Trafficking in Person: A General Resource Paper

Monday, December 10, 2007, 2:00 PM

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 Trafficking in Person: A General Resource Paper


Sigma Huda

[Trafficking in Person: General Overview- Globalisation and Human Trafficking- Trends and Magnitude- Trafficking and Migration- Key UN Initiatives- Human Rights Approach to Trafficking- Towards Elimination]

The Context: Human Trafficking

Trafficking in persons is an increasing global problem that involves both sexual and labour exploitation of its victims. Trafficking affects all regions and the majority of countries in the world. Both men and women may be victims of trafficking, but the primary victims world-wide are women and children, especially girls, the majority of whom are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Traffickers primarily target women and children because of the demand factors, and because they are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination- factors that impede their access to employment, educational opportunities and other resources.

One estimate shows that 800,000 to 900,000 people are trafficked across international borders annually[i] in addition; millions of people around the world live in situations of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. According to the UNDP estimates, adding domestic trafficking to the international figure would bring total annual trafficking to "perhaps 4 million persons per year" and that trafficking generates at least US$7 billion a year. In fact, trafficking in human person has, after drugs and weapons, become the third largest criminal business world-wide.

The broad term "trafficking in women" encompasses a number of illegal actions, including transnational crime, illegal immigration and violations of labour standards. Very often, anti-trafficking initiatives address a single aspect of the problem and thus approach trafficking either as a criminal problem, or a migration or labour problem. More recently, international organisations, including the United Nations, have come to recognise trafficking as gender discrimination and a form of gender-based violence that violates a number of national and international laws.

Trafficking in Person" has become an increasingly familiar phrase, as media coverage has focused more and more attention on the issue. Although this new level of scrutiny suggests that human trafficking is a recent problem, the United Nations has addressed trafficking in women for more than fifty years through its 1949 Convention on the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. The dynamics of modern trafficking, however, are dramatically different, and have necessitated new approaches to remedying this alarming human rights abuse. Recent UN initiatives on the subject include the adoption of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000), enumerating a comprehensive and broadened definition of human trafficking.[ii]

The Trafficking Protocol defines "trafficking in persons" 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." Exploitation is defined as "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." (Article 3).

The Trafficking Protocol is primarily a law enforcement instrument that lacks adequate provisions regarding protection of victims' fundamental human rights. However, despite this weakness, the Protocol represents a strategically important global re-conceptualisation of human trafficking. Indeed, the Protocol has broadened and detailed the accepted international consensus that the key element of trafficking is the exploitation of the victim, rather than the movement of victims across borders or the "means" by which the trafficker involves the victim in trafficking.

However, the relatively weak human rights language of the Trafficking Protocol is not reflective of an overall UN policy on trafficking victims' human rights. In fact, the Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking issued by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in May 2002 sets forth the primacy of human rights, which "shall be at the centre of all efforts to prevent and combat trafficking and to protect, assist and provide redress to victims." While not legally binding, the Recommended Principles are a document that is politically influential.[iii]

In another recent initiative, in July 2002, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court entered into force. Within it's definition of "crimes against humanity," the Statute defines "enslavement" as "the exercise of any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership over a person and includes the exercise of such power in the course of trafficking in persons, in particular women and children" (Article 7). The inclusion of enslavement, in the form of trafficking, in the Rome Statute indicates the high priority that the UN has given to addressing the crime of trafficking in women and children.

Globalisation and Human Trafficking

The Era of Globalisation has in the recent time become the popular term for describing the current political, economic, social and cultural atmosphere of the world. While some people think of globalisation as primarily a synonym for global business, it is rather much more than that. The same forces that allow businesses to operate as if national borders did not exist also allow social activists, labour organisers, journalists, academics, and many others to work on a global stage.

