trafficking in persons: the trade in human beings

“The biggest problem of human trafficking is the lack of awareness. Every day, you may be crossing paths with a victim, but you can’t identify her because you don’t know how to read the signs”. – Racha Haffar, women rights activist from Tunisia.


July 30 was designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, in order to raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.


What is human trafficking?


Trafficking in persons is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. It consists of the exploitation of girls, boys, women and men for purposes such as forced labor, sexual abuse, slavery, servitude, the removal of organs, among others.


The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, prepared by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 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.


Since 2003, UNODC has collected information on approximately 225,000 victims of trafficking detected across the globe. Worldwide, more and more countries are detecting victims and denouncing the traffickers of these mafias.


Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad. Almost every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims.


The 2021 Theme: “Victims’ Voices Lead the Way”


This year’s theme puts victims of human trafficking at the center of the campaign and will highlight the importance of listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking.


The campaign portrays survivors as key actors in the fight against human trafficking and focusses on the crucial role they play in establishing effective measures to prevent this crime, identify and rescue victims and support them on their road to rehabilitation.


Learning from victims’ experiences and turning their suggestions into concrete actions will lead to a more victim-centered and effective approach in combating human trafficking.


The pandemic aggravates this situation


António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations Organization expressed the following about human trafficking in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic:


“In the midst of a global pandemic, accompanied by rising inequalities and economic devastation, the voices of human trafficking survivors and victims risk being drowned out.


But listening to their stories is more crucial than ever as the COVID-19 crisis increases fragilities and drives up desperation.


As many as 124 million more people have been pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic, leaving many millions vulnerable to trafficking”.


Human trafficking in numbers


  • In 2018 about 50,000 human trafficking victims were detected and reported by 148 countries.
  • 50 % of detected victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation, 38 % were exploited for forced labour.
  • Women make up 46 % and girls 19 % of all victims of trafficking.
  • Globally, one in every three victims detected is a child.
  • The share of children among detected trafficking victims has tripled, while the share of boys has increased 5 times over the past 15 years.


By: Juan Carlos Ugarelli

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