The Quietest Loss: Human Trafficking in Central and Eastern Europe

By David Peters

 

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and during current economic and political crises, the exploitation and trafficking of women and children undoubtedly grew. More specifically, women and children are smuggled from their native territories, oftentimes under work placement or tourism, and kept off-the-radar throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Human trafficking rings exist in both corrupt, underdeveloped states like Moldova as well as affluent ones with praise-worthy human rights records like Sweden. Despite being a widely discussed tragedy, human trafficking statistics are sporadic at best. Less than one-in-twenty victims are identified in Central Europe. Despite international consensus on the legitimacy of the issue, there is little cooperation between local, national, international and non-governmental organizations in ameliorating its causes.

Forced economic or sexual exploitation damages both the personal lives of individuals and strengthens organized crime throughout the region. These are fundamental human rights issues. They threaten both participants and nonparticipants in every country’s informal economy. A conflict in one region can jeopardize immigrants and other vulnerable demographics across international borders. It is the duty of any society to preserve the safety of its citizens.

A series of best practices can be developed to fight human exploitation by analyzing the causes for human trafficking, the current situation and demographics, and potential solutions. When analyzing this topic, it is important to remember the holistic nature of this problem. Trafficking affects genders unequally, as evident by 98% of sexual exploitation victims being women and girls, though male victims are a fast rising demographic. Inequality in pay based in gender is examined due to the uneven distribution of victims based on demographics. Prostitution and immigration laws and their enforcement impact the status of trafficked persons and must be tailored to punish those in power while aiding those exploited to come forward. As such, human trafficking is a truly multidisciplinary issue. An analysis of transnational support structures, like La Strada International, is likewise crucial. Finally, an understanding that regional conflicts affect the increasingly globalized trafficking of victims must be understood. Wars and political instability in Central Asia and the Middle East, economic disparity in all regions are the most common precursors toward growth in human trafficking. Few of these questions provide easily accepted answers and some may run contrary to the cultural and legal norms in the region. As such, an evidence and human rights-based approach to this issue is presented in this research.

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