Many countries ignore human trafficking: U.N

Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:19pm EST
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By Mark Heinrich

VIENNA (Reuters) - Human trafficking for the sex trade or forced labor market appears to be getting worse because many countries are ignoring the globalized problem, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said on Thursday.

It gave no figure for the number of people trafficked every year, but a U.S. State Department report has put it at 800,000 compared with the International Labor Organization's estimate in 2005 that 2.5 million people were being trafficked annually.

The UNODC study said 40 percent of affected countries had not registered a single conviction, crucial to deterrence.

"On his 200th birthday, Abraham Lincoln must be turning in his grave," UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costa told Reuters. "The Great Emancipator did not end slavery. It is alive and well in the form of human trafficking -- a crime that shames us all."

UNODC said although sexual abuse was suffered mainly by women and girls, women accounted for the majority of traffickers in almost a third of the 155 countries surveyed.

Twenty percent of victims were children, but they were the majority in Southeast Asia's Mekong region and parts of Africa.

"Children's nimble fingers are exploited to untangle fishing nets, sew luxury goods or pick cocoa. Their innocence is abused for begging or exploited for sex as prostitutes," UNODC said.

About 79 percent of human trafficking involved sex slavery while 18 percent covered forced or bonded labor, forced marriages and organ removal.   Continued...