The contentious discourse over human exploitation has been in the political radar, more prominently so in the 21st century. Indubitably, greed and money are the main driving forces of human exploitation, which includes sex slavery, forced labour or drug trafficking, among others. Needless to say, despite the burgeoning number of human rights violations by myopic self-interest groups, efforts have been made to eradicate this problem. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), for instance, was established in 1997 to offer a panacea to the seemingly endless number of human exploitations plaguing impoverished groups. Yet, why do we still witness the brutal mistreatment of these groups although governments have acknowledged this problem? The answer lies with the systemic and structural faults in some countries that impede their quest for the elimination of human exploitation. Therefore, I provisionally opine that the world has certainly not done enough to address the problem of human exploitation.
It is imperative for us to first acknowledge that the efforts to address this issue do not tackle the root cause of the problem, which lies in the fundamental faults in the governance in some countries. Many of the current efforts to this problem are merely ‘guides’ or ‘recommendations’ from the UN, and little efforts are made to analyze the corruption present in governments, or the government’s constant desire to pursue economic growth at the expense of the rights of the vulnerable. For instance, despite the sanctions mandated by the UN to criminalize perpetrators of sex trafficking in Thailand, little is being done to arrest them as government officials in Thailand often accept bribes, because sex slavery produces an annual income of between 22.5 and 27 billion dollars. High-level staff members at the Belgian and French embassies in Bulgaria were found to be issuing numerous visas, often to prostitutes in return for payment. These two episodes prove that there is a strong correlation between corruption in governance – which arises when there are inadequate legislatures in place to firmly enforce laws, and human exploitation. Certainly, not enough has been done to arrest this problem if there are inherent political faults in countries that would inevitably deem these efforts by the UN as futile. Thus, as long as there are economic gains to be reaped from human exploitation, efforts to tackle human trafficking are certainly not enough because of the inherent desire of corrupt countries to maximize economic growth.
We have also not done enough to address human exploitation because many efforts are aimed at arresting perpetrators, but fail to, again, address the root cause of the problem by understanding why the victims fell prey to this trade in the first place. Many of the victims of human trafficking are often victims of civil wars in their own country and are forced to leave their countries. Inevitably, they are trafficked across borders. This is best manifested in the ongoing Syrian war that has led to a surge in human trafficking. The European Migration Crisis has led to 15,846 victims of human trafficking in 2014. More than two-thirds of people were trafficked into sex work and about one-fifth were put into forced labour. It is thus conclusive that these victims were forced into human exploitation because of their misfortunes in their home countries. As long as efforts to address human exploitation are solely aimed at border protection, without a concrete plan on how to address the plight of the victims, such as civil wars which are often hard to mitigate, I believe that there have not been enough efforts to firmly address human trafficking.
Upon hindsight, one could also agree that not enough has been done to address human trafficking because regardless of the efforts in place, the problem is further exacerbated by false depictions and misinformation by the media. Efforts will thus always be inadequate insofar as the media continues to alter people’s mindsets by misrepresenting the situation at hand. After all, the media is a profit-motivated business and would do anything to increase their viewership. For instance, in 2004, MTV released a new reality television called Pimp My Ride. While the show itself did not promote the pimp lifestyle, simply naming the show as they did begins to normalize the word ‘pimp’ and gives a misrepresentation of the definition of the word, which is defined as a man who controls prostitutes. Thus, such actions by the media gives people the false impression that such human violations are simple a ‘joke’, when in reality they are real problems faced by the susceptible. As such, regardless of the campaigns to educate people on this predicament, enough will never be done because of how the media treats this issue lightly.
The natural corollary to the aforementioned arguments would be for apologists to contend that while we have largely not done enough to address the problem of human exploitation, it must be acknowledged that efforts by international bodies have been done to tackle this issue. The UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UNGIFT) aims to mobilize state and non-state actors to eradicate human trafficking by reducing both the vulnerability of potential victims and the demand for exploitation in all its forms. Besides such initiatives by the UN, efforts have also been made to increase public awareness of human exploitation to encourage people to work with non-profit organisations via donations to provide aid to the victims of human trafficking, thus addressing the problem. For instance, activists such as Andrea Powell, executive director of Fair Girls, a non-profit group based in Washington, have redoubled their efforts by expanding operations and seeking more funding. In 2013, with the help of public funding, she built a specialized victim housing. Celebrities such as Jada Pinkett Smith, head of Don’t Sell Bodies, have started organizations to address human exploitation. Vis-a-vis the above examples, one may conclude that we have surely done enough to address human exploitation. Undoubtedly, we have, but subscribing to this view entirely would be naive. This is because it is hard to change the ingrained mindsets of traffickers who solely want to reap private benefits. These traffickers often lure victims by offering high prices, but later break their promise, and the victims have no choice but to comply because of the fear of being persecuted. Moreover, traffickers also often work in groups and spread themselves out across the country, so it would be physically difficult for authorities to arrest them. Hence, while we made commendable efforts to tackle this global issue, it would be skewed to say that we have done enough because of the sheer scale of this problem and the fact that traffickers are innately individualistic.
To sum it all up, the issue of human exploitation is a multi-faceted one and there can never be a single solution that tackles this problem because it stems from a variety of root causes. Addressing these root causes is a sine quo non towards the eradication of human exploitation. Until these can be achieved, I stand firmly by the notion that we have not done enough to address human exploitation.