Malaysia’s human trafficking has grown significantly over the years. Even though it has not reached the levels of countries like South Korea and Thailand, it is still a serious problem. Men and are being forced into prostitution and labor by the thousands. The victims are mainly migrant workers coming to Malaysia to find work. Because of their undocumented status, it’s easy for them to disappear into the sex trade and other illegal work. The migrant workers have little protection against traffickers. Foreign women are especially vulnerable when working in Malaysia.
According to Humantrafficking.org, “A significant number of young foreign women are recruited for work in Malaysian restaurants and hotels, some of whom migrate through the use of “Guest Relations Officer” visas, but subsequently are coerced into Malaysia’s commercial sex trade”. There is a revolving door for this business that makes it easy for traffickers to take advantage of the women. Large numbers of migrant workers come into Malaysia each year and the sheer volume makes it simple for these traffickers to take these women. Their disappearances are rarely noticed as their positions are quickly filled. Although migrant workers make up the majority of those trafficked, the domestic trafficking is growing within the country.
The main domestic victims of human trafficking are men and women who are considered “stateless”. The Malaysian government estimates that there around 30,000 stateless men and women in the country. Children take their citizenship from their parents. If a parent is unable to prove their marriage, or if the marriage is interfaith, they child is not considered a citizen of Malaysia. The strict laws on citizenship make it difficult for stateless people to obtain employment. They are not even allowed access to education and healthcare. In order to make a living, they seek out less legal ways to earn money. This often involves the sex trade or other menial labor. Furthermore, some stateless children are sold to pimps and labor bosses to make money for their parents. Malaysia’s laws against human trafficking are slowly gaining strength.
International pressure is being put on Malaysia to strengthen its human trafficking laws. In 2011, Malaysia was listed on the Tier 2 country watchlist. This meant that Malaysia was not complying with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. This scrutiny led to Malaysia passing laws to eliminate human trafficking and protecting victims. Malaysia passed a law banning all forms of human trafficking. Despite these laws, human traffickers are acquitted in court at a rate of 68%. Victims are afraid of reporting human trafficking for fear of reprisal or being deported from the country. There is also a lack of funding for Non-government organizations to protect and shelter victims.These organizations often disappear for lack of funding and support.
Malaysia may not be the top country for human trafficking but it is quickly on its way. It is now on the radar of international organizations against human trafficking. The government is taking measures, but only time will tell how effective those measures are.