Quick Facts

Human trafficking and slavery may seem like a relic from a bygone era, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Slavery auctions, where humans are sold off to the highest bidder, are still happening today.1 Although slavery is now illegal in every country around the world, there are more slaves today than there were over the hundreds of years of slave trafficking that took place between the 16th and 19th century.2

“To dismiss “slavery” as being merely reminiscent of an era remote from contemporary life in the United Kingdom is wrong. In the modern world exploitation can and does take place.”

Human trafficking and slavery is a global pandemic, affecting millions of vulnerable individuals. We’re only just beginning to grasp the scale of modern slavery- and our efforts to combat it are barely making a dent on the problem.3

Trafficking is a recognised by the international community as a serious crime and a flagrant violation of human rights. Trafficking violates victims’ integrity and dignity and results in a reduction in opportunities, quality of life, health, freedom, and autonomy.4

Definition of human trafficking. ‘The essence of human trafficking is the acquisition of control over people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them.’5

British counter‐trafficking legislation draws upon the definition in the United Nations’ (UN) (2000) Palermo Protocol. This defines human trafficking as:

‘The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of 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, manipulation or implantation of organs.’6

This definition involves 3 aspects:

  1. Act: The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons
  2. Means: 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 (- where children are involved, this is irrelevant because children cannot legally consent).
  3. Purpose: for exploitation; ‘trafficked persons are victims of coercion, threat and extortion, false imprisonment, forced prostitution, domestic violence, rape or sexual assaults, and in some cases manslaughter or murder.’7

Sex trafficking is officially defined as: a “modern-day form of slavery in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years.”8 US Dept. of State 2012
It involves relationships of power, specifically, the abusive relationship of power, in which one person has ‘power over’ another individual, controlling their behaviour and actions.9

The United Kingdom’s Policing and Crime Act of 2009 made it illegal to purchase sex from someone who has been forced into prostitution, and allows men to be prosecuted for soliciting a prostituted person the first time that they are apprehended.10

Trafficking doesn’t necessarily have to involve transporting victims across borders. Trafficking is both a global and a domestic crime, with victims trafficked within their own country, to neighbouring countries and between continents. Trafficking does not require transportation or the crossing of international borders; women and children are victimized by trafficking in their own countries and abroad. In fact, the majority of victims are trafficked within their own country.11

‘… despite increased academic and policy interest in trafficking, the discourse has focused overwhelmingly on international trafficking, neglecting the ‘unique characteristics and challenges’ of internal, or domestic, trafficking.’12

‘Pimps pride themselves on tricking their victims into selling their bodies for money and thinking that they have freely chosen to do it. The reality is quite different.’

The concept of ‘consent’ is important: ‘Victims of trafficking often consent to illegal entrance into a country or agree to work. This consent is often obtained through deception or fraud. Even when victims agree to work in prostitution, they do not consent to the inhumane conditions to which they are forced to work and live. The U. N. Trafficking Protocol makes it clear that consent is negated under these conditions. Furthermore, in the case of children under the age of 18, deception and fraud are not necessary preconditions.’13

Trafficking is inherently related to slavery. ‘Whilst the term trafficking is commonly used, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ((UNODC) 2009) argues that the term ‘trafficking’ is misleading due to the focus it places on the transaction rather than the human aspects of the crime arguing that ‘enslavement’ is more accurate. As such, human trafficking exploration and reporting falls under the umbrella of ‘Modern Slavery’- a term more commonly used in the UK and relating to specific legal situations relating to forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, slavery, slavery-like practices and human trafficking.’14

Types of Sex Trafficking

The face of human trafficking is constantly changing as traffickers find the most profitable and effective means of exploitation. Often, traffickers will exploit victims in multiple different ways. Reasons for human trafficking include: labour exploitation; domestic servitude; forced criminality: child soldiers: organ harvesting; and sexual exploitation.

‘Forced prostitution represents the greatest percentage of the human trafficking as sexual exploitation population, with a majority of victims being women from Europe, Central Asia, and North and South America.’15

Forms of trafficking for sexual exploitation include:
Commercial sexual exploitation: where women and children are trafficked into prostitution (including through brothels and escort agencies), pornography and every part of the sex industry. They may be trafficked by a pimp, a partner, a family member or by a gang or criminal group.

Forced Marriage: where women and girls are forced into marriage without their consent. They are denied the option to refuse or are promised and married to another by their parents, guardians, relatives or other people and groups.’ Forced marriages often involves domestic abuse and sexual abuse or exploitation.

Mail-Order Brides’: this involves poor women and girls being chosen from a ‘catalogue’ and ordered by a man in a more affluent country to become a ‘wife.’ Often, the women are trafficked illegally, stripped of rights and subject to domestic violence, abuse and servitude.16 In addition to abuse in the home, sometimes the women are forced into prostitution.17
Cyber Sex Trafficking (CSE): this is the live-streaming sexual exploitation of children viewed over the internet. Unlike abuse that occurs bars or brothels with a permanent address, cybersex trafficking victims can be moved to and abused in any location with an internet connection and a webcam, or just a mobile phone.
Child (Sexual) Exploitation: British children in particular are trafficked by organised groups who groom them, ply them with gifts, alcohol and drugs and then force them into prostitution.

…many child victims of trafficking in the UK are actually bought and sold within the country. The UK government believes there are currently 13,000 children being exploited in this way.

 Jane was just 13 when she was groomed and then abused, before being trafficked across the UK by groups of men for sex. It began while she was at school. A man in his 70s, who knew she had an unstable family life, began to offer her presents and lifts. He was soon asking for repayment in sexual acts and, slowly, over time, he began passing Jane around other Asian men.’18

“I was scared of what was happening. I think because it started at an early age, after a while you just believe that that’s all you’re worth.”

