Human Trafficking

International Human Trafficking:
Primary Categories and Symptoms


Cassie Fields

Human trafficking, also known as modern-day slavery prevails as an international crisis. Human trafficking consists of sexual exertion, forced labor, illicit trade, smuggling of people, and even organs.  After the illegal drug trade, human trafficking stands as the second largest criminal industry in the world.  Individuals who live in poverty, especially women and children have a greater risk of falling into the scandals acts of human trafficking. Victims who live this routine are prone to numerous health issues during and after this forced traumatic lifestyle. The voices of human trafficking victims remain silent due to isolation, heinous threats, and manipulation.  Internationally, people have recently realized how critical human trafficking is; the crisis continues to grow.  Human trafficking requires an intense understanding of the three primary categories abroad; forced labor, sex trafficking, and debt bondage.  Understanding the psychological distress human trafficking has on the victims, and the families of the victims also correspond with significance.

Forced labor trafficking, also called involuntary servitude, stands as the largest sector of modern-day slavery internationally. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated, “20.9 million people are victims of forced labor globally” (ILO Global Estimate, 2012, p. 1).  Forced labor traffickers are recruiters, employers, and contractors who use violence, threats, and other forms of manipulation forcing unwilling people to work under punishment.  Labor trafficking varies in several ways, serving as; sweatshop factory labor, service industry labor, agricultural labor, domestic service, involuntary child labor, and the list continues. Weitzer stated, “circumstances can be quite harsh and manifests itself in unfair deductions from wages, lack of pay altogether, confiscation of passports, inhuman working and living conditions, deprivation of liberty, beatings, and sexual assault” (2014, p. 2).  The types of situations and conditions listed happen in plain sight, yet remain unnoticed.  Finding victims and offenders exists as an ongoing and challenging task, making forced labor one of the most prevalent types of human trafficking internationally.

Sex trafficking is more crucial than labor trafficking due to the higher risks of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, substantial use of illegal substances, and greater acts of violence.  Sex trade or sex trafficking consists of sexual terrorism by acts of violence and manipulation. People who arrange sexual acts for money through drug-induced prostitution are commonly known as “pimps”.  Pimps manage money victims forcefully make through prostitution. Contracting sexually transmitted diseases can often occur when experiencing sexual exploration. Wirth declared, “Forcibly prostituted women were more likely to be HIV-infected than were women who joined the industry voluntarily, independent of age at entering prostitution” (2013). Prostitution provides greater risks of sexually transmitted diseases while undergoing sex trafficking rather than voluntary prostitution. Typically, offenders target vulnerable women and children who come from troubled homes.  Children ranging from the ages of 12 through 17 are more frequently victims of sex trafficking. Burkle estimated that, “One million children enter the sex trade each year” (2015, p. 10). Offenders imprison, abuse, and manipulate innocent juveniles.  Children suffering from sexual terrorism take extreme beatings, become addicted to illegal substances, lack stability, and receive no professional health care when needed.  Lastly, pimps force adolescents into the commercial sex trade causing severe damages that last a lifetime.

The least acknowledged type of human trafficking provides similar traits to forced labor trafficking, this form of modern-day slavery obtains the name debt bondage. Debt bondage, debt slavery, or debt labor occurs under different circumstances. A person’s pledge to pay a debt or obligation through work exists as debt bondage. An individual commits to slavery until a debt no longer exists. Most cases of debt slavery compel permanent enslavement due to living expenses and other basic needs an offender adds on.   Debt bondage can also be passed down through generations; many family members work to pay an everlasting debt. The value of work victims and families put into paying back a debt becomes greater than the original amount borrowed.  Victims suffer violence, manipulation, discrimination, and isolation. “Bonded labor flourishes because of poverty and widespread caste-based discrimination. Limited access to justice, education and jobs for discriminated groups make it difficult to get out of poverty” (“Debt Bondage”, 2017). The type of trafficking described frequently occurs in third world countries where wealthy families rule over individuals in poverty. Although illegal, bonded labor remains unenforced, mainly where ruling classes can exploit vulnerable groups. In the end, bonded labor remains the least knowledgeable classification of human trafficking internationally and will more likely stay this way for generations.

Alongside the three primary categories of human trafficking, recognizing symptoms contains significance in preventing the continuing crisis.  The leading symptoms of victims, mainly women and children, presently involved in human trafficking show signs of malnourishment and physical abuse. Women and children who survive physical abuse from offenders present bruises, black eyes, sleep disorders, broken bones, scars, burns, and chronic illnesses. Victims also avoid eye contact and social interaction, especially with law enforcement. Sufferers work long consecutive hours, have false or improper identification, have no phone number or address, and have no access to their earnings. Human trafficking victims develop psychological issues that last a lifetime.  Victims develop feelings of shame, humiliation, and guilt, and primarily suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Development of depression and anxiety also appears. Victims display tense emotions, paranoia, fear, and demonstrate a submissive nature. Human trafficking takes place in many situations and locations such as; escort services, massage parlors, sweatshops, hotels, nail salons, ranch work, exotic dancing, and even in-home care. Not all victims experience the same type of catastrophe, some show significantly different paths, address the issue with caution. After all, symptom awareness of human trafficking saves innocent lives each year.

Human trafficking lingers silently in the shadows of streets across the globe. As a society, efforts to respond to this ongoing crisis grows, although not enough.  Many individuals combat this challenging problem; it may take years before fully realized. Law enforcement has not prioritized modern-day slavery, prolonging victims from seeing a better life. Sharing thoughts and ideas on the matter may save lives and provide significance for future generations. Increasing awareness can improve data to eliminate today’s slavery, offering further opportunities for victims seeking a way out. Further attention in school and at home assists prevention in human trafficking.  Advancing knowledge and understanding information relating to the primary categories and symptoms of human trafficking provides important details to help decrease numbers of victims internationally.


Burkle, L. (2015, October 26). Understanding and Recognizing Human Trafficking.

Debt Bondage. (2017). Debt Bondage: What is it?.

International Labor Organization (2012). ILO 2012 Global Estimate of Forced Labor Executive Summary.

Weitzer, R. (2014, March 28). New Directions in Research on Human Trafficking. Retrieved


Wirth, K. E. (2013, January 16). How Does Sex Trafficking Increase the Risk of HIV Infection?. Retrieved from


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