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Essay: End Human Trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa: Global Efforts to Address Slavery Systems in 2019

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    Most Americans believe that the conclusion of the American Civil War brought an end to slavery.  However,   a system similar to that barbaric institution exists away from the public eye throughout the world. Globally, systems of human trafficking and the entrapment of people into servitude and subservience continued after 1856, and are growing and expanding at an alarming rate. This system allows for the illegal exchange and transportation of humans as a commodity for use in sexual activity, labor and economic activity, and military use. Those victimized by human trafficking around the world are not limited to men and women, but overwhelmingly include children as well.  The majority of human trafficking activity originates in sub-Saharan Africa, a region characterized by poverty, political weakness, general societal instability, each of which contributes to the existence and spread of human trafficking.  In response, several governmental and nongovernmental organizations have a emerged specifically to address and hopefully eliminate the threat of human trafficking in high risk countries around the world.   Internationally, legislators, diplomats, and ambassadors recognize the need for collective action and clear legislation against the systems of human trafficking.   Due to the international character of this heinous crime, a  global, cooperative effort is necessary to  spark change and stifle this crime against humanity.

What is Human Trafficking?

The "Trafficking in Persons Report" released by the United States of America’s State Department defined human trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of the person for labor or services, to the use of force, fraud, coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage for slavery.”  This broad definition encompasses every component of human trafficking to be addressed and eliminated by political and legal systems throughout the world (Trafficking in Persons Report, 2.) Those suffering from the abuses of human trafficking will often be used in sex trafficking, or “ the forced participation in commercial sex acts”, a system that overwhelmingly affects women and children disproportionately to men; debt peonage, an ancient act in which someone is used as a labor worker in order to pay off a tangible monetary debt; and forced labor, also known as “involuntarily servitude”  in which one enters a division of labor and subsequently suffers from threats if a specific work is not completed (Human Rights Commission.) Although human trafficking is often thought of as an exclusive problem in countries of weak political and economic establishments, it often occurs covertly in countries of affluence, such as the United States of America. Throughout the global community, human trafficking is widely condemned. However, it is differences in policy and legal systems around the world which present obstacles for a sufficient legal approach to effectively stifle and subsequently end the plight of human trafficking.

Human Trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa

Due to the absence of strong and well-organized political and economic systems in many Sub-Saharan Africa countries, human trafficking is able to thrive without sufficient means to counter the perpetrators.  Moreover, human trafficking has emerged as one of the most profitable modes of economic activity in this region.

Human trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa is achieved both through threats or force and  by coercion. Because of the unprecedented level of poverty within this region, often times victims of human trafficking will “voluntarily” participate in these illegal rings of economic activity in order to benefit their families. Victims are subjected to false promises of economic gain and stability, in exchange for labor or other services, including sex work. However, many of the victims – men, women and children –  are deceived and left stranded in a cycle of abuse associated with the different forms of human trafficking (untoldstories.com.)  Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for nearly 13.6% of the total number of people currently enslaved in human trafficking systems throughout the world, with the majority of those victims being women and children in trades associated with sex acts (Global Slavery Index.)

Political Borders and Globalization in Relation to Human Trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa

Although around the world, human trafficking is generally seen as morally and ethically wrong and is in turn addressed legislatively, several countries on the global stage still remain as tolerant and/or ignorant of human trafficking institutions. The lack of strong political bodies as well as an absence of legislation regarding human rights and protection proves prevalent in countries in which human trafficking is most abundant, most significantly in Sub-Saharan Africa where the “average government response (to human trafficking)” is an incredibly low 28.2 out of 100 cases. Societal and political issues experienced by countries within Sub-Saharan Africa include "poverty, human deprivation, bad living conditions, unemployment, gender discrimination, harmful socio-cultural practices, low education and lack of legislative and policy frameworks.”, all of which are considered “supply factors” to the systems of human trafficking within this region. In order for human trafficking to be addressed, the aforementioned societal and political problems must also be addressed, a task proven to be difficult in countries with overall political and legislative instability. Subsequently, international efforts to stifle the presence and spread of human trafficking is often met with great difficulty, as inconsistencies in legislation and law enforcement exist between countries around the world, often proving that legal pursuits in the name of controlling aspects of human trafficking are often fruitless.

In addition, the rate and magnitude of globalization in the last forty years has given a new life to systems of human trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa. With the transference of western technology and means of communication, successful pursuits of human trafficking systems have increased and become more accessible, as “new ways of communication and transferring money today… has increased global crime in general”, as new communicative technology has made it easier for human trafficking systems to operate unnoticed ( untoldstoriesonline.com. )

Governmental Organizations and Human Trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa

As previously mentioned, human trafficking is among one of the most important concerns on a global scale. Because human trafficking often extend past regional jurisdiction and occurs across several countries, it is evident that the international community has a responsibility to address human trafficking in a unified manner. Although rates of human trafficking are proportionally lower than countries located in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, he United States is an important component in the global efforts to address human trafficking. The United States’ Department of State released a system of understanding and categorizing the extremity of human trafficking and the response of individual countries to their domestic human trafficking issues. This three tier system, with tier 1 denoting the most reactive countries and tier 3 denoting the least reactive countries, sufficiently organizes countries according to their need ( cfr.org.)  This categorization system is used in the United States’ annual State Department “Trafficking in Persons Report”, a ‘diplomatic tool (used to)…engage foreign governments in dialogues to advance anti-trafficking reforms and to combat trafficking and to target resources on prevention, protection and prosecution programs” ( state.gov.)

