to be observed by the use of historical analysis (Rose, 1974). The importance of sociology to human trafficking is tremendous, because not only can it be used to look at the victims, but also at the perpetrators that are committing this crime. Since most people think that the perpetrators of human trafficking are those that are either thugs or belong to some type of a mafia or gang, it is important to point out that stereotype does not always hold true (Malerek, 2007, p. 10).Maybe one of the most important aspects of trafficking is that the people that are organizing this are not always the mobster type, but instead fit the descriptions of the neighbor next door. Since human trafficking deals with people and society, it only seems natural that sociology would have to be drawn on to comprehend the issue.

The next discipline needed to help with the matter of human trafficking, is political science. When using political science it easy to examine how political systems, public policies, and political behavior all play an immense role in the existence of human trafficking (Rienow, 1956). Political science also shows how the world is handling human trafficking, and how there tends to be an absence of government intervention. Although there are some reports of the United States putting trafficking high on their agenda of things to do, it seems like there needs to be more interaction between countries in order to achieve success at extinguishing this crime (Gramegna & Laczko, 2003). With proper leaders and officials, and governments that are more proactive like the United States, then the possibility of seeing a change becomes much greater. For example, in some countries they have refugee camps for the women that escape the trafficking ‘ring,’ but in order for this system to be successful, there needs to be a coalition of governments that implement these camps in every country. Political science will help not only with understanding the scope of government interaction, but also with explaining and understanding what kind of crime human trafficking is and the steps needed to solve it.

The final discipline used when viewing human trafficking, is economics. Since economics can be used to look at the dynamics of poverty and the endeavors that humans make to obtain wealth, then it will be easier to understand why these children and women are being sold in to human trafficking (Fels, 1966). Economics also looks at how humans choose to use their resources, and how money, labor, and land can affect the ability to do so. There seems to be an obvious lack of provisions in the countries that are experiencing human trafficking, otherwise families would not be forced to sell their children, and women would not have to rely on this industry to make a living. In Vietnam most of the women that are part of the traffic ring use it as a way to earn a living, and as a way to earn their independence. The worst thing about it is that the parents that sell their children willingly do it in order to make just enough money to make it through the next month (Penh, 2007). Since there is a lack of wealth and an abundance of poverty in the developing world, it is very important to use economics to make sense of why this shortage exists in the countries where human trafficking is most prominent.

Literature research, along with peer-reviewed articles or journals that relate to each discipline will be conducted in order to allow for optimal information to be obtained about human trafficking. Along with the literature research, observational data and statistics will also be used because it will be beneficial when trying to make sense of the victims and the traffickers. In conjunction with these, interviews that have been conducted with those that have been trafficked will be studied as well. With these methods of research relating to each discipline, there will be some sort of conclusion or solution reached about human trafficking.

The purpose of this paper is to speak out about the nightmares of human trafficking. It will not only open eyes, but also let the voices of the victims finally be heard. The world is no safe haven, and with human trafficking seen in every country it is important to educate the public. Of course the issue of human trafficking will not be solved overnight, and the steps to arriving at a solution involve participation not only at a government level, but also the participation of humans all over the world. There must be a paradigm shift at the base of human behavior, and history has shown that this is the most difficult shift for mankind to make. With the integration of these disciplines, a possible resolution to the problem can be achieved, and human trafficking may one day cease to exist. It is time for a change, and for ignorance to be eliminated for the sake of those that fall victims to human trafficking.


Although it would be nice to speak about the history of human trafficking as far back as the beginning of the century, for the sake of avoiding an overlap with the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, only the differences from the two will be addressed. Even though the history of human trafficking does date back as far as the slave trade, it will not be covered in depth. Yet, it is still important to address what the slave trade was, and how it differs from this modern-day form of slavery known as, human trafficking. When the slave trade originated a major resource was needed for development in the new world, and that was a work force (Richardson, 2007). With the formation of the triangular trade and the middle passage it was possible to transport slaves into the Americas. The middle passage of the triangular trade was a path from Africa to America, and was where the transport of slaves was primarily conducted. The passage to America involved excursions on ships where the slaves would be packed together and chained for months at a time. If they were able to survive the journey, the slaves probably arrived malnourished or with disease. Upon arrival, the slaves were sold to plantation owners to do work in areas such as farming, household tasks, or child care. For slaves, life was very cruel and work driven. It wasn’t until the 1860s that the slaves were finally set free and able to live a life without a master to tend to. Unfortunately, even though slavery was abolished in the 1860s, a new form of modern-day slavery has taken its place (Richardson, 2007). Human trafficking as a modern-day slavery involves not only the means of controlling someone’s life by the use of coercion, but exploiting them as slaves as well. The victims of human trafficking become slaves of sex, pornography, labor, and services (Coonan & Thompson, 2003).

