Poverty and lack of economic opportunity make women and children potential victims of traffickers associated with international criminal organizations. They are vulnerable to false promises of job opportunities in other countries. Many of those who accept these offers from what appear to be legitimate sources find themselves in situations where their documents are destroyed, their selves or their families threatened with harm, or they are bonded by a debt that they have no chance of repaying.
While women and children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking for the sex trade, human trafficking is not limited to sexual exploitation. It also includes persons who are trafficked into 'forced' marriages or into bonded labor markets, such as sweat shops, agricultural plantations, or domestic service. The prevention of human trafficking requires several types of interventions. Some are of low or moderate cost and can have some immediate impact, such as awareness campaigns that allow high risk individuals to make informed decisions. Strong laws that are enforced are an effective deterrent. However, serious law enforcement is expensive.
According to Family Health International, 1999, a number of programs in Asia have already begun to address the causes of trafficking in women. One of Thailand's responses was to focus on the source of demand for trafficked services, such as the clients of underage sex workers. Through the impetus and lobbying of the National Commission on Women's Affairs (NCWA), Thailand is the first country in the region to pass laws that impose greater penalties on customers than on sellers for involvement in commercial sex with underage partners. Application of the law has been light, but it is the basis for future enforcement. The NCWA is also trying to change male sexual norms through a national poster campaign with messages showing a child saying "my father does not visit prostitutes."
In China, the State Council, local party commissions and government agencies attach importance to combating human trafficking. In provinces infested by the crime, leading functionaries from the police, the office of the procurator, the courts, the civil departments, the media, schools, women's federations, trade unions, and the Communist Youth League each play their own role in combating trafficking. Women's organizations help governmental agencies by creating awareness among illiterate women who are most vulnerable to being trafficked. Seminars and training courses are sponsored by these organizations to raise awareness about laws and policies against trafficking. Printed materials, such as the anti-trafficking manual prepared by the All China Women's Federation and the Ministry of Justice, are also distributed to women.
In Chiang Rai Thailand, a Thai NGO called Development and Education Program for Daughters & Communities (DEPDC) aims to prevent women and children from being forced into the illegal sex trade or child labor due to outside pressures, lack of education, and limited employment alternatives. The NGO utilizes a mix of strategies to convince parents about the dangers of the illegal sex trade. Information about HIV and AIDS, brothel conditions, legal penalties, and potential dangers is used to support their arguments. In many successful cases the decision of the child to continue her education overrides the parent's desire for money.1
In the Philippines, GABRIELA, which is the National Alliance of Women's Organizations, is actively involved in massive awareness campaigns to prevent the trafficking of women and girls from the Philippines. Its strategies consist of seminars and information dissemination to NGOs and Government Agencies and awareness campaigns at the community level.2
In Cambodia, the Human Rights Commission has taken the lead to raise awareness on the subject of trafficking at the community level. The Commission has conducted extensive and valuable research throughout the country, organized a national workshop, and proactively contributed to interpretations and implementation of the trafficking law. The Government also provides shelters and schooling for orphans and street children to keep them away from traffickers.3
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