Globalization and its Effects on the Transnational Movement to End Human Trafficking

Globalization and its Effects on the Transnational Movements to End Human Trafficking

Globalization is known as a phenomenon occurring all around us, making positive contributions to our lives, as well as negative. In addition to fueling the technology revolution, globalization has made us closer to achieving such goals as free trade, deregulation, and economic flexibility. At the same time, however, this time-space compressor is seen as a monster to millions of people around the world; it is a principle cause of the growing inequality gap, of political domination, poverty and debt, as well as, oppression and structural violence.1 With that being said, it is clear that globalization does not, in fact, make everyone’s grass greener. However, particularly the main benefiters of globalization such as the Western nations, many people do not realize the dramatic negative effects of this phenomenon. Therefore, one of the ways to better your understanding of the positive and negative effects of globalization is by expanding their knowledge of a transnational social movement.

Thousands of movements exist today, each involving intersecting layers of networks within hundreds of nations across the globe. Various movements exist to fight the many forms of oppression and violence that have become more prominent since globalization took a more dominant role in shaping our world. A transnational crime that is being affected in an incredibly negative way by globalization is that of modern-day slavery, better known as human trafficking. For instance, worldwide, 27 million people are victims of human trafficking and, with its annual revenue between 5 and 7 billion dollars, it is clear that trafficking is an enormous problem rendering global attention.2 Since globalization plays such a primary role in the transnational anti-human trafficking movement, as well as in all transnational social movements, in this paper I will first discuss the relationship between globalization and transnational social movements in general, discussing some of the positive and negative effects. Then, I will elaborate furth er on human trafficking (specifically sex-trafficking) as a major global problem, as well as, delve into how the anti-trafficking movements are dominantly effected by globalization. Within the context of that, I will highlight the problem of sex-trafficking in India (a country where it is most prevalent), and finish by focusing on the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), the first non-governmental organization to fight human trafficking (especially sex trafficking in women and girls).3 Inspired by the CATW, while addressing human trafficking as a whole in some aspects, this paper will focus explicitly on the fights to end the sex-trafficking of women and girls.

Similar to transnational movements, Valentine M. Moghadam stated in her book, Globalization and Social Movements, that “globalization can be thought of as something that “transcends nation state-boundaries; a multi-faceted process of social change with economic, political, and cultural dimensions, creating new forms of inequality, competition, and transnational forms of organizing and mobilizing.”4 A transnational social movement is something that unifies people, in three or more countries, to work together on an international issue that they feel passionately enough about to want to come together and fight.5 Today, some of the transnational social movements with the largest number of supporters are: feminist movements, gay/lesbian rights movements, and Islamic movements. With that being said, the ultimate goal of any social movement is to delegitimize their enemy’s legal stance, eventually leading to their demise. However, this becomes increasingly more difficult when the primary force that a movement is fighting is something as eternal as globalization.

Nonetheless, globalization has its positive and negative effects to all social movements. First, I will discuss one of the positive effects that globalization has had on the world, specifically in terms of aiding transnational social movements. Technology, ironically also a negative effect, has drastically expanded the range of transnational social movements with things such as the internet and the cell phone. It is through the use of technology that movements and organizations (especially transnational) are able to recruit a lot of their supporters. With the internet comes instant communication and advertisement, making contact between existing members of a group, as well as future members, much easier. In addition to facilitating contact and recruitment, the internet serves as a great avenue for raising global awareness. A lot of transnational organizations may not have an enormous formal following but that does not mean that they have been unsuccessful in their recruitment endeavors. Someone does not have to be an official member of a transnational organization or social movement to be able to contribute to spreading global awareness about a particular injustice. In fact, some of the most successful advertising is through word of mouth, something that all of us are capable of contributing to.

