What is Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is the illicit trade or use of human beings for the purpose of exploitation. Human trafficking is a crime against humanity that occurs in every country around the world. First world countries are no exception to this crime.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) defines human trafficking as the “act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.”

The issue of human trafficking is very real in the world. Every country is affected by human trafficking, as a country of origin, transit, or destination. According to Redeem the Shadows, 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year.

The people trafficked are exploited in many different ways. Commonly, people are sexually exploited, including used for prostitution. Forced labor, slavery and servitude are also very common and people are even trafficked for organ removal.

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime set forth the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons. This protocol, among other things, criminalizes the act of human trafficking, calling upon member states to declare human trafficking illegal and reflect that in domestic laws. The protocol also affirms that trafficking of humans is not limited to women and children and criminalizes human trafficking for any reason, not just sexual exploitation.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s website:

“The adoption in 2000 by the United Nations General Assembly of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking In Persons, Especially Women and Children, marked a significant milestone in international efforts to stop the trade in people. As the custodian of the Protocol, UNODC addresses human trafficking issues through its Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings. To date, more than 110 States have signed and ratified the Protocol. But translating it into reality remains problematic. Very few criminals are convicted and most victims are probably never identified or assisted.”

The issue of human trafficking is wide in its scope, but enforcement remains in the hands of each individual governmental body. The UNODC provides assistance and practical steps on implementation for member states, but must respect national borders.

Human trafficking can only be truly combated by the nations affected by it. These nations are countries of origin — where the humans are being imprisoned and sold, countries of transit — where people are transported through on their way from the origin country to the country of destination, and countries of destination — where the humans are being bought and exploited. In each of these countries the cycle of human exploitation can be combated and ended.

Human trafficking is a crime against humanity that requires the attention of both the global community and individuals if it is to end.