What is trafficking in human beings?

Human trafficking is a serious social problem because it poses an enormous threat to fundamental human rights – right to life, to free choice, to free movement… Human trafficking as a phenomenon completely disregards any human rights. As a result of growing globalization at different levels, human trafficking has become a global problem. This problem equally hits:

a) countries in political and economic transition and countries torn by war (we call them also the countries of origin when human trafficking is concerned), and

b) economically developed countries (which at the same time appear as transit countries and the countries of destination/destination countries).

Although the majority of countries today claim that human rights and freedoms are fully observed there, the phenomenon of slavery has not disappeared yet – it still exists in the 21st Century. Millions of women and children, but also men, are forced into prostitution, domestic service, work on plantations, begging and other forms of coercion. People are trafficked within the borders of one country (internal human trafficking), but also inter-continentally (transnational human trafficking), and therefore all countries are facing this serious problem.

International organizations possess different data on the number of persons who fall victim to trafficking every year and on the profits generated from this criminal activity:

The socio-economic factors affect trafficking. However, it is driven by organized criminal groups which communicate very easily through “the language of profits”, while human beings are treated simply like “talking objects”.

Human trafficking carries a variety of exploitative goals, making it an international, organized criminal phenomenon, which has severe consequences on the security, welfare and human rights of its victims. Human trafficking, especially for the purpose of sexual exploitation, is a “high profit-low risk” criminal activity that takes away the quality of life, and in some cases the very life of its victims. This is a modern-day slavery, whose victims are often women and girls. In many cases, physical and mental injuries inflicted on the victims of human trafficking are so severe and permanent that their full physical and mental recovery becomes impossible.

Definition of human trafficking

According to UN Convention against Transitional Organized Crime, under Article 3 of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Human Beings, especially Women and Children, human trafficking is defined as follows:

“Trafficking in persons shall mean 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 labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.

It is important to know that, according to Article 3b of this document, the consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation shall be irrelevant; that is, it does not diminish accountability of those persons who committed human trafficking.

Also importantly, any reference to “a child” in this document shall mean any person under eighteen years of age.

Process of human trafficking

The human trafficking chain comprises of three phases:

1. Recruitment phase

2. Transit phase

3. Exploitation phase

Victims are often deceived by being led to believe that they are going abroad to work as waitresses, nannies, models, factory workers, dancers…, but when they get there, they are forced into prostitution, forced labor, begging…

Forms of trafficking:

– sexual exploitation

– labor exploitation

– debt bondage

– forced marriage

– phony adoption

– forced begging

– forced participation in criminal activities

– trafficking in body organs



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