Another aspect about transnational social movements that the global technology revolution has contributed to is the expansion of their goals and audience.  According to Kevin Bales, author of Understanding Global Slavery, “the average non-state organization, before globalization, aimed only to alter state policies, usually reaching national borders at the very most.”6 Now, social movements are not forcibly restricted (except if by their own personal choice) to state boundaries. As a result, their target audiences have expanded exponentially, originally being primarily local and becoming global. Just by basing their goals on philosophies relatable to all audiences and making informational resources available, people can find out information faster, spread awareness quicker and easier, and even donate to a cause in a matter of seconds. This creates a lot higher of a success rate for organizations with less required work, such as campaigning, protesting, and personally asking people to donate. All of these options would not be presented to transnational social movements without the fuel of technology, which would not be nearly as prominent and available in our world without globalization.

Now taking a look at the other side of globalization, we will explore some of its negative effects, including overpopulation and the growing inequality gap in addition to discussing how technology is also a negative effect of globalization.7 Beginning with overpopulation, globalization has played a huge role in not just overpopulation and migration but in minimizing the resources available to third world impoverished nations. For instance, after the population explosion of WWII raised the global population from 2 to 6 billion, problems regarding global population began to exponentially advance.8 When large numbers of impoverished people inhabit a nation, it is often that they find themselves under the control of a corrupt government. Thus, when the people that are supposed to be protecting them, particularly law enforcement, are in conspiracy with the enemy (such as transnational criminal organizations), citizens are not able to protect themselves against things such as enslavement, trafficking, discrimination, and several other forms of oppression and violence. This makes transnational social movements hopes of success increasingly more implausible. The more the population grows, the more people are likely to be subject to transnational violence and crime, creating a rewinding effect to their already small progress.

Since globalization is not rendering benefits to all nations equally, with Western and other industrialized nations receiving the most advantages, globalization becomes much more negative than positive. With that in mind, the second negative aspect of globalization is the growing economic inequality gap; the rich seem to be getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. This effect of globalization is viewed by most as a direct result of the unequal distribution of its benefits. With such inequality comes an increased amount of poverty, crime, structural violence (oppression), civil wars, governmental corruption, illiteracy, and fatality. To first expand on the effects of poverty, when the poor population of a nation grows, more people are forced, particularly women, to travel internationally for work in order to support their families. In turn, this makes them more vulnerable to being a victim of transnational crime. Also, when in times of immense need, “some parents will sell their children, not just for money but also in hope that the children will be escaping a situation of poverty and will move to a place offering more opportunities.”9 Unfortunately, whether through good intentions or not, those children often grow up without any education or social guidance. Without those, they become increasingly more likely to either become an instigator or a victim of violence (such as ethnic violence, trafficking, invasions, civil wars, etc.). This directly effects transnational social movements, especially those fighting forms of oppression and violence, because it is drastically increasing the amount of victims of such atrocities as trafficking and exploitation.

To further expand on the effects of governmental corruption caused by globalization, when a government is corrupt, the citizens of a nation have no one to trust. When a country’s citizens cannot even trust their own government, crime and structural violence become even more likely to occur. As such rates increase, civil wars, ethnic violence, or invasions often result, causing innocent civilians to lose their home, risk sexual assault or exploitation, lose their children (often to the recruitment into the army as child soldiers), or even die. Therefore, through these negative effects, globalization is breeding a domino effect, beginning with overpopulation, leading to poverty, influencing an increase in crime and governmental corruption, which in turn lead to structural violence, civil wars, and an increase in fatalities. Since they are placing such a great amount of people at risk for their human rights to be intrinsically violated, it is clear that none of these effects pose positive aspects for transnational social movements.

