Human Trafficking Sociology

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Trafficking of human beings is one of the world’s most serious problems. The abomination has social, economic, political and cultural elements (Lee, 2013). Research indicates that victims of sex trafficking are typically derived from a certain ethnicity, ethnic background, gender and social status (Palmiotto, 2015). Often considered to be from a certain culture are offenders that lead to sex trafficking. It is important to explore the sociological perspective of this issue in order to manage and respond correctly to the challenges of the human trafficking industry. This paper analyzes the sociological perspective of human trafficking and focuses on providing a deep insight into the social side of the problem. he paper further shows how gender, race, culture and ethnicity are related to the problem and how victims and suspects are drawn from various societies globally. In addition, the paper seeks to draw attention to the multiple traceable patterns and social facets of human trafficking thus revealing ways in which the world can control and mitigate future occurrences of human trafficking; a sociological explanation of macro and micro level human trafficking is also given.

Sociological Perspective

The sociological perspective is a unique method used to examine global problems that are often taken for granted. Using the sociological eye allows us to find patterns, leads and meanings which help us analyze problems and therefore find ways to prevent future occurrences of the issue. The method tends to show that social locations, gender, ethnicity, age and social class directly influence one’s life experience. When human trafficking is analyzed from a sociological perspective, it enables us to view all its facets in multiple ways. Human trafficking from a sociological perspective obligates us to lay emphasis on matters beyond human actions. Using the concept of sociology shows that human trafficking is not only based on an individual’s beliefs, decision and attitude, it is also constrained by larger factors such as race, gender and ethnicity. Human trafficking can only be controlled once we understand how these social factors interact with the problem.

Gender and Human Trafficking

The (ILO) International Labor Organization, reports that women are most vulnerable to human trafficking. The race, ethnicity and age of women contribute significantly to this since many are trafficked into domestic service and prostitution agencies. According to the U.N Office on Drugs, over sixty percent of trafficking victims are women. Certain cultures have patriarchal and discriminatory laws that diminish female independence while making them more vulnerable to hardships and easy targets to traffickers. A glaring example is the Afghanistan women under the Taliban law which has banned females from enrolling in schools, restricted their movement and allowed various types of abuse on them. Civil wars and natural disaster further raise the stakes and challenges for young women and children making them even more susceptible to trafficking. The research signals that women are perceived to be the lesser gender in the globe. It is clear that upholding the independence, rights and the financial ability of women is crucial in maintaining global peace and cohesion.

The prosecution of twenty five sex traffickers in Georgia brought to light some of the horrific situations that victims often find themselves in (Palmiotto, 2015). Evidence provided during the trial showed that girls were severely beaten and the security of their families threatened if the failed to comply with the rules. Traffickers take the women to brothels and grab a large fraction of money they earn. Victims often contract sexually transmitted diseases and abuse hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. Perhaps, the only remedy to sex trafficking is to instill change in cultures where women are susceptible to deprivation and trafficking (Morehouse, 2009). However, changing theses cultures and beliefs is an uphill task. Cultural change must come from the society itself rather than an external force. Organizations such as the human rights and Nonprofit have come together to contest ignorance and empower women, slowly bringing positive change on rigid cultures (Lee, 2013).

How Ethnicity and Race Relates to Human Trafficking

Race is often linked to skin color and physical attributes. Society instills a lot of social and symbolic significance to race. Racial differences have been used over the years to warrant for existing social inequalities and advocate for the allocation of privileges to minority groups. Ethnicity simply refers to the cultural differences that distinguish different groups. Ones ethnicity is reflected in dialect, place of origin, religious beliefs and cultural heritage. Ethnic groups possess certain physical attributes that distinguish them from the rest. Human trafficking affects certain races and ethnicities more (Burke, 2017). Minority groups and marginalized populations are easy targets to traffickers especially in times of civil wars and revolution. Empirical evidence demonstrates that high risk populations such as are the poor and migrants are from ethnic and racial minorities (Burke, 2017).

The International Office for Migration (IOM) assists victims of trafficking and collects information pertaining trafficking incidents (Morehouse, 2009). According to the IOM human trafficking is rampant in Ukraine, Yemen, Laos, Haiti, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Belarus (Palmiotto, 2015). An implication derived from the patterns on trafficking is that suspects share common ethnicity and race with the victims. The IOM conducted a research on 5,498 cases of human trafficking in 2011; Belarus and Ukraine accounted for 60% of Europe’s cases with majority of the population as “whites”. Arabic ethnicities were most affected in the Middle East with 73% of the scenarios taking place in Yemen (Palmiotto, 2015). In South and Central America, the black race took up two thirds of the cases with majority being from Haiti. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 40% of sex trafficking victims are black and 26% non-Latino white. Asians and Hispanics were more of labor trafficking victims (Palmiotto, 2015). Directing more resources to human trafficking hotspots and resolving conflicts in these areas would help to curb this injustice.

