Across the world, approximately 200,000 women and children are trafficked each year for purposes of sexual exploitation. Currently, approximately two million women and children are held in sexual servitude. Many of them die of AIDS, other STDs, ill-health physical and psychological abuse, violence and drug abuse. A surge in public indignation supported by empirical evidence is required to put an end to this cruel form of modern human slavery.
Unfortunately, many governments deny the problem due to the absence of empirical data. Neither do they have policies nor monitoring mechanisms to stem the malaise. Despite the promulgation of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children in 2000, and the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others in 1949, only sixteen and thirteen nations have ratified them, respectively.
Poverty, conflict, political upheaval and gender inequalities are among some of the factors that fuel the problem. Globalization has also facilitated this criminal activity due to ease of human movement. The victimization of the trafficked by law enforcement agencies throughout the world has engendered the problem as victims remain silent under the captivity of exploiters.
Efforts to combat the practice of sexual exploitation have been obfuscated by debates over sexual consent and non-consent of individuals. But the fact is that children, unlike adults, are unable to give valid consent to sexual matters. Moreover, women and children are often duped into sexual captivity by promises of jobs and better lifestyles.
Traffickers employ several means to suppress victims including withholding identification papers, travel documents, rape, beatings, drugs, and threats of violence to family members.
Furthermore, because victims are usually poor, they lack power to influence public authorities to act against the problem. In fact, poor families are duped by promises of jobs into selling their children into sexual slavery.
Also, traffickers are often out of reach of national laws because, in most countries, prostitution is often the least of priorities for law enforcement authorities. This is further compounded by corrupt law enforcement and immigration officials.
Economic, racial and gender prejudices against women and children, particularly in developing countries, contribute to the failure of national laws and policies to appropriately respond the problem.
To make matters worse, the absence of empirical data has allowed governments to deny the existence of the problem. The United States is one of the few countries taking steps to curb the problem by documenting incidences of trafficking as well as introducing appropriate legislation.
A key need is more empirical data to lobby governments to take action against human trafficking for sexual exploitation which imperils the lives of many women and children across the world.