Definitions of Trafficking

LIFT International was founded to strategically address - through investigations, aftercare and legal support - the crime of sex trafficking. Within that scope, our teams have been referred to diverse cases of exploitation. We have worked on cases of debt bondage of Ugandan women brought to Bangkok and sold for sex to pay off their debts. We have helped law enforcement to remove children trafficked for sex in brothels, karaoke bars, and online. We identified children being forced to beg that had been trafficked. We also saw a case of a woman trafficked for sex and labor on a farm simultaneously. The lives of victims of trafficking don’t always fall under strict definitions. However, it does help to understand various legal categories of trafficking so that we can identify and stop them. Laws must be strengthened, law enforcement must be trained and technologies must be deployed to bring freedom through justice for victims of all forms of trafficking and exploitation.

These definitions are taken straight from the 2018 U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report:

Sex Trafficking

When an adult engages in a commercial sex act, such as prostitution, as the result of force, threats of force, fraud, coercion, or any combination of such means, that person is a victim of trafficking. Under such circumstances, perpetrators involved in recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for that purpose are guilty of sex trafficking of an adult. Sex trafficking also may occur through a specific form of coercion whereby individuals are compelled to continue in prostitution through the use of unlawful “debt,” purportedly incurred through their transportation, recruitment, or even their “sale”—which exploiters insist they must pay off before they can be free. Even if an adult initially consents to engage in commercial sex, it is irrelevant: if an adult, after consenting, is subsequently held in service through psychological manipulation or physical force, he or she is a trafficking victim and should receive benefits outlined in the Palermo Protocol and applicable domestic laws.

Child Sex Trafficking

When a child (under 18 years of age) is recruited, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, patronized, or solicited for the purpose of a commercial sex act, proving force, fraud, or coercion is not necessary for the offense to be prosecuted as human trafficking. There are no exceptions to this rule: no cultural or socioeconomic rationalizations alter the fact that children who are exploited in prostitution are trafficking victims. The use of children in the commercial sex industry is prohibited under U.S. law and by statute in most countries around the world. Sex trafficking has devastating consequences for children, including long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and even death.

Forced Labor

Forced labor, sometimes also referred to as labor trafficking, encompasses the range of activities—recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining—involved when a person uses force or physical threats, psychological coercion, abuse of the legal process, deception, or other coercive means to compel someone to work. Once a person’s labor is obtained by such means, the person’s prior consent to work for an employer is legally irrelevant: the employer is a trafficker and the employee a trafficking victim. Migrants are particularly vulnerable to this form of human trafficking, but individuals also may be forced into labor in their own countries. Female victims of forced or bonded labor, especially women and girls in domestic servitude, are often sexually abused or exploited as well.

Bonded Labor or Debt Bondage

One form of coercion used by traffickers in both sex trafficking and forced labor is the imposition of a bond or debt. Some workers inherit debt; for example, in South Asia it is estimated that there are millions of trafficking victims working to pay off their ancestors’ debts. Others fall victim to traffickers or recruiters who unlawfully exploit an initial debt assumed, wittingly or unwittingly, as a term of employment.

Traffickers, labor agencies, recruiters, and employers in both the country of origin and the destination country can contribute to debt bondage by charging workers recruitment fees and exorbitant interest rates, making it difficult, if not impossible, to pay off the debt. Such circumstances may occur in the context of employment-based temporary work programs in which a worker’s legal status in the destination country is tied to the employer so workers fear seeking redress.

Domestic Servitude

Involuntary domestic servitude is a form of human trafficking found in distinct circumstances—work in a private residence—that create unique vulnerabilities for victims. It is a crime in which a domestic worker is not free to leave his or her employment and is abused and underpaid, if paid at all. Many domestic workers do not receive the basic benefits and protections commonly extended to other groups of workers—things as simple as a day off. Moreover, their ability to move freely is often limited, and employment in private homes increases their isolation and vulnerability. Labor officials generally do not have the authority to inspect employment conditions in private homes. Domestic workers, especially women, confront various forms of abuse, harassment, and exploitation, including sexual and gender-based violence.

