Isettled to examine the issue of human trafficking on ethical grounds.This topic has been viewed from different angles in variouscountries, the United States of America included. In every country,individuals hold diverse opinions, thoughts, and actual views inrelation to this matter. It is, therefore, necessary to understandwhat the term human trafficking means it is the unlawful movement ofindividuals usually with the aim of exploiting them in forced laboror prostitution. In most cases, women and children are the victims ofthis vice in the society. Literary, it is slavery in the contemporaryworld. Domination has always been established by the smugglersthrough coercive, forceful, or a combination of the two to the docileparties that are being exploited (Mosser, 2013).
However,the council that is in charge of the European Union gave anexhaustive definition of this practice. The council asserted thathuman trafficking is the practice where humans are recruited,transported, transferred, harbored, and subsequently received (Dando,2016). It goes ahead to describe that it also includes the handingover of control power over the person in the context. According tothe council, this is made possible by use of certain forces, likeabduction, fraud, violation of authority, and provision of certainpayments or benefits. Though this definition gives a total picture ofthe vice, it is contextual to the nations within the European Union.It is approximated that over 160 billion dollars are tapped inthrough this illegal business annually (Lee, 2013).
Humantrafficking has often been misidentified with human smuggling. Thisis because the settings that the two practices take place tend to besimilar. Nonetheless, there is a clear line between the two crimesthat involve transportation of people. Human trafficking ischaracterized by continuous exploitation with victims trapped withoutfreedom and authorized travel papers while in smuggling the victimsare moved to a certain end for money or benefits but they enjoyfreedom ones the journey comes to an end.
Basingon the ethical theories and perspectives, this act is a breach to theethical behaviors stipulated in the society`s moral code. This is dueto the fact that it infringes on individuals rights and freedom. Theright to safety is contracted, creates an environment of forcefulnessand insatiability, and takes away the natural opportunities ofindividuals realizing their productivity within the society.Individuals are exploited sexually, forced into labor, and childrenabused. The matter has sparked several debates on whether it isjustified to use individuals as means to achieve certain ends orwhether these actions are a total violation of individual rights andfreedom. Though most people are of the opinion that due to theexploitative nature the action is totally uncouth, the proprietorssee nothing wrong.
Iwill base my argument on the utilitarianism and the virtue ethicstheories and also borrow from the relativism perspective in anattempt to discuss this vice.
Inthis part, I will focus on the utilitarianism view to shed light onwhether human trafficking is ethical or not. This theory in thephilosophical world has evolved over decades to take the modernclassical form. The proponents of the theory include Henry Sidgwick,James Mill, and John Stuart Mill. This theory is a subsection of theconsequentiality ideas. Its orientation is based on the outcomes ofany actions rather than the motives of the proprietors. Scholars inthis field assert that if an action performed enhances the overallhappiness of the "many" and takes away the pains of thatgroup then the behavior is right (Mulgan, 2015). They are notinterested if it might infringe on individuals rights and freedom. Itrelies on the principle of the greater happiness which only justifiespleasure and elimination of pain as the necessary ends. They are notonly interested in the quantifiable happiness but they are alsoconcerned with the qualitative aspect (Lee, 2013). For instance,actions that yield to high-quality levels are valued than those thatelicit low-quality pleasure.
Particulardimensions of utilitarianism may justify the acts of humantrafficking. For instance, the exploiters are motivated to enhancetheir economic status through huge profits. From the utilitarianismperspective, this may be validated by claiming that they aim atproviding for their families and meet the labor and sex demands ofthe purchasers and gives a platform for the trafficked individuals toleave their poor backgrounds. The trafficked individuals are also inthe quest to raise the level of happiness of those who are leftbehind and those individuals they are sold to. With this perspective,it seems valid to argue that the common good is achieved.
Nevertheless,when looked at in a general picture, the theorists will declare thatit breaches the ethical norms. The fundamental necessities of thistheory lie in the aspects of mental growth and selflessness (Mulgan,2015). It is, nonetheless, clear that at no point will humantrafficking meets any of these necessities. Human traffickers aremotivated by selfish motives of making money and the victims areexposed to slavery rather than mental stimulation. In addition,numerous acts of fraudulence and manipulation are tangled in thevice. With this in mind, absolute happiness is not realized by thetraffickers and the victims.