The last negative effect of globalization to be discussed is technology. Although there are also many positive attributes of technology, which were previously discussed, there are even more negative consequences associated with globalization and the technology revolution. For instance, according to Kevin Bales, “the technology and transformationalism that [inspires] the key globalized industries [permits] other types of [negative] activities, [such as] money laundering and trafficking, to assume a global scale.”10 On that note, technology has served as a primary vehicle in making local crimes national, national crimes transnational, and transnational crimes global phenomena, due to the window of opportunity it presents for instant and mass communication.  Although such aspects can also be positive, with the ability to communicate an infinite amount of information, whether true or false, to any amount of people in a matter of seconds creates a large, and almost alluring, invitation for new forms of manipulation.  Especially since the internet is public domain for anyone to post whatever they want, millions of people fall under the traps of con-artists and criminals, ending up as victims of fraud or future victims of trafficking, money laundering, or sexual or physical exploitation in a matter of one click. Not only does the internet serve as an opportunity for perpetrators to communicate with their future victims, but it also permits members within transnational crime organizations, such as the Taliban, to communicate with ease. Basically, although it has negative and positive effects, technology is known as something that has been fueled by globalization and, in turn, serves as a provider to a great deal of the manipulation and transnational crime in our world today.

Now I will begin expanding on why the global issue of human trafficking is so difficult to fight, by first emphasizing that, although I will be focusing on just one, there are many different types of trafficking. In my opinion, human trafficking (in all of its forms) is a prime example of how history can repeat itself or, in some cases, problems can continue to exist but are recognized as a different crime than in the past. For instance, human trafficking is often referred to as modern-day slavery. However, trafficking is not seen as identical to slavery, since it involves the possibility of many different things Before the Anti-Trafficking Protocol in 2000, “there was no international definition, making there no physical basis for research on the problem.”11 Now, a victim of human trafficking is commonly understood as someone who is taken against their will and forced to do certain things (such as prostitution or drug laundering) and be subject to things that often compromise the following plus more: their right to free will, right to freedom from slavery, torture, and other inhumane or degrading treatment, the right to freedom from discrimination, the right to human dignity, and the right to work in just conditions. However, that still leaves an incredible amount of room for ambiguity. With that being said, one of the biggest problems with being able to prevent human trafficking is that since there are so many avenues by which someone can be a victim of trafficking. Hence, people find it difficult to pinpoint the crime into specifics. With such a narrow focus placed on sex trafficking, sometimes the word “trafficking” is used incorrectly, directly referring to the transportation and sexual exploitation of victims (aka sex trafficking).12 Although it is definitely one of the most common types of trafficking, sex-trafficking should not be thought of as the only form of trafficking that is prevalent today. To help expand the spectrum, some forms of trafficking that are also current transnational issues are: trafficking for the purpose of agricultural work or other forced labor, drug trafficking, and weapon trafficking; each of which have millions of victims annually. Since attempting to tackle anti-tracking as a whole would be far too difficult to discuss all at once, although all forms of trafficking deserve global attention, this paper will specifically focus on sex-trafficking (spotlighting women and girls as victims) and the transnational social movements to fight it.

Now that the basic definitions and understandings of the various types of trafficking have been successfully established, I will continue discussing in more detail the severity of sex-trafficking, beginning with more aspects of sex-trafficking and why fighting it is so difficult, following with an expansion the anti-trafficking social movement in relation to globalization, spotlighting the issue as it takes place in India, and finishing with an exploration of the specific transnational social organization: Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW).  On that note, another one of the most detrimental aspects of the sex-trafficking phenomenon is that it is very difficult to determine how severe it actually is, so by default, we assume that it is drastically underestimated. To expand on this a little, although some people believe that NGOs have inflated statistics to influence anti-trafficking policies, based on current research on other forms of sexual assault and exploitation (such as rape), it is highly unlikely that the number of sex-trafficking victims is overestimated. One of the main reasons why it is so difficult to determine its severity is that it is extremely challenging to gain any information from former or current victims or traffickers. Furthermore, to create a secretive nature similar to other sexually-evasive crimes, traffickers employ certain tactics on their victims to prevent them from escaping or being found and reporting the crime. Sex-traffickers often threaten their victims with violence, deportation, or murder; force them to take an excessive amount of drugs (almost always causing addiction and often to the point of an overdose); or they just make them feel so ashamed about their body and who they’ve become, beating down their self-esteem, that the victims reach the point where they no longer desire to escape. As if that is not enough, traffickers will also take it upon themselves to do anything and everything to keep their victims hidden; since sex-trafficking is a crime in which “the victim is also the moneymaking ‘product,’ like that of a bag of cocaine that a drug trafficker would keep hidden at all costs,” sex-trafficking victims will be exhausted until they are deemed worthless and then disposed of.13 A lack of initiative on the part of the people can also be blamed for fueling the fire of sex-trafficking. Since a great deal of ambivalence surrounds the ideas behind prostitutes and undocumented immigrants (victims of sex-trafficking in disguise), people are slow to take action to protect them.14 With all of these aspects placing a blanket of disguise of sex-trafficking victims and statistics, the transnational social movements to end human trafficking live on with minor noticeable success.

