Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking

See International Criminal LawTransnational crime

In late 2000, the United Nations for the first time in international law defined human trafficking in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (the Trafficking Protocol also called the Palermo Protocol). The Trafficking Protocol supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and entered into force on 25 december 2003.

According to the Trafficking Protocol human trafficking means “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 persoon having control over another persoon, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similor to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.

Since the adoption of the Trafficking Protocol a lot of states have enacted antitrafficking laws that generally reflect this broad definition, while international and regional organisations have adopted documents combating trafficking in persons.

Human Trafficking and the Refugee Issues

As published by the UNHCR in relation to Human Trafficking: It is extremely difficult to assess the worldwide scale of human trafficking because of the clandestine nature of the crime. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that there are, at a minimum, approximately 2.5 million victims of human trafficking at any given time. According to the UNODC, approximately 79 per cent of all human trafficking is for the purpose of sexual exploitation, while the ILO estimates that 98 per cent of the people trafficked for sexual exploitation are women and girls.

Women fall victim to trafficking for many reasons. Primarily, they search out work in wealthier countries and are promised jobs as waitresses or nannies and are subsequently forced into sexually exploitative situations upon arrival in the country of destination. It is unquestionable that inequality and economic disadvantage play a prominent role in rendering people vulnerable to trafficking. An equally important contributing factor is the ability to draw vast profits from the exploitation of humans and the relatively low risk of being held accountable for these crimes.

The ILO estimates that illicit profits from forced labour total almost $32 billion a year, of which an estimated 67 per cent is derived from the sex industry. The US State Department has gathered statistics on the total number of trafficking-related prosecutions and convictions around the globe. In 2008 there were 5,212 prosecutions and 3,427 convictions, relatively insignificant numbers.

It is often asked why trafficking victims do not attempt to escape from the exploitative situations in which they find themselves. This is largely because traffickers use a variety of methods to manipulate and control their victims, including:

  • deception, including offers of employment abroad which result in forced prostitution, or statements indicating that the victim will be punished by national law enforcement or immigration authorities if they find out about her presence in the country;
  • the use of violence or the threat of violence against the victim or the victim’s family members, as well as imprisonment and/or isolation;
  • the use of debt bondage; for example, charging the victim for transport, food and lodging costs, as well as charging exorbitant interest on money allegedly owed to traffickers; and
  • the use of religious or cultural beliefs, including witchcraft and voodoo, to maintain control over the victim.

A case in Los Angeles involving the forced prostitution of young women and girls from Guatemala illustrates how traffickers combine such methods so as to ensure control of their victims:

Evidence showed that the defendants intimidated and controlled their victims by threatening to beat them and kill their loved ones in Guatemala if they tried to escape. Some defendants also used witchdoctors to threaten the girls that a curse would be placed on them and their families if they tried to escape. At least two of the defendants further restrained the victims by locking them in at night and blocking windows and doors. The defendants also used manipulation of debts, verbal abuse and psychological manipulation to reinforce their control over the victims. The scheme included strict controls over the victims’ work schedules and ominous comments about consequences that befell the families of other victims who attempted to escape.

Human Trafficking, Sexual Behaviour and the Law

Literature Review on Human Trafficking: Increasing Scrutiny

In the Encyclopedia of Public Administration and Public Policy, [1] Angelina Stanojoska offers the following summary about the topic of Human Trafficking: Increasing Scrutiny: Human trafficking has been known to humanity in many forms; bearing many names through the years it has shown us its complexity. Existing as a process with integral phases, it survives using legality and in such a way enters into society’s core

As a crucial point, the Protocol of Palermo was preceded by other international documents that consequently changed their area of explanation from white slave traffic, to trafficking in women and later also children. Each one of them accented a different group of people, defining mostly sexual exploitation, rarely even having an article or two where protection, scrutiny, or prevention was mentioned

Increased interest by the international community today resulted in building strategies for controlling the phenomenon into different areas. The entry examines different areas of scrutiny of the crime, its victims, the public policies, and the new instruments of investigation used by the police forces.

Human Trafficking

Embracing mainstream international law, this section on human trafficking explores the context, history and effect of the area of the law covered here.


