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Findings of the 2005 Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
     Tier 1 (Full compliance with the minimum standards of the Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA))      Tier 2 (Significant efforts to comply with TVPA)      Tier 3 (No efforts to comply with TVPA)      No data
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Human trafficking is the practice of humans being tricked, and exploited sexuallylured, coerced or otherwise removed from their home or country, and then forced to work with no or low payment or on terms which are highly exploitative. The practice is considered to be trade or commerce of people, which has many features of slavery, and which is illegal in most countries. The victims of human trafficking can be used in a variety of situations, including prostitution, forced labor (including bonded labor or debt bondage) and other forms of involuntary servitude. The sale of babies and children for adoption or other purposes is also considered to be trafficking in those children.[1]

The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (also referred to as the Palermo Protocol) is a protocol to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and defines human trafficking as the "recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation."[2] As of September 2008, the Protocol has been signed by 117 countries, and there are 124 parties.[3]

Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world,[4] with the total annual revenue for trafficking in persons estimated to be between USD$5 billion and $9 billion.[5] The Council of Europe states, "People trafficking has reached epidemic proportions over the past decade, with a global annual market of about $42.5 billion."[6][7] The United Nations estimates nearly 2.5 million people from 127 different countries are being trafficked around the world.[8] Trafficking victims typically are recruited using coercion, deception, fraud, the abuse of power, or outright abduction.[citation needed]

Human trafficking across international borders requires cooperation and collaboration between states if it is to be tackled effectively. The OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), an ad hoc intergovernmental organization under the United Nations Charter, is one of the leading agencies fighting the problem of human trafficking, with an area of operation that includes North America, Europe, Russia, and Central Asia.



Human trafficking differs from people smuggling. In the latter, people voluntarily request the smuggler's service for a fee, and there may be no deception involved in the (illegal) agreement. On arrival at the destination, the smuggled person is usually free to find their own way.

The trafficking victim, on the other hand, is not permitted to leave, and is required to work or provide services of some kind on an expoitative basis to the trafficker or others.[9][10] The arrangement may be structured as a work contract, but with no or low payment or on terms which are highly exploitative. Sometimes the arrangement is structured as debt bondage, with the victim not being permitted or able to pay off the debt.

Victims are sometimes tricked and lured by false promises or are physically forced.[11] Some traffickers coerce or manipulate victims and use deception, intimidation, feigned love, isolation, threats and physical force, and debt bondage.[12]

Trafficking is a lucrative industry. In some areas, like Russia,[13] Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, and Colombia, trafficking is controlled by large criminal organizations.[14] However, the majority of trafficking is done by networks of smaller groups that each specialize in a certain area, like recruitment, transportation, advertising, or retail. This is very profitable because little start-up capital is needed, and prosecution is relatively rare.[15]

Trafficked people are usually the most vulnerable and powerless minorities in a region. They often come from the poorer areas where opportunities are limited, they often are ethnic minorities, and they often are displaced persons such as runaways or refugees, though they may come from any social background, class or race.

Although there are many victims that are from a vulnerable and powerless minority in a region, the victims can be from anywhere. There is no particular type of victim of human trafficking. Often people tend to think that they are from poor countries but in fact they can be from a very well-to-do family in the U.S. This type of crime occurs in such a way that many times people do not even notice, much less grasp the depth of the issue.[16]

Women in dire circumstances are particularly targeted by traffickers, especially for the sex industry. Criminals exploit lack of opportunities, promises of good jobs or opportunities for work or study, and then force the victims to become prostitutes. Through agents and brokers who arrange the travel and job placements, women are escorted to their destinations and delivered to the employers. Upon reaching their destinations, some women learn that they have been deceived about the nature of the work they will do; most have been lied to about the financial arrangements and conditions of their employment and find themselves in coercive or abusive situations from which escape is both difficult and dangerous.[17] According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were 1,229 human trafficking incidents in the United States from January 2007- September 2008. Of these, 83 percent were sex trafficking cases.[18]

Trafficking of children often involves exploitation of the parents' extreme poverty. Parents may sell children to traffickers in order to pay off debts or gain income, or they may be deceived concerning the prospects of training and a better life for their children. In West Africa, trafficked children have often lost one or both parents to the African AIDS crisis.[19] Thousands of male (and sometimes female) children have been forced to be child soldiers. In the U.S. Department of Justice 07-08 study, more than 30% of the total number of trafficking cases for that year were children coerced into the sex industry.[18]

The adoption process, legal and illegal, when abused can sometimes result in cases of trafficking of babies and pregnant women between the West and the developing world. In David M. Smolin’s papers on child trafficking and adoption scandals between India and the United States,[20][21] he cites there are systemic vulnerabilities in the inter-country adoption system that makes adoption scandals predictable.

Thousands of children from Asia, Africa, and South America are sold into the global sex trade every year. Often they are kidnapped or orphaned, and sometimes they are actually sold by their own families.[22]

Men are also at risk of being trafficked for unskilled work predominantly involving forced labor which globally generates $31bn according to the International Labor Organization.[23] Other forms of trafficking include forced marriage and domestic servitude.


