“For sale” – the flesh trade

Human trafficking, often referred to as the flesh trade, is defined by the World Health Organisation as –

‘[T]he recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.’

It is an old problem that persists, even today, in many modern societies. It opposes the fundamental freedoms of an individual and is a stain on liberal democracy. Not only is human trafficking a blatant violation of human rights, but also evidence of a degrading social system.


Political insecurity, orthodox social thought, unawareness and lack of education, poverty, drug addiction and situational pressures are the leading causes of human trafficking.


What makes human trafficking such a heinous crime? For a start, it defies the basic principle of human equality by subjugating another individual into slavery through sale or capture. Secondly, human trafficking follows a cycle as part of organised crime. Funding and support of the political elites, as well as loose legal standards, allow ‘brokers’ to easily sell and buy victims. These victims may be sold off as personal property or given to prostitution centres, where they are abused, often horrifically. In addition, trafficking also promotes drug abuse, by forcing victims into addiction in order to ensure submission. This dependency, in conjunction with a dearth of viable options, results in the perpetuation of the cycle by the victims themselves, who are vulnerable and impressionable. Lastly, the physical demands may exhaust the victim, as violence on the part of ‘slave owners’ and clients is not uncommon, not to mention the high chances of the spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) like AIDS.

So what creates a society where trafficking can thrive? Political insecurity, orthodox social thought, unawareness and lack of education, poverty, drug addiction and situational pressures are the leading causes of human trafficking. Countries in Asia and Africa have the highest number of human trafficking cases, followed closely by Europe. Typically, these cases involve the buying and selling of women and children as prostitutes, slaves, or domestic aids. Trafficking of adult males is less common, and they are generally sold as labourers. There appears to be a direct correlation between the financial and social status of a country, and the number of trafficking cases- thus human trafficking is most notably evident in less developed nations.

For decades now, the global community has been trying to resolve the issue of human trafficking, but without much success. The complexity of this problem poses a significant threat to the present social conditions, and thus its solutions must be exceptionally inclusive to provide adequate reform. Political and economic remedy through welfare programs are fundamental when addressing the issue of human trafficking, as is an efficient government to carry them out. Unfortunately, such large-scale changes are gradual and require extensive deliberation as well as resources. Improvement of the educational system prevalent in third-world countries as well as therapy for victims either through government aid or through the efforts of NGOs, are equally important for the eradication of trafficking. Lastly, harsher legal consequences for perpetrators of trafficking must be put into place along, with heightened vigilance and security, to discourage possible perpetrators.

While human trafficking requires extensive sociological research for the formulation of situation-appropriate solutions, the most basic change begins at the individual level. Apathy on part of the general public is an indirect cause of human trafficking. Avoiding sensitive issues and refusing to revolt against the encroachment of another’s rights is no better than encouraging the crime. The public and the media play a huge role in swaying political opinion, and this influence can be used to help rescue millions of victims of human trafficking. Before we look for solutions from our governments, other nations, and the international community, we should look for solutions ourselves.

To conclude, in the words of William Wilberforce –

“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”

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