See Also

  • Social Problem
  • Crime
  • Delinquency
  • Juvenile Delinquency
  • Delinquent
  • Social Issues
  • Crime Prevention


Further Reading

  • The entry “human trafficking” in the Parry and Grant Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law (currently, the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law, 2009), Oxford University Press


Notes and References

  1. Entry about Human Trafficking: Increasing Scrutiny in the Encyclopedia of Public Administration and Public Policy (2015, Routledge, Oxford, United Kingdom)

See Also

Further Reading

  • Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance (2018, Springer International Publishing, Germany)


Human Trafficking: See also

International Criminal Law
Transnational crime
human trafficking, labor trafficking, sex trafficking, war slavery

Further Reading

  • Human Trafficking in the Encyclopedia of Sexual Behavior and the Law
  • Scarpa, S, Trafficking in Human Beings: Modern Slavery, 2008
  • Gallagher, A.T. , The International Law of Human Trafficking, 2010
  • Bruckert, C and Parent, C., Trafficking in Human Beings and Organized Crime: A Literature Review, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2002;
  • Gozdziak, E and Bump, Micah N., Data and Research on Human Trafficking: Bibliography of Research-Based Literature, Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University, Washington, 2008
  • Akker, C van den (ed.), The Political Economy of New slavery, Basingstoke [etc.]Palgrave Macmillan, 2004
  • Bales, K, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, Berkeley, CA [etc.]University of California Press, 1999
  • Jonsson, A (ed.), Human Trafficking and Human Security, Abingdon [etc.] : Routledge, 2009
  • Weyembergh, A and Veronica Santamaria, The Evaluation of European Criminal Law: the Example of the Framework Decision on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, Bruxelles : à‰d. de l’Université de Bruxelles, 2007
  • Kara, S., “Designing More Effective Laws against Human Trafficking”, in: Northwestern Journal of International Human Rights, Northwestern University School of Law, Chicago, 2011, pp. 123-147
  • Quirk, J, “Trafficked into slavery”, in: The Anti-Slavery Project: From the Slave Trade to Human Trafficking, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2011, pp. 216-240
  • Ahn, R., Alpert, E. J., Purceli, G., Konstantopoulos, W. M., McGahan, A., Cafferty, E., et al. (2013). Human trafficking: Review of educational resources for health professionals. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 44(3), 283-289.
  • Alvarez, M. B., & Alessi, E. J. (2012). Human trafficking is more than sex trafficking and prostitution: Implications for social work. Affilia: Journal of Women & Social Work, 27(2), 142-152. doi:10.1177/0886109912443763
  • Bales, K. (2004). Disposable people: New slavery in the global economy. Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • Bales, K. (2009). Winning the fight. Harvard International Review, 31(1), 14-17.
  • Baradaran, S., & Barclay, S. (2011). Fair trade and child labor. Columbia Human Rights Law Review, 43(1), 1-63.
  • Berger, S. M. (2012). Why the “end demand” movement is the wrong focus for efforts to eliminate trafficking. Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, 35(2).
  • Blumhofer, R., Shah, N., Grodin, M., & Crosby, S. (2011). Clinical issues in caring for former chattel slaves. Journal of Immigrant & Minority Health, 13(2), 323-332. doi:10.1007/s10903-008-9217-4
  • Bryant-Davis, T., Tillman, S., Marks, A., & Smith, K. (2009). Millennium abolitionists: Addressing the sexual trafficking of African women. Beliefs & Values 1(1), 69-78. doi:10.1891/1942-0617.1.1.69
  • Busch-Armendariz, N., Nsonwu, M. B., & Heffron, L. C. (2014). A kaleidoscope: The role of the social work practitioner and the strength of social work theories and practice in meeting the complex needs of people trafficked and the professionals that work with them. International Social Work, 57(1), 7-18. doi:10.1177/0020872813505630.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). The social-ecological model: a framework for prevention. Retrieved July 23, 2014, from
  • Clawson, H. J., Salomon, A., & Grace, L. G. (2008). Treating the hidden wounds: Trauma treatment and mental health recovery for victims of human trafficking. Washington, DC: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved February 26, 2014, from
