The normative basis for combating human trafficking : a victim centred framework

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Human trafficking is the movement of a person from one place to another through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of exploitation. It is thought to be one of the fastest growing international crimes generating profits only second to arms trading. It is also the largest manifestation of contemporary slavery. In an effort to suppress trafficking, the international community came together in 2000 to draft international law to combat the problem. Unfortunately, these efforts have had little impact on reducing trafficking. It is the position of this thesis that one of the reasons for this failure is that there was little normative legal theory underpinning the provisions in the instruments adopted to deal with trafficking. The articulation of a clear normative premise for action by states in combating trafficking is essential because without it the objectives for international action become ambiguous leaving room for varying interpretations for state action. Essentially, the existing international legal framework as reflected in the international instruments is a product of infused criminal law and migration concerns neither of which has been adequate in dealing with the problem of trafficking. Indeed, many of the responses by state parties mirror historical attempts to deal with trafficking from the early 1900s. What is missing however is a proper victim centred approach which would work to reduce trafficking, protect victims and even address state concerns by enhancing criminal law efforts. The search for an appropriate normative theoretical framework necessarily requires an analysis of the role played by migration, gender, consent, human rights and slavery in trafficking. Indeed, all of these factors provide valuable insights into trafficking while also illustrating the motivation behind different views concerning trafficking. For example, migration concerns and crime control lie at the heart of state interests whereas many feminist groups perceive trafficking to be a gender issue. After a detailed analysis of the various issues underpinning trafficking, appropriate law reforms can be formulated that are informed by ideologies set in values, attitudes and beliefs that are fundamentally victim - centred. When the well being of the victim is prioritised, the response that flows will have the effect of also providing tools for dealing with irregular migration, crime control, gender and labour issues. However, this can only result from a shift in focus to the exploitation of the victim and a re-evaluation of the definition and treatment of slavery. The current perception of slavery as a practice steeped in proprietary rights akin to chattel slavery is antiquated and provides little insight into modem practices. However this perception can be corrected with a redefinition of slavery as an infringement of personal autonomy. This would result in a clearer understanding and treatment of modem day slavery. This also leads to the conclusion that trafficking should be considered a sub category of slavery and that efforts to eradicate trafficking should also be matched by efforts to eradicate slavery in general.
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