The Human Trafficking Problem
Rapidly overtaking the trafficking of drugs and arms as the chosen market for organised crime in South East Asia, the trafficking of human beings has now become the third most profitable criminal industry.
Every year, according to UNICEF statistics, over one million young children and women are sold into sexual slavery and exposed to physical violence, abuse, rape and conditions of extreme physical and psychological cruelty. Protected by corrupt officials and an indifferent public, the phenomenon is growing larger every day.
This element of organised crime has been encouraged by globalisation and the inability to reduce poverty in developing countries.
The situation of South East Asia, particularly the Mekong sub-region, is especially sensitive, characterised by a fast political and economic evolution and by profound social change. Additionally, law enforcement is largely ineffective; there are few specialised judges and resources are limited in police and immigration departments.
The problem in Laos
Lao children and teenagers, living in one of the poorest countries in the world and the poorest in South-East Asia, are particularly vulnerable to the false promises of traffickers. By accepting offers of potential high earnings, they could not only support themselves, but their entire family or village.
The key contributor to the situation of poverty and vulnerability that affects women in Laos is the lack of access to production resources.
Work conditions in garment factories, the most common source of employment for Lao women, are so poor that workers are increasingly attracted by the 'easy money' promoted by prostitution. According to the AFESIP Laos 2007 Outreach Database, over 30 per cent of young women in prostitution previously worked in the garment industry.
Economical empowerment of women through alternative production resources is fundamental to promote sustainable independence.