How Cultural Factors Intersect with Human Trafficking

Culture encompasses the customs, beliefs and behavior of a particular race or ethnic group. Culture is a significant variable because it strongly influences societies; the social life, political orientation and the economy as a whole. Human trafficking affects advanced capitalist countries, developing countries and hybrid communist nations with prominent cultures. However, the poorer regions are affected more with thousands of people being trafficked into wealthier nations annually. Dominant religious beliefs, patriarchalism, the degree of communalism or individualism, opinions on gender roles and the sexual orientation have a major impact on this illegal trade. In china, the one child policy has contributed significantly to child trafficking. The cultural affinity for male heirs has left female children in congested group homes making them an easy target for traffickers.

The poverty in Cambodia and Vietnamese has made many parents sell off their girls to sex traffickers for less than five hundred dollars (Palmiotto, 2014). Cambodia is a poverty stricken area with workers earning roughly three dollars a day. They have rigid opinions on familial roles and sex making the sale of one daughter a good way to secure the future of the whole family. In some nations, it is a taboo to openly criticize perpetrators of modern forms of slavery such as sex trafficking and labor. Such regions tend to resolve crimes outside the legal system; this alongside these cultural barriers makes such injustices to prevail. United Nations declared Africa and Asia hotspots of human trafficking mainly due to cultural barriers.

In areas where trafficking occurs, beliefs and cultures of the inhabitants inhibit them from disclosing the existence of this grievous issue. Lack of sufficient funds, inexperienced law enforcement groups and high levels of corruption in the government makes it almost impossible to identify and eradicate human trafficking. Add poverty, drought and diseases into the picture and it becomes understandable why law enforcers will assume that the young girls are prostitutes instead of victims of sex trafficking. It becomes increasingly difficult to curb sex trafficking in states like Thailand where the government condones prostitution and sex tourism (Palmiotto, 2014). Cultural factors play a significant role in human trafficking in the midst of other political and social issues that exacerbate it. A sociological perspective works towards exposing these interconnections and cultural barriers that inhibit chances of eradicating this abomination.

Micro level and macro level sociological explanations of human trafficking

The micro level explanation of human trafficking focuses on individual-level interactions; understanding social interactions, individual decision making and unraveling social situations. Micro level explanations mainly focus on criminal offenders. Individual level theories provide insight on human traffickers at the decision making level. Some of Sykes and Matza’s techniques such as denying the victim and the harm done are applied by the arrested suspects. In fact, some of the suspects justify that women and minority groups are less significant and deserve to be sold off. Sykes and Matza’s theory increases our sensitivity towards these forms of denial expressed by suspects. The rational choice theory states that people make choices only after assessing the positive and negative impact of the choice. Criminals weigh out operations based on the chances of success. Traffickers risks being arrested and prosecuted to make money by selling these unlucky victims. Thwarting crimes ought to have harsh punishments and penalties such that they outweigh the benefits. However, relying on micro level explanations to solve human trafficking is rather injudicious because explanations ignore the broader social contexts and external forces surrounding the traffickers.

The Macro level explanation of human trafficking examines the impact of social structures and institutions have on human behavior. Structural functionalism views the society as a system made of interdependent parts that work towards maintaining the stability of the whole. Functionally speaking, human trafficking enhances globalization and an unavoidable repercussion of contemporaneous human existence (Palmiotto, 2015). From a conflict perspective, globalization has both negative and positive consequences. Suspects engage in human trafficking to better their lives while the victims suffer harsh realities. Additionally, people possess the freedom to make choices but sometimes these choices are controlled by mightier forces beyond their control.


In conclusion, human trafficking is one of the world’s most complicated problems. Social factors interact with other societal issues producing an endless cycle of human trafficking. There is no easy solution to this modern way of slavery, but quick action needs to be taken because of its magnitude (Burke, 2017). Combating this issue will need holistic and lengthy approaches which will address every aspect of this cycle. The job began recently and holds the fate of millions of women and children from all over the world. Overall, using a sociological perspective gives insight on patterns and therefore human trafficking can be controlled.


Burke, M. C. (Ed.). (2017). Human trafficking: interdisciplinary perspectives. Routledge.

Lee, M. (Ed.). (2013). Human trafficking. Routledge.

Morehouse, C. (2009). Combating human trafficking. Springer Fachmedien.

Palmiotto, M. J. (2015). Introduction: Human trafficking-modern slavery.

Palmiotto, M. J. (Ed.). (2014). Combating human trafficking: A multidisciplinary approach. CRC Press.

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