  • Dovydaitis, T. (2010). Human trafficking: The role of the health care provider. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 55(5). doi:10.1016/j.jmwh.2009.12.017.
  • Faulkner, M., Mahapatra, N., Heffron, L. C., Nsonwu, M. B., & Busch-Armendariz, N. (2013). Moving past victimization and trauma toward restoration: Mother survivors of sex trafficking share their inspiration. International Perspectives in Victimology, 7(2), 46-55. doi:10.5364/ipiv.7.2.46.
  • Fong, R., & Cardoso, J. B. (2010). Child human trafficking victims: Challenges for the child welfare system. Evaluation and Program Planning, 33(3), 311-316. doi: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2009.06.018
  • Girl’s Education & Mentoring Services (GEMS). (2013). Retrieved September 25, 2013, from https://www.gems-girls.orgHagedorn, W. B. (2009). Sexual addiction counseling competencies: empirically-based tools for preparing clinicians to recognize, assess, and treat sexual addiction. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 16(3), 190-209. doi:10.1080/10720160903202604.
  • Hodge, D. R., & Lietz, C. A. (2007). The international sexual trafficking of women and children. A review of the literature. Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work, 22(2), 163-174.
  • Human Rights Council. (2011). Guiding principles on business and human rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework.
  • International Labour Office. (2013). Victims of forced labor by region.
  • Jägers, N., & Rijken, C. (2014). Prevention of human trafficking for labor exploitation: The role of corporations. Journal of International Human Rights, 12(1), 47-73.
  • Kara, S. (2009). Sex trafficking: Inside the business of modern slavery. Chichester, NY: Columbia University Press.
  • Knowles Wirsing, E. (2012). Outreach, collaboration and services to survivors of human trafficking: The Salvation Army STOP-IT Program’s work in Chicago, Illinois. Social Work & Christianity, 39(4), 466-480.
  • Kotrla, K. (2010). Domestic minor sex trafficking in the United States. Social Work, 55(2), 181-187. doi:10.1093/sw/55.2.181
  • Landesman, P. (2003). Collaborations: The key to combating human trafficking. The Police Chief, 70(2), 28-74.
  • Lusk, M., & Lucas, F. (2009). The challenge of human trafficking and contemporary slavery. Journal of Comparative Social Welfare, 25(1), 49-57. doi:10.1080/17486830802514049
  • Marinova, N. K., & James, P. (2012). The tragedy of human trafficking: Competing theories and European evidence. Foreign Policy Analysis, 8(3), 231-253. doi:10.1111/j.1743-8594.2011.00162.x
  • Obama, B. (2013). Presidential proclamation—National slavery and human trafficking prevention month, 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2014, from, S., Stöckl, H., Busza, J., Howard, L. M., & Zimmerman, C. (2012). Prevalence of risk and violence and the physical, mental, and sexual health problems associated with human trafficking: systematic review. PLoS Med., 9(5). doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001224
  • Pierce, A. S. (2012). American Indian adolescent girls: Vulnerability to sex trafficking, intervention strategies. American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research (Online), 19(1), 37-56.
  • Polaris Project. (2013a). Labor trafficking in the United States.
  • Polaris Project. (2013b). Labor trafficking: traveling sales crews at-a-glance.
  • Polaris Project. (2013c). Sex trafficking in the U.S.
  • Polaris Project. (2013d). Comprehensive human trafficking assessment.
  • Polaris Project. (2014a). Outreach and awareness materials.
  • Polaris Project. (2014b). Current federal laws.
  • Roby, J. L. (2005). Women and children in the global sex trade: Toward more effective policy. International Social Work, 48(2), 136-147.
  • Roby, J., & Bergquist, K. (2014). Editorial. International Social Work, 57(1), 3-6. doi:10.1177/0020872813506357.
  • Ross-Sheriff, F. (2007). Globalization as a women’s issue revisited. Affilia: Journal of Women & Social Work, 133-137.



Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, United Nations, 2000
Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, 2005
United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, General Assembly Resolution 64/293, 2010
Brussels Declaration on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, 2002
EU Directive 2011/36 on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting its Victims, 2011


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