Types of Sex Trafficking

Global Human Trafficking

There’s been an increased global awareness of the issue of human trafficking.
Recent years have seen progress at both international and EU level, with extensive reports  published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Eurostat. National authorities around the globe have also grown better at both tracking and assessing patterns and flows of trafficking, and at collecting official statistics. In 2016, more trafficking victims were reported to the United Nation Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that in any other time over the past 13 years.19

This year’s Global Report indicates that the overall number of reported trafficking victims has increased. This might mean that more people are being trafficked, but also that national capacities to detect this crime and identify victims are improving in some countries.
2018 United Nation Office for Drugs and Crime

However, the reporting of human trafficking is still patchy.
In countries in that have yet to formulate effective legislation against trafficking, statistics are very unreliable. Here, low numbers of convictions for trafficking and the low detection of victims should not be taken to mean that traffickers are not active. ‘In fact, victims trafficked from subregions with low detection and conviction rates are found in large numbers in other subregions. This suggests that trafficking networks operate with a high degree of impunity in these countries. This impunity could serve as an incentive to carry out more trafficking.’20

Even where countries legislate against human trafficking, human trafficking remains extremely hard to measure.
The Executive Director of UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa said that its 2018 Report “increases our understanding of modern slave markets, yet it also exposes our ignorance.” The data below is based on the minority of victims that are registered or identified victims and is therefore known to represent the tip of the iceberg,

This graph shows the growth of global trafficking documented by UNDOC, with a steady increase between 2003 – 2016.

21

 

 

 

 

Although the detection of trafficking victims and conviction has increased in recent years, they are still far below the estimated rate of actual trafficking. The most recent figures of Modern Slavery (ILO 2017) estimate that during 2016, 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery. Of these, 24.9 million were forced into labour such as construction, agriculture, factories and the sex industry.

Human Trafficking in the UK

“The growing body of evidence we are collecting points to the scale being far larger than anyone had previously thought. The intelligence we are gaining is showing that there are likely to be far more victims out there, and the numbers of victims in the UK has been underestimated.”22

Britain has a trafficking problem. Human trafficking must not be regarded as something that occurs in “other countries” such as those with legal and political systems ill equipped to deal with it. Trafficking is a global endemic and “Britain is both a source and destination country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour, including domestic servitude.”23

Sexual exploitation is the most common form of modern slavery reported in the UK, followed by labour exploitation, forced criminal exploitation and domestic servitude. Trafficking victims most often come from Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania and Poland, but some victims are from the UK itself.

In Britain, the detection and conviction rates relating to trafficking have increased in recent years. The United Kingdom is classed as a “Tier 1” country by the US Department of State24 meaning that the UK Government fully complies with The Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

The official government estimate of the scale of modern slavery in the UK suggests that there were 10,000-13,000 victims in 2013.
This figure was produced by the Home Office in 2014. It was based on 3 main sources of data25:

  • Referrals of potential victims to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). This is the UK’s identification and support system for victims of modern slavery. In 2017, there were 5,145 cases reported through the NRM- the highest number on record, and an increase of 35% from 201626. It includes victims trafficking from over 110 countries, of which 41% (over 2000) were children under 18.27
  • Referrals of potential victims under the ‘duty to notify’ provision of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (England and Wales). Specified public bodies have a duty to notify the Government if they encounter an adult victim of modern slavery. In 2016, 782 potential adult victims were referred to the duty to notify, bringing the total number of potential victims identified in 2016 to 4,586.
  • The number of modern slavery crimes recorded by the police. In the year to March 2017, police in England and Wales recorded 2,255 modern slavery offences, a 159% increase on the previous year.

However, most experts believe the actual figure is considerably higher28. Because of gaps in the way trafficking is identified and recorded, vast swathes of exploitative activity goes at best, inaccurately reported, and at worst unreported entirely.

Independent anti-trafficking commissioner Kevin Hyland claims that the “true number is in the tens of thousands”. The 2018 Global Slavery Index estimates that Britain is home to around 136,000 victims of modern slavery. This means that in 2016, 1 in 500 people in Britain were trapped in modern slavery.29

“The impact is huge, both on human lives and our economy, with estimates putting its cost to the UK at as much as £4.3 billion in 2016/17.”30

There has been a massive increase in the number of children identified as being trafficked in the UK. Children comprised nearly half (41%) of the total number of suspected trafficking victims in 2017, a rise of 66% on the previous year.31 This reflects an increasing awareness of the issue, but also an increasing realisation of its true prevalence, which is likely to be far higher than even the estimates.

The charity ECPAT points out the ‘increasing understanding that child victims of trafficking are often exploited in multiple, overlapping ways’.32 Most commonly in the UK, they are used for ‘labour exploitation (48%) and also for sexual exploitation (26%).33 There is still confusion, in policy and practice, over how CSE and modern slavery are viewed ‘hence the relatively low number of British nationals recorded as victims of sexual exploitation by the NRM as compared to the national estimates.’34

Estimating the Prevalence of Sex Trafficking

As with trafficking generally, trafficking with the express purpose of sexual exploitation is an enormous and growing problem.35

Sexual exploitation is the main purpose of human trafficking- globally, and particularly in Europe.36
Trafficking is a gendered phenomenon: the predominant type of trafficking is for sexual exploitation, and the majority of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation are women and girls. According to the UNODC, trafficking for sexual exploitation accounts for 58% of trafficking cases globally, and for 63% in Europe, which ranks higher than any other region in the world.