Due to the illegal nature of trafficking and differences in methodology, the exact extent is unknown. According to United States State Department data, an "estimated 600,000 to 820,000 men, women, and children [are] trafficked across international borders each year, approximately 70 percent are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. The data also illustrates that the majority of transnational victims are trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation."[24] However, they go on to say that "the alarming enslavement of people for purposes of labor exploitation, often in their own countries, is a form of human trafficking that can be hard to track from afar."

Reporters have witnessed a rapid increase in prostitution in Cambodia, Bosnia, and Kosovo after UN and, in the case of the latter two, NATO peacekeeping forces moved in. Peacekeeping forces have been linked to trafficking and forced prostitution. Proponents of peacekeeping argue that the actions of a few should not incriminate the many participants in the mission, yet NATO and the UN have come under criticism for not taking the issue of forced prostitution linked to peacekeeping missions seriously enough.[25][26][27][28] In a 2006 report the Future Group, a Canadian humanitarian organization dedicated to ending human trafficking, ranked eight industrialized nations and gave Canada an F for its "abysmal" record treating victims. The report, titled "Falling Short of the Mark: An International Study on the Treatment of Human Trafficking Victims", concluded that Canada "is an international embarrassment" when it comes to combating this form of slavery.[29]

Destination, transit and source countries

A common misconception is that trafficking only occurs in poor countries. But every country in the world is involved in the underground, lucrative system. A “source country” is a country from which people are trafficked. Usually, these countries are destitute and may have been further weakened by war, corruption, natural disasters or climate. Some source countries are Nepal, Guatemala, the former Soviet territories, and Nigeria, but there are many more. A “transit country”, like Mexico or Israel, is a temporary stop on trafficked victims’ journey to the country where they will be enslaved. A “destination country” is where trafficked persons end up. These countries are generally affluent, since they must have citizens with enough disposable income to "buy" the traffickers' "products". Japan, India, much of Western Europe, and the United States are all destination countries.[30]

The most common destinations for victims of human trafficking are Thailand, Japan, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the US, according to a report by the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).[31]

The major sources of trafficked persons include Thailand, China, Nigeria, Albania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine.[31]

In a 2006 report the Future Group, a Canadian humanitarian organization dedicated to combatting human trafficking and the child sex trade, ranked eight industrialized nations. In the report, titled "Falling Short of the Mark: An International Study on the Treatment of Human Trafficking Victims", Canada received an F rating, the United Kingdom received a D, while the United States received a B+ and Australia, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Italy all received grades of B or B-.[32]

North America

United States

According to the National Human Rights Center in Berkeley, California, there are currently about 10,000 forced laborers in the U.S., around one-third of whom are domestic servants and some portion of whom are children. The Associated Press reported on interviews conducted in California and Egypt that trafficking of children for domestic labor in the U.S. is an extension of an illegal but common practice in Africa. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 enhances pre-existing criminal penalties, affords new protections to trafficking victims and offers certain benefits and services to victims of severe forms of trafficking. It also establishes a Cabinet-level federal interagency task force and establishes a federal program to provide services to trafficking victims.


In 2004, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) estimated that 600-800 persons are trafficked into Canada annually and that additional 1,500-2,200 persons are trafficked through Canada into the United States.[33] In Canada, foreign trafficking for prostitution is estimated to be worth $400 million annually.[34]


It has been estimated that at least 200,000 to 225,000 women and children are trafficked from Southeast Asia annually. Most of the trafficking destinations are within the region (60 percent are major cities of the region; 40 percent are outside the region).[35]

In Asia, Japan is the major destination country for trafficked women, especially from the Philippines and Thailand. In Japan the prosperous entertainment market has created a huge demand for commercial sexual workers, and such demand is being met by trafficking women and their children from the Philippines, Colombia and Thailand. Women are forced into street prostitution, stripping and live sex acts.[36] The US State Department has rated Japan as either a ‘Tier 2’ or a ‘Tier 2 Watchlist’ country every year since 2001 in its annual Trafficking in Persons reports. Both these ratings implied that Japan was (to a greater or lesser extent) not fully compliant with minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking trade. There are currently an estimated 300,000 women and children involved in the sex trade throughout Southeast Asia.[37] It is common that Thai women are lured to Japan and sold to Yakuza-controlled brothels where they are forced to work off their price.[38][39] By the late 1990s, UNICEF estimated that there are 60,000 child prostitutes in the Philippines, describing Angeles City brothels as "notorious" for offering sex with children. UNICEF estimates many of the 200 brothels in the notorious Angeles City offer children for sex.[40]

Many of the Iraqi women fleeing the Iraq War are turning to prostitution, while others are trafficked abroad, to countries like Syria, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey[citation needed]. In Syria alone an estimated 50,000 Iraqi refugee girls and women, many of them widows, had been forced into prostitution as of 2007.[41] Cheap Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists. The clients come from wealthier countries in the Middle East.[42] High prices are offered for virgins.[43]

As many as 200,000 Nepali girls, many under 14, have been sold into the sex slavery in India. Nepalese women and girls, especially virgins, are favored in India because of their light skin.[44][45][46]


In parts of Ghana, a family may be punished for an offense by having to turn over a virgin female to serve as a sex slave within the offended family.[47] In this instance, the woman does not gain the title of "wife." In parts of Ghana, Togo, and Benin, shrine slavery persists, despite being illegal in Ghana since 1998. In this system of slavery of ritual servitude, sometimes called trokosi (in Ghana) or voodoosi[48] in Togo and Benin, young virgin girls are given as slaves in traditional shrines and are used sexually by the priests in addition to providing free labor for the shrine.[49]


