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Impact of Globalisation on Human Trafficking in Pakistan

Info: 6182 words (25 pages) Dissertation
Published: 13th Dec 2019

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Tagged: CriminologyInternational Studies

Assignment title: Critically explore the impact of globalisation on victimisation with specific focus on human trafficking, in Pakistan with reference to feminist and criminological literature.


For many years sociologists have described globalization as culturally an on-going process of interconnected changes of the economic, cultural, social, and political scopes within society, that involve the increasing integration, norms, ideas, values and ways of life amongst nations, regions, communities around the globe (Vesajoki, 2002). However as this process is not consistent throughout the world it often leads to conflict and disintegration (Cole, 2017). Globalization in an economical perspective is also referred to as the expansion of capitalism, which ties all places around the globe into one economic system; nonetheless politically, globalisation is referred to as the development of forms of governance that operate at a global scale which is driven by the technological development, the global integration of communication technologies and the global distribution of the media where policies and cooperative nations are expected to abide (International Monetary Fund, 2008). Focusing on the particular issue of human trafficking in Pakistan this essay will analyse the impact of globalisation from both a feminist and criminological perspective. From a feminist viewpoint it will argue that globalisation has had a huge negative impact, increasing the scale of the problem especially regarding women and children – the principle victims of trafficking – in the face of government complicity and indifference. From a criminological perspective it will argue that for the same reasons identified by feminists, changes to the law in Pakistan have not kept pace with the changing nature of the problem.

This essay will begin by defining globalisation and human trafficking; it will then go on to explain human trafficking in Pakistan and why and how it takes place, including its history and colonisation. It will also examine what the Pakistani government did to combat human trafficking followed by its Human Rights, its law and protection in tackling human trafficking. A comparison will be made between Pakistan and other European countries and their laws that protect the rights of women, highlighting any salient similarities and differences followed by a summary and a conclusion of results.

Definition of globalisation and human trafficking

Since the 1995, the United Nations Conference on women has stated that globalisation over the years has presented some women with opportunities and left others marginalised, which has left mainstream advocates to protest in order to achieve gender equality (UN Women, 1995). Globalisation is said to affectdifferent groups of people in different places in different ways; in one hand it creates opportunities for people to be forerunners in economic and social process by promoting ideas and norms of equality and awareness in their struggle for equitable rights and opportunities (Chhibber, 2009). Butale (2015) comments that, on the other hand, globalisation can exacerbate gender inequality within and among countries in a patriarchal society, coupled with economic and social failure in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and countries in transition like those in Eastern Europe. Razavi (2001) adds that the Middle East and the former Soviet Union have experienced similar situations and also points to financial crises in Asia and Latin America. However traditional human trafficking has been described as the abduction or kidnapping workers with the intent to enslave; usually women and girls destined to work in the commercial sex industry (U.S. Department of State, 2005). However over the years recent developments have implemented a much broader definition for human trafficking, which addresses both working conditions and how a person is recruited and treated, considering human trafficking to be one of the most serious of crimes which violate the human rights of those who are exploited where the global value of sex is placed on women and labour placed on men (European Parliment, 2016).

Human trafficking by contrast involves force, threats and deception and specifically targets the trafficked person as an object of criminal exploitation for labour or services. It does not necessarily always involve crossing any borders, as there are many instances of internal trafficking usually carried out by recruiters, transporters, those who exercise control over trafficked persons, those who exploit the transferred persons, those who are involved in related crimes, and those who get direct or indirect benefits from trafficking activities (Human Trafficking Foundation, n.d.). Nevertheless the United Nations stated that “Trafficking suggests the recruitment, transportation, purchase, sale, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons: by threat, use of violence, abduction, use of force, fraud, deception, or coercion (including abuse of authority or of a position of vulnerability), or of the giving or receiving of payments benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another or debt bondage, for the purpose of exploitation which includes prostitution or for placing or holding such person, whether for pay or not, in forced labour or slavery-like practices in a community other than the one in which such person lived at the time of the original act described” (UNODC, 2016 p.14).  

