Human Trafficking

What is Human Trafficking

Most people get their mental map of human trafficking from movies like ‘Taken,’ the Liam Neeson films. However, human trafficking is far more complex and multifaceted than is portrayed in the media. As I write this post, I am sitting in a rural suburb of a major city in the Pacific Northwest across the street for an arena with $500,000 horses. Yet I am painfully aware that human trafficking has a presence in the area.

What is human trafficking? The legal definition based on the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) is:

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring 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. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs

This is a mouthful, however, to make this understandable let’s break this down: The current number of victims of human trafficking globally as of 2017 is over 40 million people. There are certain common misconceptions about human trafficking:

  • Human Trafficking occurs both across borders and within a country, not just cross-border.
  • Human Trafficking is used for multiple ranges of exploitative purposes, not just sexual exploitation.
  • Human Trafficking victimizes children, women, and men.
  • Human trafficking takes place with or without the involvement of organized crime groups.

Human trafficking is divided into four major categories, Labor, Sex, Medical and Other. These are all impacted by various socio-economic and cultural influences. Let’s break down each of these categories and review the impact of each:

NOTE: The following section includes numbers based on reported incidents and estimates. The actual impact may be greater.

Labor trafficking – 24.9 million victims

Labor trafficking worldwide used to be the predominant form of trafficking. Over the last 10 years, sex trafficking has become more prevalent. Labor trafficking involves the forced to work under threat or coercion. Labor trafficking includes such areas as domestic workers, construction site workers, in clandestine factories, on farms, and fishing boats.

  • 16 Million in the private economy (2 million 57.6% female and 6.8 million 42.4% male).
  • 1 million are in state-sponsored labor.
  • 8 million are enslaved as sex workers (3.8 million adults and 1.0 million children, the majority of victims (99 percent) were women and girls

Victims are forced to work by private individuals and groups or by state authorities. The products they made and the services they provided ended up in commercial channels. Forced labor produces some of the food we eat and the clothes we wear, and they have cleaned the buildings in which many of us live or work. Labor trafficking victims are 63% men and boys and 37% Women and children.

Sex trafficking – 4.8 million victims

Sex trafficking includes both prostitution and pornography affecting 3.8 million adults, and 1.0 million children (some estimates put this number at 2 million) are victims of commercial sexual exploitation in 2016. The majority of victims (96 5) were women and girls.

Other trafficking – 19.5 million victims

There are several other types of trafficking that do not fit into the labor or sex categories. Forced marriage affects 15.4 million people with 88% being women and girls. The percentage of children forced into marriage prior to the age of 15 is 44%

Trafficking in human organs is one of the least common forms of trafficking by does occur,

A separate category not included with labor trafficking is state-sponsored labor trafficking. There were an estimated 4.1 million people in state-imposed forced labor on average in 2016. These numbers include agricultural and economic ‘development’ projects and using military recruits for compulsory participation in public works, and forced prison labor.

Contributing Factors

There are many factors that feed human trafficking, regional conflicts, economic hardship, cultural acceptance. Human trafficking is not isolated from other patterns of such as refugee migrations. and trafficking in wildlife. Human trafficking is unlike other illegal commodities in that once a product is sold the smuggler needs to replace it. With human trafficking, the enslaved individual continues to used multiple times.

In future blogs, we will dig deeper into types of human trafficking and what the Global Emancipation Network (GEN) provides for legislation, law enforcement, and prosecuting organizations. We will share some of the stories of human trafficking and the impacts on its survivors. We will review the challenges of enforcement and prosecution in these cases.

Note: The number of victims of human trafficking is hard to pinpoint to exact figures. Different reports separate sex trafficking into a separate category while others lump it into sub-class of labor trafficking. Since there is no uniform census data and traffickers attempt to remain hidden, in some cases the numbers are derived from estimates based on sampling. To give context to the number of exploited, the United States census for 1860 showed 3,953,761 slaves just before the civil war.

Learn More About The Global Emancipation Network’s Approach to Counter Human Trafficking



Leave a Reply