Human Traffic

Oct 142003
Authors: Meg Burd

“A trafficker recruited Nina, a 19-year-old from South Eastern

Europe, to work as a waitress, but then raped, beat and drugged

her, forcing her into prostitution” and ultimately a life of

slavery. This is just one account of many detailed in the U.S.

Government’s Trafficking Victims Report.

The idea that slavery can still be taking place in the 21st

century seems shocking, and at first one might assume that this is

a minor problem isolated to some remote part of the world. This,

however, is not the case. The U.S. government puts estimates of

those currently internationally trafficked annually at 4 million

people. National Geographic estimates that the worldwide total

could be close to 27 million. According to most estimates by the

United Nations and the United States, the majority are women and

most are the same age as many of us here at CSU.

How do so many of our peers worldwide end up in these horrible

conditions? The story of Marsha, a trafficking survivor, as

accounted in a State Department report, is a typical story of how

many end up in the hands of traffickers. Marsha says that a “woman

suggested that she could help me get work somewhere abroad. She

told me she had an acquaintance in Germany… for whom I could be a

housemaid. Upon arrival… she said I owed her that money by

providing sexual services to men. I was shocked.” Tales like

Marsha’s can be found in the testimony of many trafficking

survivors. Many of these women, according to Preston Mendonhall of

MSNBC, are from economically depressed former Soviet or Eastern

Europe countries and were lured by the promise of a well-paid job

that would help provide a future for both them and their families.

Half of these women were tricked into slavery, says Mendonhall, by

friends, relatives or acquaintances they trusted.

The trafficking of women in particular is a lucrative business

for the slave traders. Overall, trafficking in human life is

estimated by the United Nations to earn $7 to $10 billion annually

for the slave holders. Most of these traffickers are associated

with criminal syndicates and use this money to buy weapons and


Currently, there is not nearly enough being done to stop this

huge and horrific problem. The United States has the Trafficking

Victims Protection Act, and the United Nations has enacted policies

to attempt to stop the slave trade internationally, but neither has

made a dent. In many of the countries where slave trading is the

worst (such as economically devastated Moldova where an estimated

10 percent of the female population is currently enslaved,

according to MSNBC) the local officials work with the slave

traders. Laws are not severe, and in many cases it ends up being

the women who are punished and jailed, says the State


Colin Powell said, “It is appalling that in the 21st century

hundreds of women, children and men made vulnerable by conflict,

dire economic circumstances, natural disaster or just their own

desire for a better life are trafficked and exploited for the

purposes of sex and forced labor.”

This is appalling, and we should not tolerate our peers

worldwide being forced to face beatings, prostitution and even

death at the hands of slave traders. Signing petitions such as the

one on

“”> is a

first step, and lobbying our government to be a voice in human

rights and working multilaterally with other nations and

conventions to do so is another tactic.

No longer should we hear stories, such as those from Andrew

Cockburn of National Geographic who related cases of “young

girls… enslaved in areas like San Jose’s Gringo Gulch, where a

lot of American sex tourists go for a ‘good time.'” We must be

informed and take a stand against this horrific practice of modern

day slavery and abuse.

Meg is a graduate student at CSU studying Anthropology. She has

traveled to India, Bhutan and Asia to do research on international

culture. The Collegian runs her column every Wednesday.







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