A Comparative Study on Human Trafficking
By Peter Berlin
A Research Paper submitted to Professor Alan D. Swanson
For credit in Law and Justice Around the World
George Mason University
Due Date: Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007
Turned In: Thursday, October 25th, 2007
Word Count: 2,111
Research Methodology 2
Foreign Child Sex Tourism: 3
a. In Mexico
b. In Cambodia
Non-Governmental Organization Involvement: 4
a. In Mexico
b. In Cambodia
Compliance with Transnational Crime Laws: 5
b. In Cambodia
NGO – Non-Governmental Organization
TVPA – Trafficking Victims Protection Act
UN – United Nations
TIP – Trafficking in Persons
IJM – International Justice Mission
This comparative study concerns the responses of Cambodia and Mexico to a worldwide call for the elimination of human trafficking. Both countries are ranked on the Tier 2 Watch List for failure to comply with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. This tier system was developed by the United States in response to the raised awareness around the globalization of human trafficking. After the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000, the United States currently leads the world in the battle against human traffickers. The TVPA underwent revisions in 2003 and 2005 and every year, an annual report is issued by the US Department of State, which assesses all countries across the globe and their efforts to combat trafficking. The tier system is a product of results from analyzing over ten aspects of countries’ legal systems compared with the minimum requirements in the TVPA. Cambodia maintains a higher level of representation in the worldwide news networks. This variance may be due to the following factors present in Cambodia: a higher number of child sex cases, a far greater amount of support from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and more deviant disregard for transnational crime laws amongst government officials. Another possible explanation for the variance is that alien smuggling and other criminal networks overlap the sex trade in Mexico so much that outsiders cannot tell the difference.
Every day that a headlining case concerning exploitation appears on the front page of global news networks, people are shocked that human trafficking and slavery still occur in this modern age. According to the US Department of State, the trafficking of persons is “modern-day slavery, involving victims who are forced, defrauded or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation.” 1 Current studies show that every year between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders (with 80% being female and up to 50% being children).2 The entire world should indeed be concerned about the multi-dimensional threat of human trafficking. Mexico and Cambodia are both increasingly mentioned in global news. The trafficking of persons is a huge concern for both of these countries too since human trafficking takes away basic human rights and freedoms; causes global health risks; and fuels the growth of organized crime in each of the countries. These are reasons enough for human trafficking to be center stage in the global justice news community.
Since human trafficking is transnational in nature, countries across the globe work together to end this current era of modern-day slavery. In recent news headliners, Cambodia is placed in the spotlight. Compared to Mexico, Cambodia receives far more media attention revolving around human trafficking. Even though both countries are ranked on the Tier 2 Watch List, Cambodia draws out more press support on human trafficking concerns.3 Though located closer to the borders of the United States, Mexico retains a longer record of failed attempts to graduate to Tier 1 status, than Cambodia. This tier system was developed by the United States in response to the raised awareness around the globalization of human trafficking. After the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000, the United States currently leads the world in the battle against human traffickers. The TVPA underwent revisions in 2003 and 2005 and every year, an annual report is issued by the US Department of State which assesses all countries across the globe and their efforts to combat trafficking. The tier system is a product of results from analyzing over ten aspects of countries’ legal systems compared with the minimum requirements in the TVPA.
Though placed in the same tier group, Cambodia maintains a higher level of representation in the news. This variance may be due to the following factors present in Cambodia: a higher number of child sex cases, a far greater amount of support from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and more deviant disregard for transnational crime laws amongst government officials. Especially, after the recent reopening of one of the largest brothels in Svay Pak, Cambodia will continue to be the focus of media attention.4
As stated above, there is a worldwide concern for the elimination of human trafficking. This research project seeks to provide an extensive analysis of the definitive characteristics of Cambodia that elevate it to a higher level of media attention than Mexico. Through a comparative examination of the two countries responses to human trafficking, Cambodia sets itself apart from other Tier 2 Watch List countries by failing to secure protective laws for victims and relying heavily on non-governmental organizations.
Foreign Child Sex Tourism
According to the most recent Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, compiled by the US Department of State, Mexico is a source, transit and destination country for sexual exploitation and forced labor.5 Mexico has been placed on the Tier 2 Watch List for four consecutive years. Child sex tourism is growing in Mexico so much that it has become a prevalent trade in some tourist regions such as Acapulco and Cancun.6 The latest trend in human trafficking for Mexico is an increase in transit of US-resident children into Mexico for commercial sexual exploitation. Despite the increases, however, alien smuggling and other criminal networks overlap the sex trade in Mexico so much that outsiders cannot tell the difference. The United States can only pinpoint a slight increase in awareness of the fate of so many children by the Mexican government.
In the other hemisphere, Cambodia is classified under the same tier level as Mexico, but the characteristics of the government are far clearer. In 2006, thirteen foreign child sex tourists were arrested. After arrests, three of the thirteen were prosecuted to the full extent of the criminal law statutes in Cambodia. Cambodian officials were able to secure the deportation of one American child sex tourist to the US for trial under the Protect Act. Lastly, Cambodian officials also helped with deportation of two other American nationals with outstanding U.S. charges of child sexual exploitation and child pornography. Compared to Mexico, Cambodian officials are more likely to respond to the spotlight with the evidenced success.
