I’ve learned that any research on the topic of human trafficking will eventually lead to the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIPS) report, since it is widely used as a resource for recent human trafficking information. At some point I plan on actually reading the report, but in the meantime I am relying on citations and interpretations by other sources.

This article by Bloomberg News about the 2011 TIPS report claims that the human trafficking situation is worsening in 11 countries. “The number of countries failing to comply with international standards to prevent human trafficking almost doubled to 23,” says Bloomberg. Presumably this means that the number has doubled over the 2010 report, but Bloomberg doesn’t specify. They also note that due to recent political uprisings in the Middle East, human trafficking figures from this region have been difficult to calculate. Examples given are Yemen and Libya, neither of which reported numbers for the 2010-2011 period. This goes to show how difficult it can be to collect accurate human trafficking numbers. There will always be political unrest somewhere in the world, and this will make collecting accurate data difficult. But areas in a state of political unrest need better reporting than other places, because civil strife is a breeding ground for human trafficking. So if a large percentage of human trafficking activity takes place in politically unstable areas, and numbers from these areas are inaccurate or unreported, then we may not be getting an accurate picture of the true global human trafficking situation.

Bloomberg also notes a statement that Secretary of State Clinton released with the report in June 2011, in which she reportedly said that there are 27 million slaves in the world today. This was actually the same number that Bales gave in Disposable People (p. 9), which was published in 1999. Kara in Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery, estimated 28.4 million slaves globally (Appendix 1), based on a 2005 International Labour Organization study. For more than a decade it appears that experts have agreed on the number of slaves in the world. Though I don’t know the methodology behind the calculation of these  numbers, I find myself wondering why the number has gone unchanged for so long. We are always hearing about the growth of the human trafficking industry, so shouldn’t the overall number of slaves in the world have increased over a 10-year period? On the other hand, shouldn’t anti-trafficking efforts have reduced the number of slaves? Did each of these factors cancel each other out?

If abolition and other efforts have held the number of slaves in check since at least 1999, I would consider that a small victory in and of itself, since it would actually be falling relative to the size of the growing human population. But without accurate data from conflict zones, it will be difficult to ever gain an accurate estimate.

  1. Paola says:

    That’s a really good point Craig. How is it that the numbers remain steady and how do they get those numbers? I mean if Clinton gave the same numbers that Bales did over a decade ago, does that mean that growing efforts to eradicate trafficking have leveled everything or does it mean something more, oh I don’t want to say cynical, but do those numbers mean anything at all in the long run. Or do we really have NO clue? I wonder if we contacted some of these people/organizations with that question what their reply would be…

  2. aa says:

    I agree with the two of you. How do they arrive at these numbers? In the lines of my research, I attempt, or shall I say attempted, to compare trafficking rates in some East and Southeast European countries. However, I am unsuccessful in tracking down numbers. Many of my sources state that there is a lack of statistics. So how do we know that 27 million is still an accurate number?

    Craig, thank you for posting the article. I’ll take a closer look later this afternoon to see if some of my countries of interest are listed as having made insufficient, or no effort at all, regarding the fight against human trafficking within their borders.

  3. aalbalad says:

    Craig, I’m really glad you posted this. I have been skeptical about the “statistical data” I have come across in my research. I have been having a hard time locating factual accounts of the number of girls trafficked by paramilitary groups in Latin America (and specifically Colombia). It is difficult to trust the numbers I do find.

    I will definitely look into the Trafficking in Persons (TIPS) report, although we are all clearly skeptical of it. I wonder if it’s better to use possibly inaccurate data because it is all that exists or if I should be opting for a more narrative type of case study style of research?

  4. bebopper76 says:

    There is a lot of controversy over the numbers of adult woman who are forced sex slaves. The real factual answer is that no one knows. There is hard evidence that the sex slavery/sex trafficking issue continues to report false information and is greatly exaggerated by politicians, the media, and aid groups, feminist and religious organizations that receive funds from the government, The estimate of adult women who become new sex slaves ranges anywhere from 40 million a year to 5,000 per year all of which appear to be much too high. They have no evidence to back up these numbers, and no one questions them about it. Their sources have no sources, and are made up numbers. In fact if some of these numbers are to believed which have either not changed or have been increased each year for the past twenty years, all woman on earth would currently be sex slaves. Yet, very few real forced against their will sex slaves have been found.

