Untying The Knots Of Human Trafficking – OpEd


By Sharique Naeem

The epitome of the most sinister of all trades, a lucrative business, and a thriving industry in the 21st century is not of mineral ores, or glittering gemstones, of arms, or opium; it is the human itself, trafficked for profit in the world within our world of Human Trafficking. This month of January 2012 has been declared by U.S. President Barack Obama as ‘National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month’.

According to a report by U.S State department (2007), around 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across borders around the world. Similarly, according to another report by UNICEF (2003), around 1.2 million children are trafficked each year.

Whereas Asia and the Pacific region is where this trade is at its zenith, human trafficking takes place around the world.  Based on data from some European countries, it was found that 95% of victims experienced physical or sexual violence during trafficking (The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Stolen smiles Report, London, 2006).

Given the gravity of this menace—being already brought into limelight by countless reports by NGOs, Government departments,  human rights institutes, and international bodies—a humble mind would be inclined to contemplate as to why this trade continues to flourish unabated? Clearly, if institutes are able to validate the existence of this illegal trade, than given the technological development and resources at disposal of states around the world, this crime can be stopped. However, with the present state of affairs, there seems no end in sight for this problem.  Because currently, the efforts which are being made to curb this menace are far from promising any significant solution.

To understand the nature of the problem and its solution, one needs to look at the fundamental forces that drive this trade within the present socio-political-economic setup structured on capitalism. And given that if these ‘forces’ are reinforced by the system, it would necessitate altogether an alternative system. The Islamic ideology offers this alternative.

One of the principle factors in the trade is trafficking of women for exploitation. Of the victims of Human trafficking, 43% are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation (International Labour Organization, Forced Labour Statistics Factsheet, 2007). The present law, based on a secular notion, recognizes exploitation only when it is without the consent of the person involved. And it legally protects & in some cases cherishes the exploitation that is based on consent. This association of exploitation on consent invariably links human value to economic value, and in a capitalist system geared towards profiteering, opens doorways for many wrongs.

In many countries today, prostitution is legal, and so are pubs and night clubs. The fallacy of such laws is exposed in particular during large events such as sports playoffs and the Olympics. For instance, in Germany during the 2006 World Cup, the authorities allowed the facilitation of accessing prostitutes by the large number of sports fans who would visit the country. At the time, the head of FIFA urged soccer fans to use only prostitutes who were “voluntarily” in the business.

Reports later emerged that some 40,000 women were trafficked into Germany for this service. Such laws based on secular creed can be seen as rational since no state has the practical capacity to monitor ‘consent’ in all activities in this sector of prostitution. It should be noted here, that the issue is not merely lack of implementation of law, but the law itself is flawed.

Contrary to this, in the Islamic state, the law does not contain such weakness. The Islamic Law categorically bans prostitution and all such associated centers which cash on exploitation of women, such as Nightclubs, the pornographic industry etc. The caliphate will not allow any businesses and individuals to exploit the sexuality, particularly of women, to advertise or promote their products or services. Therefore, the Shariah law ensures that in pursuit of economic value, human value is not compromised.  Hence, the doorways which enable exploitation to take place are closed altogether.

Poverty is another significant factor contributing in human trafficking. Most people pay large sums of money to illegally travel to another economically prosperous destination in hopes of finding better work opportunities. Countless tragedies have been reported with people suffocating in containers to people drowning. In some cases, the victims are left on their own to cross dangerous borders or thrown overboard to be forced to swim towards shores.

The reality today is that while states focus on economic activity in certain areas, other areas are left in sheer poverty.  The Capitalist economic model continues to gauge its success in oblivion to the plight of the poor. India and China are such examples where in spite of the booming economy; the poor continue to languish with no hope in sight. Moreover, presently, the revenues generated from natural resources of a land, are abnormally shared. This has resulted in situations where one can find rampant poverty even in areas from where huge profits are being generated from natural reserves of oil, gas or minerals. In this context, the law allows these resources to be controlled by private enterprises, and the share of the native people is negligible and at the mercy of temporary policies drafted by the Politicians. Baluchistan is one fine example of this. Another is the Oil-rich areas in Nigeria.