In Britain, sexual exploitation accounts for almost 40% of detected cases.37 In the UK in 2016, among potential adult victims, the most common reported exploitation type was labour exploitation (44%) followed by sexual exploitation (37%). Among potential child victims, the most common reported exploitation type was labour exploitation (37%), followed by sexual exploitation (28%). This pattern was similar to 2014 and 2015.

In the UK, trafficking for sexual exploitation occurs predominantly in off-street brothels both in the commercial setting of massage parlours, hotels and restaurants (which double as brothels), and also in private residential premises- although there has been a rise in trafficked Romanian women forced into on-street prostitution. There has also been a reported rise in the number of male victims. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) recently reported men forced to work in an illegal casino to provide sexual services to patrons in the breaks.38

Sex trafficking is a more visible for of human trafficking: ‘By and large the exploitation of women tends to be visible, in city centres, or along highways. Because it is more frequently reported, sexual exploitation has become the most documented type of trafficking, in aggregate statistics.’39

However, some aspects of sexual exploitation through trafficking are hidden, unrecognised and unreported, for several reasons:

  1. Sometimes sexual exploitation falls under another broad umbrella category. For example, the ILO says it resists the ‘ tendency to distinguish between sexual exploitation on the one hand, and forced labour exploitation on the other’ since they regard it as one and the same issue.40 For this reason, it includes women being forced into prostitution as a kind of “forced labour”.41
  2. Many who are identified as being trafficked under a different category will often experience sexual abuse and exploitation as well: ‘Trafficked persons are particularly susceptible to sexual assault and exploitation. Traffickers commonly use sexual violence as a tool to assert power and control over women, children, and men, regardless of the type of trafficking they are engaging in.’42
  3. Some types of sex trafficking are chronically under-identified and under-reported. For example, cases in which ‘traffickers force intimate partners and spouses to perform services and labour, such as domestic work or sex work often go unnoticed and unchallenged.’ And forced marriage isn’t even listed43 under the National Referral Mechanism’s indicators of modern slavery although undoubtedly, sexual exploitation and trafficking occurs within it.44

Thus, trafficking for sexual exploitation in the UK is more widespread than the statistics suggest. When we think of ‘sex trafficking’, the stereotype of young girls who are kidnapped and smuggled across international borders can make us blind to other forms- for example, those coercing intimate partners or family members into the sex industry and then taking their earnings.45

SLIDER QUOTES:

Trafficking involving sexual exploitation commonly refers to the exploitation of persons for prostitution, entertainment, and pornography, and is now increasingly understood – where it occurs for the purpose of exploitation – to encompass forced or arranged marriages, “mail order” brides, temporary wives or marriages of convenience.46

There is a common misconception that sexual violence occurs only in sex trafficking…., the unfortunate truth is that sexual violence occurs in almost every type of trafficking situation including the commercial sex industry, servile marriages, and in cases of forced labor.47

In 2006 and 2007, all identified of human trafficking were subjected to sexual exploitation as set out in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. None of the detected victims were trafficked for forced labour, domestic servitude or for the removal of human organs….48 UNODC Trafficking in Human Persons report, 2009

 

 

Trafficking in the UK

Factors of Vulnerability

Victims of human trafficking include men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities and nationalities; victim’s don’t fit an exact mould. However, even when trafficking is domestic, victims typically come from the most vulnerable or socially-marginalised groups.

Vulnerability can be due to internal factors such as mental health issues, age, substance abuse and learning disability.

Vulnerability can also come from external factors such as poverty, a lack of education or jobs, childhood abuse, domestic/ intimate partner abuse, family disruption or dysfunction, or being in the care system.49

External factors causing vulnerability can be linked to wider, complex and interrelated economic, social and political factors.50 For example, unstable social and political conditions (including corruption, civil unrest, conflict, a weak government), lack of human rights, and racist, sexist or xenophobic ideologies.

‘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 the opportunities of the West to improve the quality of their lives, have made trafficking into a booming business as well as a tragic fixture of our times.’51

The trafficking of vulnerable populations is facilitated by globalisation. ‘Economic globalization has led to a form of “global apartheid” and a corresponding emergence of a new “fourth world” populated by millions of homeless, incarcerated, impoverished, and otherwise socially excluded people52. It is from this pool of “fourth world” that victims of human trafficking are increasingly drawn. Following the logic of economic gain, global trafficking flows ‘follow the money’ from developing countries into wealthier countries along similar routes to migration.

SLIDER QUOTES:

‘As the world “shrinks” and evolves toward a sort of global community, the transfer of people both voluntary and coerced is becoming more prevalent. The condensing of the world can be attributed to the process of globalization. It is in large part due to globalization that human trafficking has become such a lucrative and thus, fast-growing criminal activity.’53

‘Whereas slave traders two centuries ago were forced to contend with costly journeys and high mortality rates, modern exploiters have lower overheads thanks to huge advances in technology and transportation. Modern migration flows also mean that a large supply of vulnerable, exploitable people can be tapped into for global supply chains in the agriculture, beauty, fashion and sex industries.’54

‘Systematic inequality and societal norms often fuel trafficking. In some societies, what anti-trafficking advocates and nonprofits define as human trafficking is recognized as pursuit of a better life. The push factors — poverty, oppression, lack of human rights, lack of social or economic opportunity, dangers from conflict or political instability and similar conditions — fuel trafficking and increase the vulnerability of people living in these environments.’