Non-Governmental Organization Involvement
Not only does the Mexican government lack resources of their own, but most Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are not represented at all in Mexico. Mexico does not have any government-run shelters or services dedicated to those who become victims of human trafficking. What little money is available is not proportioned efficiently out to anti-trafficking NGOs. Lastly, there is also no formal mechanism for referring identified trafficking victims to NGOs for care.7 So even if Mexico was able to boost taxes, raise revenue and provide resources for the development of anti-trafficking agencies, there would be no foundation for a system to be set upon since there are so few NGOs even operating in Mexico.
Cambodian government agencies, conversely, rely on NGOs and internal organizations for the majority of the victim protective services available. International Justice Mission (IJM), a Christian non-profit human rights organization operates specifically in many of the major cities within Cambodia including Svay Pak. In their purpose statement, IJM clarifies that the intent of the organization is four-fold: victim relief, perpetrator accountability, structural prevention, and victim aftercare. Government officials could deal with each of those purposes, but since many politicians and police are corrupt, IJM workers not only rescue trafficking victims, but also provide for their aftercare. The specific intent of IJM is to work through the government officials and police of Cambodia so that the corrupt politicians and police can be eliminated. IJM is headquartered in the Washington Metropolitan Area, which makes it geographically close to one of the largest government sectors in the world. Within such close proximity to DC, IJM is able to monitor current affairs within the US and readily gain support from investors within the US. IJM has been featured in countless news articles and is known worldwide now for its justice work. Another NGO called the Childsafe Program trains moto-taxi drivers to identify and report suspicious behavior by tourists. Lastly, Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) serves in Cambodia as well by concentrating on the elimination of street-based slavery circuits. APLE has an excellent track record in Cambodia with a history of 21 child-sex offenders and pedophiles arrested for 2006. There are numerous other NGOs that are at work in Cambodia as well including the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation (MOSAVY) and World Vision.
Compliance with Transnational Crime Laws
Though there is very little agreement between individual countries in the international community on the definition of human trafficking, the United Nations (UN) defines trafficking in persons as the following:
the 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.8
The United States defines human trafficking in a very similar manner, but US officials went even further with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000:
the term “severe forms of trafficking in persons” means-
sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.9
Under the act, a set of minimum standards for countries worldwide exists. The minimum standards were then manipulated into ten determining subsections that became part of the tier system. Countries in Tier 1 fully comply with the TVPA minimum standards. Countries in Tier 2 do not fully comply with the TVPA minimums but are making significant efforts to brings themselves up to the standards. Countries in Tier 3 do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.10
Mexico, a Tier 2 Watch List country is not up to minimum standards for the fourth consecutive year. Mexican government still fails to pass a federal law that would prohibit the trafficking of adults for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Without federal law protecting victims of exploitation, Mexican officials cannot improve the current situation. And without improvements, Mexico will remain sidelined in the news until the government produces a national action plan to combat human trafficking.
Cambodia, also a Tier 2 Watch List country, is not up to minimum standards. This year is the second consecutive year that Cambodia has failed to improve its legal system. Where Mexico lacked legislation to curb the existence of human trafficking, Cambodia lacks the entire political system needed to even begin a transformation. Some reports show that public officials are directly involved with the trafficking and actually supporting it. Other reports mention the failure of the Cambodian government to pass a 7-year old much-needed comprehensive anti-trafficking law. Policy analysts point out that minimal progress has been made in the realm of laws to control trafficking but also allude to the total void of data collection concerning trafficking in Cambodia. Regarding the previously listed failures, Cambodia is in worse shape than Mexico, however, that means it will get more attention from the media since it remains in the spotlight.
Human trafficking is a global concern that has dominates international news circuits. This is due to it being transnational in nature. Countries across the globe have realized their inability to effectively combat trafficking alone so that now they strive together to end modern-day slavery. With the passage of the TVPA, nations are ranked on a tiered list on the effectiveness of their efforts to put an end to human trafficking. Both Cambodia and Mexico are below the minimum standards for combating human trafficking. Though both are ranked at Tier 2, Cambodia receives significantly more media attention due to its extreme deficits in the protection of children and its ignorance towards international laws. Only non-governmental organizations have been able to make thruways into the country, which in itself has given Cambodia even more prestige. For further research, it would be useful to determine whether it is more effective for countries to rely on NGOs or governmental programs to combat human trafficking. In the future, both Mexico and Cambodia will face continued assessments by internationally based commissions that will demand freedom from modern-day slavery.
Academy for Educational Development. (2007, October 19). Human Trafficking: Cambodia. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from http://www.humantrafficking.org/countries/cambodia.
CIA.gov. (2007, October 18). The World Factbook. Retrieved October 19, 2007, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/.
Colin, Thomas J. “Human Trafficking and Slavery”. The CQ Researcher. Vol. 14 No. 12 (2004, March 26).
Reichel, Philip L. (2008). Comparative Criminal Justice Systems: A Topical Approach. New Jersey, Pearson Prentice Hall.
U.S. Department of State. (2004, May 24) “Facts About Human Trafficking”. Department of Homeland Security.
U.S. Department of State. (2007, June). Trafficking in Persons Report. Publication. Publication 11407 (16 October 2007)