Human Trafficking Essay

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Human trafficking is the exploitation of people for slavery in forced labor, for trade in the sex industry, and for organ harvesting. The occurrence of these forms of human trafficking involve all forms of transportation. Examples of victims forced to leave the safety of home, trafficked from one geographic location to another, and exploited are prolific in media stories and demonstrate the intersection of transportation and human trafficking. The role of transportation systems and the increasing numbers of trafficking victims worldwide require a collaborative and coordinated approach under the guidance of the United Nations (UN) and national governments relying on criminal justice agencies (police, attorneys, courts, corrections) to stop the selling, transferring, and abusing of human beings.

The mechanisms to facilitate human trafficking, and the strategies to combat trafficking of persons and human organs, as well as justice for victims require criminal laws to punish the traffickers, buyers, and facilitators. Further, the need for justice implies caring about protecting the rights of human trafficking victims. An example of a normative ethical policy is the 2003 United Nations resolution “The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons,” which enumerates the provisions for the welfare of victims relative to trafficking practices. The empirical research on ethics and morals and the criminal laws and policies indicate that the quality of life in a community requires protection of public safety, security, and human dignity. Discussions of human rights and ethics standards are conversations had by justice officials, police, attorneys, judges, and correctional professionals in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which excavates the key issues of human trafficking crimes and effective ways to combat them.

Trafficking in Human Organs

Exploitation of human organs, such as the sale of kidneys is called “organ sale” and there is irreparable damage to the body. Some believe that body products—organs, hair, ligaments, brain stem— should be allowed in a regulated free market. The ethical issues of privacy rights, ownership of body parts, and liberty relate to securing legal consent as there is risk and permanent harm to each individual. Donor program policies and regulations intend to address the ethical concerns of self-ownership and liberty to freely give consent for body products; yet, there are disagreements about consistency in making organs available and whether and how much compensation should be awarded to the donor. As such, the altruists argue for the organ donor programs to save lives, which is a moral religious obligation. Opponents of the moral religious view suggest that satisfying the goals of science and the pursuit of life-saving cures are compelling reasons for organ donor programs. Philosophically, either view encompasses compassion for victims harmed and forced to sale their organs; trafficking in human organs is unacceptable in most societies.

Trafficking in Children

Modern-day slavery is the description used to describe the exploitation of children that are recruited, snatched, harbored, transferred, and forced to work in poor conditions—hotels, mobile sales, or “sweatshops.” The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works on behalf of children worldwide to stop compulsory slave labor and protect child victims. A number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are working alongside governments and private organizations to fight against the illegal sale of hundreds of thousands of children per annum into forced slavery. The Polaris Project provides a list of NGOs and faith-based, civic, and private organizations offering to help, operates a toll-free hotline, and publishes reports.

For example, the United States is listed in the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s 2011 report, as one of the top nations used as a transient point in the child slavery trafficking network. UNICEF works with nearly 200 countries on policies designed to end this kind of human trafficking. The United States’s authority to combat trafficking and punish the traffickers is outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (2011).

The Sex Trade

A long-standing practice that is difficult to stop is the transporting of persons from one place to another jurisdiction for sexual exploitation. Transporting adults and children across state borders and into other nations for sale to prostitution houses, sex shops, phone sex operations, and pornography producers is part of the multimillion dollar per annum commercial sex industry. The traffickers are driven, perhaps, by moral relativism, greed, and exploitation; and it is questionable that their thought and actions promote human welfare. Human trafficking of persons into the sex industry is inconsistent with rule of law.

Ethical Dimensions of Human Trafficking and Crime Control

Scholars of jurisprudence and supporters of human welfare want criminal laws against forced prostitution and sexual exploitation of women, girls, and boys. The ethical behavior and actions of traffickers is accountability derived from laws and UN policies and protocols. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and its partners, organizations, law enforcement groups, national leadership, and international courts target those individuals, or organized groups, that intend to cause harm. In 2000, UN protocols such as the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol were established for suppressing, intervening, and preventing the smuggling of persons (women, children) for transfer in the private and commercial sex industry.

This protocol is important as it is a legally binding agreement signed by most nations that (1) defines human trafficking, (2) outlines legal methods to fight against traffickers, including a framework for extraditing smugglers/traffickers, (3) facilitates national and international collaboration and sharing of effective methods, (4) maintains the UN global case database, and (5) supports national law enforcement approaches regarding cross-border investigation and information sharing to combat trafficking. The U.S. federal trafficking criminal policies, including The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), underpin most objectives of the international law and, thus, detail an appropriate role of law enforcement agencies and the courts on a global level to cripple the financial resources and technological capabilities of traffickers. Further, the U.S. Code, Title 22, Trafficking Victims Protection regulations (1) provide information about trade enforcement agreements and penalties for violations of human trafficking; (2) prescribes the prosecutorial tools under the Protect Act (2003) and violations pertaining to children and trafficking; and, (3) specify punishments such as asset forfeitures and prison time for those found coercing and transporting women into prostitution across national borders pursuant to the Mann Act (1910). The aim of UN and U.S. law is to make transparent the activities of traffickers for increased public involvement and scrutiny. Ethically speaking, the outcry from the victims, families, and communities or public scrutiny is based on concern for human welfare. Interestingly, in the mission statements of most laws, it is written that the duty of nations is to make sure people are safe and free from harm.


Combating human trafficking in organs, children for compulsory labor, and persons for transfer into the sex industry has ethical dimensions that are reinforced by a body of criminal laws. Millions of victims are taken from home or the streets, harbored, transferred, and sold into labor camps or sweatshops as well as commercial sex situations (prostitution) or for individual pleasure. There are laws that try to minimize the harmful effects of moral relativism and greed, such as the UN Protocols and the U.S. trafficking laws.

Government actions through law enforcement laws, policies, and regulations aim to secure borders and persons, as well as work efficaciously with international partners to eliminate the transportation, financial, and technological mechanisms that facilitate human trafficking. To many, the laws supporting the effort to protect the welfare of humankind as well as awareness and education are linked to ethical crime control and prevention strategies.


  1. Department of Homeland Security. The Trafficking Victims Protection Regulations, U.S. Code, Title 22, Chapter 78. (Accessed August 2013).
  2. Satz, Debra Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  3. United Nations. “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons.” United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000). (Accessed August 2013).
  4. United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). “Increasing Awareness and Engagement: Strengthening the National Response to Human Trafficking in the U.S. National Human Trafficking Center Report” (2011). (Accessed August 2013).
  5. “Child Protection” (2013). (Accessed August 2013).

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