Globalisation has come to be a paradox in our contemporary world. In many respects, the pains of the dark side of globalization are rapidly outstripping the gains of its bright face. Globalisation had tended to pull resources to the North of the World at the detriment of the poor countries of the South.[iv] Consequently, human trafficking is blossoming while women and children in particular remain at the receiving end in this illicit trade. Globalisation has thus brought with it opportunities for the weak, poor, and dispossessed - as well as for criminals. It can be a force for liberation - as well as for enslavement. It can be measured by the flow of capital, goods and services - as well as the abuse, exploitation and sufferings incurred by humans.

Trafficking as a modern phenomenon was propelled onto the world stage in the 1990s when the process of globalisation also kicked off. Traffickers, taking advantage of transparent borders, broadband communication, and political and economic upheaval as well as mass migrations of people, have preyed on the vulnerable. The displaced persons, the war victims, the poor, and those seeking better opportunities to improve the quality of their lives have made trafficking a booming business as well as a tragic fixture of our times.

Human Trafficking: Extent and Magnitude

Trafficking in women, men and children for the purpose of labour or sexual exploitation and other heinous acts is an increasing type of international organised crime generating high profits with low risk for traffickers. Thousands of victims, women and children in particular, are being trafficked every day to bring them into conditions in which their basic human rights are violated.

In an age of globalisation, the issue of human trafficking is a phenomeno that touches all countries, all peoples, and all races. While globalisation has secured dramatic improvements in transportation and communications, it has also facilitated the physical processing of people, particularly exploiting those living in extreme poverty and seeking better livelihood .options. Defrauded or sold into a life of sexual slavery or indentured servitude, the victims of human trafficking and their stories from every corner reveal the dark underside of our globalised world.

The ILO estimates that at a minimum 2.45 million people worldwide find themselves in a situation of sexual or economic exploitation as a result of human trafficking. 1.3 million of the victims - more than half - are in Asia and the Pacific. Another 230.000 can be found in the Middle East and North Africa. Based on these figures, the ILO calculates that US$ 32 billion are earned every year from human trafficking. There has not been much comprehensive research on who exactly profits from this enormous sum of money and what they do with it. The little we do know, however, gives raise to concern. We do know, for instance, that the armed conflicts that led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia were partly financed with the proceeds of human trafficking. We also know that human trafficking money has strengthened the influence of organized criminal groups in some Asian countries.

I do not make this point because I want to encourage Governments to treat human trafficking only as a law and order problem - quite the contrary. I am convinced that any successful anti-trafficking strategy has to place the human rights of the victims at the centre of all efforts to prevent and combat trafficking. Traffickers cannot be effectively pursued without the voluntary cooperation of the victims. A cooperation of that nature requires trust that will only be forthcoming if victims are identified as victims and their human rights are respected. Human security and national security go hand in hand.

I am stressing the link between human trafficking and national/regional security to encourage further studies of trafficking in Asia in order to determine and then fill the remaining knowledge gaps. I would like to encourage all Governments participating in this workshop to jointly sponsor a comprehensive regional study on human trafficking and regional security in Asia. The study should look at the extent and forms of human trafficking in Asia and its impact on pertinent national and regional security issues.

Difference between Trafficking and Migration

That trafficking is a development-retarded phenomenon, whereas migration is an integral component of economic development.

That trafficking is viewed as an anti-social & morally heinous event that violates fundamental human rights & laws. Migration, on the other hand, is widely considered as a process that enhances social progress in both the origin & destination countries that can be an empowering process. Exploitation, profit & illegality are all central to the idea of trafficking in persons, which is certainly not the case in migration.

Why Victims of Trafficking Choose to Migrate, Despite Risks?

Today, human persons are trafficked from South to North, from South to South and from East to West. The flow is from poorer countries to countries where the standard of living for an average person is relatively higher. The fact that lesser developed countries' population is used for trafficking supports the recognition of a right to development as a human right. For instance, in Asia, a recognised supply and demand zone for trafficked persons, the practice is fed by economic disparity, restrictive migrant policies, the low status of women and girls in the region, a laxity of the rule of law, poverty, and endemic corruption.