Human trafficking in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the biggest human trafficking problems are bonded labour and prostitution and in some cases trafficking of organs, which involves people of any gender or age, but predominantly those trafficked are women and children as the global value placed on women is sex and sexuality and for men it is considered as labour (Rahman, 2011). Those targeted for human trafficking are mainly situated in the Sindh and Punjab provinces which also include those from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, with over one million people victimised, with figures so high it is impossible to determine the number of people caught up in the net of trafficking(U.S. Department of State, 2016). Unfortunately these cases are often reffered to as “hidden crime” as victims rarely come forward to seek help because of language barriers, fear of he traffickers, and/or fear of law enforcement. Traffickers will often groom their victims In return for their trust and loyalty, which often leads to the targeting of victims, gaining their trust, filling a need, isolating them, and sexualizing the relationship they have and finally maintaining control (Lake, 2015).In the most serious of cases victims of human trafficking are kidnapped by their traffickers and often abused, blackmailed and imprisoned privately if they speak out publicly (Belser et al., 2018). The U.S. Department of State Office to monitor and combat trafficking in Persons report stated that Pakistan was in the Tier 2 Watch-list in 2017 which indicates that although the government of Pakistan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, it is making significant efforts to do so (Rosen, 2017).  It is indicated that those who enter forced labour in Pakistan are usually from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, and where women and girls are used for sex trafficking often come from Afghanistan, China, Russia, Nepal, Iran, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan, it is also indicated that refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Burma, as well as religious and ethnic minorities such as Christians and Hazaras, mostly women and children and is both cross border and internal (U.S. Department of State, 2016).  However the government of Pakistan approved its national strategic framework against trafficking in persons and human smuggling, and reported that there was a rise in the number of shelters that were provided to victims of human trafficking between the years 2014 to 2015, however while a small number of the total victims identified were given shelter, it is unclear what other rehabilitation services victims were provided, especially male victims. Alleged traffickers accessed women in some of the shelters and forced them into prostitution (UNODC, 2013).  

Why and how does trafficking take place?

Globalization is tied to momentous political changes of the present era such as the rise of identity politics, transnational civil society, and new forms of governance and universalization of human rights but it must be acknowledged that human trafficking and any form of slavery are not just outcomes of globalisation but they are a part and the process of globalisation which involves a functional integration of dispersed economic activities which involves brick kilns, carpet-making, agriculture, fishing, mining, leather tanning, and production of glass bangles(Webster, 2018).  In Pakistan women are the most vulnerable to the trafficking phenomenon, which is associated with poverty, gender discrimination, lack of education, and ignorance towards legal and human rights (umaircnn, 2017). Malala Yousafzai, an activist for female equality in education and Nobel Prize winner, said at the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland “it is crucial to educate young boys about women’s rights. “When we talk about feminism and women’s rights, we are talking to men. We have to teach young boys how to be men.” Asked about powerful men such as United States President Donald Trump, the Nobel laureate said she was disappointed to see people in high positions talking about women in unequal terms” (The Economic Times, 2018).

A study conducted by the US AID in 2012 affirmed that “ It is hard to ascertain the location of internal trafficking however, it is clear that it exists in some form or another in all districts across Pakistan, for example, in the Punjabi districts and central districts of Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot and Mandhi Bahauddin, including provinces like Chitral, Balochistan, the border of Pakistan and coastal districts which are mostly affected by human trafficking” (U.S. AID, 2012) . It is also considered that although specific locations in Pakistan are more prone to trafficking, children and young girls are also often victimised due to their age and youth as they are thought to be more vulnerable and easier to manipulate and control due to the lack of power they have over their traffickers (U.S. Department of State, 2016). This tells us that the age, gender and the class/cast of female victims plays an important role and is a major factor for traffickers who plan to pray on their victims especially those who lack security and opportunity with the aim to coerce or deceive them to gain control, and then profit from their compelled service.