The Islamic Law would seek to alter this reality by its unique laws. The Shariah designates resources such as coal, oil, and gas as the collective property of the people (Ummah). Therefore, the state can neither sell it to private entities nor keep the profits to itself. The Caliphate state is obliged to manage the extraction and distribution of these resources to their rightful owners—the citizens of the state.

The Islamic state spends the development budget judiciously based on the needs of the people. Moreover, once established, the Islamic State merges the various Muslim countries, and ensures a right of movement without any restriction within the state. Hence, this removes the underlying cause which predisposes people to risk lives and spend fortunes to be trafficked to other regions. And by ensuring development in under-privileged areas, the state prevents predisposing people out of sheer poverty to engage in inhumane practices or risk their lives.

Access to Justice, is a key factor—the unavailability of which prolongs the plight of the victims.  Today, human trafficking victims would require a tedious procedure to access justice, which may include filling legal papers, hiring lawyers, showing legal documents etc, and they are often at the mercy of their own respective countries’ consulates in foreign lands.

In an Islamic state, a victim can easily access the Qadi (judge of Islamic Court). The Qadi is obliged to look into the matter, even if someone knocks at his residence in the middle of the night to seek justice. In many cases, victims neither have sufficient money nor their legal documents. Even though the victim may not be the citizen of the Islamic state nor hold legal travel documents, the Qadi cannot reduce the significance of the case on this pretext. Indeed the Islamic State is accountable for any such violations that take place under its shade. Hence, the Qadi is the primary source to deliver justice to the victim, and not the subject’s countries’ consulate. The responsibility of the Qadi in Islamic Courts is to deliver swift justice; the Qadi is not bound by judicial precedence or any unnecessary technicalities which may adjourn the verdict of justice to lengthy dates. The Qadi can also increase the scope of his case himself if he finds more people are involved in the crime. This can be done even if the original case of the victim was limited in scope. The culprits, who are usually wealthy, cannot rely on hiring expensive lawyers to find a suitable loophole in the law because the Islamic Court has the legal authority to punish a lawyer who knowingly lies in order to protect criminals. Moreover, the Court has at its disposal the use of necessary state machinery to issue an investigation. The court, with regards to its swiftness of delivering justice and punishing the culprits, does not differentiates based on high profile or low profile cases.

Presently victims may avoid approaching courts due to fear of deportation, knowing that they may not be able to adjust back in their native countries. This deportation is generally the legal norm in most countries. In Pakistan, for example, Clause 7(1) of ‘Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Rules, 2004’ stipulates that if the victim is no longer required for trial, the court may direct the government to facilitate the victim’s repatriation, and incase immediate repatriation is not possible, the victim can only apply for ‘temporary residence’. The Islamic state, unlike the capitalist states, will extend its support to any such victims who can apply for the state’s citizenship.

The lack of implementation of the existing laws also contributes towards this rampant trade. According to a report by the Chatam House think-tank (2010), the smuggling trade from the horn of Africa involves over 70,000 people and is worth over $20 million per year. A wide trafficking route here involves over 6 countries, with people travelling from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, passing through Djibouti and then to Yemen and Saudi Arabia. In under-developed countries, from where it originates, and also from countries where the route passes, some researchers suggest that the Government and local authorities deliberately refrain from significantly disrupting this trade in order to avoid any retaliation from the people profiting from the industry.

Clearly, it can be seen that the present international setup and legal framework which emanates from capitalists’ interests does not have the capacity or direction to resolve this profitable but criminal enterprise. The Human trafficking trade is estimated to generate profits of around $32 billion of which half ($15.5 billion) is made in Industrialized countries (Report, International Labour Organization, 2005). This necessitates an alternative system. The Islamic ideology and the systems implemented by the Caliphate have both the capacity and direction to attempt to put an end to this human apathy and significantly dismantle the roots of this trade.


Sharique Naeem is a political commentator. His writings have been published in national newspapers of Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Yemen, Libya & Iran. He can be reached at [email protected] and Tweets @shariquenaeem

New Civilisation

New Civilisation is an online political journal which provides a unique source of insight and critical analysis regarding the pressing political, economic and ideological issues of the time. Its motivation is to provide an authentic alternative to the standard analysis often found in mainstream outlets – opening a channel for advocates of alternative Islamic political models to present their critiques of other understandings and put forward their own opinions while allowing them to be discussed and challenged within an environment of informed and respectful discourse.

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