In 2016 more countries were experiencing some form of violent conflict than at any other time in the previous 30 years- and this has increased human trafficking.55 Along with natural or man-made disasters and human rights violations, conflict causes internal displacement which leaves individuals lacking family and community networks and economic opportunities more vulnerable to false promises of jobs and better situations elsewhere. Women and children are especially vulnerable.56

SLIDER QUOTES:

‘Women and children fleeing violence are especially likely to become victims of traffickers and smugglers. They can end up being trafficked and exploited through document confiscation, threats of violence against family members, psychological control, forced confinement and debt bondage to those who arranged their passage. Women often have to repay their debt by working as prostitutes or in domestic services. Due to their status as illegal immigrants they face additional barriers to escaping such slavery and to accessing help or services.’57

‘Refugees and migrants are the easiest people to disappear, making them particular targets for sex traffickers. 10,000 child migrants went missing in Europe in 2016 alone, many of whom are thought to have been trafficked for sexual exploitation. Children are sought out by traffickers as they fetch a higher price because sex buyers see them as ‘untouched’, ‘innocent’ and ‘pure’ and are willing to pay more for them.’58

‘Conflict also precipitates direct forms of trafficking. Internally displaced children who are abducted or forcibly recruited as soldiers, for example, are also victims of trafficking, as are those who are coerced into forced labour or prostitution. A sudden increase in trafficking for sexual exploitation often occurs when peacekeeping forces are deployed in conflict zones. While one of the responsibilities of these troops may be to protect IPDs, their use of brothels may contribute to both internal and international trafficking.’59

Sex Trafficking PUSH Factors

Women and girls make up over 70% of all human trafficking victims globally. 60

  • 49% are adult women
  • 23% are young girls
  • 21% are adult men
  • 7% young boys.

In the EU, the proportion of ‘registered or presumed’ female trafficking victims is even higher: around 80% for the period 2010-2012 (67% women and 13% girls). The trafficking of women and children is the world’s fastest-growing crime.61

The trafficking of women and young girls is mostly for sexual exploitation. Three-quarters of all female victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation globally.62 There is an increasing trend towards trafficking in young girls.63 ‘The number of children involved in the sex industry has dramatically increased over the years. Presently, UNICEF states that approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked yearly, with as many as 2 million sexually exploited worldwide.’ 64

Sex trafficking is caused by the gendered effects of globalisation:65 Globalisation creates structural economic inequalities which are systematically exploited by the trafficking of women.66 “The gendered effects of globalization create the conditions in which women are disadvantaged economically and therefore vulnerable to being trafficked as sex slaves.”

‘Globally, women are disproportionately affected by the feminization of poverty and other limited economic options,67 which can further exacerbate the vulnerability of women to trafficking due to discriminatory practices in trying to attain education or employment.’68

Sex trafficking is also caused by laws or ideologies that fuel gender inequality. ‘Human trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation is one of the most difficult issues to redress because it is related to deep-seated gender ideologies ….Poverty, racism and xenophobia interact with such ideologies and exacerbate the vulnerability and ensuing victimization of women and girls, particularly those from ethnic or racial minorities.’

In Europe, the staggering growth of sex trafficking is partly attributed to the fall of the Soviet Union. Social and political instability, economic collapse and high levels of unemployment have led to thriving organised crime rings in Central and Eastern Europe which prey on young women and girls.69‘… the “democratization” of formerly socialist countries has resulted in huge losses for women at the social, economic and political levels, evidenced by women’s higher unemployment rates, or the elimination of child care options due to the breakdown of socialist infrastructures. These changes have made women from these countries particularly vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.’70

Sex trafficking has also been greatly aided by the Internet. Over the past 20 years, the use of digital communication technologies, particularly the Internet, has greatly expanded criminals’ capacity to traffic human beings for different types of exploitation.71

The internet is used to advertise false jobs to attract victims. It can also be used to blackmail victims, threatening to share compromising pictures of them online; to control victims by obliging them to have daily email exchanges or chat sessions to prove their presence; or to monitor them remotely by using live cameras. Victims are often ‘advertised’ online, with some websites offering thousands of women for sexual services, even giving clients the possibility to rate their performance.72

SLIDER QUOTES:

‘Traffickers use networking technologies, including the internet, social media and mobile devices, to recruit their victims, as well as to advertise and sell their services. The internet allows them to reach a broad audience and to expand their recruitment internationally. The whole trafficking chain is facilitated by digital technologies.’73

‘Adapted by traffickers, pimps, and pornographers, the global reach of the Internet has facilitated sex buyers‘ access to prostituted women and children, thereby increasing sex trafficking.’74

Recruitment and Control

Traffickers use a combination of sophisticated techniques to recruit and control vulnerable individuals, including:

  1. Force: including physical restraint, physical harm, sexual assault, and beatings. Monitoring and confinement is often used to control victims, especially during early stages of victimization to break down the victim’s resistance.
  2. Fraud: including false promises regarding employment, wages, working conditions, love, marriage, or a better life. Over time, there may be unexpected changes in work conditions, compensation or debt agreements, or nature of relationship.
  3. Coercion: including threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person, psychological manipulation, document confiscation, and shame and fear-inducing threats to share information or pictures with others or report to authorities.

‘Current research indicates that traffickers rely less on imprisonment or confinement of trafficked persons and favour the more subtle, sophisticated and particularly effective psychologically coercive techniques to imprison the victim’s mind rather than their physical self.’

