Printer Friendly

What is trafficking in persons?

"Trafficking in persons," "human trafficking," and "modern slavery" have been used as umbrella terms for the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (Pub. L. 106-386), as amended (TVPA), and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (the Palermo Protocol) describe this compelled service using a number of different terms, including involuntary servitude, slavery or practices similar to slavery, debt bondage, and forced labor

Human trafficking can include, but does not require, movement. People may be considered trafficking victims regardless of whether they were born into a state of servitude, were exploited in their hometown, were transported to the exploitative situation, previously consented to work for a trafficker or participated in a crime as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. At the heart of this phenomenon is the traffickers goal of exploiting and enslaving their victims and the myriad coercive and deceptive practices they use to do so.



When an adult engages in a commercial sex act, such as prostitution, as the result of force, threats of force, fraud, coercion or any combination of such means, that person is a victim of trafficking. Under such circumstances, perpetrators involved in recruiting, harboring, enticing, transporting, providing, obtaining, or maintaining a person for that purpose are guilty of the sex trafficking of an adult.* Sex trafficking also may occur within debt bondage, as individuals are forced to continue in prostitution through the use of unlawful "debt," purportedly incurred through their transportation, recruitment, or even their crude "sale"--which exploiters insist they must pay off before they can be free. An adult's consent to participate in prostitution is not legally determinative: if one is thereafter held in service through psychological manipulation or physical force, he or she is a trafficking victim and should receive benefits outlined in the Palermo Protocol and applicable domestic laws.


When a child (under 18 years of age) is recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, or maintained to perform a commercial sex act, proving force, fraud, or coercion is not necessary for the offense to be characterized as human trafficking. There are no exceptions to this rule: no cultural or socioeconomic rationalizations alter the fact that children who are prostituted are trafficking victims. The use of children in the commercial sex trade is prohibited under U.S. law and by statute in most countries around the world. Sex trafficking has devastating consequences for children, including long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/ AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and even death.


Forced labors sometimes also referred to as labor trafficking, encompasses the range of activities--recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining--involved when a person uses force or physical threats, psychological coercion, abuse of the legal process, deception, or other coercive means to compel someone to work. Once a person's labor is exploited by such means, the person's prior consent to work for an employer is legally irrelevant: the employer is a trafficker and the employee a trafficking victim. Migrants are particularly vulnerable to this form of human trafficking, but individuals also may be forced into labor in their own countries. Female victims of forced or bonded labor, especially women and girls in domestic servitude, are often sexually exploited as well.


One form of coercion is the use of a bond or debt. Some workers inherit debt; for example, in South Asia it is estimated that there are millions of trafficking victims working to pay off their ancestors' debts. Others fall victim to traffickers or recruiters who unlawfully exploit an initial debt assumed, wittingly or unwittingly, as a term of employment. Debts taken on by migrant laborers in their countries of origin, often with the involvement of labor agencies and employers in the destination country, can also contribute to a situation of debt bondage. Such circumstances may occur in the context of employment-based temporary work programs in which a worker's legal status in the destination country is tied to the employer and workers fear seeking redress.


Involuntary domestic servitude is a form of human trafficking found in distinct circumstances--work in a private residence--that creates unique vulnerabilities for victims. It is a crime in which a domestic worker is not free to leave her employment and is abused and underpaid, if paid at all. Many domestic workers do not receive the basic benefits and protections commonly extended to other groups of workers--things as simple as a day off. Moreover, their ability to move freely is often limited, and employment in private homes increases their vulnerability and isolation. Authorities cannot inspect homes as easily as formal workplaces, and in many cases do not have the mandate or capacity to do so. Domestic workers, especially women, confront various forms of abuse, harassment, and exploitation, including sexual and gender-based violence. These issues, taken together, may be symptoms of a situation of involuntary servitude.


Although children may legally engage in certain forms of work, children can also be found in slavery or slavery-like situations. Some indicators of forced labor of a child include situations in which the child appears to be in the custody of a non-family member who requires the child to perform work that financially benefits someone outside the child's family and does not offer the child the option of leaving. Anti-trafficking responses should supplement, not replace, traditional actions against child labor such as remediation and education. When children are enslaved, their abusers should not escape criminal punishment through weaker administrative responses to such abusive child labor practices.


Child soldiering is a manifestation of human trafficking when it involves the unlawful recruitment or use of children--through force, fraud, or coercion--by armed forces as combatants or for other forms of labor Some child soldiers are also sexually exploited by armed groups. Perpetrators may be government armed forces, paramilitary organizations, or rebel groups. Many children are forcibly abducted to be used as combatants. Others are made to work as porters, cooks, guards, servants, messengers, or spies. Young girls can be forced to marry or have sex with commanders and male combatants. Both male and female child soldiers are often sexually abused and are at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.


The TVPA defines "severe forms of trafficking in persons" as:

> sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or

> 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.

A victim need not be physically transported from one location to another in order for the crime to fall within these definitions.

"There is no inevitability, no excuse: with commitment and the right policies and institutions, forced labour can be stopped."

--ILO Director-General Guy Ryder


Religious leaders have long played a vital role in combating human trafficking. On December 2, 2014, leaders representing Anglican, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Orthodox, and Islamic faiths met for the first time in history to sign a declaration pledging to end modern slavery and calling for action against it as a moral imperative.

These leaders urged their followers to work to find ways to end human trafficking. Each religious authority gave a statement urging the world to support this effort, including Hindu leader Mata Amritanandamayi, who said, "if we fail to do something, it will be a travesty against future generations."

