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Hidden in Plain Sight

by Stephanie Hepburn ; Rita J. Simon

Pub Date: June 4th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-231-16145-9
Publisher: Columbia Univ.

A meticulous academic study grasping the vast scope of an evolving global problem.

Journalist Hepburn (co-author: Women's Roles and Statuses the World Over, 2006, etc.) and Simon (Public Affairs and Law/American Univ.; co-author: Immigration the World Over, 2003, etc.) carefully define the many forms of human exploitation, which are shockingly prevalent from the poorest to the richest countries. The authors have sifted through documentation increasingly available—such as the Trafficking in Persons Report compiled annually by the U.S. State Department, studies by the United Nations, NGOs, newspapers and court cases—and have chosen 24 countries that offer a representative sampling of the worldwide “trafficking scenario” in terms of economics, geopolitics and culture. Many countries are only now being compelled to address the problem, and the issues of definition plague official statistics and efforts at enforcement. For example, labor trafficking (such as debt bondage) is as much a part of human exploitation as sex trafficking, though not often included in the same statistics. The authors group the countries not geographically but by a thematic commonality. For example, the United States, Japan and the United Arab Emirates are all hugely wealthy countries attractive to traffickers because of their need for inexpensive labor and the allowing of visa loopholes that encourage the enslavement of foreign migrants. The influx of victims trafficked to the Gulf Region after hurricanes Katrina and Rita provide cases in point, as does the reluctance by Japan to address its “hyperthriving” sex industry and yakuza (organized crime) network. Other themes around which countries are grouped include stateless persons, such as the hill tribe people of Thailand and the Palestinians; unrest and displacement (Iraq, Syria); gender apartheid (Iran); social hierarchy (China); and muti murder, or the abduction and murder of people for the purpose of harvesting body parts (South Africa). The authors also consider what happens to traffickers and victims after apprehension.

Difficult reading at times, but immensely well-documented and useful.