Blog #7: Taiwan – An Epicenter of Trafficking

Taiwan is sadly a significantly large hub for human trafficking of men, women and
children. In Taiwan, though, sex trafficking is only a portion of the human trafficking that takes place – another largely utilized form is forced labor. Taiwan is the epicenter of women being trafficked around the world, including Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Most of the victims are migrant workers from Indonesia, mainland China, the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, as well as Bangladesh and India. The sex slavery in Taiwan is typically facilitated through fraudulent marriages, as well as auctions to sex traffickers that result in their being brought into the commercial sex industry.   Those who are trafficked through Taiwan live in extremely poor conditions, make little to no money, and are often confined to small spaces that they are not allowed to leave.

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In January, 10 female sex workers were found in Kaohsiung, Taiwan living trapped in a 33-square-meter dorm room. They were migrant workers from Indonesia and the Philippines , and said they did not know the work they were going to be forced into until after they arrived. They had originally believed they had been recruited to dance in night clubs. They were constantly fined for minor “infractions,” such as being above a certain weight, and were expected to pay a significant amount of money in rent a month. In order to pay back their debt, they were “encouraged” to work as escorts, thus began their sexual slavery. Foreign workers like these are only ten of some 40,000 migrant workers that have gone missing in the last year, making up over 8 percent of all migrant workers in Taiwan. It is believed that majority of these people have fallen into some kind of human trafficking.

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While most women end up in the sex trafficking industry, thousands of men fall victim to labor trafficking in Taiwan as well, which is the most largely unprosecuted form of trafficking in Taiwan.  Most of these workers are in the fishing industry, as well as construction and manufacturing, all making little to no wages and living in poor conditions with no food and frequent physical abuse. In some cases, Taiwanese authorities have a significant oversight when it comes to labor trafficking. When they identify traffickers, they have the ability to request an arrest warrant from international bodies, such as Interpol, but fail to, or, “seem not to want to pursue it because it might shed light on the illegal/unregulated fishing activities, many of which bring in massive amounts of money,” according to Huffington Post.

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The United Nations Development Programme set forth Sustainable Development Goals in 2016 in order to address many issues plaguing the world, one of which is Human Trafficking. Human Trafficking is directly and indirectly mentioned in Goals 5, 8, and 16.

Goal 5 addresses Gender Equality, in which both sex trafficking is addressed. Some of its root causes such as having prostitution and forced marriages legal are also mentioned, both of which are heavily utilized in Taiwan in order to trick women into sex trafficking. Others include:

  • “Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies
  • Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources.”

It is through these forms of economic equality that fewer women will fall victim to the trafficking experienced by women who come to Taiwan for work. Furthermore, Goal 8 addresses Decent Work and Economic Growth, in which another root of not only sex trafficking but also human trafficking is addressed, including:

  • “Full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
  • Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour
  • Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.”

By ensuring this rights of labor workers, women and men can seek employment within their own countries as well as migrant worker in places like Taiwan with less fear of falling victim to sex trafficking and poor working conditions. These conditions would be upheld by authorities more thoroughly and prevent the mistreatment of migrant workers, trafficked or not. Following the actions of authorities, Goal 16 addresses Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

This goal directly addresses the end of all forms of human trafficking by governments and institutions. It also calls for equal access to justice, which those who have fallen victim to trafficking could heavily utilize. The  reduction of corruption, the transparency of institutions, as well as the provision of legal identity for all would also improve the ability of victims of traffickers to seek freedom and justice.

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Despite its challenges, Taiwan has been awarded for the sixth year in a row a rank of Tier 1 from the United States State Department for its efforts to end human trafficking in the country. Taiwan has done a job on par with only South Korea to, “prevent human trafficking, protect victims and prosecute offenders.” While there is always more work to do as long as trafficking exists, Taiwan is doing much better than many other South Asian countries as far as attempting to bring justice to all of those who deserve it in the world of human trafficking.

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