Dr. Ani Kalayjian speaks about human trafficking

Dr. Ani Kalayjian (right)

American Psychological Association (APA) press release, August 2007

On August 18, at the 115th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco (USA), Dr. Ani Kalayjian delivered a presentation on the subject of sex trafficking of women and girls. She devoted a significant portion of her time at the convention to depicting the plight of sex-trafficking victims. From Himalayan villages to Eastern European cities, people – especially women and girls – are attracted by the prospect of a well-paying job as a domestic servant, waitress, factory worker or prostitute. Traffickers recruit victims through fake advertisements, mail-order bride catalogs, and casual acquaintances.

Upon arrival at their destination, victims are placed in conditions controlled by traffickers and are exploited to generate illicit revenues. Many are physically confined, their travel or identity documents are confiscated, and they or their families are threatened if they do not cooperate. Traffickers blackmail the women and girls forced to work as prostitutes with the threat that they will tell the girls? families of their activities. Trafficked children are dependent on their traffickers for food, shelter, and other basic necessities.

Another tactic of traffickers that helps them maintain control over the women is to play on the victims? fears that authorities in a strange country will prosecute or deport them if they ask for help.

Trafficking in human beings is a global issue and needs a global response. There is a need to strengthen the criminal justice response to trafficking through legislative reform, raising awareness, and training, as well as through national and international cooperation.

The following are current statistics that pertain to this issue:
– Europol estimates that the sex-trafficking industry is now worth several billion dollars a year.
– A recent CIA report estimated that between 45,000 and 50,000 women and children are brought to the United States every year under false pretenses and are forced to work as prostitutes, abused laborers, or servants.
– UNICEF estimates that more than 200,000 children are enslaved via cross-border smuggling in West and Central Africa.

A report from 2000 by the Congressional Research Service gives the following figures:
– More than 225,000 victims arrive in US annually from Southeast Asia and more than 150,000 come from South Asia.
– The former Soviet Union has become the largest new source of forced prostitution, with 100,000 individuals trafficked each year from the New Independent States, including Armenian women sent to neighboring countries such as Turkey.
– More than 75,000 are trafficked from Eastern Europe, 100,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean, and more than 50,000 from Africa.

Reported profile of victims and the purpose of human trafficking at the global level:

Human trafficking chart
*Source: Report on Human Trafficking, United Nations (April, 2006)


?Trafficking in persons? shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the removal of organs.? (Article 3, paragraph a of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime).

Who is most vulnerable?
– Traffickers target women and children in particular.
– Poverty, unemployment, and lack of education and access to resources are the driving forces behind people taking risks to improve their living conditions.
– South Asia, Southeast Asia and the nations of the former Soviet Union are the largest current sources of people for the trafficking business.
– Conflict zones, in which combatants create a market for the illegal trade and where the governmental and local law enforcement systems have eroded, make abduction, transportation, and forced service easier for traffickers to perpetrate. 

What is the UN doing? 
The UN has put in place a Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Its purpose is to prevent and combat trafficking, to protect and assist victims, and to promote international cooperation.

Summary and key points of the Protocol:
– The Protocol sets forth a functioning definition of ?human trafficking,? as developed and agreed upon by the international community.
– While setting out strict legal guidelines for dealing with traffickers, the protocol also address the need to protect victims of trafficking in their home countries and abroad.
– Law-enforcement agencies of countries that ratify the Protocol are required to cooperate in such matters as assisting with the identification of offenders and trafficked persons, sharing information about the methods of offenders, and supporting the training of investigators and law-enforcement and victim-support personnel. 

What are the obstacles?
– Lack of an incorporative, universal database.
– Difficulty in collecting reliable data due to the international and illicit nature of human trafficking.
– Varying political stances on prostitution between states.
– Lack of international attention.
– Demonization of victims by international press and the public.

What can you do?
– Educate yourself about the nature and scope of the problem.
– Disseminate information about human trafficking to the public.
– Participate in seminars and workshops aimed at victim advocacy.
– Form a meaningful and loving relationship and DO NOT buy sex, which reinforces the need to have women and children trafficked.

Meaningful WorldDr. Ani Kalayjian
Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress
Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Fordham University
President, Association for Trauma Outreach & Prevention
Board of Directors, United Nations, NGO Human Rights Committee
Treasurer, American Psychological Association International Division
President, Armenian American Society for Studies on Stress & Genocide


Photo: Dr. Ani Kalayjian was presented with an award by Teacher's College praising her life-long commitment to survivors of traumas.