Sometimes the women, men and children who are trafficked vaguely know the work that awaits them. But in most cases they are brought under the pretence that they are going to do domestic work, care for disabled or aged people, etc. Instead, they are forced into bonded and exploitative labour, or obliged to work as prostitutes. They find themselves stuck in a country where they can hardly communicate due to language barrier, where the culture is not their own, and where being illegal immigrants, they are often reluctant to seek official help. Human trafficking thus bears severely negative consequences for the victims as well as the societies involved. It is an issue that involves both gender and basic human rights abuses.

During the past decade, trafficking in persons has been systematically documented and debated on a large scale. But in this age, when increasing hostility toward immigration goes hand in hand with ever growing mass movements of people, the terms have blurred. A lack of clarity surrounding the definition of commonly used words such as smuggling, trafficking, and illegal immigration deflects attention away from the real plight of the victim covered by these definitions.

Smuggling implies a contractual relationship between those seeking to leave a country and those acting as agents to assist their client with entry to another country. Usually, the relationship ends once the migrants have arrived at their destination and have paid their legal fees. Illegal immigrants are individuals who travel to another country to seek employment, without possessing proper documentation. They may or may not have been smuggled. Human Trafficking, on the other hand, is a business involving coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power as well as abuse of vulnerability of women and children for purposes of forced labour or prostitution. It is only the trafficker who gains.

While there is legitimacy in each of these perspectives, a more accurate analysis of the problem begins with the recognition that countries of origin as well as destination equally share the culpability. In countries of origin, victim's voluntarily seek to leave their homes (although they are not knowingly seeking to enter a life of indentured servitude or commercial sexual exploitation) either because they have been lured by the lifestyle of the developed world or, at a more basic level, because of poverty, lack of employment opportunities, or Political repression at home, etc. that drive them to seek a better life abroad, despite the risk. In many countries of origin, migration is encouraged because governments are unable to provide jobs or basic care. In other countries, where children are expected to provide for their parents, some parents act as agents, selling their children into the commercial sex industry or into forms of indentured servitude and slave labour.

Social and economic factors are clearly key explanatory variables in trafficking. Money drives every aspect of the trafficking industry. The prospect of significant financial gain is an attraction for the organizers, brokers and recruiters of trafficking. In addition, this economic reality is a lure for trafficking victims in source countries. The prospect of spending time in a more prosperous country to earn money to save and send home is a central driving force, for it makes potential recruits more vulnerable to deception. Deprivation brings with it vulnerability to deception and coercion. Deprivation brings with it vulnerability to deception and coercion. Deprived individuals are also powerless-physically, legally and politically- to extricate themselves from coercive exploitative labour.

A large number of trafficked victims come from countries where the rule of law and civil society are at the mercy of political upheaval or are merely in embryonic stages. Consequently, the governments of these countries pay little attention to the responsibility for their citizens that should come with sovereignty. Legal systems as well as entrenced social and cultural traditions contribute to conditions of vulnerability, particularly for women and children. Some of these include early or forced marriage, discriminatory legal practices, lack of Access to education and opportunities, and exclusion from responsible leadership positions.

Key UN Initiatives

UN Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings

Launched in March 1999, the Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings (GPAT) was designed by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in collaboration with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI). GPAT assists Member States in their efforts to combat trafficking in human beings. It highlights the "involvement of organised criminal groups in human trafficking and promotes the development of effective ways of cracking down on perpetrators. As the only entity focusing on the criminal justice element, the GPAT brings special advantages to the fight against human trafficking. The GPAT's key components are data collection, assessment and technical co-operation. GPAT co-operates closely with other inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations in the implementation of its activities, including on awareness-raising and capacity building of key-actors.

