As per an International Labour Organization report, there are approximately 40 million victims of human trafficking globally. From full grown adults to their organs, there is a market for everything. Farm hands, sex workers, child laborers and even essential body parts like kidneys and lungs are a common offering on sale. Often duped under the pretenses of a better life or kidnapped, victims are moved across states and borders to be sold to the highest bidder. Countries like India, China, Bangladesh, Russia, Algeria and Nepal are markets that have been facilitating the trade. Due to lack of data, it is hard to estimate the value of the industry. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates the trade to be worth around $150 million. In a time where money rules the world, it is not hard to understand why the industry flourishes.
1. Limitless Supply
With countries like India and China experiencing a population burst, the market is flooded with ‘goods’. With more and more people living in poverty, it has become easier to source the supply. Many prefer a life as a slave or a bonded labor instead of starving to death. People often put themselves up for sale in exchange for food, clothing and shelter. Families with too many mouths to feed sometimes sell their children, often girls to lessen the financial burden.
When people from the lower income groups face sudden and unexpected financial troubles, they turn to any possible means to raise cash. A quick way to do this is to participate in organ trade. Approximately, 200,000 people require kidney transplants, out of this a mere 7,000 people are lucky enough to find a donor via the donor list or receive a donation from a family member or friend. This scarcity of legitimate donors forms the backbone of the market. Kidneys being the most sought-after product, fetch up to as much as Rs. 1,00,000. With the ever-increasing population living below poverty line, this market is expected to witness growth.
Refugees trying to escape war-torn lands and economically backward countries usually get trapped into the trade. With very little risk and high profits, they are a priced commodity. Women and children escaping from countries like Bangladesh usually end up in places like Kamathipura in Mumbai.
2. High Demand
It is estimated that there are around 10 million commercial sex workers in India. Globally, the human trafficking industry has gone from $44 million to a staggering $150 million in less than 10 years with the Asian subcontinent being in the forefront. In a market where sex can be purchased for as little as Rs. 200, the demand is ever increasing.
Farm labor, bricklaying, construction, fishing and rice harvesting are some of the sectors that are heavily supported by bonded labor. Some of the laborers are paid a mere Rs. 40 ($0.59) for a week’s hard work. Farm owners and contractors can save up to Rs. 60,000 in salaries a year per worker. This makes bonded labor the preferred choice over salaried employees.
A majority of these bonded laborers are children. Kite manufacturers, fireworks factories, hand-embroidered clothing and silk refiners are some of the usual industries to exploit children. This is because children are easier to train and control, making them an efficient workforce. With around 33 million children employed in child labour, this makes for a profitable business.
3. Huge Profit Margins
Human trafficking for sex trade has seen tremendous growth over the last few decades. The reason behind this is simple; high profits from low investments. According to a report suggests that traffickers have as much as a 70% margin in the trade. Children purchased for as little as Rs. 5000 fetch up-to 10 times in the flesh market. This colossal profit margin plays a huge factor in the growth of this trade, motivating middlemen and pimps to participate more than ever. Women, many of them who are minors, are often sold and forced into marriage. Child brides often sell for anywhere between Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 5,00,000. The ‘brokers’ take a significant chunk of the money, sharing as little as Rs. 1,000 with the bride’s family.
4. Big Resale Value
Sex workers are often traded like livestock. Enslaved sex workers are traded from one brothel to another, sometimes as many as 15 times during their lifetime. Women enslaved for household help and hospitality are sold to brothels at the end of their prime. This allows pimps to get a good ‘disposal valve’ for their ‘goods’. In states with lower sex ratios, brides derive higher value. Men looking for younger brides often sell for their previous wives. Brides fetch as much as up-to Rs. 50,000 in the market. This monetary incentive is a huge plus point for the trade.
According to a report by Al-Jazeera, a 12-year-old was sold off to a man in his 70s. Three years later when he died, she was resold to an abuser. Cases like this are common where women are sold over and over again, making their dealers an abundance of money.
5. Great Trade Laws
While the United Nations framed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 with the goal to put an end to slavery and exploitation; giving every individual equal rights and opportunities, it has clearly not achieved its goals so far. While most countries including India have tough laws against human trafficking and sexual exploitation, the system fails to implement them efficiently. Corruption is a leading factor promoting the growth of human trafficking. Police officials are often found to be in bed with traffickers and brothel owners, getting a significant cut out of the profits. With such incentives being offered to law enforcement, it is hard to fight the nexus.
While law enforcement and non-governmental organizations have worked for decades to fight the human trafficking industry, the monetary benefit serves as a solid growth supplement.