Although this is an issue that takes place worldwide, I wanted to highlight the issue of sex-trafficking in India, as it is one of the world’s most prevalent countries for trafficking and slavery. Starting with some statistics, on a scale of 1-4, with 1 being low and 4 being very high, India ranks 4 in incidences of slavery, 3 as a destination country for trafficking, and 4 as a transit country for trafficking.  To better place things into perspective, “the number of slaves in India is estimated to be between 18 and 22 million,” more than any other country by nearly 10 million.15 Although this includes all forms of slavery and trafficking, not just sex-trafficking, but it is without a doubt that with those types of numbers millions of victims are being subject to sexual exploitation as well. Since India sufferers from a lot of globalization’s negative effects, the global consequences that were discussed earlier start to become more apparent.

For instance, India suffers immensely from overpopulation, governmental corruption, and poverty. As an example, it was reported on the website of the transnational social movement against sex-trafficking, CATW (to be discussed later on), that “top politicians and police officials in Bombay are in league with the mafia who control the sex industry, exchanging protection for cash payoffs. many politicians view prostitutes as an expendable commodity.”16 Although there have been minor signs of progress since, the UN Convention of the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation and the Prostitution of Others was in fact signed by India.17 In terms of the future, efforts to rehabilitate victims and prevent future victims of sex-trafficking are squandered by the lack of support from the Indian citizens and their government. Like all other places where this phenomenon is most prevalent, India needs to raise public awareness on the issue of sex-trafficking and accepting that its negative effects not only influence the Indian population but the world as a whole.

Now that we have seen how devastating sex-trafficking can be in just one country, it should be clear that the issue is an even larger problem when looked at from a global perspective. Thus, I am going to delve into the details of the CATW, the first non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting women’s rights by internationally combating sexual exploitation in all of its forms.18 Within exploring the organization as a transnational movement, I am going to discuss its direct affiliations with globalization. Before evaluating the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, it is important that two other examples of effort set forth to combat trafficking are briefly mentioned; the first being the Anti-Slavery Society and the second (which was already previously mentioned) being the Anti-Trafficking Protocol. It is critical to recognize that since the Anti-Slavery Society was before globalization became a global concern, the organization was primarily located within the state political system, never reaching international borders.19 Clearly this has changed, since several if not most anti-trafficking organizations today are transnational. However, the goals of the movement have not changed since pre-globalization, just the ways in which the goals are sought to be achieved. For example, the goal of the Anti-Slavery Society was to “bring about public redefinition of slavery as a moral issue, not locally, but globally,” which is the goal of anti-trafficking organizations today, such as the CATW. The only difference is that with the internet and other technological avenues, public awareness is spread easier and faster. Unfortunately, the issue has not improved much since the times of the Anti-Slavery Society because although technology makes for easier communication, as previously discussed, it also makes for easier manipulation and, therefore, more victims. In terms of the Anti-Trafficking Protocol of 2000, besides establishing a more formal definition of trafficking, it also helped the world to recognize that “trafficking [is] a transnational crime requiring a transnational solution, and that globalization and new technologies [have] created new opportunities for criminal organizations.”20

With inspiration from the Anti-Slavery Society and the Anti-Trafficking Protocol, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (or CATW), founded in 1988, dominates the international scene today as the most “vocal and best known organization” for advocating for women’s rights, particularly in the form of anti-sex-trafficking campaigns.21 As a leading organization, the CATW has successfully set up worldwide networking against sex-trafficking and prostitution through their major world regions in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. They also have national coalitions in over fifteen countries, including the Philippines, Thailand, Venezuela, the United States, Canada, and France. For an organization that is primarily anti-globalization (or at least against the negative effects of globalization), they use the internet in a lot of their work. Aspects such as communication between members, spreading awareness, and recruiting supporters, are all immensely aided by the internet and the use of cell phones. However, the CATW has alternative forms of such communication, such as through their presence at events similar to the World Social Forum, as well as, through word of mouth.22 In addition, CATW works with national and international policy makers, women’s rights and human rights advocates, national congress, and regional and UN committees and commissions.23 ? At a more local level, the CATW strives to educate young boys and girls in schools throughout various parts of the world by training teachers, police, and governmental officials about the harms of sexual exploitation and ways to resist and combat it.24 Thus, with its goals, methods of discourse, recruitment, and techniques, it is clear that the CATW is a very well established transnational social movement; one that seems to be fighting globalization but, at the same time, could not be nearly as successful without it. Hence, this movement can definitely be thought of as an example of globalization from below; in other words, “a reaction to the effects of neoliberal globalization and an exemplar of the transnational and collective action” used to combat it in the form of NGOs, social movements, and civil society organizations.25

In conclusion, it should now be without question that trafficking (particularly sex trafficking) is an immense and growing problem in the globalized world; one that has been helped, but mostly hindered, by the inevitable effects of globalization. Due to the unequal distribution of the its benefits, overpopulation, poverty and crime caused by globalization lead to governmental corruption, causing oppression, structural violence, famine, civil wars, and in particular, atrocious violations of human rights such as sex-trafficking. Before closing, I want to address the fact that many people, particularly citizens of wealthy Western nations, argue that trafficking is only a phenomenon in impoverished and third world countries and that it does not, in fact, place us at risk. On that note, it needs to be known that “since organized criminal groups are alleged to dominate trafficking, it is seen as a [serious] security threat to Western countries.”26 Furthermore, the US is also a very popular destination country for trafficking; just because it is not as severe as it is in countries such as India and Thailand does not mean that it does not exist. Therefore, as citizens of what is arguably the most powerful nation in the world, we cannot ignore our opportunity to make a difference in the fight to end sexual exploitation and other forms of trafficking. As seen in other arenas besides trafficking, globalization can transform local issues into global phenomena very rapidly, so although trafficking may not be as prevalent in the US as it is in developing countries, there is no way of knowing when that might change.  Globalization has been known to have no boundaries, making the actions of each country have direct negative effects on the rest of the world. With that being said, I hope to have inspired people to become involved in an anti-trafficking organization, such as the CATW, or to somehow join the global movement to end sex-trafficking and other forms of trafficking, not only in third world countries but worldwide.  As the great Gandhi once said, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”27

Works Cited
Bales, Kevin. Understanding Global Slavery: a Reader. Berkeley [u.a.: Univ. of California, [20].        Print. 2005.
“Coalition Against Human Trafficking in Women.” Human Trafficking-Trafficking of        Humans-Coalition Against Trafficking of Women. Web. 18 May 2010. .
Human Trafficking Statistics. Polaris Project. Web. 18 May 2010.        .
Kyle, David, and Rey Koslowski. Global Human Smuggling: Comparative Perspectives.       Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2001. Print.
Moghadam, Valentine M. Globalization and Social Movements: Islamism, Feminism, and      Global Justice Movement. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009. Print.?Sen, Amartya. “How to Judge Globalism.” The American Prospect. Web. 18 May 2010.    .

Kelly Dona (2011)

Peace Studies & French

Along with being a part of the Honors Program, Kelly Dona will be graduating this May 2011with a double major in French and Peace Studies. After graduation, she hopes to volunteer with the Peace Corps and then pursue a Master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies.

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