In 2010, the United States Department of State reported that each year more than 2 million children around the world are victims of sexual exploitation. We can only speculate what that number looks like in 2017, and it is unimaginable when we consider adult victims and add to this number child and adult victims of labor exploitation (Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2010). While we refer to this horrific crime as “trafficking,” in most countries proof does not require moving across national borders.
Cynthia Hirsch, DePaul 1980, served from 1992 until 2016 as an assistant attorney general with the Wisconsin Department of Justice. She has worked on rule of law initiatives and human rights issues in Liberia, Tanzania, South Africa, and India.
While people sometimes visualize trafficking as chained victims kept in an underground hideaway, the elements of this crime are often met in daylight, in the open, and by psychological coercion of the most vulnerable. Victims are either moved, held, or recruited through fraud or coercion, and exploited for labor or sex.
Coercion is often psychological, particularly with children, and proof does not require physical restraint. The nature of coercion is that it seeks out vulnerability. Vulnerability is born of poverty, age, illness, and broken infrastructure resulting from natural disaster or war.
The stories we read about in the news might lead one to think that the motive is linked to lurid desires, but make no mistake about it: the motive is money. Trafficking can occur locally, within families, or as part of a powerful organization dedicated to huge profits. Human traffickers have learned from and copied supply chains and resource systems in place to serve the classic criminal illicit activities such as narcotics and arms.
Last year I wrote in this blog about my work in anti-trafficking in Liberia with Lawyers Without Borders. In February, I joined Lawyers Without Borders again to travel to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. As in Liberia, we engaged with approximately 60 prosecutors, judges and police officers about the elements, evidentiary challenges, and courtroom skills needed to build the law enforcement capacity to prosecute under their human trafficking laws. As trainers, we focused our discussions on identifying this crime and its victims in the context of a culture that does not always understand that it is unacceptable.about my work in anti-trafficking in Liberia with Lawyers Without Borders. In February, I joined Lawyers Without Borders again to travel to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. As in Liberia, we engaged with approximately 60 prosecutors, judges and police officers about the elements, evidentiary challenges, and courtroom skills needed to build the law enforcement capacity to prosecute under their human trafficking laws. As trainers, we focused our discussions on identifying this crime and its victims in the context of a culture that does not always understand that it is unacceptable.
The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children is a protocol to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The Protocol was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000, and has now been ratified by 170 parties.
Countries such as Tanzania and Liberia have enacted anti-trafficking laws that include definitions that substantially mirror the UN protocol. Trafficking in persons includes:
- an act: including recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt;
- the means: use of force, fraud, deception or coercion; and
- purpose: such as sexual exploitation, forced labor, involuntary servitude or debt bondage.
We heard stories about Tanzanian children “sent to the city” to live with others in order to make money for the family. In Tanzania, any child under 18 who is forced to work or engage in sexual activity is understood to be coerced by virtue of age. Because children are naturally vulnerable, proof of explicit fraud or coercion is not required. Human trafficking involving a child under the age of 18 carries an enhanced penalty.
Tanzania amended its constitution to allow a multiparty democracy in 1992 and the first multiparty election was held in 1995. While today it is considered one of Africa’s most politically stable countries, it is also one of the least developed. Nearly 68 percent of its citizens live below the poverty level, and large numbers still suffer from malnutrition and hunger. Primary education is compulsive; roughly 75 percent of the population over 15 years old is literate. Children learn both English and Swahili. The University and Law School are in Dar es Salaam, and English is typically used in court.
Cultural and Practical Obstacles
Our group included four U.S. judges and 10 U.S. lawyers along with our Tanzanian counterparts. We spent the week discussing and brainstorming solutions to some of the cultural and practical obstacles they face. One challenge they candidly talked about was their frustration at some judge’s insensitivity and disregard for the victims and their stories that are presented in court. As in Liberia, I left with nothing but respect and admiration for these determined and committed colleagues. And I felt I had taken away far more than I had left behind.
One afternoon in Dar es Salaam, we took a break from practicing cross-examination and interview techniques and visited the main courthouse downtown. We slipped into a courtroom and observed a criminal trial in which three defendants appeared: a middle aged woman and two teen age boys. The proceeding was in Swahili, but we watched a very animated defense attorney cross-examine a police officer before a packed courtroom. The Tanzanian attorney later explained to us that we had serendipitously witnessed a rather famous case, in which the primary defendant is known as the “Queen of Ivory.” She is thought to be responsible for the trafficking of about $2.5 million in precious ivory.
We wondered about the history of wildlife trafficking in Tanzania, and how it might compare to human trafficking. Recent amendments to the Tanzanian Economic Legislation make all wildlife offenses punishable by a minimum of 20 years and maximum 30 years. Trafficking in Persons attracts a fine of not less than 4 million Tanzanian dollars and not more than 150 million Tanzanian dollars or imprisonment of 7 to 15 years or both. The Economic Law makes imprisonment mandatory while the Anti-Trafficking Act leaves it to the discretion of the Court to sentence by fine or imprisonment or both. I do not conclude from this anything about the value of children vs. wildlife in Tanzania. I would rather see the difference as evidence of a culture that has long treasured its wild animals and is only recently realizing the tragedy of a crime woven into the fabric of daily life.
Anti-Trafficking Efforts in Wisconsin
Just after returning from Tanzania I attended the Wisconsin Anti Human Trafficking Task Force meeting in Madison. This impressive task force, co-chaired by the Wisconsin Attorney General and the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, is in charge of implementing anti-human trafficking law in our state. While the context, content, and legal issues may be different from those in Africa, priorities are the same. All seem to agree that a trauma-informed response that meets the health, safety and survival needs of individuals who have been trafficked is essential. The professionals at the March meeting were smart and sensitive, and I was proud that, after traveling to the other side of the globe to train lawyers about this horrible crime, I found people at home who are well-informed and working hard to address the issue.
The Saturday after returning from Tanzania, I sat in Synagogue and opened my book to the weekly scripture portion. I read in the Book of Kings 1 (Chapter 5, Line 27) that the wise King Solomon imposed forced labor on all Israel! The King sent 30,000 men to Lebanon in shifts of 10,000 a month, to gather materials to build the Temple. Obviously, this problem has been around for a long time. That it might be endemic to many cultures makes it no less tragic, nor the aggressive enforcement of associated criminal laws any less compelling.