Traffickers coerce victims through making fraudulent promises that exploit vulnerability. One common method consists of exploiting the lack of economic opportunities in the local community and promising employment. Women and girls are offered jobs as models or dancers, as well opportunities to participate in beauty contests or ‘study abroad’ programs. Matrimonial agencies, also called ‘mail-order bride agencies’, may offer to arrange a marriage for them abroad; sometimes, these serve only as fronts for sex trafficking.75

‘Trust is an important component of the traffickers’ strategies. Reportedly, in most cases acquaintances or even family members take part in the recruitment process.’76

Traffickers identify and leverage victims’ vulnerabilities in order to create dependency. ‘They make promises aimed at addressing the needs of their target in order to impose control. As a result, victims become trapped and fear leaving for myriad reasons, including psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment, or physical threats to themselves or their children’s safety.’77

Traffickers’ coercive control is designed to make the victim feel dis-empowered and disconnected from reality. Its intention is to ‘deconstruct the person’s sense of identity …’ so that the he or she comes to accept themselves as a commodity, rather than an autonomous individual.78

‘The methods employed by traffickers are not new or distinct but rather a reconditioning of techniques utilised across history where control of another person is the key objective with “the methods that enable human beings to enslave another … remarkably consistent.” Comparisons can be drawn across groups of survivors of torture, hostages, political prisoners, survivors of concentration camps, those who are domestically abused and cult members.’79

Trafficking Effects

Trafficking causes acute and long-lasting harms to victims, including.

  • Physical harm: ‘scarring, bruising and broken bones resulting from violent physical abuse for non-compliance or from work-related accidents. Common symptoms experienced by trafficked persons include stomach pains, headaches, back pain, teeth problems, infections, chronic back pain, respiratory problems, exhaustion and malnourishment. Additionally, persons trafficked for sex may be infected with sexually transmitted diseases, become pregnant or suffer from other gynaecological or urological problems.’ 80
  • Drug and alcohol addiction: ‘The use of these substances may also be used as an individual coping mechanism after the trafficked person has left the exploitative situation. In particular, service providers stated that alcohol was regularly used by men as a way of self-medicating to manage their trauma.’ 81
  • Psychological Effects: ‘…trafficked persons can continue to experience myriad mental health problems such as shame, guilt, low self-esteem, depression, memory loss, eating disorders, and anxiety.’ They may also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which occurs following the experiencing or witnessing of traumatic events that involve actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.82

SLIDER QUOTES:

‘A large percentage of victims commit suicide, become addicted to various substances, or are murdered by their traffickers.’83

‘I have so many scars all over my body and so many injuries and so many illnesses. I have hepatitis C and stomach and back pain and a lot of psychological issues. I tried to commit suicide several times.’–Kayla, survivor84

‘Social impact for victims is huge: during their trafficking they face extreme violence, coercion, and rape, which leave both psychological as physical marks after their return. Additionally, drug use by victims will eventually place another burden on society.’85

For the victims of human trafficking, captivity can be psychological, not just physical. Exposure to prolonged and repeated traumatic episodes may deeply impact upon the trafficked person’s emotions, consciousness, self-perception, ability to make decisions and sexual behaviour. Being subject to sophisticated methods of control used by traffickers has a long-lasting effect on how they perceive themselves and the world around them.

Trafficked persons rarely seek help.  Reasons for this include the fact that they may:

  • not see themselves as victims.
  • feel complicit in their trafficked situation
  • be suspicious of authorities, or unaware that the authorities are in a position to help
  • feel shame at the social stigma attached to trafficking and sexual assault
  • feel a sense of loyalty towards their trafficker

SLIDER QUOTES:

“Often, there can be a type of Stockholm Syndrome – where due to unequal power, victims create a false emotional or psychological attachment to their controller.”86

‘The conditions of Stockholm Syndrome and Traumatic Bonding may… explain why some trafficked persons do not accept assistance, appear as if they are not dissatisfied with the exploitative situation, or even return to their trafficker after their release.’87

 

Supply and Demand

Human Trafficking is the fastest growing criminals enterprise in the world. It is vital to grasp the factors that drive and facilitate sex trafficking in order to implement effective policies to fight it.

Trafficking is ultimately about making money.
Academics describe human trafficking as a “monopolistically competitive industry” which employs the economic models used in globalised markets. In other words, traffickers’ behaviour is driven by the desire to maximise profits. The ILO estimates that human trafficking generates $150.2 billion in illegal profits each year.88 This profit is shared among a long trafficking chain- everyone from recruiters, to transporters, intermediaries and those who exploit traffickers at their destination. Approximately half of all profits are made in the industrialized countries.89

“[human trafficking] victims are equal to a kilo of cocaine but they’re even better … because you can use them time and time again. So, they don’t lose their value”.90

Sexual exploitation accounts for over 80% of the profits from human trafficking. The ILO estimates that global sex trafficking generates $99 billion in profits every year for traffickers. This is an area that’s grown rapidly in the past few decades,91 largely down to the fact that the sex industry generates huge profits and provides a ready and easy destination for trafficking victims. The sex industry also creates the demand for transactional sex, which sex trafficking then supplies.

‘The average annual profit generated by each woman in forced sexual servitude ($100,000) is estimated to be six times more than the average profits generated by each trafficking victim worldwide ($21,800) …studies show that sexual exploitation can yield a return on investment ranging from 100% to 1,000%.’92

‘The sex industry, previously considered marginal, has come to occupy a strategic and central position in the development of international capitalism.’93

Sex trafficking is driven by demand: ‘Trafficking for sexual exploitation obeys the principles of supply and demand. Sexual exploitation does not exist just because its victims are vulnerable but because there is a demand for sexual services from which traffickers can profit.’