According to a new United Nations estimate, there may be as many as 270,000 victims of human trafficking in the European Union.[50] Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, former Eastern bloc countries such as Albania, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine have become the major source countries for trafficking of women and children.[51][52] Young women and girls are often lured to wealthier countries by promises of money and work and then compelled to work in prostitution.[53] It is estimated that 2/3 of women trafficked for prostitution worldwide annually come from Eastern Europe, three-quarters having never worked as prostitutes before.[54][55] The major destinations are Western Europe (most common European destinations are Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy, according to UNODC[31]), the Middle East (Turkey, Israel, the United Arab Emirates), Asia, and Russia. Moldova: Lower prices behind sex slavery boom and child prostitution]</ref>[56] An estimated 500,000 women from Central and Eastern Europe are working in prostitution in the EU alone,[57] not all of them being victims of trafficking.

In Netherlands, it is estimated that there are from 1,000 to 7,000 trafficking victims a year. Most police investigations relate to legal sex businesses, with all sectors of prostitution being well represented, but with window brothels being particularly overrepresented.[58][59][60] In 2008, there were 809 registered trafficking victims, 763 were women and at least 60 percent of them were forced to work in the sex industry. All victims from Hungary were female and were forced into prostitution.[61][62] Out of all Amsterdam's 8,000 to 11,000 prostitutes, more than 75% are from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, according to a former prostitute who produced a report about the sex trade in Amsterdam, in 2008.[63] An article in Le Monde in 1997 found that 80% of prostitutes in the Netherlands were foreigners and 70% had no immigration papers.[64][65]

In Germany, the trafficking of women from Eastern Europe is often organized by people from that same region. The German Federal Police Office BKA reported in 2006 a total of 357 completed investigations of human trafficking, with 775 victims. Thirty-five percent of the suspects were Germans born in Germany and 8% were German citizens born outside of Germany.[66]

In Greece, according to NGO estimates, there are 13,000-14,000 trafficking victims in the country at any given time. Major countries of origin for trafficking victims include Nigeria, Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, Albania, Moldova, Romania, and Belarus.[67]

In Switzerland, the police estimates that there may be between 1,500 and 3,000 victims of human trafficking. The organisers and their victims generally come from Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, Lithuania, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Thailand and Cambodia, and, to a lesser extent, Africa.[68]

In Belgium, in 2007, prosecutors handled 418 trafficking cases, including 219 economic exploitation and 168 sexual exploitation cases. The federal judicial police handled 196 trafficking files, compared with 184 in 2006. In 2007 the police arrested 342 persons for smuggling and trafficking-related crimes.[69] A recent report by RiskMonitor foundation found that 70% of the prostitutes who work in Belgium are from Bulgaria.[70]

In Austria, Vienna has the largest number of trafficking cases, although trafficking is also a problem in urban centers such as Graz, Linz, Salzburg, and Innsbruck. The NGO Lateinamerikanische Frauen in Oesterreich–Interventionsstelle fuer Betroffene des Frauenhandels (LEFOE-IBF) reported assisting 108 trafficking victims in 2006, down from 151 in 2005.[71]

In Spain, in 2007, officials identified 1,035 sex trafficking victims and 445 labor trafficking victims.[72]

In the United Kingdom, the Home Office has stated that 71 women were trafficked into prostitution in 1998. They also suggest that the actual figure could be up to 1,420 women trafficked into the UK during the same period.[73] However, the figures are problematic as the definition used in the UK to identify cases of sex trafficking - derived from the Sexual Offences Act 2003 - does not require that victims have been coerced or misled. Thus, any individual who moves to the UK for the purposes of sex work can be regarded as having been trafficked - even if they did so with their knowledge and consent. The Home Office do not appear to be keeping records of the number of people trafficked into the UK for purposes other than sexual exploitation.

In poverty-stricken Moldova, where the unemployment rate for women ranges as high as 68% and one-third of the workforce live and work abroad, experts estimate that since the collapse of the Soviet Union between 200,000 and 400,000 women have been sold into prostitution abroad—perhaps up to 10% of the female population.[74][75] In Ukraine, a survey conducted by the NGO La Strada Ukraine in 2001–2003, based on a sample of 106 women being trafficked out of Ukraine found that 3% were under 18, and the U.S. State Department reported in 2004 that incidents of minors being trafficked was increasing. It is estimated that half a million Ukrainian women were trafficked abroad since 1991 (80% of all unemployed in Ukraine are women).[76][77]

Russia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for various forms of exploitation.[78] Many women have been trafficked overseas for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Annually, thousands of trafficked Russian women end up as prostitutes in Western Europe, America, Canada, Israel and Asian countries.[79][80] The ILO estimates that there may be up to one million illegal immigrants in Russia who are victims of forced labor, which is a form of trafficking. There have also been reports of child sex tourism in Russia; however, law enforcement authorities report a decrease in the number of cases of child sex tourism and attribute this to aggressive police investigations and Russian cooperation with foreign law enforcement.[78]


It has been estimated that the number of victims of human trafficking in Australia ranges between 300 and 1000 a year.[81] In Australia, a study in 2004 documented 300 cases of trafficking over a six-week period. All but 25 of these victims were women forced into prostitution.[82] The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) lists Australia as one of 21 trafficking destination countries in the high destination category.[83]

South America

Poor economic conditions and social problems create a climate which is favorable to human trafficking.