According to the United Nations, human trafficking is defined as not only the recruitment and transportation of persons, but also the exploitation in regards to labor of services and prostitution (Coonan & Thompson, 2003). The recruitment of the persons is achieved by not only abduction, but also by means of threats, abuse, fraud, and coercion. The U.N. definition was presented to the public in a protocol that they identified as the “United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons,” where they pointed out that for a proper definition, the acts, means, and purposes should all be properly identified. The U.N. also points out in their protocol that anyone who is forced into trafficking and is under the age of 18, whether it is done with or without their consent, that they are still a victim of trafficking and in legal terms it is deemed similar to that of statutory rape. Surprisingly, the definition that the United States presents is clearly different. In 2000, U.S. Congress enacted a two part definition to what qualifies an act as human trafficking. The first part of the definition explains that human trafficking is a sex act that is induced by either force or coercion in which the person involved is not over the age of 18. The second part of the United State’s definition expresses that human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, or harboring of persons in order to use for labor through the act of force or fraud and for the purpose of slavery or debt repayment. Although the two definitions are somewhat different, there are three components that are very similar; force, fraud, and coercion. Traffickers are masters at using a combination of the three, and with these they are able to obtain a level of fear and servitude among those that are trafficked (Coonan & Thompson, 2003).

Under U.S. law, there are certain types of offenses that constitute human trafficking. Sex trafficking is when a trafficker recruits someone for the sole purpose of a commercial sex act, otherwise known as prostitution (Coonan & Thompson, 2003). Sex trafficking is probably the most popular or well known type of human trafficking. Whether it be portrayed in movies or spoke about on the news, sex trafficking is the most common offense that is seen in each country. The next type of trafficking is involuntary servitude, and is the process where persons are convinced that they must continue with a condition of trafficking in order to avoid harm to themselves or others. This type of offense is also seen when the person trafficked is threatened that if they don’t obey or continue with their work, that they will become in trouble with the government for their attempt to cross borders or obtain a visa. The final type of trafficking is debt bondage, and is the condition when a person pledges services in order to eliminate a debt. In most cases of debt bondage, the debtor never actually pays off the debt because the captor never applies the services towards the debt and the time needed to repay is never clearly defined. One misconception about these types of trafficking offenses is that they are the same as smuggling and carry the same punishment. The problem is, the two are completely different, and are handled differently in a court of law (Coonan & Thompson, 2003).

Human smuggling is the transportation or illegal entry of a person across an international border in violation of government laws (“The Human Smuggling”, 2005). Under U.S. law, smuggling is defined as the act of knowingly assisting or abetting someone to enter the United States (Coonan & Thompson, 2003). The majority of people that do illegally enter a country are actually smuggled and not trafficked. The clear difference between the two is that those who are smuggled generally cooperate and are doing it willingly. Consequently, individuals may originally begin their trip as being smuggled, but too often it is seen that they end up being trafficked. They are coerced into believing that they are being smuggled, and then once they have reached their destination, they are held without release. One way to test if someone has been smuggled or trafficked is their ability to leave from their current situation (“The Human Smuggling”, 2005). If the person is able to leave freely, then they have been smuggled. If the person is not able to leave willingly, then they are now a victim of human trafficking. Human smuggling also involves the transportation across an international border, whereas human trafficking can take place without the actual crossing. Smuggling is usually the first phase of immigration/migration, and those that have been smuggled are typically assisted in crossing an international border. The smuggler will make their profit up front, and once they have arrived at their destination the relationship with the smuggled individual diminishes (Coonan & Thompson, 2003). Those that fall victims of human trafficking can be locals to an area, and transported from one section of a city to another. The profit made from the trafficked individual is an ongoing process, and can be made by forced work into prostitution, sweat shops, or anything else that can obtain a profit for the traffickers (“The Human Smuggling”, 2005). Obviously smuggling and trafficking are quite different, but the truth of the matter is that it is becoming more and more common for those that are smuggled to end up becoming a victim of human trafficking.

