Human trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced prostitution are longstanding abuses of human rights within Native American communities.
Human trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced prostitution are long-standing abuses of human rights. In North America, this criminal and dehumanizing activity occurs disproportionately within the Native American population. According to the United States Department of Justice, “American Indians are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes compared to all other races, and one-in-three Indian women reports having been raped during her lifetime.” As forced assimilation and colonization continued to occur in the United States, higher rates of violence, including human trafficking, have affected Native American women and children.
According to the National Institute of Justice, the United States government defines human trafficking in two ways:
- Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18-years of age.
- The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.
Michigan State University Extension recommends reading an article from Sarah Deer, an attorney at the William Mitchell College of Law, about the plight of sex trafficking in her article, “Relocation Revisited: Sex Trafficking of Native Women in the United States.” Deer reveals that sex trafficking in the United States was at one point legal, especially for women of color. In fact, she writes that “predation was not only legal throughout most of history, but encouraged by the dominate culture.” Often times, women were traded for sexual favors, forced in to manual labor or used a payment for property. Treatment of native peoples in this way was used as a way to oppress and exploit American Indian and Alaskan native women.
Human trafficking occurs for other reasons, too, such as:
- Socio and/or economical influences
- Increased marginalization of populations as a result of natural disasters
- Traffickers preying on homeless and youth runaways, victims of domestic violence and vulnerable personas residing in a war-torn area
Other articles in this series:
- Human traficking continues to be a global issue
- What are Michigan’s human trafficking laws and policies?