History and colonialism of Pakistan

As studies indicate that poverty is one of the prime determinants of human trafficking it demonstrates that it is closely linked to globalisation ever since Pakistan was first colonized by the British Empire in 1791–1804 and became an independent country on 14 August 1947 with Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the first head of government. Fighting continued between Hindus and Muslims despite the partition. Hindus and Sikhs fled to India, while Muslims departed for Pakistan where they had adopted the Islamic republic state, which operated and still operates today under a mixed economy between socialism and capitalism. Khushi Sabharwal (2015, Para. 4) stated, “The latest 2015 population is 182.6 million. The GDP is £575.0 billion; there is 3.6% growth 2.9% 5- year compound annual growth, £3,149 per capita. 5.2% people are unemployed, the inflation (CPI) is 7.4%, FDI inflow 1.3 billion”. This indicates that the country is still under a financial crisis and its provinces are underdeveloped with R.S. 52,941 debt which is on the shoulders of each and every Pakistani, where total external and internal debt today is R.S Nine trillion, whereas in the mid-nineties, the same figure was R.S. 30,000 which was to be borne by each Pakistani citizen (Sabharwal, 2015). This demonstrates that as a result of Pakistan’s colonization the country instigates poverty and for the purpose of economic gains, which in turn leads to the human trafficking and sexual exploitation of innocent people, mainly involving women and children (Alaleeli, 2015). Furthermore, poverty deprives these women of resources, which further aggravates the issue as it encompasses various dimensions which include lack of access to basic services, insecurity in daily life, disempowerment as human agency, and the inability to speak out with dignity (umaircnn, 2017) Consequently as a result, the poor parents are forced to sell their daughters into domestic servitude, prostitution, or forced marriages as there is no police protection or support offered by the criminal justice system that protects the human rights of women and girls in Pakistan (Khowaja, 2012). Thus with this in mind, the process of globalisation must be reshaped so that it is more people-centred instead of profit-centred and more accountable to women, especially in the developing world, as this can lead to a further marginalisation of women in the informal labour sector in the economic realm in the global south, which in turn can lead to the hardship, disproportionality in rights for women and the loss of traditional sources of income (World Bank, 2011).

What the government of Pakistan did to combat human trafficking

The national government of Pakistan Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces approved the legislation that covers human trafficking, and some of its provinces investigated, prosecuted and convicted several traffickers; nonetheless despite these measures that were put in place, the government did not comply or demonstrate total anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period and consequently Pakistan was placed on the Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year (U.S. Department of State, 2016a). Nevertheless the U.S. Department of State, (2016, para. 6) stated that “While the government continued to investigate, prosecute and convict traffickers, the overall number of convictions was inadequate, especially for labour trafficking, and law enforcement continued to conflate human trafficking and migrant smuggling. The same report accused the government of showing a lack of political will and insufficient capacity to address the problem, citing ineffective enforcement, mistreatment of trafficked victims and weak efforts in preventing trafficking and in addition accusing the government of persistent complicity in human trafficking (U.S. Department of State, 2013). Despite bonded labour being the largest trafficking problem in Pakistan the government only reported seven convictions for bonded labour in 2015”. This indicates that the government of Pakistan did not penalize or ban all forms of human trafficking and instead suggested that traffickers that force labour should be fined, however this signifies that fines alone are not enough to penalise and deter such crime, thus trafficking crimes remained a serious problem yet the government reported no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of complicit officials. Government protection efforts were weak .   With this in mind it is clear that the polices and practices that were put in place were in-fact inappropriate and ineffective because without a governmental proposition in place, human trafficking will continue to grow. The Human Rights Watch (2000, para.10 ) affirmed “By making the victims of trafficking the target of law enforcement efforts, governments only exacerbate victims’ vulnerability to abuse and deter them from turning to law enforcement officials for assistance. By allowing traffickers to engage in slavery-like practices without penalty, governments allow the abuses to continue with impunity”.

Human rights in Pakistan

The Amnesty International has been concerned about the on-going pattern of human rights violations that occur in Pakistan; its subjective detention, torture, forced disappearances, deaths in custody and extrajudicial executions are widespread (Amnesty International, 2017). The Pakistani government’s strategic plan to protect the human rights of individuals has failed tremendously, primarily involving women and children as well as religious minorities with no regulations in place to safeguard victims from violence and other criminal acts that they are exploited by either at home, in the community or while in legal custody. In addition, the government fails to ensure legal compensation after violations that have transpired and still continues to enforce the death penalty on those who are convicted (Zia and Butt, 2012).

