What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the buying and selling of men, women and children within countries and across borders for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor.

The United Nations defines the process of human trafficking 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.”

Human trafficking should be understood as a process. Many trafficked people agree to the initial movement through a facilitator based on false promises. Recruitment methods and modes of transport can vary. The deception and exploitation might become evident during the journey or at the destination.

The trafficker takes away the basic human rights of the victim: the freedom to move, to choose, to control their body and mind, and to control their future.

Impact of Human Trafficking

While estimates of the scale of global human trafficking vary, the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that there are 20.9 million adults and children in forced labour, bonded labour, and commercial sexual exploitation at any given time. Of these victims, according to the ILO, 55 per cent are women and girls, and at least 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation.

The Asia Pacific region accounts for by far the largest number of forced laborers – 11.7 million or 56% of the global total.

Victims of trafficking can suffer physical and/or psychological harm, including injuries and even death. They live in fear, isolation and might be unable to contact family or loved ones for long periods of time, which can cause extreme distress.

Human trafficking undermines the health, safety, and security of all individuals, families and communities it touches.

Drivers of Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a global phenomenon that is driven by demand for cheap labor and services, and fuelled by vulnerabilities related to poverty, limited opportunities of employment, limited access to information, lack of gender equity, family and social expectations.

Within Southeast Asia, rapid economic growth in some countries along with high unemployment and low wages in others have created conditions for human trafficking. Within the region, human trafficking is driven by a regional demand for lowly or unpaid domestic, agricultural and factory labourers, as well as sex industry workers.

Who is at risk?

Men, women and children are at risk of being trafficked.

Young people – both male and female, seeking a better life and wanting to escape poverty in their home country are more likely to be tricked and become human trafficking victims.

According to a UN GIFT (Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking) report, many young people trafficked each year were found to be educated to atleast “middle-level” which suggests that human trafficking is a problem which can affect people from different social classes and education categories.

What is the difference between trafficking and smuggling?

Trafficking and Smuggling are not the same thing.

A trafficking victim does not agree to be trafficked, but is tricked. They may agree to the journey, even to being smuggled, but not to the exploitation or enslavement upon arrival at their destination. The end result of the trafficking process is the exploitation of the individual(s).

Smuggling is done with the agreement of those involved. The smuggler facilitates illegal entry into a country for a fee, but on arrival at their destination, the voluntarily smuggled person is free.


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