Interpol estimates that 35,000 women are trafficked out of Colombia every year, with estimated profits of $500 million, making it second only to the Dominican Republic in the West.[84] In Colombia, the IOM and domestic NGOs estimate that international organized crime networks are responsible for most transnational trafficking. Domestically, organized crime networks, some related to illegal armed groups, are also responsible for trafficking for sexual exploitation or organized begging, and the armed conflict has made a large number of internal trafficking victims vulnerable.

In Brazil, the National Research on Trafficking in Women, Children, and Adolescents for Sexual Exploitation Purposes identified 241 international and national trafficking routes.[85]

Causes of trafficking

Trafficking in people has been facilitated by porous borders and advanced communication technologies, it has become increasingly transnational in scope and highly lucrative. Unlike drugs or arms, people can be "sold" many times. The opening up of Asian markets, the end of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the former Yugoslavia have contributed to this globalization.

Relation to other vulnerability issues

Human trafficking and sexual exploitation

There is no universally accepted definition of trafficking for sexual exploitation. The term encompasses the organized movement of people, usually women, between countries and within countries for sex work with the use of physical coercion, deception and bondage through forced debt. However, the issue becomes contentious when the element of coercion is removed from the definition to incorporate facilitating the willing involvement in prostitution. For example, in the United Kingdom, The Sexual Offenses Act, 2003 incorporated trafficking for sexual exploitation but did not require those committing the offence to use coercion, deception or force, so that it also includes any person who enters the UK to carry out sex work with consent as having been trafficked.[86] In addition, any minor involved in a commercial sex act in the United States while under the age of 18 qualifies as a trafficking victim, even if no movement is involved, under the definition of Severe Forms of Trafficking in Persons, in the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.[87]

Save the Children stated: "The issue gets mired in controversy and confusion when prostitution itself is considered as a violation of the basic human rights of both adult women and minors, and equal to sexual exploitation per se..... trafficking and prostitution become conflated with each other.... On account of the historical conflation of trafficking and prostitution both legally and in popular understanding, an overwhelming degree of effort and interventions of anti-trafficking groups are concentrated on trafficking into prostitution".[88] The line between forced and voluntary prostitution is very thin, and prostitution in and on itself is seen by many as an abusive practice and a form of violence against women. In Sweden, Norway and Iceland it is illegal to pay for sex (the client commits a crime, but not the prostitute), as these countries consider all forms of prostitution to be exploitive or de facto slavery.

Sexual trafficking includes coercing a migrant into a sexual act as a condition of allowing or arranging the migration. Sexual trafficking uses physical coercion, deception and bondage incurred through forced debt. Trafficked women and children, for instance, are often promised work in the domestic or service industry, but instead are usually taken to brothels where their passports and other identification papers are confiscated. They may be beaten or locked up and promised their freedom only after earning – through prostitution – their purchase price, as well as their travel and visa costs.[89][90]

The main motive of a woman (in some cases an underage girl) to accept an offer from a trafficker is better financial opportunities for herself or her family. In many cases traffickers initially offer ‘legitimate’ work or the promise of an opportunity to study. The main types of work offered are in the catering and hotel industry, in bars and clubs, modeling contracts, or au pair work. Traffickers sometimes use offers of marriage, threats, intimidation and kidnapping as means of obtaining victims. In the majority of cases, the women end up in prostitution. Also some (migrating) prostitutes become victims of human trafficking. Some women know they will be working as prostitutes, but they have an inaccurate view of the circumstances and the conditions of the work in their country of destination.[91][92]

Trafficking victims are also exposed to different psychological problems. They suffer social alienation in the host and home countries. Stigmatization, social exclusion and intolerance make reintegration into local communities difficult. The governments offer little assistance and social services to trafficked victims upon their return. As the victims are also pushed into drug trafficking, many of them face criminal sanctions.

Trafficking of children

Trafficking of children is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children can take many forms and include forcing a child into prostitution[93] or other forms of sexual activity or child pornography. Child exploitation can also include forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, the removal of organs, illicit international adoption, trafficking for early marriage, recruitment as child soldiers, for use in begging or as athletes (such as child camel jockeys or football players), or for recruitment for cults.[94]

Thailand and Brazil are considered to have the worst child sex trafficking records.[95]

Efforts to reduce human trafficking

Governments, international associations, and nongovernmental organizations in the United States have all tried to end human trafficking with various degrees of success and are still continuing their efforts.

Some victims that have overcome this type of crime go out to educate others about this by sharing their story. This can help others to heal and deal with what has happened to them.

Intergovernmental organizations


In 2003 the OSCE established an anti-trafficking mechanism aimed at raising public awareness of the problem and building the political will within participating States to tackle it effectively.

The OSCE actions against human trafficking are coordinated by the Office of the Special Representative for Combating the Traffic of Human Beings. Since 2006 this office has been headed by Eva Biaudet, a former Member of Parliament and Minister of Health and Social Services in her native Finland.