SLIDER QUOTES:

Much like a legitimate market, supply and demand for commercial sexual services are correlated. The supply of women and children in the sex industry serves as the fuel for this criminal slave trade and must increase to meet growing demand for sexual services throughout the world.94

Demand affects the market structure and the type of product made available. Evidence suggests that increasingly younger product is sought, signaling a response to buyers’ perceptions that younger victims are both healthier and more vulnerable.’95

‘…an increasing amount of research links rising demand for commercial sex in more economically prosperous countries with growing demand for trafficked women and girls.’96

Pornography is an important driver of sex trafficking. “. . . pornography, prostitution, and sex trafficking are not unrelated phenomena. Women are trafficked into the production of hardcore pornography, and hardcore pornography in particular may trigger and exacerbate sexual desires and pathologies that motivate men to seek out the services of prostituted women. This stimulation, in turn, contributes to the demand for women trafficked into prostitution.”97

“Porn users demand a constant stream of new, increasingly violent and fetishized content. In order to keep up with this demand, more women and children become prostituted and trafficked.”98

Pornography and the sex industry create a culture that objectifies, dehumanises and commodifies women as objects of sexual gratification: “The biggest sex educator of young men today is pornography, which is increasingly violent and dehumanizing, and it changes the way men view women.”99

‘According to anti-trafficking nonprofit, Rescue:Freedom, in 9 countries, 49% of sexually exploited women said that pornography was made of them while they were being sold for sex.’

SLIDER QUOTES:

‘Capitalist globalization today involves an unprecedented “commodification” of human beings. In the last 30 years, the rapidly growing sex trade has been massively “industrialized” worldwide. This process of industrialization, in both its legal and its illegal forms, generates profits amounting to billions of dollars. It has created a market of sexual exchanges in which millions of women and children have been converted into sexual commodities.’100

’The buyer in this marketplace views the victim as a dehumanized product for immediate consumption and disposal.’101

‘They are perceived as having little intrinsic cultural worth or value and therefore become rendered as a commodity, to be sold in exchange for money, which is especially prevalent for women and children living in extreme poverty. This perception of them as a commodity can be further perpetuated when they enter the sex industry, either by choice or coercion as they can find themselves dehumanised, perceived as an object with little worth.’

The sex industry also creates culture of entitlement, where male sexual violence and aggression towards women is normalised. Sex buyers have little concern for the well being of those they purchase sex from: “In the vast majority of cases males paying for sex will give no thought to where the woman has come from or what circumstances have lead her into prostitution.” – Detective Constable Julie Currie, Modern Slavery and Kidnap Unit, Metropolitan Police Service102

‘Most men who buy sex are aware of and have witnessed exploitation, coercion, and trafficking, but this does not affect their decision to buy women for sexual use.103 The same qualities in women that are sought by many men who buy sex are known to be risk factors for sex trafficking, for example, young age, low price, foreigner or “exotic,” and inability to speak the local language.’104

The sex industry facilitates sex trafficking. Sex trafficking into the commercial sex industry is one of the most common and visible forms of modern slavery. Trafficking victims are hidden in plain sight, indistinguishable from those who have not been trafficked. ‘Prostitution and related activities—including pimping and patronizing or maintaining brothels—fuel the growth of modern-day slavery by providing a façade behind which traffickers for sexual exploitation operate.’105

“Adult services websites represent the most significant enabler of sexual exploitation in the UK.” – The Joint Slavery and Trafficking Analysis Centre

‘The presence of an adult sex industry increases both the rates of child sexual exploitation and trafficking.’106

Sex is more prevalent where prostitution is legalised. Human trafficking “inflows” into a country are highest in rich countries such as Germany with legalised prostitution and a thriving commercial sex market.107 Demand always outstrips supply, and is met by a combination of legally-run and illegal, trafficking organisations.108

‘Legalization of prostitution expands the market for commercial sex, opening markets for criminal enterprises and creating a safe haven for criminals who traffic people into prostitution. Organized crime networks do not register with the government, do not pay taxes, and do not protect prostitutes. Legalization simply makes it easier for them to blend in with a purportedly regulated sex sector and makes it more difficult for prosecutors to identify and punish those who are trafficking people.’109

‘Because prostitution is legal in several Western European countries (including Germany, the Netherlands and Great Britain) there is a high demand for sex workers. Foreigners make up the majority of prostitutes… A minority enters the country through legal procedures. In Spain it is estimated that 80% of foreign sex workers are trafficked into the country. These trafficked women are often under the false belief that they are going to be married or have a job lined up. Instead they are forced into prostitution…’110

Sex trafficking is also high in areas of ‘sex tourism’ such as Amsterdam, Thailand and Latin America.

SLIDER QUOTES:

It is estimated that 250,000 Australian tourists visit Asia for sex with a minor each year, whilst 25% of sex tourists come from the United States111

Tourism destinations such as Rio in Brazil, Cancun in Mexico, and beaches in Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras are often attractive to tourists not only for their climate, nature and culture but also for their cheap and easy access to sex. …the growing demand for sexual services has propelled a sex industry that operates largely in the shadows and uses coercive methods to force people into prostitution.112

‘Underage sex tourism is booming in Colombia; in Cuba, child prostitution is reaching alarming levels; and in Asia, sex tourism involving children is growing exponentially. …Award-winning travel writer Christopher Paul Baker — surprisingly, endorsed by National Geographic, and less surprisingly, Playboy — openly promotes sex tourism in his book.’113

Sex trafficking and the Commercial Sex industry

The pro-prostitution lobby wishes to clearly delineate between trafficking and prostitution. ‘Their consent is a central issue here, and their voice, migration choices and survival strategies should be taken into account.114 In accordance with these arguments, a clear distinction should therefore be established between voluntary and forced prostitution and between adult and child prostitution within the context of the fight against sex trafficking, and the sex industry should not be equated with trafficking.

However, sex trafficking and the sex industry are inherently interrelated and mutually-dependent.