Further,this theory stresses on the broad contentment of the society asopposed to the immediate people involved. Though the impacts of thematter may seem to be resulting in pleasure among a certain group thelarger group is unhappy. At the end of the day, human traffickingleads to damage both to the immediate parties and the worldwidecommunity.
Virtueethics touches on life in entirety. Every moment in life, accordingto this theory, is a platform to acquire or develop a certain virtue.In regard to human trafficking, this theory does not see it as achoice from various available options but focuses on the individualswho are involved in the decision-making process within the field(Mosser, 2013). They proclaim that an action is justified if it iscarried out by a virtuous individual following the morals of thesociety. In relation to human trafficking, the theory will questionthe integrity of being fair, just, and maintaining the dignity ofindividuals.
Theyalso seek to create a balance between the close care, caring forone`s self, and the care accorded to others. These features call forjustice and impartial treatment of individuals. It is evident thathuman trafficking goes against these arguments.
Relativistsbase their argument on the diversity of human nature. What may seemright to a particular group may not be good to another. Consequently,it is not easy for individuals to totally agree when relating variousethical behaviors (Mosser, 2013).
Iwill largely borrow the aspect of cultural relativism to vividlydiscuss the aspect of human trafficking. Cultural relativism is abranch of relativism that lays focus on the clashing perceptionswithin the standards and customs of different cultures. Proponents ofthis perspective argue that it justified to morally judge an actionif the judgment will relate directly to the contextual situation andnot the external opinions (Choudhury, 2015). Literary, it is thecultural observation that considers each society with its distinctivesituations, practices, and values as one primary totality, and hencedeclares that a culture unique practice can only be described andexamined basing on the necessities of the culture and not the basisof the social background of the observer. It is, therefore, logicalaccording to them that certain practices are regulated by anindividual`s cultural background and the social standards. It is,therefore, no easy to reach an agreement on what is morally justifiedwhen relating different cultural practices (Lee, 2013). Though inevery culture, some moral judgments are validated, it is not easy tofind an ethical judgment that is globally valid. Each judgment isrelative to social context.
Arelevant example can be drawn from the western perspective on humantrafficking and the existing view in West Africa, Nigeria to bespecific. In Nigeria, a family may reach a decision to sell one ofthe family children to human traffickers for labor or prostitution(Prasad, 2007). As much as this action is not validated in manycultures especially in the western countries, it is valid in Nigeria.Several cultures will view this as heartless and wicked. However,what third parties need to realize is that such decisions are notresults of greed or immorality but rather a way of survival in thecontextual society. In cases when the family is in dire need of cash,the family members are called upon to do anything to save thesituation. However, individuals who are raised in a setting wherebasic needs are adequately met they fail to imagine how such actionstake place. Therefore, according to cultural relativism, the act ofhuman trafficking is morally justified in the Nigerian context takinginto consideration the conditions and the social norms. It is not animmoral act but a straightforward effort to survive.
Theissue of human trafficking has raised several debates. The discussionbrings out the utilitarianism and the virtue ethics view on humantrafficking. From the argument, it is clear that utilitarianismsprings from the consequential orientation. According to it, the endof an action is justified if it achieves common good to many. Mypaper has brought out clearly that human trafficking fails to achievethis and even goes against some of the core principles ofutilitarianism. The paper also looks at the arguments of the virtueethicists who also oppose human trafficking on virtuous grounds.Interestingly, the vice seems to find accommodation in the relativismperspective. Drawing from the case study of Nigeria, relativismargues that actions of human trafficking can be justified if thosejudging could place themselves and understand the contextual settingsof human trafficking. Relativism asserts that no action isuniversally immoral. It hence validates the practice especially whenit is done as a desperate effort for survival and not for greed orselfishness.
Choudhury,C. A. (2015). Beyond Culture: Human Rights Universalisms VersusReligious and Cultural Relativism in the Activism for Human rights.BerkeleyJournal of Gender, Law & Justice,30(2),226-167.
Dando,C. (2016). Perceptions of Psychological Coercion and HumanTrafficking in the West Midlands of England: Beginning to Know theUnknown. PLoSONE,11(5),1-13.
Lee,M. (2013). HumanTrafficking.London: Routledge.
Mosser,K. (2013). Ethicsand social responsibility.San Diego, CA: Bridge point Education.
Mulgan,T. (2015). Utilitarianism for a Broken World. Utilitas,27(1),92-114. doi:10.1017/S0953820814000338.
Prasad,A. (2007). Cultural Relativism in Human Rights Discourse. PeaceReview,19(4),589-596.