Trafficking for sexual exploitation
Poverty, gender-based discrimination and a history of sexual and physical violence are all factors that can make women and children vulnerable to traffickers. Some are abducted and sold, some are deceived into consenting by the promise of a better life or a better job, and some feel that entrusting themselves to traffickers is the only economically viable option. Once trapped, they are held and exploited in slavery-like conditions.
Regardless of the route of entry, most women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation suffer extreme violations of their human rights, including the right to liberty, the right to dignity and security of person, the right not to be held in slavery or involuntary servitude, the right to be free from cruel and inhumane treatment, the right to be free from violence, and the right to health.
In many parts of the world, human trafficking is a high-profit and low-risk endeavor for the traffickers. Traffickers use several means to prevent victims from escaping. These may range from physical restraint in the form of locks and guards, physical or psychological violence, drugging or by instilling a fear of the police, making the victims believe that they are the offenders.
The trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation, also results in a negative impact on the health and well being of victims, which could be long term and ultimately life-threatening.
Further, human trafficking prevents victims from attaining physical, mental and social well-being. During the process of being trafficked itself, there are several difficult situations, which pose health hazards like drowning, freezing or suffocating. Victims' health is further endangered in situations of sexual exploitation. Available data suggest several areas of concern:
Violence: The consequences of psychological, physical and sexual violence associated with trafficking and sexual exploitation include depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts, and physical injuries such as bruises, broken bones, head wounds, stab wounds, mouth and teeth injuries, and even death.
Reproductive Health: Involvement in the sex industry is associated with an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections including HIV. Pregnancy and forced or unsafe abortions are primary health concerns, exacerbated by lack of access to health care.
Access to Health Care: Fear of detection and deportation can leave undocumented women reluctant to access social services. In situations of debt bondage, women may not be able to pay for care. Those forcibly kept in brothels may not be allowed to leave to seek health care. Because their access to care is so restricted, trafficking victims are at high risk of complications arising from undiagnosed and untreated infections, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pelvic pain, pregnancy and sterility.
Substance Abuse: Many women and children in the sex industry use drugs and/or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Both voluntary and forced use commonly leads to addiction and its attendant health consequences.
This article has been adapted using material from paho.org ( PDF)