Even where women initially choose or consent to work in the sex industry, they often end up in exploitative situations and suffer deception, coercion or violence. ‘Even if an adult initially consents to participate in prostitution it is irrelevant: if an adult, after consenting, is subsequently held in service through psychological manipulation or physical force, he or she is a trafficking victim…’115

There is a prevalence of violence, coercion and exploitation in the commercial sex industry as a whole. In prostitution, 95% of women experience sexual harassment that would be legally actionable in another job setting; 70% to 95% are physically assaulted; 60% to 75% are raped; 85% to 95% of those in prostitution want to escape it, but have no other options for survival in prostitution.116

In pornography, performers may be pressured, forced or tricked into doing a sex act on their “no” list; that, by definition, is trafficking:117 ‘Pornography meets the legal definition of trafficking if the pornographer recruits, entices, or obtains women for the purpose of photographing live commercial sex acts.’118

The majority of prostitutes are under pimp control- which is indistinguishable from trafficking. ‘In the real world, from the perspective of the person in the sex trade – pornography, prostitution, and sex trafficking are the same. More than 80% of the time, women in the sex industry are under pimp control – that is what trafficking is.’119

‘Prostituted women are unrecognized victims of intimate partner violence by pimps and customers.120 Pimps and customers use methods of coercion and control like those of other batterers: minimization and denial of physical violence, economic exploitation, social isolation, verbal abuse, threats and intimidation, physical violence, sexual assault, and captivity.121 The systematic violence emphasizes the victim’s worthlessness except in her role as prostitute.’

The vast majority of ‘non-trafficked’ women in the sex industry have high levels of vulnerability. ‘Prolonged and repeated trauma precedes entry into prostitution, with most women beginning prostitution as sexually abused adolescents.122 Homelessness is frequently a precipitating event to prostitution.

‘The same oppressive experiences channel women into pornography, prostitution, and trafficking. Childhood abuse and neglect, a lack of quality education and job training opportunities, culturally mainstreamed misogyny, racism and poverty – all coerce women into the sex trade.’123 The lifetime experiences of the majority of those prostituted usually includes childhood sexual assault by family and community

‘ It may be true that some women in commercial sex exercised some level of informed choice, had other options to entering and have no histories of familial trauma, neglect or sexual abuse. But, these women are the minority and don’t represent the overwhelming majority of women, girls, boys and transgender youth, for whom the sex industry isn’t about choice but lack of choice.’124

The majority of women who work in the sex industry fulfil the UN definition of trafficking.
The Palmero protocol refers to abuse of vulnerability as a means of coercion, and this reference to abuse of a position of vulnerability is “understood to refer to any situation in which the person involved has no real and acceptable alternative but to submit to the abuse involved.”125

According to the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights aspects of the victims of trafficking in persons ‘[f]or the most part prostitution as it is actually practised in the world does satisfy the elements of trafficking. It is rare that one finds a case in which the path to prostitution and/or a person’s experience does not involve, at the very least, an abuse of power and/or an abuse of vulnerability’.

‘What is required …is a critical engagement with the contexts in which sexual choices are made, to ensure not only an absence of obvious constraint but also an absence of certain more subtle, but equally determinative, pressures and power relations, which can work to reduce a person’s (perceived) alternatives and/or undermine ‘wantedness.’126

The harmful physical and psychological effects of prostitution are the same, irrespective of how women came to be/ are kept there.
‘The emotional consequences of prostitution and trafficking are the same in widely varying cultures whether it’s pornography or trafficking, high class or low class, legal or illegal, in a brothel, strip club, massage parlor, or the street. Symptoms of emotional distress among those in sex businesses are off the charts: depression, suicidality, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociation, substance abuse.’

‘Two-thirds of women, men and transgendered people in prostitution in 9 countries met diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. This level of emotional distress is the same as the most emotionally traumatized people studied by psychologists – battered women, raped women, combat vets, and torture survivors.’127

Both trafficked women and women working in the sex trade suffer disassociation, the loss of identity and high levels of substance abuse and addiction.
One study looking at Filipino women trafficked into sex work found that many experienced the loss of identity: ‘Many of the women reported losing themselves and who they were, they lost their names and identities and instead were given new names and identities or worst still, no name at all. They were perceived as having little intrinsic worth or value and therefore became nothing more than a sexual commodity.’The study also found that this feeling of dehumanisation ‘was fuelled by a drug induced state, either as a mechanism of control by their traffickers, or for the women, a mechanism of escape from what was happening to them.’ This led to long-term drug dependency and poor mental health.128

Many studies have noted that ‘dissociative disorders are common among those in escort, street, massage, strip club and brothel prostitution, and are frequently accompanied by posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and substance abuse. These in turn are linked to high rates of childhood physical and sexual abuse, and to violent victimization while in prostitution.’ 129

Women in the sex industry find it hard to exit, in spite of wanting to. The reasons for this are similar to the reasons why sex-trafficked women often do not seek help and include: a suspicion of authority; a feeling of complicity in their situation; shame at the social stigma; a lack of alternative means of survival.