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has taken various pro­active initiatives since 1998 in the problem of trafficking in persons, focusing in particular on trafficking in women and children. OHCHR actions in this area takes place on two fronts: first. The Office continues to enhance the quality of its support to the relevant mechanisms dealing with trafficking and related exploitation; and second, OHCHR has developed and implementing a global anti-trafficking programme[v] that is based on  two fundamental principles:

  • that human rights must be at the core of any credible anti-trafficking strategy; and
  • that such strategies must be developed and implemented from the perspective of those who most need to have their human rights protected and promoted.

In addition to the newly appointed Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Person (see below), a number of UN mechanisms specifically address the issue of human trafficking, including the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, among others. All of these mechanisms are serviced and supported by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. OHCHR has also developed a system for intra-Office co-ordination on the issue of trafficking with the purpose of ensuring appropriate links between the various UN mechanisms and among the officers working with them.

Appointment of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Trafficking (UNSRT)

The 60th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, ending April 23, 2004, appointed a Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.[vi] Ms. Sigma Huda from Bangladesh has been appointed as the second Special Rapporteur (UNSRT) on Trafficking for a three-year term (01 May 2004 - 30 April 2007).[vii] The UNSRT submits an annual report each year together with recommendations on measures needed to uphold and protect the human rights of trafficked people. This post has the potential to co-operate with IGO, NGOs and the victims of trafficking themselves in seeking to ensure that Governments protect and support the human rights of all trafficked people, as set out in the 2000 UN Protocol and the UN High Commissioner's Recommended Principles and Guidelines stated above.

Other UN Activities:

Other specific UN activities addressing the issue of human trafficking include the joint UNIFEM/UNIAP initiative;[viii] various UNFPA programmes;[ix] the functional commissions of ECOSOC including the CSW (see2.7 below); numerous global, regional and national programmes and projects of UNICEF, UNDP, ILO and UNESCO. among others.

UN Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW)

This Division was originally established in 1946 as the Section on the Status of Women, Human Rights Division, Department of Social Affairs.[x] Aiming to ensure the participation of women as equal partners with men in all aspects of human endeavour, the DAW promotes women as equal participants and beneficiaries of sustainable development, peace and security, governance and human rights. DAW acted as the substantive secretariat for the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995), the largest conference in the history of the United Nations, and was responsible for the preparations for the three previous World Conferences on Women (Mexico 1975, Copenhagen 1980, Nairobi 1985). Under the guidance of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, DAW carried out the preparatory work for the 23rd special session of the General Assembly in 2000 (see 2.7 below).

UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)

The Commission on the Status of Women was established as a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council[xi] to prepare recommendations and reports to the Council on promoting women's rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields. Following the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, the General Assembly mandated the Commission to integrate into its programme a follow-up process to the Conference, regularly reviewing the critical areas of concern in the Platform for Action and to develop its catalytic role in mainstreaming a gender perspective in United Nations activities.[xii]

In 2000, a comprehensive review and appraisal of progress made in the implementation of the Platform for Action was undertaken by the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (Beijing +5) entitled "Women2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century". The Assembly adopted a Political Declaration and Further Actions and Initiatives to Implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (the Outcome Document). The Commission's current and future work, as determined by its multi-year programme of work 2002-2006 is closely related to both, the Platform for Action and the Outcome Document so as to ensure their effective implementation.[xiii]

Beijing Plus Ten

The Forty-Ninth Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, held on 28 February - 11March 2005, has been termed as Beijing +10 as it marks the tenth anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action that was adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. Represented by some 80 ministers, seven first ladies, 1,800 government delegates and more than 2,600 non-governmental representatives, 165 member states from around the world reported on various crucial areas relating to the status of women at this meeting of the UN-CSW.[xiv] In addition to numerous formal sessions and panel discussions, the 12-day meeting included an array of presentations, discussions and other events.

