Most secret shocked report about the new global slave trade part 4 At the source
Such a claim may sound needlessly provocative. It certainly flies in the face of statements made by many European o⁄cials who argue that it would su⁄ce to tackle the demand side of slavery by legalizing prostitution in the industrial world, which would supposedly reduce human tra⁄cking by curbing the demand for slaves, or who argue that the supply side should be addressed by promoting economic development and growth in poor countries. It also runs counter to statements by un o⁄cials, who generally focus on the need to strengthen the 2000 protocol—for example, by educating police o⁄cers and prosecutors about its content.
The problem is that none of these measures will work. The demand-side approach has already been tried—most famously by the
, which legalized prostitution in October 2000.The Dutch government has explicitly stated that its legalization of sex work was meant to facilitate “action against sexual violence and abuse and human tra⁄cking.” The idea was that once brothels were permitted and regulated, the police would be better able “to pick up signs of human tra⁄cking” and prevent it. Netherlands
But the Dutch strategy has not achieved much. Sex slaves have continued to enter the black market, providing their services at lower prices than those charged by prostitutes in the o⁄cially sanctioned red-light district. The slaves work in areas such as railroad stations and on those streets that are oª-limits to legal prostitutes, and they attract clients who are too poor to pay o⁄cial prices. The police, meanwhile, have proved no more able than in the past to stop such practices.
—a country usually known for its relaxed attitudes toward sexuality—has taken the opposite tack, criminalizing the buying of sex. Since 1999, when this new law was introduced, some 750 men in Sweden have been charged with seeking to purchase the services of a prostitute, a crime punishable by up to six months in jail. The Swedish government claims that this policy has greatly reduced the number of prostitutes working the country’s streets— although it is possible that the law has merely driven Sweden ’s prostitutes and their clients deeper underground. Sweden
Other countries have followed
’s lead to varying degrees, especially penalizing those who prey on underage sex workers. Sweden
Some states have even extended their laws to acts committed by their citizens while abroad.
France, for example, has played a leading role in prosecuting “sex tourists,” who seek pleasure in countries such as . The eªects of such policies have yet to be measured su⁄ciently, but even if laws criminalizing the buying of sex could make a dent in the tra⁄cking of humans into the industrial world— changing the demand side of the equation—they would remain half measures given the number of people traded into slavery each year. Thailand
For example, all the prosecutions in the
to date have only led to the release of a few hundred victims of slavery. More action is therefore also needed on the supply side. United States
Many policymakers have suggested that promoting economic growth in developing countries should be the next step, since this would supposedly eliminate slavery by providing potential victims with an alternative. But economic growth alone will not stop this plague, at least not anytime soon. It will take a huge amount of progress before citizens of the developing world stop being tempted by the prospect of a good job in a rich country. And it is far from clear how such progress should be achieved; it would certainly be unrealistic to expect the industrial world to provide enough aid to make up the diªerence itself.
It is also important to remember that slavery today seems to thrive in some parts of the world because of economic growth, not despite it. In the
Middle East, for example, the demand for young camel jockeys has increased as more people have gained the means to bet on races and as the stakes have increased. In fact, the history of slavery provides little evidence to suggest that economic growth could help end it anywhere.
Rather than seek complicated and distant solutions, governments should focus on a few concrete actions that could have a real impact on human tra⁄cking in the short run. An excellent way to start would be with the naming and shaming of traders and the governments that support them.
has already gone further than any other country in this direction with its annual Trafficking in Persons Report. United States
But few people seem aware of the document, and the Bush administration—and the mass media—should do much more to publicize its findings. Reputation matters in today’s global economy, and a reputation for harboring criminals is something no state wants.
Naming and shaming can also work in other parts of the globe.For example, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has recently started putting pressure on
Myanmar both through quiet diplomacy and through drawing greater public attention to the government’s dismal human rights record. This policy seems to be working; even military juntas want respect, and Myanmar ’s leaders seem to recognize that since they rely heavily on tourism for their supply of foreign currency, bad press in foreign papers could inflict real material damage on their country. Myanmar
Next, wealthy states need to do a better job of confronting countries on the State Department’s Tier 2 and Tier 3 lists, imposing economic sanctions on them if they do not act to ban human tra⁄cking. The eu should put pressure on accession candidates, such as
Bulgaria and Romania, and on member states, such as Latvia and , that allow slavery to continue or take inadequate measures to stop it. After all, the eu sometimes exacts penalties on member states that fail to meet their commitments in many other areas, such as industrial policy; surely, there is an even stronger case to be made where slavery is involved. For its part, the United States must not allow its focus on the war on terrorism to distract it from acting on this issue.Washington has allowed too many states—especially oil producers, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia—to get away with too much for too long. Under the tvpa, the United States already has the authority to impose economic sanctions on states that fail to act against the slave trade.The Bush administration should also remember that governments that allow this scourge to thrive are unlikely to be reliable allies when it comes to other problems that concern the United States. Portugal
To complement sanctions,Western states should also empower their police, intelligence, and military forces to act much more aggressively against those who tra⁄c in humans. Just as force was ultimately needed to halt the slave trade in the nineteenth century, so will force be necessary in some cases today. Current international treaties on slavery do not authorize the use of force against slavers, but bilateral agreements should be strengthened to allow such measures. The tvpa already provides funds to support international cooperation against slavery.
When it is next reauthorized by Congress, in 2007, lawmakers should add provisions explicitly stating that such cooperation should extend to military and intelligence forces.
It is worth remembering that in the nineteenth century many people argued that slavery would end “naturally” once the practice was no longer economically profitable. But historians now agree that since slavery remained extremely profitable until the day it was abolished, such an end was unlikely ever to come. If this was true in the past, it is even more true today, since the costs associated with the slave trade have shrunk so dramatically. As long as slavers continue to face only mild penalties from a handful of countries—and none from the rest—they can be expected to continue their work, undermining in the process the legal and ethical foundations of the global economy. If the United States and some of its European partners wish to halt modern slavery, they will have to use their power to do so, just as the Royal Navy halted the Atlantic slave trade on the high seas in the nineteenth century.There is no “natural” end to slavery in sight, and any productive policy must start by recognizing that fact.
The time has come to tackle the slave trade once and for all, in the interest of not only the people most directly aªected but the broader public as well. As usual when it comes to politics, Abraham Lincoln said it best: “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free.” Halt the global slave trade today, and all citizens of the world will benefit. Allow the practice to continue, and all will ultimately suªer.