International Studies – Blog #2
The world wide web, in conjunction with what’s known as modern day slavery, is exactly that: world wide. Unlike the slave trade dating back to the 1600’s, whose path could be easily mapped out, the 21st century poses a challenging and far reaching problem. The 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) stated that, “Given the complex nature of human trafficking, it is difficult to amass reliable data to document local, regional, and global prevalence.” Regardless, it’s safe to say that the geography of modern day slavery manifests itself in two different ways: across physical borders, as well as internet locations. The internet has made “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, and obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act … both across and within state and international borders” accessible at the click of a button. If a map were to be drawn out, and lines connected to all the locations of human trafficking, we would be left with an impossible web of networks to follow.
Despite the laborious task of pinpointing the exact whereabouts of internet trafficking activity, it is clear that women and children are at high risk. More specifically, women and children in underdeveloped, war torn, or vulnerable locations. The map below shows this, in that the countries at greatest risk are in the Middle East and Russia. On the home front, “online ads currently compose the largest resource for accessing trafficked women and children in the United States.” The TIP Report published by the United States stated that, “Child sex tourists travel to foreign countries—including Cambodia, Costa Rica, The Gambia, and the Philippines— to prey on children.” These ‘tourists’ then exploit their victims through child pornography and online ads for customers to purchase a ‘date.’ The report also shared a story that took place in the United States: “Nina ran away from home at age 14. She met a woman who put her up in a hotel room and brought her “clients.” For the next 13 years, Nina had 20 different pimps who advertised her for sex on the internet and abused her verbally and physically.” As you can see, human trafficking happens all across the globe and in a variety of ways, but no matter the route, it always ends in destruction.
Unfortunately, the destruction is suffered by the victims more times than the perpetrators. The internet has made it increasingly easy for trafficking agencies and pimps to get away with their horrendous crimes, because of an idea known as the crime displacement theory. Just as refugees being displaced from compromised locations, traffickers displace their business to different online locations when a particular website has been identified by the police. An academic article written in the Contemporary Justice Review said that, “when law enforcement personnel focus their crime preventative efforts in specific areas, a practice known as hot spot policing, criminals will either move their criminal activities elsewhere or change their strategies completely.” Geography is clearly on the side of the criminals, and makes it arduous to stop them.
The TIP Report stated that, “Human trafficking occurs in virtually every country in the world and often crosses borders when victims move between source, transit, and destination countries.” Where geography used to refer to the study of people, their environment and resources in physical locations, the human trafficking industry has given the word a whole new realm of study. Traffickers are not only present in physical location and place, but record movement across the globe via the internet. This expanse of criminal activity makes it very difficult to pin point exact regions of origin, as well as putting an end to the human trafficking industry. The world wide web has become an imperative resource, and perpetrators of trafficking use this new realm of geography to their advantage.
Department of State. (n.d.). Trafficking in Persons Report (United States, U.S. Department of State, Diplomacy in Action). Retrieved February 15, 2017, from https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/258876.pdf.
Heil, E., & Nichols, A. (2014). Hot spot trafficking: a theoretical discussion of the potential problems associated with targeted policing and the eradication of sex trafficking in the United States. Contemporary Justice Review, 17(4), 421-433. doi:10.1080/10282580.2014.980966