Forced Child Labor

Although children may legally engage in certain forms of work, children can also be found in slavery or slavery-like situations. Some indicators of forced labor of a child include situations in which the child appears to be in the custody of a non-family member who requires the child to perform work that financially benefits someone outside the child’s family and does not offer the child the option of leaving, such as forced begging. Anti-trafficking responses should supplement, not replace, traditional actions against child labor, such as remediation and education. When children are enslaved, their exploiters should not escape criminal punishment—something that occurs when governments exclusively use administrative responses to address cases of forced child labor.

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Justice Conference NZ

One thing that keeps us inspired in our work is the dedication and commitment of others around the world in the fight against human trafficking, exploitation and injustice of all kinds. LIFT will be at the upcoming Justice Conference New Zealand on 2-3 November 2018 at Victory Convention Centre in Auckland. The Justice Conference is a Biblical social justice conference that joins together diverse practitioners, artists and pastors. This year, their theme is Whakahoungia: Joining God in the Renewal of All:

In the midst of a fractured and crumbling world, we could be forgiven for following a narrative of failure and hopelessness. But God is writing a different story. Every single moment God is pulling creation towards His intended purposes to restore and renew. We're invited to join in this prophetic act.

Our Strategic Partnerships Manager Carter Quinley will be hosting a workshop on Ethical Storytelling and a Justice Talk entitled All Things New. We are excited and honored to join together with other leaders, activists and artists to engage with the theology of justice and its creative and practical applications.

You can buy tickets and join us here.

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History of Response to Sex Trafficking

This addresses Thailand's response to sex trafficking. You can read part I of this series here.

Part II

 As the international community continued to pressure Thailand for new laws, there was a growing need for an anti-trafficking response. As Thailand is a “source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking,” the need for improved legislation, and a collaborative anti-trafficking response was dire.

Over two decades ago, prostitution was criminalized under the 1996 Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act.  The law said that anyone who sells themselves could expect fines as high as 1,000 baht (US $27). It also mentioned pimps too. It said that they could also face a 20,200 baht (US $555) and possibly ten years behind bars for prostituting women. More importantly as well, the act highlighted serious offenses for child trafficking. It underlined that those found to have had sex with underage children could expect even greater fines and lengthy prison sentences, some as high as six years. The new law enabled rights groups and NGOs to more effectively assist the Thai government in identifying sex trafficking within the country. The legal framework and conditions still needed strengthening and improvement.  

"The anti-trafficking movement has evolved since the early days,” says Carter Quinley, the Strategic Partnerships Manager for LIFT International. Carter’s been living in Thailand for almost two decades. She’s long had an interest in human rights, though she’s specifically driven to combat sex-trafficking in sustainable and ethical ways.

“The sector has needed to grow and mature as policies and laws have been written and strengthened. From the early days of the TVPA through to the development of the 3 P’s — Prevention, Protection, Prosecution — the sector has learned what works best to support survivors and hold offenders accountable.”  

In 2008, Thailand shifted gears in combating sex trafficking. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act extended the definition of trafficking in persons to include trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation and the trafficking of male victims. This was a huge win for rights groups and the anti-trafficking sector—as rights groups for years looked to include men in the definition of trafficking to increase awareness and protection from exploitation.

Today, despite or perhaps because of Thailand’s growing economic prosperity with its per capita GDP significantly higher than its neighboring countries like Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, the country still has the highest levels of sex tourism in the region.

 The Thai Ministry of Public Health reports that there is currently around 120,000 people in Thailand’s sex industry. Although it’s impossible to know the exact figures, the numbers are likely higher when taking into consideration those who are trafficked internationally into other countries around the globe.

The country’s leaders have committed to stepping up the fight against human trafficking, with Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, stating that he intends to raise the bar. It’s also important to recognize the value of collaboration between Thai authorities and committed international NGOs. It’s clear that working together is the only way to effectively combat sex-trafficking in the region.

Identifying, prosecuting and protecting people from sex-trafficking is complex and incredibly challenging. But, according to Carter Quinley, the sector has made progressive steps towards changing Thailand’s landscape of sex trafficking in truly positive ways.

“Perhaps one of the most important learnings was the addition of a 4th P, for ‘Partnership,’ to the anti-trafficking framework,” she said. “This was in recognition that no one organization, government, or individual can combat this injustice alone,” she concluded.

“It takes a network to combat a network."

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