Six new resolutions were adopted at the end of Beijing+10 on various issues; these are on:

i. Gender mainstreaming on national policies and programmes;

ii. Viability of appointing a Special Rapporteur on discrimination against women;

iii. Reducing demand for trafficking;

iv. Integrating a gender perspective in post-disaster relief especially in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami;

v. Indigenous women; and

vi. Women's economic advancement.[xv]

Highlight of the Final CSW Trafficking Resolution:

On reducing demand for trafficking in women and girls, the resolution asks governments to-

Adopt or strengthen legislative or other measures to deter exploiters and discourage the demand that fosters trafficking of women and girls for all forms of exploitation;

Take appropriate measures to address the root factors, including poverty and gender inequality, as well as external factors that encourage trafficking in women and girls for prostitution and other forms of commercialised sex, forced marriage and forced labour;

Conclude bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international agreements to address the problem of trafficking in persons, especially women and girls, including mutual assistance treaties, agreements and memoranda of understanding to enhance law enforcement and judicial co-operation;

Adopt specific measures aimed at reducing demand, as appropriate, to complement the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children; and

Condemn and criminalize trafficking, penalise traffickers and intermediaries, while ensuring protection and assistance to the victims of trafficking with full respect for their human rights.

The Resolution calls upon governments and encourages civil society to:

Take appropriate measures to raise public awareness of the issue of trafficking in persons, particularly in women and girls, including to address the demand side of the problem, and to publicise the laws, regulations and penalties relating to this issue, and to emphasise that trafficking is a crime, in order to eliminate the demand for trafficked women and girls, including by sex tourists;

Implement educational programs to raise awareness of the negative consequences of trafficking in women and girls, including its links to commercial sexual exploitation, organised crime, and harmful public health effects, such as the spread of HIV/AIDS, and of the rights and needs of trafficked women and girls; and

Undertake research on best practices, methods and strategies, information and mass media campaigns and social and economic initiatives to prevent and combat trafficking in women and girls, in particular to eliminate demand.

The CSW Resolution also encourages governments to intensify collaboration with NGOs to develop and implement comprehensive programs, including provision for shelter and other help for victims or potential victims of trafficking and for effective counselling, training and social and economic reintegration into society of victims.

Finally, the Resolution encourages the business sector, in particular the tourism industry and Internet providers, to develop or adhere to codes of conduct with a view to preventing trafficking in persons and protecting the victims of such traffic, especially for commercial sexual  exploitation,  and  promoting their rights,  dignity and security, including through collaboration with governmental and non-governmental organisations.

Soon after the Beijing+10 meeting, a significant development in combating human trafficking has been marked by the adoption of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The Convention, adopted by the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers on 3 May 2005, has been opened for signature at the Council of Europe's Third Summit of Heads of State and Government on 16-17 May 2005 in Warsaw, Poland.

The European Convention is a critical step forward in protecting the fundamental human rights of victims of trafficking. It is the first international treaty specifically designed to provide minimum standards for such protection. Through the adoption of the Convention, the Council of Europe demonstrates official recognition of the need for governments to provide protection and support to all trafficked people.

As recognised in the new European Convention, trafficking is a violation of human rights and an offence to human dignity and integrity. The Convention requires the ratifying state parties to take measures, individually and collectively, to prevent trafficking, to prosecute those responsible for trafficking, and to take specific measures to protect and respect the rights of trafficked persons.[xvi] The Convention thus expands the scope of UN definition of trafficking (set out in the Palermo Protocol) to expressly include internal trafficking within the borders of one state and trafficking not necessarily involving organised criminal groups.

Human Rights Approach

Today, the problem of trafficking and the web of human rights violations it embraces at present some of the most difficult and pressing issues on the international human rights agenda. Complexities include different political contexts and geographical dimensions of the problem; ideological and conceptual differences of approach; the mobility and adaptability of traffickers; different situations and needs of trafficked persons; the inadequate legal framework; and insufficient research and co-ordination on the part of actors involved at the national, regional and international levels.