The activities of the Office of the Special Representative range from training law enforcement agencies to tackle human trafficking to promoting policies aimed at rooting out corruption and organised crime. The Special Representative also visits countries and can, on their request, support the formation and implementation of their anti-trafficking policies. In other cases the Special Representative provides advice regarding implementation of the decisions on human trafficking, and assists governments, ministers and officials to achieved their stated goals of tackling human trafficking.

Government actions

A human trafficking awareness poster from the Canadian Department of Justice.

Actions taken to combat human trafficking vary from government to government. Some have introduced legislation specifically aimed at making human trafficking illegal. Governments can also develop systems of co-operation between different nations' law enforcement agencies and with non-government organizations (NGOs). Many countries have come under criticism for inaction, or ineffective action. Criticisms include failure of governments in not properly identifying and protecting trafficking victims, immigration policies which potentially re-victimize trafficking victims, or insufficient action in helping prevent vulnerable people from becoming trafficking victims.

A particular criticism has been the reluctance of some countries to tackle trafficking for purposes other than sex.

Another action governments can take raising awareness of this issue. This can take three forms. Firstly, in raising awareness amongst potential victims, particularly in countries where human traffickers are active. Secondly, raising awareness amongst police, social welfare workers and immigration officers to equip them to deal appropriately with the problem. And finally, in countries where prostitution is legal or semi-legal, raising awareness amongst the clients of prostitution to watch for signs of human trafficking victims.

Raising awareness can take on different forms. One method is through the use of awareness films[96] or through posters.[97]

During the time racism was a major issue in the U.S., Congress feared White slavery. The result of this fear was the White Slave Traffic Act of 1910, which criminalized interracial marriage and banned single women from crossing state borders for morally wrong acts. In 1914, of the women arrested for crossing state borders under this act, 70% were charged with voluntary prostitution. Once the idea of a sex slave shifted from a White woman to an enslaved woman from countries in poverty, the U.S. began passing immigration acts to curtail aliens from entering the country among other reasons. Several acts such as the Temporary Quota Act of 1921 and Immigration Act of 1924 were passed to prevent emigrants from Europe and Asia from entering the U.S. Following the banning of immigrants during the 1920s, human trafficking was not seen as a major issue until the 1990s. However, during 1949, the first international statute that dealt with sex slavery was the 1949 UN Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and Exploitation of Prostitution of Others. This convention followed the abolitionist idea of sex trafficking as incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person. Serving as a model for future legislations, the 1949 UN Convention was not ratified by every country. Before America’s recent efforts to take on a major role in the anti-trafficking movement, the U.N. was the main regulator in solving the global issue of human trafficking. Under the Bush Administration, fighting sex slavery worldwide and domestically became a priority with an average of $100 million spent per year, which substantially outnumbers the amount spent by other countries. Before President Bush took office, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). The TVPA strengthened services to victims of violence, law enforcements ability to reduce violence against women and children, and education against human trafficking. Also specified in the TVPA was a mandate to collect funds for the treatment of sex trafficking victims that provided shelter, food, education, and financial grants. Internationally, the TVPA set standards that the government of other countries must follow in order to receive aid from the U.S. to fight human trafficking. Once George W. Bush took office in 2000, restricting sex trafficking became one of his primary humanitarian efforts. Attorney General under President Bush, John Ashcroft, heavily enforced the TVPA. Today the State Department publishes the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which examines the progress that the U.S. and other countries have made in destroying human trafficking businesses, arresting the kingpins, and rescuing the victims.

International law

In 2000 the United Nations adopted the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, also called the Palermo Convention, and two Palermo protocols there to:

All of these instruments contain elements of the current international law on trafficking in human beings.

Council of Europe

The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings[98] was adopted by the Council of Europe on 16 May 2005. The aim of the convention is to prevent and combat the trafficking in human beings. The Convention entered into force on 1 February 2008. Of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, so far 21 have signed the convention and 17 have ratified it.[99] The Directorate of Communication of the Council of Europe has spearheaded a campaign to raise awareness of trafficking across it 47 member States.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, after intense pressure from Human Rights organisations, trafficking for labour exploitation was made illegal in 2004 (trafficking for sexual exploitation being criminalised many years previously). However, the 2004 law has been used very rarely, therefore by mid-2007 there had not been a single conviction under these provisions.[86]

United States

Laws against trafficking in the United States exist at the federal and state levels. Over half of the states now criminalize human trafficking, though the penalties are not as tough as the federal laws. Related federal and state efforts focus on regulating the tourism industry to prevent the facilitation of sex tourism and regulate international marriage brokers to ensure criminal background checks and information on how to get help are given to the potential bride. In 2001, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons was established as part of the U.S. State Department. The director (currently Luis CdeBaca) leads the fight against trafficking within the U.S. as well as coordinating with leaders in anti-trafficking movements around the world.[100]

Non-governmental organizations

Human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International, and Human Rights Watch have campaigned against human trafficking. Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and human rights organizations have been formed to combat human trafficking, while other NGO's work against human trafficking as one of their major programs. Some of these include:

Arizona League to End Regional Trafficking (ALERT) is a coalition representing partnerships with law enforcement, faith-based communities, non-profit organizations, social service agencies, attorneys and concerned citizens. ALERT helps victims of trafficking by providing: food and shelter; medical care; mental health counseling; immigration assistance; legal assistance; language interpretation; case management; and other culturally appropriate services throughout the state of Arizona. Through education, outreach and a variety of programs and services, ALERT strives to end the suffering and dehumanization of victims of human trafficking.[101]

Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) is a Los Angeles-based anti-human trafficking organization. Founded in 1998, CAST helps rehabilitate survivors of trafficking, raises awareness, and affects legislation and public policy surrounding human trafficking, through social, advocacy and legal services. CAST defines human trafficking as “a modern-day form of slavery,” in which victims are subjected to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation. Victims of trafficking can work in domestic service, factories, farms, restaurants, construction sites, hotel housekeeping, servile marriage, forced prostitution, child prostitution and child pornography.[102]

Chab Dai, ("joining hands" in Khmer) was founded in Cambodia in 2005, and now has international offices in the US, UK, and Canada. Chab Dai aims to bring an end to human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation through coalition building, advocacy, research and education. In Cambodia, Chab Dai facilitates a coalition of over 40 NGOs all working against trafficking in areas such as prevention, aftercare and legal intervention. Chab Dai assists coalition members collaborate and improve capacity through training, advice clinics, and discussion forums; and works to build bridges between members, UN agencies and government. Chab Dai USA, located in California, is committed to encouraging collaboration amongst existing agencies while assisting organizations improve capacity, particularly according to international best practice models.[103]

Transitions Global, is an organization that builds new lives for survivors of sex trafficking. The organization, founded by James & Athena Pond, began in 2006 to provide older teen victims of sex trafficking with rehabilitation and reintegration services. Currently, the organization has a shelter and transitional home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and has undertaken a new project in Mumbai, India. Transitions Global has also assisted other NGO's in establishing aftercare projects in Greece and Indonesia. Their model for aftercare is an innovative form of 'transitional care' focusing on reintegration through providing girls with viable job skills, life skills and career placement.[104][105]

The SOLD Project, founded in 2007 is a grassroots organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering individuals to stop child prostitution before it begins. The SOLD Project started as a film project to document the realities of child prostitution in Thailand with hopes to increase awareness and advocacy. However, SOLD became more than a film and is now a non-profit organization focused on the prevention of child prostitution through education and community reform. The SOLD Project Prevention Program is 4-fold 1)Scholarships 2) Mentorship 3) After School Programs 4) Human Trafficking Awareness Programs.[106]

Alliance Anti Traffic (AAT), founded in 2007 is a French non-governmental organization created to fight against trafficking in Women and Children.The organization intervenes to protect women and girls from these forms of abuse. AAT also works on suppression and the demand side. AAT assist targeted women and children through a full process: first it prevents at-risk groups, AAT protect victims found in exploitation places and after repatriate them back into their communities. Then AAT reintegrate women and girls based on their choice and the needs of their communities. AAT finally empowers targeted girls to develop alternatives and to prevent as well as to protect vulnerable women and children.

Every Child Ministries, founded in 1985, has been working on projects against human trafficking since 2000. The organization's most extensive project has been an "Initiative against Shrine Slavery" called ritual servitude and rehabilitation of former shrine slaves.

Somaly Mam Foundation, founded in 2007 at the United Nations with the support of UNICEF, UNIFEM, and IOM, the Somaly Mam Foundation is known for empowering victims of human trafficking to become activists and agents of change. With the leadership of world renowned Cambodian activist, Somaly Mam, the organization has garnered support from influential leaders and celebrities such as Susan Sarandon, Daryl Hannah, Diane von Furstenberg, and Hillary Clinton. The foundation also runs activities to support Rescue and Rehabilitation of victims in Southeast Asia and works to increase global awareness to inspire action.[107]

Redlight Children Campaign, founded in 2002 is a non-profit organization created by New York lawyer and president of Priority Films Guy Jacobson and Israeli actress Adi Ezroni in 2002, to combat worldwide child sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Its mission is to decrease the demand side of the international sex trade through legislation and enforcement while raising awareness utilizing mass media and grassroots outreach. Through its partnership with Priority Films, Redlight Children has recently launched the K11 Project—three films which attempt to expose real life experiences of the underage sex trade. K11 consists of two documentaries and a feature-length narrative, Holly (film), which were all filmed on location in Cambodia. RedLight also began working the Somaly Mam Foundation in 2003. A comprehensive blueprint outlines three phases of the attack on this crime against humanity: raising awareness, correcting, improving, and enforcing current legislation, followed by allocating the appropriate resources to mirror the size and scope of the epidemic. The hope is that utilizing both film and mass media will put the issue on the international agenda, inciting action from the general public and policy makers, thereby leading to an allocation of appropriate resources and stricter enforcement that will effectively reduce demand.[108]

Not For Sale Campaign, founded in 2007, equips and mobilizes Smart Activists to deploy innovative solutions to re-abolish slavery in their own backyards and across the globe. Headquartered in Montara, CA, the Not For Sale Campaign has more than 40 regional chapters across the United States and Canada. Through the innovation and implementation of 'open-source activism', the campaign identifies trafficking rings inside the United States and collaborates with local law enforcement and community groups to shut them down and provide support for the victims. Internationally, the campaign partners with poorly resourced abolitionist groups internationally to enhance their capacity.[109][110]