    It is not easy for criminals to engage in this acitvity:

    Sex trafficking is illegal and the pentities are very severe. It is very difficult to force someone to be a sex slave, they would have to have 24 hour guards posted and be watched 365 days a year, 24 hours per day. Have the threat of violence if they refused, and have no one notice and complain to the authorities or police. They would need to hide from the general public yet still manage to see customers from the general public and not have the customers turn the traffickers in to the police. They would need to provide them with medical care, food, shelter, and have all their basic needs met. They would need to have the sex slaves put on a fake front that they enjoyed what they were doing, act flirtatious and do their job well. They would have to deal with the authorities looking for the missing women, and hide any money they may make, since it comes from illegal activity. They must do all of this while constantly trying to prevent the sex slaves from escaping and reporting them to the police. They would need to prevent the general public from reporting them into the police. This is extremely difficult to do, which makes this activity rare. These criminals would be breaking dozens of major laws not just one. Kidnapping itself is a serious crime. There are many laws against sex trafficking, sex slavery, kidnapping, sex abuse, rape, sexual harassment etc. If someone is behind it, they will be breaking many serious laws, be in big trouble, and will go to jail for many long years.

    The numbers and scale of this crime is exaggerated. The very nature of someone pulling off a kidnapping and forced sex for profit appears to be very difficult. Since it would be difficult this makes this crime rare.

    A key point is that on the sidelines the prostitutes themselves are not being listened to. They oppose laws against prostitution. But no one wants to listen to the prostitutes themselves. Only to the self appointed experts that make up numbers and stories many of which have never met a real forced sex slave or if they did it was only a few. The media and government never ask the prostitutes themselves what would help them in terms of laws.


    • Craig says:

      Thank you for your comment, bebopper. I appreciate your questioning of the official “line” on human trafficking. And, I agree that there is a distinction between sexual slavery (involuntary sex work) and prostitution (voluntary sex work) that is not well established in policy formulation and implementation. In fact I would direct you to the work of Laura Agustin and Rutvica Andrijasevic, as well as The Travesty of Human Trafficking: A Decade of Failed U.S. Policy by by Dr. Miriam Potocky if you’re interested in learning more about these and other failures in the fight against human trafficking. However, I am not sure what you mean when you say that “their sources have no sources.” There is hard, empirical evidence from a number of sources based on interviews with both prostitutes and sex slaves; pimps and brothel owners; law enforcement officials; and customers (aka “johns”) (see below). You question the accuracy of human trafficking numbers, saying they are overestimated and baseless, but what evidence can you cite for these claims? If you believe this is true, and can recommend of a more accurate way to calculate these estimates, I suggest entering in UNIAP’s (United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking) contest to produce a new calculation methodology at http://www.no-trafficking.org/estimatescomp.html.

      Contrary to your statements, the belief is not that most sex slaves are kidnapped and forcibly prevented from leaving. In fact it is well-known that many sex slaves are promised jobs as cocktail waitresses or hostesses in distant countries, only to be faced with the reality of debt bondage and sex slavery, as in the case of You Mi: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/10/09/MNGM5K215270.DTL. Further, sex slaves do not need to “be watched 365 days a year, 24 hours per day;” was this the case with traditional agricultural slavery in the pre-Civil War United States? No; why? Because if the slave were to escape, there would be severe consequences for his loved ones, and because, if found, he would be brought back to his owner to be met with severe consequences himself. In this sense, today’s slavery is no different. An escaped slave who were to run to the police in the United States would likely be helped, this is not the scenario in many developing countries with severe law enforcement corruption problems, because pimps just bribe the police in order to conduct business. This is the case in India which, incidentally, also has a huge sex slavery problem. Thus it is not helpful to make broad generalizations which only apply even in rare cases.

      For well-founded evidence about people who have been forced to have sex for the financial benefit of a third party, see:
      Raphael, Jody and Myers-Powell, Brenda. 2010. From Victims to Victimizers: Interviews with 25 Ex-Pimps in Chicago. Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center of DePaul University College of Law.

      India National Human Rights Commission & UNIFEM. 2004. A Report on Trafficking in Women and Children in India: 2002-2003. NHRC.

      Polaris Project. 2010. “Human Trafficking Control Wheel.” Salesforce.com. https://na4.salesforce.com/sfc/p/300000006E4SoCAVomGKdZYAhsNYTSJ9zWiZzv4=

      Jeremy Wilson & Erin Dalton. Ohio Trafficking in Ohio: Markets, Responses, and Considerations. Rand Corporation. 2007.

      Asian Development Bank. Combating Trafficking Of Women and Children in South Asia: Regional Synthesis Paper for Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. April 2003.

  5. bebopper76 says:

    Craig, what I hear you saying in your post is that you feel that Adult Women should be treated like children, since they cannot be trusted to make good decisions about their sexual health. Therefore they must be forced by the USA government and be told (by the government) that they are victims if they have sex with a man. Do you feel that adult women cannot be responsible for themselves? Why not?

