Human Trafficking

Scholars and policy makers estimate that there are 27 million slaves in the world today. At the dawn of the 21st Century, how can this be? Moreover, what policies can state and non-state actors invoke to reduce this number until there are absolutely no slaves in the world today? What explains the growth of slavery over time in the modern era? How can we best predict where trafficking will occur and in what capacity? These are but a few of the questions that drive my current research agenda on human trafficking and modern day slavery.

My interest in human rights goes back to high school, when I helped start up a local chapter of Amnesty International. After college, when I started to travel abroad, I couldn’t help but notice the flagrant sex trafficking in nearly every country I visited: Korea, Japan, Thailand, India. I distinctly remember passing through the Nakasu red light district in Japan in the summer of 2000, and seeing the local police station in the heart of the scene. To me, this suggested that the Japanese mafia (the Yakuza) colluded with local law enforcement to keep things running smoothly. In a word: corruption.

Nakasu District, Fukuoka City, Japan

I suppose might seem naive to think that society could end human trafficking and modern day slavery, but there are thousands of NGOs committed to this endeavor. For my part, I’m beginning to study the phenomenon of human trafficking in analytic detail with an emphasis on empirical/quantitative analysis. The added benefit/contribution I hope to make is to share the story and plight of human trafficking with a broader audience, beyond the audience most NGOs appeal to. It turns out there is not very much academic work on this subject. However, by partnering with NGOs that are willing to share their data, I can study this phenomenon and share my work within the academic and policy making community. It’s a start, albeit a small step.