Polaris Project, founded in 2002, is an international anti-human trafficking organization with offices in Washington DC, New Jersey, Colorado, and Japan. Polaris Project's comprehensive approach includes operating local anti-trafficking hotlines, conducting direct outreach and victim identification, providing social services and housing to victims, advocating for stronger state and national anti-trafficking legislation, and engaging community members in grassroots efforts. Polaris Project also operates the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (1-888-373-7888) 24-hour hotline.[111]

Tiny Stars. Using the Protect Act of 2003, Tiny Stars works closely with Federal Law enforcement agencies to build cases against American child predators. Founded by Jake Collins in 2001, Tiny Stars focuses on identifying and tracking pedophiles who victimize children under the age of 14 years old. To advance its mission, the organization has developed a network of undercover agents, often former government operatives.[112]

Shared Hope International, founded in 1998 by former Congresswoman Linda Smith, is a non-profit organization which exists to rescue and restore women and children in crisis. They are part of a worldwide effort to prevent and eradicate sex trafficking and slavery through education and public awareness. For over a decade, Shared Hope International has worked diligently around the world and in the United States, partnering with local groups to help women and children escape the sex trade by offering a place of refuge and a chance for a new future. Shared Hope uses a three-pronged strategy of prevention, rescue and restoration, which also addresses ending the demand for women and especially children in the commercial sex industry, as well as performing field research and making policy recommendations on state and federal levels.[113][114]

National Human Trafficking Resource Center The (NHTRC) is a program funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and operated by Polaris Project, a non-governmental organization. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline is open 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. To report a potential case of human trafficking; to connect with anti-trafficking services in your area; or, to request training and technical assistance, general information or specific anti-trafficking resources, call the hotline at 1-888-373-7888.[115]

Made By Survivors (MBS)[20] is a division of The Emancipation Network (TEN) and is an organization that uses economic empowerment to help survivors of trafficking and people at high risk to rebuild their lives. MBS's handicraft programs offer these survivors a job that enables them to support themselves and live a meaningful, independent life. For those still living at the shelter, handicrafts programs provide therapeutic benefits, job training, literacy, social interaction, and a stipend for part-time work. MBS partners with 18 anti-slavery organizations around the world, including Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Ukraine, Uganda, the Philippines, Tanzania, and the United States. MBS also runs volunteer trips to India as a way to educate people who can use the experience to get more involved and educate the public. The trips also help the survivors to trust people again and reintegrate them back into a normal life. In addition, MBS offers people the opportunity to host parties at their homes to sell the handicrafts and educate friends and family.[116]

KARDS Counter Trafficking In Persons Initiative (CTIPI) is an initiative in Nairobi, Kenya under Koinonia Advisory Research and development Service (KARDS).[117] Its main aim is to create awareness on human trafficking in East Africa, encourage various grassroot organizations to network and share experiences, train communities on human trafficking and counter trafficking interventions. It runs an online directory,[118] of the various actors involved in various interventions (social support,creating awareness, prevention, lobby and advocacy), the report highlights the various factors leading to trafficking in persons in East Africa: Kenya and Tanzania, its' extent and the needs of the organizations involved in counter interventive measures.It aims at coming up with a bi-annual newsletter in the year 2010. It operates due to immense support of Mensen met een Missie, (People in Mission->Netherlands).[119]

Prerana [21] founded in 1986 in Mumbai, Prerana intervened in the largest red light district in India (Kamathipura area). The organization strives to save second generation trafficking victims by offering care center services, an institutional placement program, and educational support for the children of prostitutes in Kamathipura. The UN recognized Prerana as 'Best Practice of working with Victims of Organized Crime' in April 2000. It has received numerous accolades as well.

Women Against Slavery [22] founded in 2009 by an international group of women operating in both Canada and the United States, is a grassroots, consciousness-raising organization dedicating to raising awareness of human trafficking and related issues. The group focuses on education as a primary means of combatting human trafficking, and employs a feminist critique and methodology to their projects.

ZOE Children's Homes founded in the USA as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization in December 2002 by Michael and Carol Hart. The organization was launched in response to the atrocities of the human trafficking of children, our generation's modern day slavery. The first homes were launched in January 2003 with 47 at-risk children in Thailand. The mission of ZOE is to rescue children who are: at-risk of being sold into prostitution slavery, already sold, orphans, or victims of other heinous crimes and abuse. The goal is to intervene and prevent the trafficking of children. The ZOE Child Rescue program actively sends teams into villages, cities, and border towns for the purpose of stopping these crimes against children. These teams also educate and bring awareness to the locals who are preyed upon by sex traffickers. ZOE provides food, clothing, care, education, vocational training and a loving home for each child. In February 2009, ZOE purchased 20 acres and is building a new home that will house over 200 children. The goal is to duplicate their current business model around the world.[120]

Problems and controversies

Distinguishing human trafficking from voluntary migration is crucial. Most controversy is centered around human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution, especially since prostitution in and of itself is seen by many as a form of exploitation. Estimates of the number of people trafficked for sexual purposes is contentious – problems of definition can be compounded by the unwillingness of victims to self-identify as being trafficked.[121]

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons reported that most prostitution that occurs today is connected to human trafficking: "For the most part, prostitution as actually practiced in the world usually does satisfy the elements of trafficking." [122] Even most domestic prostitution satisfies the elements of trafficking as defined in the Trafficking Protocol. The Trafficking Protocol defines illegal trafficking as "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person" if an existing vulnerability – such as economic vulnerability or sexual vulnerability – is exploited. For this reason, threat, coercion, or use of force is not necessary to constitute trafficking.