The core elements for the support, assistance and protection of women, children and other victims of trafficking are clearly outlined in Articles 6 and 7 of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000) and Articles 24 and 25 of the Convention on Transnational Organised Crime. These measures, which apply to both children and adult victims of trafficking, include the provision of residency status, appropriate housing, information and counselling, medical and legal assistance, and employment and training opportunities. They also cover areas of witness protection, such as in-court evidentiary measures and police protection, as well as opportunities for legal redress and compensation. The Protocol has now been signed by 117 States, but the provisions for the protection and support of trafficked people are not binding on State Parties who are only obliged to "consider implementing" them "in appropriate cases". The consequence of this is that when States come to implement the Protocol in national legislation the protection and support components are usually diluted or ignored completely.

As well as adopting treaties and conventions designed to stop trafficking, the principal UN agencies concerned with human rights have recently adopted guidelines concerning women and children who are trafficked. These are addressed chiefly at government agencies, which are responsible for assisting and protecting trafficked persons and for deciding what should happen to them subsequently. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a set of Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking in 2002 and UNICEF issued a set of Guidelines for the Protection of the Rights of Children Victim of Trafficking in 2003. These Principles emphasise that government agencies and other institutions involved in making decisions about trafficked persons must make the best interest of the victim concerned a primary consideration in their work.

The UNHRC Principles stress upon the urgent need to eliminate all forms of sexual violence and trafficking which both violate and impair or nullify the enjoyment by the victims of their human rights and fundamental freedoms; recognised that victims of trafficking are particularly exposed to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; and emphasise on the need for a global approach to eradicate human trafficking. The Principles and Guidelines have been organised under four overriding themes: the primacy of human rights; preventing trafficking; protection and assistance; and criminalization, punishment and redress. Most of the Principles are primarily directed at states but they are also applicable to other parties involved in the fight against trafficking. The OHCHR has, in 2003, also developed a legal commentary on the Recommended Principles and Guidelines, elaborating further on the international legal standards underpinning the principles, including those contained in the Palermo Protocol, as well as in the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and other human rights, anti-slavery and international treaties.

Towards Elimination

The approach towards elimination of human trafficking needs to be based on holistic paradigms at the international, national, state, local and community levels that will stem all forms of policies that promotes poverty and gender inequality. The problem, no doubt, is complex, deep-rooted, insidious, corrupt and multifaceted, involving significant criminal enforcement challenges at the darkest realm of human race. It is the vilest form of crime, since it consists of using persons as merchandise that might be the source of gain for both the traffickers, the one who traffics the person and the one who buys/patrons the victim.

Governments and NGOs around the world have begun to respond to this modern form of slavery. However, current anti-trafficking programs in countries of origin focus primarily on awareness and education campaigns as well as legislative reform. For instance, the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 mandates that countries make serious and sustained effort to meet minimum standards to eliminate trafficking in persons. The Act lists criminalization of trafficking as one of these standards. The European Union requires that accession countries demonstrate compliance with EU laws, including the Council Framework Decision of July 2002 on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and the recently adopted European Convention of 2005.[xvii] Similar provisions have been made in the Convention on Trafficking in Women and Children adopted by the South Asian Association for Regional Co­operation (SAARC) in 2002 and the Mekong Declaration of October 2004 by the intergovernmental forum of five Mekong countries.[xviii]

However, it is now necessary to combine public education and policy reforms with economic assistance and to ensure that adequately funded development projects include elements that address endemic vulnerabilities of potential victims, especially women and children.

In countries of destination, emphasis must be placed on compassionate treatment of victims who are still considered as illegal immigrants, detained, and subsequently deported with little care for their emotional and physical needs, and for the fact that they were victims of a violent crime and not criminals themselves. The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons treats the trafficked person as a victim, as does the US law & the regional/sub-regional Conventions stated above; unfortunately, to date, few countries have modified their laws to reflect this emphasis.

It is important to understand human trafficking in the context of broad social, economic and political forces. It is only by doing so that it is possible to understand the distinction and interaction between various interrelated factors[xix] that enable individuals and organisations to deceive coerce and exploit the victims of trafficking. The importance of understanding these contexts - social, economic, and political - pertains to both source and destination countries, and in some ways to the international environment.