As mentioned previously, human trafficking is a crime that is taking place in every country. Although it is seen throughout the world, there are some countries that are doing their part to help fight this crime. The flipside to that is there are also countries that are doing absolutely nothing to help with the battle. The U.S. Department of State has issued a method to help categorize the countries involved with trafficking; and is simply named, The Tiers (“Trafficking in Persons Report”, 2003). Typically, the countries that are listed are there because they fall under certain categories. Either the country is one of origin, transit, or destination of the trafficked victims. Once that country is placed on the tier list, it is put into one of four tiers. Tier one is any of the countries that are cooperating fully with the minimum standards that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act requires. Countries that are placed in the first tier are also doing what is necessary or within their power to help eliminate human trafficking not only within their borders but around them as well. Some examples of countries that are in tier one, are; Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom (as seen in Figure 6, Keomanivong, 2008). Tier two is actually broken down into two different parts: tier two or tier two special watch list. Tier two involves any country that doesn’t meet the minimum standards of the Act, but are making efforts to meet that compliance. Argentina, Croatia, Egypt, Laos, and Thailand are just a few to name of the almost eighty countries that appear in the tier two list (as seen in Figure 7, Keomanivong, 2008).

Tier two special watch list is the countries that do not only meet standard requirements, but they also fail to provide evidence of their efforts to meet the standards. Another factor that can place a country on the tier two special watch list, is when they have a significant number of victims that fall into forms of severe human trafficking; i.e. sex trafficking. Cameroon, Greece, Mexico, Russia, and the Ukraine are all countries that are currently on the special watch list (as seen in Figure 8, Keomanivong, 2008). The last tier, tier three, are the countries that don’t fully comply with the standards and are making no obvious effort to do so. Bolivia, Cuba, Jamaica, Sudan, and Venezuela are just a few to name that have been placed in tier three (as seen in Figure 9, Keomanivong, 2008). The tier list was originated by the U.S. Senate through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act that President George Bush reauthorized in 2003 (“Recent Developments”, 2004). The sole purpose of the Act was to not only address countries that are turning their heads to the trafficking that is taking place, but also to sentence and convict traffickers. It is also believed that this Act will help the United States work to fight modern-day slavery, and find solutions to help put a stop to it. President Bush has very strong feelings regarding trafficking, and has made it one of America’s top priorities to handle.

Throughout his legislation he has committed millions of dollars to support the fight, and has made it clear to the public that perpetrators will not be tolerated. The United States progress is real, and can be seen through their countless initiatives that have been introduced within the past ten years. In 2002 and 2003, there was over $150 million provided to over 70 countries to help assist and strengthen their anti-trafficking efforts. The Department of Defense has come up with a zero-tolerance policy, and educates service members on human trafficking and the penalties that would be assessed if ignored. The Homeland Security initiated a program called, Operation Predator, as an effort to protect children from international traffickers, and as a result arrests have already been made (“Recent Developments”, 2004). These are just a few of the programs that the United States has initiated through the past ten years, and the struggle to terminate human trafficking is still on the top of their agenda.

This paper aims to educate the public on what human trafficking is in all of its aspects; the victims, the perpetrators, the causes, and the efforts and solutions to help solve it. As an interdisciplinarian, it is important to focus not only on issues that one might be passionate about, but also those that are real world problems and require multiple disciplines to make sense of it. There is no possible way to address everything there is to know about human trafficking, but by using the chosen disciplines it will be easier to bring a more holistic light on the subject. With the integration of the perspectives from the disciplines of sociology, economics, and political science, a better understanding of the approach needed to arrive at a solution will be easier to attain. By using the Comprehensive Perspectives Model, the interdisciplinary process will be achieved.