In addition, the United Nations, “an international organization formed to promote international peace, security, and cooperation…”, (dictionary.com) formed a committee known as the Office on Drugs and Crime which has jurisdiction over international issues of unauthorized drugs and crime, including human trafficking. The UNODC provides international aid and oversight regarding global human trafficking through a strategy known as “prevention, protection, and prosecution”, including drafting laws, creating “comprehensive national trafficking strategies”, and providing resources to assist in these strategies. In addition, the UNODC actively pursues research regarding human trafficking and ways to prevent the spread of human trafficking systems in the future (UNODC.org.)

Non-Governmental Organizations and Human Trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa

Often times, when governments alone cannot handle the magnitude of a situation that is dangerous and harmful to their citizen population, such as systems of human trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa, organizations formed separately from governments with the intention of providing aid and education will intervene.  These organizations, commonly known as “non-governmental organizations” or “any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national, or international level”, are common in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa that are  plagued by massive problems, i.e human trafficking (ngo.org). These nongovernmental organizations exist to provide aid similar to that provided by tier 1, or extremely responsive, countries in order to assure a channel of safety and chance at a future for victims of human trafficking. Some of these organizations include Anti-Slavery International, a non-governmental organization whose fundraising, lobbying, shelters, and community building activities and education programs in Sub-Saharan African countries such as Senegal, Mauritania, Tanzania, and Niger. This organization, founded in 1839, actively works on sight in areas where human trafficking is most common to decrease, if not eliminate, the amount of victims subject to the abuses of human trafficking. They have projects in areas spanning across the world, including Sub-Saharan Africa ( Anti-Slavery International.)  Another important non-governmental organization is the Human Rights Watch, an organization whose approach to human trafficking differs from that of the Anti-Slavery International organization. The Human Right Watch exists to pursue “accurate fact-finding, impartial reporting, effective use of media, and targeted advocacy, often in partnership with local human rights groups” in order to effectively inform international governments and individuals of the threatening nature of human trafficking and subsequently influence legislation in governments around the world. The Human Rights Watch constantly investigates conditions of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, thoroughly reporting on the state of society in these countries and subsequently clarifying issues that contribute to the presence of human trafficking throughout Sub-Saharan Africa ( Human Rights Watch.)  These two organizations are just some of the non-governmental organizations which work to find progressive and sufficient solutions, political and otherwise, to the human trafficking systems within Sub-Saharan Africa as well as seek out ways to provide immediate aid to victims of human trafficking.

It is evident that the immense issue of human trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa is an expansive one. Because of the widespread political weakness evident in the lack of sufficient governing bodies, the increasing economic instability, and the lack of societal regulation and outreach programs, human trafficking has risen as a main issue throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Human trafficking presents clear violations of human rights, circumventions of established economic rules and systems, and promotes large institutions of crime often unchallenged by local and national governments in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, as human trafficking is addressed on a global scale through organizations like the United Nations as well as non-governmental organizations such as the Human Rights Watch and Anti-Slavery International, a solution to human trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa may not be out of the question, let alone out of reach.

Works Cited

Tillerson, Rex, and Susan Coppedge. Trafficking in Persons Report 2017. United States Department of State, 2017, Trafficking in Persons Report 2017, www.state.gov/documents/organization/271339.pdf

“Human Rights Commission.” What Is Human Trafficking? | Human Rights Commission, City and County of San Francisco, sf-hrc.org/what-human-trafficking.

Saeed, Taneem. “Human Trafficking in Sub Saharan Africa.” Untold Stories of the Silenced, 4 Dec. 2015, www.untoldstoriesonline.com/human-trafficking-in-sub-saharan-africa/.

“Sub- Saharan Africa – Global Slavery Index 2016.” Global Slavery Index, Minderoo Foundation, www.globalslaveryindex.org/region/sub-saharan-africa/.

Campbell, John. “The U.S. State Department's Annual Trafficking in Persons Report and Sub-Saharan Africa.” Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, 4 Oct. 2017,   www.cfr.org/blog/us-state-departments-annual-trafficking-persons-report-and-sub-saharan-africa.

“2017 Trafficking in Persons Report.” U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State,    www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

“United Nations.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/united-nations?s=t.

.MCLAUGHLIN, Liam. “United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.” What Is Human Trafficking?, www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html?ref=menuside.

“Let's End Modern Slavery Together.” Anti-Slavery International, www.antislavery.org/.

“Human Rights Watch.” Human Rights Watch, www.hrw.org/.

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