Whilst most mainstream human rights groups acknowledge all forms of trafficking, there is growing criticism of the focus on trafficking for sexual exploitation at the expense of tackling other forms such as domestic or agricultural trafficking.

In popular culture

  • Lilya 4-ever, a film based loosely on the real life of Dangoule Rasalaite, portrays a young woman from the former Soviet Union who is deceived into being trafficked for exploitation in Sweden.
  • Human trafficking has also been portrayed in the Canadian/UK TV drama Sex Traffic.
  • Based on true events, Svetlana's Journey by Michael Cory Davis depicts the trials of a 13-year-old who loses her family and is sold to human traffickers by her adoptive family. Drugged, raped, and forced to endure continuous abuse by her 'clients' and traffickers, she attempts to commit suicide, but survives.
  • River of Innocents follows the 17-year-old Majlinda into the world of modern-day slavery, where she struggles to hold on to her humanity and to help the stolen children around her survive.[123]
  • Dimanasus Prophecy, a movie by Dzmitry Vasilyeu about human trafficking in Eastern Europe.
  • David Mamet's 2004 film Spartan centres on the hunt for the daughter of a high ranking US official who has been kidnapped by an international sex slavery ring.
  • Holly (2006) is a movie about a little girl, sold by her poor family and smuggled across the border to Cambodia to work as a prostitute in a red light village. The Virgin Harvest is a feature length documentary that was filmed at the same time.[124]
  • The 2007 film Trade deals with human trafficking out of Mexico and a brother's attempt to rescue his kidnapped and trafficked young sister. It is based on Peter Landesman's article about sex slaves, which was featured as the cover story in the January 24, 2004 issue of New York Times Magazine.
  • Human Trafficking (2005) (TV) by Christian Duguay stars Mira Sorvino, Donald Sutherland, and Robert Carlyle. A sixteen-year-old girl from the Ukraine, a single mother from Russia, an orphaned seventeen-year-old girl from Romania, and a twelve-year-old American tourist become the victims of international sex slave traffickers. Sorvino and Sutherland are the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who struggle to save them.
  • Ghosts, a documentary by independent film maker Nick Broomfield, follows the story of the victims of the 2004 Morecambe Bay cockling disaster, in which smuggled immigrants are forced in to hard labour.
  • The Jammed, an Australian film about human trafficking in Australia.[125]
  • The 2007 film The Sugar Babies by Amy Serrano is a documentary that highlights the plight of Haitian victims of human trafficking in the Dominican Republic. It was produced by Thor Halvorssen and funded by the Human Rights Foundation.
  • The European series Matroesjka's deals with girls from ex-Soviet countries, who have been deceived into sex slavery in Belgium.
  • The 2007 film Eastern Promises by David Cronenberg deals with a British midwife who unravels a gang of Russian slavers when she seeks relatives to a baby of a sex slave named Tatiana.
  • The 2008 film Taken by Pierre Morel, starring Liam Neeson, in which the main character's daughter and her friend are taken by traffickers in Paris. In his quest to find his daughter, the movie depicts foreign girls in Paris who are "trafficked" with the purpose of forcing them to prostitution.[126]
  • The 2008 documentary and concert film Call + Response combines contemporary musician performances with an investigative report on worldwide human trafficking including hidden camera footage from Thailand brothels.
  • A 2006 Punisher story arc called "The Slavers", written by Garth Ennis, dealt with the horrors of human trafficking and sex slavery.
  • In the CSI: NY episode, "She's Not There", the episode showcases the horrors of human trafficking when a Russian tourist is murdered and a girl that went missing.
  • The 2009 novel, A False Dawn, by Tom Lowe (St. Martins Press, ISBN 031237917X) depicts the horrors of human trafficking in the U.S.
  • The 2009 film Happy Endings?, filmed in Rhode Island, chronicles the lives of the women in massage parlors in Rhode Island during a battle in the state legislature to make prostitution illegal, focusing on issues of human trafficking.
  • In the hentai OVA "Cool Devices", human trafficking is part of several episodes.

See also


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  100. ^
  101. ^ Arizona League to End Regional Trafficking
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  103. ^ Chab Dai
  104. ^ Transitions Global
  105. ^ New hope for rescued girls on MSNBC
  106. ^ The SOLD Project
  107. ^ Somaly Mam Foundation
  108. ^
  109. ^ The Not For Sale Campaign
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  111. ^ Polaris project; Polaris project: Take Action; National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
  112. ^ TinyStars
  113. ^
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  116. ^
  117. ^
  118. ^
  119. ^
  120. ^ ZOE Children's Homes
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  122. ^ [19]
  123. ^ River of Innocents.
  124. ^ Holly, (archived from the original on 2007-10-21).
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  126. ^ Taken at the Internet Movie Database
  • Flores, T. (2007), The sacred bath: An American teen's story of modern day slavery. New York: iUniverse, Inc. ISBN 13:978-0595437184

External links

Articles and resources

Government and international governmental organizations

United Nations

United States


Redirecting to Human trafficking

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