We, the undersigned, are gathered here today for a historic initiative to inspire spiritual and practical action by all global faiths and people of good will everywhere to eradicate modern slavery across the world by 2020 and for all time.

In the eyes of God,* each human being is a free person, whether girl, boy, woman or man, and is destined to exist for the good of all in equality and fraternity. Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, organ trafficking, and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity.**

We pledge ourselves here today to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored. Today we have the opportunity, awareness, wisdom, innovation and technology to achieve this human and moral imperative.

His Grace Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

Venerable Bhikkhuni Thich Nu Chan Khong (representing Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh)

The Most Venerable Datuk K. Sri Dhammaratana, Chief High Priest of Malaysia

His Holiness Pope Francis

Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma)

Dr. Abbas Abdalla Abbas Soliman, Undersecretary of State of Al Azhar Alsharif (representing Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar)

Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi

Sheikh Naziyah Razzaq Jaafar, Special advisor (representing Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain al Najafi)

Sheikh Omar Abboud

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Skorka

Rabbi Dr. David Rosen

His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (representing His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew)

* The Grand Imam of Al Azhar uses the word "religions."

** The term "crime against humanity" has a particular legal meaning that the U.S. Department of State does not view as being implicated here.


This year marks the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Protocol). The impact of the Palermo Protocol has been remarkable--today, 166 countries have become a party to the Protocol. Many countries have implemented the "3P" paradigm of prosecuting traffickers, protecting victims, and preventing the crime through the passage and implementation of national anti-trafficking laws. Countries continue to update their legal framework to better address this crime. In 2014, Haiti enacted the Law to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Burundi also enacted its first anti-trafficking law in 2014. In March 2015, the United Kingdom enacted the Modern Slavery Act to refine the country's legal framework.

While the promulgation of anti-trafficking criminal laws points to increased commitment to address the crime, challenges in fully implementing the promise of Palermo remain. In an effort to monitor implementation of the Palermo Protocol, the United Nations in 2004 established a special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, who conducts fact-finding missions to study human trafficking conditions and provide recommendations on ways to better address the problem. Over the past two years, the special rapporteur has visited Malaysia, Morocco, Italy, the Bahamas, Belize, and Seychelles.

In 2009, the Conference of Parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) convened a working group on trafficking in persons to facilitate implementation of the Palermo Protocol and make recommendations to States parties. The working group has met five times and recommended governments involve civil society as partners in anti-trafficking efforts; consider investigating suspected traffickers using a wide range of tools including tax and labor law; and consider using administrative tools and regulations to combat the crime. The working group will meet again in November 2015 to continue discussion of the implementation of the Palermo Protocol and make further recommendations. While 2015 is a milestone, particularly in the near universal adoption of the Protocol, significantly more must be done in the next decade and beyond to fulfill its mandate.

"From the ground to the top we need to create network[s]. From governments, legal, medical, social institutions, businesses to schools, local communities, individuals. We have to involve all. Traffickers are extremely well connected. We need to be, too."

--Jana, survivor of sex trafficking, in her address to the UN Human Rights Council


The victims' testimonies included in this Report are meant to be illustrative only and to characterize the many forms of trafficking and the wide variety of places in which they occur. They do not reflect all forms of human trafficking and could take place almost anywhere in the world. Many of the victims' names have been changed in this Report. Most uncaptioned photographs are not images of confirmed trafficking victims. Still, they illustrate the myriad forms of exploitation that comprise human trafficking and the variety of situations in which trafficking victims are found.


With the help of a labor broker, 16-year-old lok left Nepal for a job in Qatar. He was too young to legally migrate for work, but the broker who recruited him obtained a fake passport so lok would appear to be 20 years old. The broker charged lok an illegally high recruitment fee, so he left with a large debt that he had agreed to pay back at a 36 percent interest rate. Two months later, lok died of cardiac arrest while working in harsh conditions. Migrant workers in parts of the Gulf, including Qatar, have complained of excessive work hours with little to no pay in scorching heat. Many workers also allege their housing complexes are overcrowded and have poor sanitation. lok's parents received no money for his two months' work.


Thema paid approximately $1,480 to Sierra Leonean recruiters who promised her a nursing job or hotel work in Kuwait. Upon her arrival in Kuwait, however, Thema was instead forced to work as a domestic worker for a private Kuwaiti family. Thema worked all day, every day without compensation. Her employers forbade her from leaving the house or from using a cell phone. The family eventually returned Thema to her recruiter, taking advantage of a guarantee allowing them to obtain a refund for domestic workers they are not happy with. She ran away from the recruiter to the Sierra Leonean Embassy and was placed in a Kuwaiti government-run shelter with approximately 300 other former domestic workers. Thema likely faces the same fate as other trafficking victims in Kuwait who run away from private homes--the cancellation of her residence permit and deportation.

* On May 29, 2015, section 103(10) of the TVPA defining "sex trafficking" was amended by section 108 of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (Pub. L. 114-22). Section 108 also changed the TVPA definition of "severe forms of trafficking in persons," which includes a reference to the term "sex trafficking." Because this Report covers government efforts undertaken from April 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015, this amendment is not reflected in this Report.
COPYRIGHT 2015 U.S. Department of State
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2015 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Trafficking in Persons
Date:Jul 1, 2015
Previous Article:Dear reader.
Next Article:Preventing human trafficking in global supply chains.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters