In the last post I talked about economics theory. Specifically, I pointed to the idea that if there is a demand, there will be a supply. There is, however, more to this than simply meets the eye.
In the counter trafficking movement, much of the work being done has been to control the supply side of things. Education outreach to villages encourages raised awareness of the risk of trafficking thus reducing the amount of people who will be duped into it. Vocational training and keeping kids in school projects work to increase the economic viability of at-risk populations making them less susceptible to traffickers. Economic development through asset-building and micro-loan programs have likewise made less people vulnerable. Increasing the security at international borders has increased the number of individuals caught before crossing and thus saved from an unknown future.
But, in reality, a lot of what this is doing is to decrease (but not eliminate) the supply and do nothing to the demand. With a smaller supply and a constant demand, the profitability of human trafficking is actually going up. Those traffickers who have found ways to traffic people and get them successfully to their destinations, are making more money then they were in the past. Admittedly, this is hardly working as a deterrent
Human trafficking is tied with illegal arms trade as the second biggest illegal criminal industry in the world—and it is the fastest growing.
In order to curtail this, counter-trafficking programs and governments need to start focusing not just on the supply side, but also on two other key points:
- Decrease demand
- Increase penalties
If we decrease the demand for slave labor, beggars, prostitutes, etc., then the trafficking rings will have nowhere to sell their “goods” (aka human beings). If they have nowhere to sell the people to and profitability falls, they will go out of business.
On the penalty side, there are not enough disincentives to either be a trafficker or to use the service of trafficked people. For example, in many places it is illegal to be a prostitute, but not illegal to be a pimp or a john. The legal system, thus, punishes victims of trafficking (prostitutes) but does not adequately punish those who have trafficked them (unless there is a solid case of trafficking) or those who have bought their services.
Even in places where traffickers are prosecuted, often the punishment in terms of money and time in jail is not on-par with that of trafficking illegal drugs or weapons. Therefore, with the penalties being less and the goods being re-sellable, it is an obvious and smart choice for criminal networks to get involved in human trafficking as opposed to drug or arms sales.