Research Paper: Human Trafficking of Women and Children From Eastern Europe

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Human Trafficking of Women and Children From Eastern Europe

Sex trafficking is a significant and growing problem in the United States and the larger global community. -- David R. Hodge, 2008

In many ways, it is also unbelievable that in the 21st century, millions of human beings, especially women and children, are still being treated like chattel. Although the problem of human trafficking has existed since time immemorial, slavery had been outlawed in most countries during the 20th century and many observers today might think that the practice is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, law enforcement authorities in the United States identified a significant increase in human trafficking in several countries, primarily those in Eastern Europe and Asia. Faced with limited job opportunities, many young women were easily recruited for what they believed were legitimate jobs in the United States and other affluent nations, only to find themselves trapped in a brutal cycle of forced labor which frequently involved prostitution or other sex jobs or as domestic servants with no escape available to them. Moreover, about half of the victims of human trafficking are children, suggesting that human traffickers are using force as well as coercion to recruit their victims. To determine the current state of affairs and what is being done about the problem, this paper provides a review of the juried and scholarly literature concerning human trafficking in general and Eastern Europe in particular, followed by a summary of the research and significant findings in the conclusion.

Review of the Literature

Human trafficking is certainly not a new problem, but many observers might believe that the practice is obsolete or at least anachronistic with the 21st century. During the 1990s, though, law enforcement authorities in the United States became aware of a growing problem of human trafficking of women and children from Eastern Europe, primarily the Czech Republic, Latvia and the Ukraine (Destefano, 2007). These countries had suffered from decades of state-controlled oversight from the Soviet Union and many young women were eager to take advantage of the new opportunities elsewhere following the collapse of the Soviet Union (Destafano, 2007). According to Destafano (2007), lacking job opportunities at home, young women from Latvia, Russia, the Ukraine were lured into a veritable state of slavery after being promised legitimate work in the United States as dancers what were described as respectable nightclubs. Once in the clutches of the human traffickers and smuggled into the United States, though, these women were forced into sex jobs and in some cases tortured. Assuming that this is the type of problem that exists in the United States, it is reasonable to suggest that the situation is even more severe in less developed nations of the world where law enforcement is less vigilant and aggressive in combating human trafficking.

The problem of human trafficking is not minor, either. For instance, according to Potts (2003), "Trafficking in human beings is one of the fastest growing criminal businesses in the world. The State Department's office of Trafficking in Persons estimates that over one million women and children are trafficked around the world each year, generally for the purpose of domestic servitude or sexual exploitation" (p. 227). Even though there are enormous numbers of victims involved in human trafficking with tens of thousands of these victims ending up in the United States each year, many Americans are not aware of the problem at all (Potts, 2003). Following the promulgation of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children that strengthened the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime at the end of 2000, an increasing number of people in the U.S. And abroad became aware of the problem (Potts, 2003). This increased awareness served as a catalyst to compel dozens of countries around the world to enact anti-trafficking laws that carried severe penalties for the perpetrators (Potts, 2003). Although these laws are regarded as being a step in the right direction, much more needs to be done in order to reverse these ugly trends. In this regard, Potts advises, "States must protect victims and punish those who engage in the trafficking of human beings, and both the United Nations and the United States must play a central role in this effort" (Potts, 2003, p. 228).

Human traffickers are also taking advantage of innovations in telecommunications to facilitate their illegal activities. For example, Lindee (2007) reports that the international mail-order bride business is booming, and that these young women are frequently duped into believing they are destined for marriage with an affluent Westerner only to find themselves forced into various sex work jobs or domestic service. According to Lindee, "Available information suggests not only that mail-order brides may become trafficking victims, forced into sex work or domestic service, but also that the international mail-order bride industry per se constitutes a form of Sex trafficking" (2007, p. 552).

Furthermore, the rates of domestic violence for those mail-order brides who are "fortunate" enough to actually find husbands in more affluent countries rather than being exploited as prostitutes or forced into other sex jobs are believed to be much higher than in the general population based on the rationale that the men ordering these "brides" want submissive women and the fact that women who find themselves in this situation are less likely to report such abusive behaviors to law enforcement authorities (Lindee, 2007). Compounding the problem for both victims and law enforcement authorities is the fact that even in severe situations, some women may be reluctant to report abusive behaviors based on fears of deportation or involvement with a criminal justice system at all (Lindee, 2007). According to Lindee, "Mail-order brides generally come from economically distressed countries where women are systematically subordinated and offered few opportunities. To illustrate, Cherry Blossoms [one of the largest and oldest international mail order bride companies], lists over 6,000 women at any one time" (p. 552).

While the euphemism "mail order bride" is used to describe these human trafficking victims, Macklin (2003) suggests that these women are in reality being coerced into becoming sex-trade workers. For instance, Macklin points out that, "Sex-trade workers supply sex, live-in caregivers perform childcare and housework, and so-called 'mail-order brides' furnish all three" (p. 465). Reiterating the fundamental economic nature of the problem, Macklin also notes that many women voluntarily enlist with mail order bride services: "Although sex-trade workers are frequently criminalized as prostitutes and 'mail-order brides' are not formally designated as workers (insofar as their labor is unpaid), these migrations occur within a commercialized context where the expectation of economic benefit (to the women and to relatives in the country of origin) structures the incentives for entering the process" (p. 465). Once they find themselves in the clutches of these organized crime organizations, though, these women are vulnerable to exploitation in a number of ways and many have no recourse available to them.

Moreover, Yen (2008) points out that there are certain international "hot spots" such as Eastern Europe and Asia that supply the women and children, but the problem is not restricted to these regions alone. Indeed, Yee emphasizes that, "Human trafficking affects every country in the world" (2008, p. 653). Although women represent the largest segment of victims, very young girls (i.e. 4 years old) are also victimized at the hands of international human traffickers. In fact, even the United States is not immune from human trafficking, notwithstanding the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery. According to Hodge, "The State Department estimates that approximately 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States annually. An additional number are trafficked within the United States, although the government indicates that trends in international trafficking are easier to estimate than are trends in domestic trafficking" (p. 143). In reality, all victims of human trafficking are people from other countries, and it is this factor that must be taken into account when considering how tens of thousands of young women and girls are somehow spirited into the United States in the security-conscious climate that exists in the post-9/11 environment. In this regard, Hodge reports that, "By definition, individuals trafficked into the United States originate from other nations. Accordingly, it is difficult to understand sexual trafficking in the United States apart from the wider global context" (p. 144). While some estimates suggest that at least a million people, the vast majority of whom are women and children, become victims of human traffickers each year, Hodge places the estimate slightly lower but still emphasizes the transnational aspects of the enterprise as follows: "Each year, some 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders, some of whom wind up in the United States. Since the 1990s, sexual trafficking has become increasingly transnational in character. Young girls may be recruited in the Ukraine and trafficked through Russia, Germany, France, and Canada before ending up in the United States" (p. 144).

Although some women… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Human Trafficking of Women and Children From Eastern Europe.  (2010, April 19).  Retrieved May 26, 2019, from

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"Human Trafficking of Women and Children From Eastern Europe."  19 April 2010.  Web.  26 May 2019. <>.

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"Human Trafficking of Women and Children From Eastern Europe."  April 19, 2010.  Accessed May 26, 2019.