Concluding Notes

What is evident from the discussion above is the fact that a balanced attention is a  prerequisite between the dynamics of the trafficking business and existing or possible remedial efforts. Approaching trafficking in this way will help to understand the logic and appropriateness of current policy approaches. If structural variables prove to be fundamental conditions of human trafficking, then policies must factor this in and trafficking must be seen within a broader social and economic context. Rather than being confined to the normative academic sphere, the structural background to trafficking may well have real relevance for policy.

Elimination of human trafficking calls for specific focus on the fact that in an era of (globalisation, neo-liberal economic forces have resulted in a weakening of state capacity and a weakening of the provision of public goods. Thus, trafficking may be seen as a symptom of deprivation, as poverty is an important factor in making individuals and communities vulnerable to trafficking. Disparities in economic or social conditions provide a clear explanation of patterns of trafficking routes, in terms of source and destination countries.

At a different level, the emphasis upon the free movement of capital and deregulation may I have consequences for human trafficking. Financial remittances are an important source of revenue for many countries, and especially those with large numbers of citizens living abroad as expatriate workers. To drastically clamp down on the free movement of people - as a consequence of combating trafficking - could jeopardise the free flow of these remittances. This is a move that many countries are reluctant to take.

Finally, the continued treatment of millions of men, women and children as a commodity - be it sex slave or indentured servant - speaks volumes of the global community's failure to offer protection and opportunity across poverty, gender and age. The rapid proliferation of human trafficking and related brutality casts a dark shadows over the benefits that globalisation has offered to many.  Globalisation has made the world a smaller place, but at cost to many of the most vulnerable. It is time to extend the benefits to all.



[i] U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2003.

[ii] Trafficking Protocol defines "trafficking in persons" as "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 is defined as "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." (Article 3)


[iii] The document contains eleven recommended guidelines, including one on the promotion and protection of human rights, which begins "Violations of human rights are both a cause and a consequence of trafficking in persons. Accordingly, it is essential to place the protection of all human rights at the center of any measures taken to prevent and end trafficking. Anti-trafficking measures should not adversely affect the human rights and dignity of persons and, in particular, the rights of those who have been trafficked, migrants, internally displaced persons, refugees and asylum-seekers."

[iv] Looking back to the historical perspectives of the dark side of globalisation, in the late 1970s and 1980s, countries of the south suffered severe economic blows due to rising savings gap, increased debt crises, international interest rates, and a world wide collapse in the prices of commodities that devastatingly affected developing countries' export. Since the 1980s the situation has steadily worsened. Today, the total debt of the developing world equals about one-half their combined Gross National Product (GNP) and nearly twice their total annual export earnings. In fact, the 41 countries defined by the World Bank as "Heavily Indebted Poor Countries" (HIPCs) - 33 of them in Africa owe about $220 billion in foreign debts. The implication of this is that each African Child inherits about $379 in debt at birth.

On the other hand, because of this crushing debt-service burden, governments of the south have virtually no bargaining power when negotiating a structural adjustment programme and must accept any condition imposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). This also ensures that debtor countries continue to make debt payments, further enriching Northern creditors at the expense of domestic programmes in the South (Eric Toussaint and Ted van Hees (1994) cited in Joy Evbuomwan, Debt, Globalization and Trafficking in Women: An NGO Perspective (African Network for Environmental and Economic Justice). The result of this dark side of globalization has been to deny many children the chance to go to school, women's access to healthcare, HIV-infected persons access to counseling and treatment, small farmers access to credit and technical assistance, human trafficking, unemployment and so forth.

[v] The OHCHR Trafficking Programme was established in March 1999. Its objective is to work towards the integration of a human rights perspective into international, regional and national anti-trafficking initiatives. The emphasis is on legal and policy development. The Programme does not aim to undertake large projects or to duplicate initiatives that are being undertaken elsewhere. Instead, as far as possible, OHCHR tries to act as a catalyst and a support for the work of others.

