Timeline of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking and exploitation has been in existance across the globe for thousands of years. From the ancient Greek and Romans to the medieval times, and up until today, humans have been subject to various forms of physical and sexual slavery. Below are some of the more salient points in history related to human trafficking.

  • African Slave Trade

    A depiction of the African slave trade throughout these years. Image Source


    Although forms of slavery existed before the 1400, the 1400s marked the start of European slave trading in Africa with the Portuguese transporting people from Africa to Portugal and using them as slaves. In 1562, the British joined in on the slave trade in Africa. The development of plantation colonies increased the volume of the slave trade. Later on throughout the 1600s, other countries became more involved in the European slave trade. These included Spain, North America, Holland, France, Sweden, and Denmark (Agatucci).

  • white slaves

    Publications regarding deception of young white girls sparked the Agreement for the Suppression. Image Source


    In 1904, the International Agreement for the Suppression of "White Slave Traffic" was signed and put into action. The purpose of this agreement was to protect women, young and old, from being involved in "white slave traffic." White slavery referred to forcing or deceiving a white woman or girl into prostitution. Some people argue, however, that this act was only put into place in order to control the number of European women who were seeking to find jobs abroad. Still, the agreement stands as a moral action against the trafficking of women (Kangaspunta).

  • League of Nations

    A meeting of the League of Nations to discuss international issues. Image Source


    The League of Nations was founded after the WWI, and had the goal maintaining world peace and also focusing on international issues such as human trafficking. The Suppression of White Slave Traffic was changed to "traffic in women and children" so that everyone was included with no discrimination to race ("When"). Children of both genders were also recognized as victims of trafficking. In addition, two major studies were conducted, one in the West and one in the East, in an attempt to find out the real status of trafficking in these areas. Factors that were measured included the number of women engaged in prostitution, the demand, and the surrounding environment of the women who were trafficked. Information was also gathered about the traffickers (Kangaspunta). This was a step toward gaining more insight about the issue of human trafficking.

  • comfort station

    After paying a fee, soldiers gained access to the women's quarters. Image Source


    During WWII, Japan had set up a horrifying and outrageous system where women all across Asia were forced into sexual slavery. The women were housed in what were known as "comfort stations." The conditions in these stations were atrocious, with each woman detained in a small cubicle, and received beatings and other tortures if they were defiant. Because of this, many women ultimately died of disease, malnutrition, exhaustion, suicide, etc. The stations were also surrounded by barbed wire, making escape impossible. The Japanese government set up these stations in hopes of preventing rape crimes in public, prevent the spread of STDs, and to provide comfort for soldiers so they wouldn't tell military secrets ("Past").

  • Trafficking in India

    Trafficking in India needed to be regulated so that women and children especially would not be exploited. Image Source


    In 1956, India initiated the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, which persecutes the third parties involved in trafficking. These activities included running brothels, living on earnings from sex work, capturing and imprisoning people into prostitution, etc. It can be argued, however, that this Act failed to protect the women who may have been forced into prostitution. Many of the arrests that were made were for sex workers due to soliciting, and they ultimately lost everything. Furthermore, many were forced from brothels into more dangerous areas. Although this Act made an effort to control trafficking, it was clear that it needed to be reformed ("Sex").

  • UN Conference

    Women from the 1995 Conference. Image Source


    In 1995, the United Nations held the fourth World Conference to address the issue of trafficking of women. In this meeting, a major accomplishment was the fact that trafficking was actually recognized as an act of violence against women, and the concept of trafficking was further defined ("Trafficking"). Most importantly, actions to be taken were also developed. These included enforcing international conventions on trafficking and human slavery, address the factors that encourage trafficking, set up effective law enforcement and institutions who would work to eliminate trafficking both nationally and internationally, and implementing programs including educational and rehabilitation institutions to provide for the social, medical, and psychological needs to victims of trafficking ("Fourth").

  • 2002

    On February 14, 2002, the Polaris Project was officially founded by Katherine Chon and Derek Ellerman, two seniors from Brown University. After learning about the existence of a brothel near their college, these two individuals began to envision a society where modern day slavery is eliminated. Their vision became a reality through the Polaris Project, which today, is a leading non-profit working to stop human trafficking. Their key developments include a national, toll-free hotline where they receive information or reports regarding human trafficking, advocating for more legislation, raising awareness, and training law enforcement to deal with trafficking issues ("Founding").

  • Migrant workers

    Bodies of the workers after being suffocated in atrocious conditions. Image Source


    In 2008, a case emerged where several migrants were found to be illegally smuggled into Thailand by traffickers. Fifty-seven of these migrants suffocated to death while being transported after being confined in a seafood container where the air-conditioning system malfunctioned. There were 67 survivors of the journey, and they told of how they had hopes of finding work in Thailand, but conditions in the lorry suddenly became unbearable. The driver ignored protests by the passengers, fearing that the police would be suspicious at checkpoints, and fled the scene when he realized that individuals had collapsed (MacKinnon). This story calls the issues of trafficking to our attention, and reminds us that change must be initiated in order for conditions to be improved.

  • passport

    Fake U.S. passports were created so young women could be trafficked to the U.S. Image Source


    In 2009, a large human trafficking ring was busted in Taipei, Taiwan. The case involved several young females who were brought to the U.S. illegally with fake passports. They then used these fake passports to obtain visas. They were discovered by the National Immigration Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. A total of 74 suspects from the trafficking ring were brought in for investigation ("Largest"). Read more on the story here.

  • candlelight vigil

    A candlelight vigil held in AZ on National Human Trafficking Day. Image Source


    President Obama declared January to be Human Trafficking Awareness month, and Jan. 11, 2011 was named National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. On this day, various individual, as well as group events took place in an attempt to increase awareness about human trafficking among the general public. The Alliance to End Human Trafficking, an anti trafficking coalition, began a campaign to ask the government to take a serious look at trafficking by renewing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The goal was not only to increase awareness, but to initiate action as well (Kloer).

Works Cited

Agatucci, Cora. "African Timelines Part III: African Slave Trade & European Imperialism." African Timelines. Central Oregon Community College, 01 Jan. 2010. Web. 11 Dec. 2011.

"Founding Story." Polaris Project | Combating Human Trafficking and Modern-day Slavery. Polaris Project, 2010. Web. 11 Dec. 2011.

"Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995." Welcome to the United Nations: It's Your World. UN Women, Sept. 1995. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.

Kangaspunta, Kristiina. "A Short History of Trafficking in Persons." Freedom From Fear Magazine - Freedom From Fear Magazine. UNICRI. Web. 11 Dec. 2011.

Kloer, Amanda. "Coalition Launches Campaign for National Human Trafficking Awareness Day." Change.org News. Change.org Inc., 10 Jan. 2011. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.

"Largest-ever Human Trafficking Ring Busted - The China Post." China Post Online - Taiwan, News, Breaking News, World News, and News from Taiwan. The China Post, 19 June 2009. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.

MacKinnon, Ian. "54 Burmese Migrants Suffocate in Packed Lorry | World News | The Guardian." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 10 Apr. 2008. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.

"Past." WITHIN EVERY WOMAN. WITHIN EVERY WOMAN, 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2011.

"Sex Work." Welcome to the Lawyers Collective. Lawyers Collective. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.

"Trafficking in Women." Focus 37 (2004). Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center. HURIGHTS OSAKA. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.

"When Did Trafficking in Women Become a Human Rights Issue?" Sex Trafficking and Prostitution. Wordpress, 27 May 2010. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.