The life of a woman is always challenged in patriarchal societies like Pakistan; these challenges increase when women are out of their home (Tarar and Pulla, 2014). Trafficking and sexual exploitation of women, young girls and children is on the rise with traffickers in Pakistan often recruiting and transporting victims from countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Nigeria, Somalia and even from its own country (National Crime Agency, 2014). Victims from Pakistan are often escorted to places like Australia, Europe, Turkey and South Africa by bribing public officials, facilitating the transportation, gathering information, receiving victims at the destination and exploiting them, physically beating, sexually assaulting, psychologically traumatising, and economically depriving them to create a reliance on themselves as traffickers (Human Rights Watch Avenue, 2000). As a result of the abuse women and girls go through, they develop major health concerns which is never addressed by the government as a health-related problem, they refuse to support those who are traumatised or have become sick as a result of the crime that was inflicted on them due to the shrinking job opportunities and the rise in poverty (Ihsan Qadir, 2015).  

Law and prosecution in Pakistan to tackle human trafficking

Since 2002, legislation titled Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance  (PCHTO, 2002) has been in place to address the protection of all victims of human trafficking and prosecute those who are convicted of such acts. This law imposes a 10-year imprisonment and a fine on anyone who purchases, sells, harbours, transports, provides, detains, or obtains a child or a woman through coercion, kidnapping or abduction, or by giving or receiving any benefit for trafficking the child or woman into or out of Pakistan for the purpose of exploitative entertainment. This law states that it protects victims by providing them with certain benefits like allowing them to extend their stay in Pakistan; paying compensation and expenses to the victim; or making arrangements for shelter, food, and medical care of a victim who is an unaccompanied child or a destitute woman.

 Nonetheless despite all these efforts, including the prosecution of some trafficking offences, the government has not shown evidence of progress in addressing such a serious issue as victims once captured by the authorities are re-victimised by the judicial processes, many of them being officially detained with underlying offences related to their trafficking, such as prostitution and violation of immigration rules (Asian Legal Resource Centre, 2016).

The Trafficking in persons report 2014 (TIP) states that “The government does not prohibit and penalize all forms of trafficking and as a result the combination of corruption and reduction of approximately 25 % of staff severely reduced Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) capacity to combat trafficking. “Moreover, the false job offers especially for girls and women in United Arab Emirates and high recruitment fee charged by illegal labour agents or sub-agents of licensed Pakistani overseas employment promoters entrap Pakistanis into sex trafficking and bonded labour” (U.S. Department of State, 2014).  The government also reported on investigations, prosecutions, and convictions under the penal code by province (see figure 1), nonetheless statistical data from Balochistan was not reported and the total number of trafficking cases or traffickers was unclear, Additionally, several sections of the penal code relevant to trafficking also include other crimes, and it is unknown if the crimes were disaggregated for reporting. The government officials continued to conflate human trafficking and migrant smuggling, however it is difficult to determine whether the reported statistics may have been conflating the two crimes, as indicated in the report for PACHTO, which criminalizes both trafficking and smuggling.  

Figure 1 demonstrates that while some effort was made in some regions to combat human trafficking it did not result in significant numbers of convictions. Of the investigations for abduction and illicit intercourse, it is unclear how many of these were related to sex trafficking. The bonded labour investigations were the only reported law enforcements from the government, although reports existed of widespread exploitation by land owners of bonded labourers (U.S. Department of State, 2016b).

Figure 1: source (U.S. Department of State, 2016b)

Nonetheless the government also reported that they had investigated 158 suspected traffickers and prosecuted 59 of them and convicted only 13 in 2015 under the prevention and control of human trafficking ordinance 2002 (PACHTO), compared with 70 investigations and 50 prosecutions and 17 convictions in 2014; conversely the government did not report sentences for convictions made in 2015 compared to those which resulted in fines in 2014. However in March 2016 the government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts by making arrests in brothels both on those employed and their employees including victims of sex trafficking. The government established that they did not put measures in place with the effort to reduce the demand for forced labour (U.S. Department of State, 2016b). This suggests that the government is fully aware of the on-going problems of human trafficking in Pakistan, and while the prime responsibility in eliminating human trafficking rests with government, they have chosen to turn a blind eye to the situation and in some cases gain from it through corrupt practices, Many human traffickers are backed by influential landlords and politicians and often collude with government officials to hide the crime (Aronowitz, et al., 2010). 