[vi] E/CN.4/2004/L.62. The resolution (2004/45) contains useful wording on trafficking issues and, amongst other things, calls on governments to: ensure that trafficked persons are protected from further exploitation and harm and have access to adequate physical and psychological care; develop national plans of action to prevent and combat trafficking in persons; outline measures taken to combat trafficking in their periodic reports to the relevant UN human rights treaty bodies; and offer trafficked person the possibility of obtaining compensation for damages suffered. The full text of the resolution is on the UN Commission on Human Rights web-site, at Commission on Human Rights; 60th Session; Draft Resolutions and Decisions; E/CN.4/2004/L.ll/Add.4.

[vii] Ms. Huda is the President of the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association and current Board Member of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Asia Pacific.

[viii] UNLAP is the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region.

[ix] As part of its commitment to the human and reproductive rights of women, UNFPA is one of many UN agencies working to bring to public attention to trafficking of women and children. Key UNFPA focus are: (a) technical assistance and training to governmental and other agencies to increase their capacity to develop policies and other anti-trafficking measures; (b) counseling for victims of trafficking; (c) medical supplies and services, including reproductive health services, to victims of trafficking; and (d) awareness and advocacy campaigns.


[x] In 1972, the section was upgraded to the Branch for the Promotion of Equality for Men and Women under the newly created Center for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations Office in Vienna. In 1978, the branch was renamed as the Branch for the Advancement of Women. In August 1993, the Division moved to New York where it formed part of the Department of Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD), which, as a result of restructuring in 1996, became the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

[xi] ECOSOC Resolution 11(11) of 21 June 1946. The Council in its resolution 1987/22 expanded the Commission's mandate in 1987.

[xii] The Economic and Social Council also modified the Commission's terms of reference in 1996, in its resolution 1996/6.

[xiii] The Commission, which began with 15 members, now consists of 45 members elected by the Economic and Social Council for a period of four years. Members, who are appointed by Governments, are elected on the following basis: thirteen from African states; eleven from Asian states; four from Eastern European states; nine from Latin American and Caribbean states; and eight from Western European and Other states. The Commission meets annually for a period often working days.

[xiv] These identified 12 critical areas are:      Poverty     Health     violence Against Women     Armed Conflict     The Economy    Power and Decision-Making    Institutional Mechanisms    Human Rights    The Media    The Environment The Girl Child.

15  Resolutions that had been carried over from previous CSW sessions were also adopted, including: women, the girl-child and HIV/AIDS; the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women; the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan; and the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women.

[xvi] The Convention also establishes an independent body of experts to monitor the implementation of the Convention by parties. 

[xvii] The Council of Europe adopted the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings on 3 May 2005, which has been opened for signature at the Council's Third Summit of Heads of State and Government on 16-17 May 2005 in Warsaw, Poland.

The European Convention is a critical step forward in protecting the fundamental human rights of victims of trafficking. It is the first international treaty specifically designed to provide minimum standards for such protection. Through the adoption of the Convention, the Council of Europe demonstrates official recognition of the need for governments to provide protection and support to all trafficked people. As recognized in the Convention, trafficking is a violation of human rights and an offence to human dignity and integrity. The Convention requires the ratifying state parties to take measures, individually and collectively, to prevent trafficking, to prosecute those responsible for trafficking, and to take specific measures to protect and respect the rights of trafficked persons. The Convention thus expands the scope of UN definition of trafficking (set out in the Palermo Protocol) to expressly include internal trafficking within the borders of one state and trafficking not necessarily involving organized criminal groups.

[xviii] China, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Thailand

[xix] These factors include structural variables, such as economic deprivation and downturns, attitudes to gender, and the demand for prostitution, among others); and proximate variables, i.e. lax national and international legal regimes, poor law enforcement, corruption, organized criminal entrepreneurship, weak education campaigns and low awareness amongst vulnerable communities.