Is Human Trafficking the same as Prostitution?
The definition of human trafficking, as defined by the United Nations, is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.
Prostitution is usually defined as, the practice or occupation of engaging in sexual activity with someone for payment.
While the term prostitute generally refers to a person who enters the sex industry of their own choice, there are usually many factors that influence a person’s decision to prostitute themselves.
In fact, the words prostitute or prostitution are deceptive, because among those who “choose” to sell their bodies for sex, most do so against their will. These are the 7 most common reasons people enter into prostitution as a profession:
- Lack of other options. Most prostitutes lack sufficient education or marketable skills to compete in areas where the economy is depressed or in already-saturated labor markets. In the Philippines, for example, the glut of applicants allows owners of small convenience stores to require two-year college degrees for the positions of clerk or stock person.
- Coercion from society. Women in many cultures are perceived as having low value, so the message is communicated to them that “serving men is all I am good for.” This stigma is placed even more harshly upon young women who have been raped and women who have become widows or have been abandoned by their husbands.
- Familial obligations. Many older children with younger siblings live in cultures that emphasize caring for family members (especially those in poor rural villages) at any cost. To make matters worse, many parents heap guilt upon older children who do not sacrifice themselves for the economic betterment of their families.
- Desperation. Poverty is a powerful driving force in human trafficking because many victims live in such desperate conditions they feel they have nothing to lose by selling themselves. Some even entertain a lottery-like dream that a “rich” foreign client will one day marry them, providing them and their families with financial security.
- Trusted relatives, friends or boyfriends. Most victims of trafficking are tricked by someone they know and trust. Young male recruiting agents pretend to court young women for a period of time, then at an opportune moment hand them off to middlemen who then take them to a secret location where her will is broken through rape, beatings, drugs and/or deprivation through isolation. Once they are broken and emotionally brought under the control of a pimp or madam, they are sent to work the streets, brothels, or other place they can meet clients.
- A shame-filled past. Childhood rape, molestation or other abuse often lowers a person’s barriers to dangerous activity because they have been made to feel like trash. This emotional state allows them to see their involvement in prostitution or the making of pornography as an unavoidable “fate” they deserve.
- Popular media. The internet now reaches into all the world via cheaply available smart phones with a constant barrage of messages that glamorize the prostitute’s lifestyle in the design of clothing, makeup and bling—including the selling of the seductress persona—through advertisements, music videos, movies and other pop culture. This communicates to young women that the prostitute—because she cares for no one but herself—can have power over her circumstances. This message says to women that they can control men through the use of their sexual wares, and attain a level of economic affluence never dreamed of previously or by any other means attainable by a young woman (or man) who has only known poverty.
So, human trafficking and prostitution, although defined a bit differently, both are caused by many of the same factors. In addition, although some well-meaning people may rightly seek to dignify the prostitute, the prostitution profession is, in the vast majority of cases around the world, just a guise for human trafficking.
Thankfully, growing public awareness is gradually changing the perception of the prostitute from vixen to victim. But “rescuing” a woman from the bondage of prostitution requires that all applicable pressure sources be eliminated, or substantially reduced, so that she can feel it is safe for her to transition to a new life—otherwise she may one day return to the place she feels most secure, even if that means being exploited again (a psychological phenomenon related to what’s become known as the Stockholm Syndrome).
What can I do to stop Human Trafficking?
Here are 4 things you can do to fight human trafficking: (1) Support trustworthy human trafficking organizations, such as the Human Trafficking & Slavery Ministry of Heaven’s Family, that are effectively working to rescue victims and protect the most vulnerable, including at-risk children; (2) Become aware of how human traffickers work in your area, and be ready to call 911 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 if you see highly suspicious activity; (3) Educate yourself so that you can speak to those at community events, schools and warn your own children; (4) Take in a foster child or volunteer to help at-risk children at your church or other community center; and (5) Have compassion and pray for prostitutes you see on the streets—if they were honest with you and themselves they would much rather choose another life for themselves.
The size of the human trafficking problem is overwhelming, and often discourages us from taking action. But as individuals become informed, communicate the problem, and support organizations in the fight, change can happen. It happens one person at a time. So please help that ONE today. To learn more about how you can help, click here.
Sold like cattle, abused and forgotten— until now. Read Their Stories!
Imagine being held captive and made to endure unfathomable atrocities. Enslaved to others, you face a 99% likelihood of never being rescued. This is the horrific reality for an estimated 21 million children and adults around the world.