Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Human Trafficking: The Modern Day Slavery of the 21st Century

Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Human Trafficking: The Modern Day Slavery of the 21st Century

Article excerpt


The transatlantic slave trade (ancient slavery) in which Africans were captured, chained and transported to Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States to work as slaves was officially abolished around 1807. Unfortunately, human trafficking appears to have replaced this abhorrent activity as the modern day slavery of the 21^sup st^ century. This research discusses the similarities and differences between these two faces of slavery, differentiates human trafficking from human smuggling, outlines many dimensions of human trafficking, discusses the scope of the problem in several countries using the United States and Nigeria as prime examples, and identifies some of the factors that may foster human trafficking worldwide. This paper concludes that human trafficking constitutes a gross violation of human rights and a global threat to democracy and peace.


Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing and serious forms of transnational crime in the world today. It is estimated that between 800,000 and 4,000,000 people, mostly women and children are trafficked across international borders annually. However, recent indicators show that the trafficking of adult males is underreported and that there has been an increase in the trafficking of adult males for forced labor. One major problem of human trafficking is that it constitutes a gross violation of human rights. Some of the victims of human trafficking are used for sexual exploitation, domestic labor, forced labor or debt bondage, hence many view trafficking in persons as another form of modern day slavery. Most victims of human trafficking are recruited from the developing countries. It is widespread in countries undergoing civil war, or afflicted by political or economic instability. The popular destinations of most victims of human trafficking are the rich countries of Western Europe and North America. Asia is both a destination and the origin of victims of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a very lucrative business. The annual revenue returns from human trafficking is estimated to be between $9 billion and $32 billion (Bales, 2005; Craig, et al, 2007). It is believed that the volume of human trafficking is likely to surpass that of drug and arms trafficking within the next ten years unless something urgently is done to arrest the situation. Many, including world leaders are, increasingly perceiving transnational crime as a major threat to global peace and security and one that is capable of undermining the economic, social, political and cultural development of the international community. Kofi Annan, the immediate past Secretary General of the United Nations has observed that we are all vulnerable to transnational crime. According to him:

No nation can defend itself against these threats entirely on its own. Dealing with today's challenges -- from ensuring that deadly weapons do not fall into dangerous hands to combating global climate change, from preventing the trafficking of sex slaves by organized criminal gangs to holding war criminals to account before competent courts -- requires broad, deep, and sustained global cooperation. States working together can achieve things that are beyond what even the most powerful state can accomplish by itself (Annan, 2005 p.2).

The re-emergence of the slave trade that was officially banned in the 1880s is bothersome, and is viewed as one of the major challenges confronting many governments in the 21st century. Other types of transnational crime include, drug trafficking, trafficking in firearms, trafficking in stolen vehicles, trafficking of human body parts, smuggling of migrants, kidnapping for purposes of extortion and a variety of crimes against the environment, cyber-crime, money laundering and terrorism. The enormous profits these criminal acts generate are the main driving motives for engaging in transnational crime. Human trafficking alone generates more than $11 billion annually according to Bales (2000) as cited in Wheaton/Schauer (unpublished manuscript). …

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