In trying to work out what has gone wrong — and what we could be doing differently — it is useful to critically examine some of the basic assumptions on which the anti-trafficking movement is built. They are coerced into fighting wars, giving up their organs, marrying into servitude, or acting as commercial surrogates. Presenting our data as better than it really is smacks of hubris and overreach. Few public figures speaking on this issue have resisted the temptation to cite trafficking statistics that are at best unverifiable and at worst demonstrably false.
States and the international community must be prepared to admit this and commit to finding out what is going so terribly wrong. We need to get the criminal justice part of the response right. In trying to work out what has gone wrong — and what we could be doing differently — it is useful to critically examine some of the basic assumptions on which the anti-trafficking movement is built. In fact, there is a real risk that the current obsession will deflect precious time, energy and resources away from the grindingly difficult, less glamorous tasks we know very well are critical to making a difference. By encouraging or compelling corporations to open up their supply chains to external scrutiny, we are forcing them to take responsibility — while also giving consumers the information they need to make more ethical choices. The recent exposure of slave labour in the Thai seafood sector for example, led to pressure being placed on multinationals such as Costco and Walmart to clean up their supply chain. First, however much we would wish otherwise, the structure of the global economy makes it impossible to secure transparency and accountability in deep supply chains where much exploitation takes place. Second, most, if not all, of the informal service economy — including the highly vulnerable domestic service sector as well as forced marriage — will continue to be out of reach. Pressuring underdeveloped, often corrupt states to improve their dismal prosecution rates as is official US policy contributes directly to serious miscarriages of justice. As the numbers show, even the most advanced criminal justice systems experience great difficulty securing convictions for these complex offences. It makes sense that international and national frameworks to address trafficking prioritize prosecution and punishment. The consequences of not doing enough to prosecute exploiters are stark and shameful: Few public figures speaking on this issue have resisted the temptation to cite trafficking statistics that are at best unverifiable and at worst demonstrably false. Without being able to paint a clear picture of the size of the trafficking problem, it is difficult to attract attention, to solicit money, to show how well we are doing. Funding for programmes aimed at fighting trafficking has never been more abundant. In a radical shift of the legal landscape, the overwhelming majority of countries have, over the past decade, criminalised trafficking. But the significant limitations in this approach are ignored by the growing army of supply chain disciples. The usual complications of measuring hidden populations and hidden economies are compounded, in this case, by the sheer breadth of the phenomenon and the lack of universally accepted diagnostic criteria and credible tools of measurement. But last year, just over 9, convictions worldwide were reported. But progress against human exploitation has been painfully slow, despite the vast investment of political capital, resources and expertise. Someone involved in moving that person into exploitation, or keeping them there against their will, is very likely a trafficker. Trying to improve our understanding of what is happening, where and to whom is a worthwhile endeavour. Explore the latest strategic trends, research and analysis Human trafficking is subject to complicated legal definitions, but the essence of this crime is straightforward: Addressing supply chains must be part of any comprehensive attack on exploitation, but it is no silver bullet. Our best option is to scrap these expensive and time-consuming attempts to come up with new and better figures. They are coerced into fighting wars, giving up their organs, marrying into servitude, or acting as commercial surrogates. Prosecution works Mostly wrong Trafficking and related forms of exploitation might be social and economic problems, but they are also crimes.
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Exposing the economics of sex trafficking in the U.S.
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