    There needs to be a distinct separation of
    1. Child sex trafficking
    2. Adult consensual
    3. Sex Slavery

    They are not the same. Adult Women are NOT children.
    Media coverage of trafficking and adult women’s migration and sex work is confused and inaccurate. The media wrongly uses the terms ‘sex work’ and ‘trafficking’ and adult sex work and child sex trafficking synonymously, perpetuating stereotypes and stigmatization, and contributing to the violation of women’s right to free movement and livelihood options. They assume that if any woman moves from place to place for sex work that they are being trafficking. The media, politicians, aid groups, feminist, and religious organizations does not take into account that she may do this of her own free will. Too often women are treated like children. Adult women are not children.

    Adult Women are NOT children.

    Most migrant women, including those in the sex industry, have made a clear decision, says a new study, to leave home and take their chances abroad. They are not “passive victims” in need of “saving” or sending back by western campaigners.

    Sex Trafficking/Slavery is used by many groups as a attempt to outlaw all prostitution around the world by saying that all women are victims even if they do it willing. This hurts any real victims because it labels all sex workers as victims.

    This is done by the media, aid groups, NGO’s, feminists, politicians, and religious organizations that receive funds from the government. There are very strong groups who promote that all adult women who have sex are victims even if they are willing, enjoy it and go out of there way to get it. These groups try to get the public to believe that no adult women in their right mind would ever go into the sex business unless she was forced to do so, weather she knew it or not. They say that 100% of all sex workers are trafficking victims.

    They do this in order to label all men as sex offenders and wipe out all consensual prostitution. Which is what their real goal is. There is almost no one who challenges or questions them about their false beliefs. Therefore, the only voices you hear are of these extreme groups. These groups want to label all men as terrible sex offenders for seeing a willing adult sex worker. No one stands up to say this is foolish, the passive public says nothing. These groups even say that all men who marry foreign women are terrible sex predators who take advange of these “helpless foreign women wives”.

    These groups believe that two adults having consensual sex in private should be outlawed. Since they believe that it is impossible for a man to have sex with a woman without abusing the woman in the process.

    This is an example of feminists and other groups exploiting the suffering of a small minority of vulnerable and abused women in order to further their own collective interests. For example, getting money from the government and Charity into their organizations. Rather than wanting to find the truth.

    While this may happen in very rare limited situations, the media will say that millions of people are sex slaves without doing any real research on the topic. Only taking the word of special interest anti-prostitution groups which need to generate money in the form of huge government grants from taxpayers, and charities. These “non profit” group’s employees make huge salaries, therefore they need to lobby the government, and inflate and invent victims in order to get more money into their organizations. If you look into how many real kidnapped forced against their will sex slaves there are, and not just take the anti-prostitution groups word for it. You will be very surprised.

    Where are all the forced sex slaves? I would like to meet the millions of slaves and see for myself if they were kidnapped and forced against their will.

    These groups lobby the government in a big way, getting Politicians to truly believe their lies. This is an attempt to over inflate an issue in order to get more government money to these organizations. As a tax payer, voter, and resident I don’t want the government to mislead me.

    I would like to see a news organization do a full report on the lies, myths and exaggerated numbers being told about sex trafficking slaves. The articles about the super bowl sex slaves, has been proved wrong many times, but news organizations still report about it, as if it were fact.

    Many women in the sex business are independent workers. They don’t have a pimp.

    They work for themselves, advertise themselves, and keep all the money for themselves. No one forces them, because there isn’t anyone to force them. They go out and find their own customers, set their own prices, and arrange everything by themselves. Sometimes they may employ others to help them, but these are not pimps. If for example, she hires an internet web design company to make a website for her, does that make the web design company a pimp? If she pays a phone company for a phone to do business, does this make the phone company a pimp? If she puts an ad in the paper, does this make the editor a pimp? If she puts the money she makes into a bank account does this make the bank a pimp?

    A lot of anti prostitution groups would say yes. Everyone and everybody is a pimp.

    These groups make up lies, and false statistics that no one bothers to check. A big reason they do this is because it provides high paying jobs for them. They get big donations, and grants from the government, charity, churches, etc. to have these groups, and pay these high salaries of the anti prostitution workers.

    The following links will give you more information about sex trafficking



    Washington post article:

    News night BBC video:



    Guardian newspaper:


    The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) :

    link to research report:


    Article link: http://www.dallasobserver.com/2012-02-02/news/the-super-bowl-prostitution-hoax-returns/






    Crimes against Children Research Center ● University of New Hampshire ● 126 Horton Social Science Center ● Durham, NH 03824 (603) 862‐1888●Fax: (603) 862‐1122●www.unh.edu/ccrc

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