The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog


Human Trafficking: Accepting a Necessary Evil?

Posted in Internal Conflicts and Human Security by NTSblog on September 16, 2010
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States and societies in Asia face significant challenges in addressing root causes of poverty. Low socio-economic living conditions enhance the susceptibility of vulnerable sections of society to human trafficking. The situation for individuals is worsened when governing authorities are weak or unwilling to address these deficiencies. Whilst in Asia, enforcement authorities have made progress in reflecting the understanding that those subjected to trafficking experience incapacitated autonomy to make decisions, negative societal perceptions largely inhibit reintegration of victims into societies.

The tendency of human trafficking syndicates to thrive on the extreme vulnerabilities of individuals was recently indicated, in connection to the humanitarian crisis in Pakistan due to the floods this July. Human trafficking was alerted as a parallel crisis, especially in Sindh province. The province has been a hub for human trafficking and the floods have increased the vulnerabilities of those susceptible, mainly women and children. Within Southeast Asia, the Rohingya people, were recently reported subjected to trafficking at the hands of collaborating border officials and trafficking syndicates. The Rohingya are originally from Myanmar, and also experienced a natural disaster, Cyclone Nargis in 2008. The Rohingya are easier targets for trafficking syndicates due to their ‘statelessness’.

Effectiveness of anti-human trafficking measures is compromised by several factors including;

Data collection is challenging, due to the ‘underground’ nature of the trade. In ASEAN, efforts are being taken to address this. The United States’ Department of State report on Trafficking in Persons 2010, assesses trends from rates of prosecutions, convictions and victims identified in countries where such data is available. Below are figures on Asia;

East Asia and Pacific
Year Prosecutions Convictions Victims Identified Prosecutions Convictions Victims Identified
2004 438 348 2764 1541
2005 2580 2347 1041 406
2006 1321 763 629 275
2007 1047 651 824 298
2008 1083 643 3374 644 342 3510
2009 357 256 5238 1989 1450 8325
All Countries in Tier 2, Tier 2 watch list and Tier 3 except Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and South Korea

 

East Asia and Pacific
Year Prosecutions Convictions Victims Identified Prosecutions Convictions Victims Identified
2004 438 348 2764 1541
2005 2580 2347 1041 406
2006 1321 763 629 275
2007 1047 651 824 298
2008 1083 643 3374 644 342 3510
2009 357 256 5238 1989 1450 8325
All Countries in Tier 2, Tier 2 watch list and Tier 3 except Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and South Korea

Source: United States’ Department of State

Wide publicity and intervention by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has allowed prosecutions against Rohingya persons to be reconsidered in relation to their political status. However, Sindh females caught in sex trafficking rings are prone to being criminalised for prostitution based on Islamic ‘hudood’ laws on fornication and adultery, without screening for evidence of trafficking.

The region in general is moving away from criminalizing victims. ASEAN mechanisms and Pakistani authorities have both acknowledged the detrimental effects of policies based on criminalisation. They have incorporated specific provisions, underpinning anti-human trafficking laws, which emphasise the need to determine the background and needs of those apprehended in trafficked situations.

Whilst advances to address data deficiencies and criminalisation of victims to trafficking are encouraging, the stigma experienced by those trafficked within society remains. This hampers their ability to reintegrate into their host societies. For the Rohingya, they experience the additional bias of not belonging to the host country. Effectiveness of anti-human trafficking efforts depend on the prospects victims see within societies. Therefore, much of it depends on the ability of state authorities to adapt societal perceptions and raise acceptance amongst local communities through awareness raising and education initiatives, which may be led by community organizations.

East Asia and Pacific

Year

Prosecutions

Convictions

Victims Identified

Prosecutions

Convictions

Victims Identified

2004

438

348

2764

1541

2005

2580

2347

1041

406

2006

1321

763

629

275

2007

1047

651

824

298

2008

1083

643

3374

644

342

3510

2009

357

256

5238

1989

1450

8325

All Countries in Tier 2, Tier 2 watch list and Tier 3 except Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and South Korea

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