The use of this model will help to define the problem of human trafficking and assess the facts and conclusions of each discipline (Repko, 2005). In order to do this, a synthesis of the disciplines must be achieved, and clarification of human trafficking in all of its facets must be present. In a world full of chaos and problems that seem out of the realm of help, the comprehensive model will make it easier to understand that trafficking does not have to exist. Sociology will be examined first because it will help showcase not only the victims of trafficking but also the perpetrators. With sociology, it will be possible to look at trafficking through their eyes, and see the true nightmare that it is. Economics should come next because it plays such a big role in the reasons why trafficking exists. Whether it be because of the poor economic conditions where children are forced into the industry, or pointing out how profitable the industry is. Finally, the discipline of political science will be used in order to see what governments all over the world are doing to fight this battle. In order to ever win the war on trafficking, intervention is crucial.

Disciplinary Perspectives, Evidence, and Insights

This section will present the most valuable material for discussing the topic problem. Both secondary and peer-reviewed sources may be used in this section, but, the primary sources are the most critical for the evidence from each discipline to be presented.

Perspective of first discipline. The actual text begins here; the paragraph will continue and the text goes back to the left margin again. The section for this discipline may cover several pages before the heading for the next discipline appears in the paper.

Perspective of second discipline. Text begins here.

Perspective of third discipline. Text begins here.


The integration for the disciplinary insights is the most significant part of the INTS paper. It is the center stage where all the actors come for the grand finale.




Davis, M. (2007, September). Human trafficking. Hispanic, 46-48.

Fels, R. (1966). An introduction to economics; the challenge to the American economy. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Herman, H. (2007). Indecent proposals. Economist. 385, 70.

Kanics, J. (2003).Trafficking in women. Foreign Policy in Focus. 3, 1-3.

Political Science

Coonan, T. (2004).Human trafficking in the sunshine state: A proposed Florida law on human trafficking. Florida State University Law Review. 31, 290-301.

Czymoniewicz, M., Hoban, E., & Kotnik, E. (2007). Human trafficking in Australia: The challenge of responding to suspicious activities. Australian Journal of Social Issues. 42, 369-386.

Gramengna, M., & Laczko, F. (2003). Developing better indicators of human trafficking. Brown Journal of World Affairs. X, 179-194.

Rienow, R. (1960). Introduction to government. New York: Knopf.


Laczko, F. (2003). Data and research on human trafficking. International Organization for Migration, Retrieved November 25, 2007, 5-16.

Malarek, V. Meet the traffickers. (2007, September). New Internationalist.

Penh, P. (2007).Innocence for sale. Economist. 384, 53-54.

Rose, J. (1974). Introduction to sociology. Chicago: Rand McNally.

Additional Sources

Coonan, T., & Thompson, R. (2003). Florida responds to human trafficking. Florida State University for the Advancement of Human Rights. 10-26.

FACT SHEET: Distinctions Between Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking. (2005, January). The Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center. 1-6.

Keomanivong (2008). Fig. 1: Life Cycle of a Trafficked Human.

Keomanivong (2008a). Fig.2: “Human Trafficking” Scenario 1.

Keomanivong (2008b). Fig.3: “Human Trafficking” Scenario 2.

Keomanivong (2008c). Fig.4: “Human Trafficking” Scenario 3.

Keomanivong (2008d). Fig.5: “Human Trafficking” Scenario 4.

Keomanivong (2008). Fig. 6: Tier 1.

Keomanivong (2008). Fig. 7: Tier 2.

Keomanivong (2008). Fig. 8: Tier 2 “Special Watch List.”

Keomanivong (2008). Fig. 9: Tier 3.

Recent Developments in U.S. Government Efforts to end Human Trafficking. (2004, March 18). U.S. Department of State. n.p.

Repko, A. (2005) Interdisciplinary practice: A student guide to research and writing. Boston: Pearson.

Richardson, D. (2007, January). The Transatlantic Slave Trade: A History Revised edition. By James A. Rawley, with Stephen D. Behrendt. History, 92(305), 98-99. Retrieved March 9, 2008.

Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2003. (2003, June 10). Bureau of Public Affairs. n.p.


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