Human Rights: An International Thing?

by Mila NY on February 23, 2017 - 4:53pm

Human trafficking is a social problem that has existed across the globe for a longtime, and its practice has deprived countless victims of their individual freedom. The United Nations defines human trafficking as the action of transporting individuals from one location to another for forced labour or sexual exploitation. It is an illegal act that is often underreported, kept underground, and pushed aside from government’s regulations. Yet, despite the difficulties, there are countries whose authorities are taking action to reinforce the concept of justice within their society. However, the solutions are beyond difficult, because the root of human trafficking is international; it is not an issue that differs from one society to another, but it is a big complex network of criminal activity that expands across oceans. In the following text, I will talk about human trafficking, that which concerns sexual exploitation, and explain it through different lenses: British, Chinese, and Canadian. 


In an article published on February 22, 2017, BBC revealed that United Kingdom is on the rise when it comes to human trafficking ( A statistic research done in 2015 showed that the activity had an increase of 40% compared to the previous year, and the majority of victims originated from Albania. These female victims were often kidnapped by Albanian men and sold into the trafficking world. Later on, they would find themselves trapped in a network of underground crime where they are forced to become ‘sex slaves’. Two cases are brought to light: Seya, a 14 year old victim, and Anna. Both of these girls described themselves to be vulnerable teenagers and were lured to the human trafficking world by a boy who pretended to be their boyfriend. Anna, a victim who uses a pseudonym, explains that she arrived in Britain after being sold into prostitution. Her case led famous British news outlet BBC to write about the problem of human trafficking in Britain. As they covered her story, they also highlighted the fact that British authorities must take action to cease the activity. That is to say, for countless Albanian victims to be found in Britain, meant that there is a lack of regulation that kept criminal organisations from buying them. In order for the activity to cease, the country, in this case Britain, needs to be aware that the network of underground crime is within their land, and thus, policies need to be established to avoid further expansion. Britain, being the ‘client’, is also at fault for the countless kidnappings in Albania because the reason behind their kidnapping is due to the “supply-and-demand” effect.  In other words, Albanian women are kidnapped because the men in their country know that underground British organisations are willing to buy them. Hence, they become in charge of providing these victims. Another problem lies within the society of Albania itself. Why is it that men continuously kidnap women in their country? What propels them to contribute to criminal activity? Albania practices a male-oriented culture, meaning that only the men have a say, whereas women are often devalued and degraded. When so many males commit the act of kidnapping, gradually it becomes a common practice. Consequently, the rest of Albanian men forget to reason, and they simply start to follow the masses. 


While British authorities are gradually becoming aware of the problem, Hong Kong is far from improving their case on human trafficking. In fact, author Sylvia Yu from South China Morning News outlet described that such criminal activity has been common for a long time. Her article published on February 19, 2017 talks about how the issue was always pushed aside when mentioned to authorities ( Similarly to Britain, Hong Kong is a ‘client’ country, meaning that it is supplied victims by a foreign provider. Jean, a Filipino victim who uses a pseudonym, was promised great work in Hong Kong but soon realised that she was lied to. Instead, she was sold to prostitution in that unknown country and was forced to sleep with countless clients named ‘johns’. Her passport was taken from her, and her recruiters said that she had an enormous ‘debt’ to pay. Sadly, her case is not unique; many vulnerable women from South East Asia who are desperate for work often wind up in the same boat. According to a Trafficking in Person report,  Hong Kong authorities were not helping to decrease the issue. They have not established any law that was required by the UN Palermo Protocol on Human Trafficking. The UN Palermo Protocol consists of three protocols established by the United Nations to combat Transnational Organised Crime. It aims to prevent and suppress trafficking in persons, and to punish anyone responsible for the trafficking. In addition to Hong Kong’s lack of improvement, polices who are in charge of finding individuals involved in such criminal activity are often bribed by the organisation and kept silent. When the topics of law modification or law reinforcement are brought up, Hong Kong’s Security Bureau says that the legislation against human trafficking suggested by the UN Palermo Protocol is unnecessary, because they have already established their own laws. As Sandy Wong, chairwoman of the Anti-Human Trafficking Committee of the Hong Kong Federation of Women Lawyers, says, “We do have laws to tackle sex trafficking but not in the sense of how the international community understands the issue”. It is possible that their outlook differs from the rest of the world, but it is still flawed. When it is a known fact that human trafficking in Hong Kong is such a worldwide network, the argument that they should try to solve the problem on the national level becomes invalid. 


With both Britain and Hong Kong being supplied with forced labour and sexual exploitation, Canada, on the other hand, was described by Seema Marwaha of CBC News to have a large amount of its victims originating from its own soil. Her article published on January 19, 2017 explains that human trafficking in Canada does not often involve someone crossing the borders, but instead involves teenage girls who are extremely vulnerable ( Government Statistics proves their statement to be true when they found that 90% of victims of sexual exploitation are Canadian.  These victims are vulnerable in that they feel left out from their peers; hence, when approached by people who pretend to care for them, they become submissive. Vanessa, a 18 year old victim, said she was compelled to follow her traffickers because they were adorning her with sweet words, and they gave her a sense of place in society. The great majority of victims are young girls, and they can be as young as 13. The recruiters are aware that they are easy to be manipulated, and to keep them by the side, they create a relationship of dependence. In another article from The Globe and Mail published on February 22, 2017, Canadian Press says the Liberal government took quick action to try and solve the problem of human trafficking ( The government announced a strategy, a new legislation called the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, to help survivors and prevent individuals from being part of the organised crime. They aim to provide psychological aid to victims, and to develop their strategies, such as law enforcement, to catch offenders. The Canadian government is looking to improve its social services, welfare, and other communities to rid the issue. 


Finally, all this information goes to show that different countries have their own outlook on human trafficking. Most of the time, the problem arises from a dysfunction in social establishments, meaning that there is a flaw present in their institutions, which enables organised crimes to take place. For instance, Canada in particular lacks social help and social support for those who feel that they don’t fit in their group. Hence, most young vulnerable girls are prone to become a victim of human trafficking. However, as the Canadian government realises the flaw in their social institutions, they plan to improve them; thus, welfare and social services are being provided more and more. Both Canadian and British authorities are aiming to spread awareness on human trafficking, whereas Hong Kong has a long way to go. Their outlook is more close-minded, failing to adapt their laws to the ones suggested by the UN. UN is well aware that human trafficking is a huge illegal network, and for this reason, it has established the Palermo Protocol to prevent the illegal exchanges between the supplier and receiver countries. If Hong Kong only plans to solve the problem nationally, the ‘client’ might be punished, but there will be no guarantee that the supplying country will stop shipping more victims. In fact, punishing victims will make prostitutes more vulnerable, and the whole industry will become even more hidden. 


Works Cited


“Human Trafficking: Poor women and girls targeted in Albania.” BBC News. BBC News, 22 Feb. 2017. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.


Marwaha, Seema. “Anyone can be victim: Canadian high school girls being lured in sex trade.” CBC News. CBC News, 29 Jan. 2017. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.


The Canadian Press. “New Ontario legislation would give human trafficking survivors power to sue.” The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail, 22 Feb.  2017. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.


Yu, Sylvia. “I was forced to sell my body in a Hong Kong bar: A Filipino’s experience of trafficking prostitution.” South China Morning Post. South China Morning Post, 19 Feb. 2017. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.


About the author

An art-enthusiast who is diagnosed with the incurable disease of wanderlust and traveled throughout the continent of North and South America, Europe, and Asia.