Europeans laws that protect women and fight against human trafficking

Human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of victims including forced labour takes place almost everywhere in the world. It is a crime that has been an on going issue for many decades which takes place in virtually all continents whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims including those who are from a wealthy first world country such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America (International Labour Organization, 2012). The European Union has developed a comprehensive strategy to help eliminate human trafficking by implementing legislation to outlaw human trafficking, helping to formulate policy documents, to fund programs and organisations and establish the office of the European Anti-trafficking Coordinator (European Comission, 2018).  The main priority of the European Union’s (EU) policy is to stop human trafficking by providing training for officials and EU Members to help identify victims or potential victims of human trafficking by supporting and putting measures in place to protect them through the use of funding to various projects which deal with the issue of identification of victims of trafficking by outlining a number of measures to EU institutions, Member states, international organisations, third world countries and the private sector (United Nations, 2017). Similarly a policy conducted by the EU to combat human trafficking between 2012-2016 is detailed in a document titled EU Strategy Towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings which places a huge emphasis on its priority to prevent, safeguard and protect victims of human trafficking (European Comission, 2012). The strategy document urges the Member States to ensure that all measures are in place to permit early victim identification in order to provide protection and assistance, to maintain the prevention of human trafficking, to establish National Multidisciplinary Law Enforcement Units that could be used as contact points with EU agencies. These include Eurojust and Europol, to involve a number of authorities in policy making decisions in the criminal justice system such as police officers, border guards, immigration and asylum officials, public prosecutors, lawyers, members of the judiciary including welfare team experts in housing, labour, health, social, and civil society organizations and finally creating operational National Referral Mechanisms (NRMs)  by raising awareness to better describe procedures to identify, refer, protect, and assist victims of human trafficking (Papademetriou, 2016). The EU has also a system in place that grants victims of trafficking with certain rights under the United Nations Trafficking protocol 2003 which ensures member states that victims of human trafficking have access to legal counselling and representation free of charge if they cannot afford it, including the access to witness protection programs and other similar measures that are in compliance with national law that supports adults and children who have been targeted and used for trafficking purposes (European Union, 2011).  

It is clear that all governments hold a unique position in the fight against human trafficking and have the responsibility for punishing criminals, protecting victims, and preventing trafficking crimes and should review policies to ensure the fight against complicity is effective and root out corruption that often allows modern slavery to thrive. Governments should stop such complicity and look within their own ranks to hold offending officials criminally accountable as each government bears that unique responsibility in the fight against modern slavery and must rise to this challenge (U.S. Department of State, 2016b)


In conclusion the trafficking of women and young girls in Pakistan is extremely concerning where economic deprivation, gender discrimination, inequality in education, and the ignorance about legal rights are the contributing factors. As a result, these victims could undergo various distressing health outcomes, especially related to reproductive health, substance abuse etc. As Pakistan is an independent country and is led by its own government, it is down to the state itself to provide women and girls with safety and protection against violations of their human rights. Steps to facilitate healthcare providers in assisting the victims need to be taken hence; numerous interventions would be required to prevent trafficking, to protect victims, and to prosecute all perpetrators. A holistic perspective of care should be provided to health professionals in order to raise awareness, educational programmes need to be in place in order to protect women from severe health consequences. Alongside this, training should be required for legal professionals and judges for awareness related to trafficking. Illiteracy and unawareness about the law is another subject of concern. Therefore, facilities for the provision of legal advice and support to victims should be made available in courts which include issues around compensation, witness protection and other similar issues that have not been a part of a protocol should be incorporated into revised versions.

Finally it can be argued that the global community should have the responsibility to bring in regulations that are more focused on the protection and safety of women by incorporating a mutually agreed legal framework to safeguard women and young girls by ensuring that they are not subjected to criminal proceedings as a result of the act that was imposed on them and prosecuted for their illegal entry to the country. Thus without a comprehensive approach in tackling human trafficking and other types of organised crime, the government will not be able to attain significant progress by curbing this phenomenon and the global industry of human trafficking will still continue to grow causing many fatalities in women and girls over time. 

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