QUOTES:

Eighty-nine percent of those people stated that they wished to leave prostitution but did not have other options.130

Most prostitutes have had very bad experiences with any kind of authorities or official institutions. In fact, these institutions may very well be the reason the women are in prostitution in the first place.131

In the sexual abuse of prostitution, the tolerance of unwanted sex for material gain is absolutely received as evidence of culpability…some contend that the psychic anguish of prostitution abuse is compounded many times by the sense of culpability contained within it.132

Sex Trafficking and the Sex Industry

Serious attempts have been made, both Internationally and in the UK to combat trafficking. The attention human trafficking has attracted from countries, international bodies, non-governmental organisations, the media and academia has translated to policies designed to combat and prevent it.133

‘Britain has been regarded as a global leader in the fight against trafficking since passing the 2015 Modern Slavery Act to fight a crime estimated to raise annual profits of $150 billion. The law introduced life sentences for traffickers, measures to protect people at risk of being enslaved, and made large companies scrutinise their supply chains for forced labour. The [Global Slavery Index] ranked Britain as the third best country for tackling slavery, behind the United States and the Netherlands.’134

However, the UK’s efforts have not yet made any serious dent in the illicit trade. In spite of identifying an ever-higher number of victims, the number of traffickers punished for their offences has decreased. Only one percent of victims of slavery have the chance to see their exploiter brought to justice.

‘…the UK is at risk of losing the fight against human trafficking unless it urgently develops a systematic criminal justice response.’ The Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group

Reasons for this include the following:

1. Victims of human trafficking receive insufficient support.
Since victims of trafficking have complex needs and are at high risk of further exploitation, they require both immediate safety and careful, long-term support in accessing safe accommodation, welfare benefits, healthcare, counselling and work opportunities. Currently, victims of trafficking in the UK are only entitled to 45 days of assistance. Trafficked and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children often go missing from care.135 Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill proposes that all victims be offered a rehabilitation period of 12 months.

Often, support and protection measures offered to a trafficked person witnessing in a criminal trial are inadequate, which severely hampers the chance of a successful prosecution. This can be a result of those in the criminal justice system failing to understand the impact of trafficking on victims: ‘Interviewed respondents stated that trafficking trials may have collapsed due to poor victim support/contact or due to the trafficked person having suffered secondary victimisation due to invasive questioning.’

‘Victims of trafficking should be afforded fundamental rights such as protection, justice, and support at a minimum.’136

2. Victims of trafficking are often criminalised for crimes they were compelled to commit in the course of being trafficked.
In the course of being trafficked, many victims will commit offences; they may be in the country illegally; they may be forced to carry out illegal activities; or they may break the law in trying to resist exploitation. Trafficked persons should not be prosecuted and/or punished for crimes that they commit as a consequence of their trafficking. However, research by the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group found ‘many instances where trafficked persons were misidentified as offenders, and were subsequently prosecuted and convicted’, with victims only being identified post conviction.

SLIDER QUOTES:

“Many are not recognised as victims and not supported properly. Many are treated as immigration offenders rather than victims of a serious crime.’137

‘Trafficked women are often pressured by their traffickers to violate the law. They are threatened that their immigration status will be compromised, that they will be deported, or told that they or their families will be harmed. Trafficking victims have been forced to carry drugs, steal, and recruit other victims…’ 138

‘… the UK’s prosecution system all too often fails to recognise who are real victims and who are offenders. This is a sad reflection of the lack of understanding throughout the criminal justice system of what trafficking is, and how it affects those who are trafficked.’139

3. Confusion over what constitutes trafficking means that trafficking victims are sometimes considered complicit in their exploitation.140 The Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group explains: ‘ The international binding definition is clear that any initial consent of a person is void if s/he is a victim of trafficking. The ATMG was presented with cases where the trafficked person agreed to travel to the UK, not knowing about the real purpose of their trip. Their initial consent was perceived as complicity in their exploitation, despite the established deception, use of threats and long working hours for little or no recompense once in the UK.’ [Italics added]

The ATMG notes that this confusion is partly down to a narrow stereotype of what constitutes human trafficking: ‘An incorrect view seems to persist that a trafficked person needs to be abducted or forced to come to the UK against their will.’

In the UK, ‘it is common for both the prosecution and defence to draw on the trafficked person’s consent to their trafficking in such trials to substantiate their case.’ This should not be the case: trafficking should pertain solely to those who are prima facie exploited. Taking into consideration the trafficked person’s agency amounts to harmful victim-blaming141 and potentially dilutes the seriousness of the offense.

SLIDER QUOTES:

‘Trafficking victims are often blamed or dismissed because of perceptions of their immigration status, any past criminal or sexual history, and whether they accepted money for their labor/services. Sexual assault victims are often blamed for their choice of clothing, relationship histories, alcohol or drug use, sexual behavior, and/or compliance in some aspect of the assault that is misjudged as consent.’142

‘Uncritical acceptance of perpetrators’ excuses or justifications of their acts open the door for misplaced perceptions of victim ‘consent, ’ ‘voluntary’ participation, or contribution. Victim-blaming attitudes are held not only by offenders but also by judges, juries, the media, the community or the legislature. These responses and attitudes undermine attempts to combat human trafficking for commercial sex exploitation, and weaken the public condemnation of the behavior involved.’143

4. There is confusion over the fact that trafficking does not require movement. ‘In research, policy and practice, internal trafficking has been long overshadowed by its international counterpart. Despite the introduction of specific legislation against internal sex trafficking, confusion remains in Britain around how this crime is distinguished from other forms of sexual exploitation. In particular, there have been growing tensions around whether British children can be victims.’144

5. The absence of a unified law against human trafficking means it’s difficult for those in the criminal justice system to identify the crime and prosecute traffickers. In order to successfully prosecute traffickers, CPS lawyers and judges require specialist knowledge or experience of the intricacies of trafficking. This is currently lacking.

6. Human trafficking is not a policing priority. Police forces often shape their activities to meeting policing targets; there are insufficient resources committed to the cause of human trafficking, with a lack of tailored training and specialist knowledge. Operations that proactively dismantle the entire trafficking network, rather than temporarily disrupting its activities, are more successful.

7. There is a lack of coordinated and strategic long-term prevention for child trafficking. There have been calls to reduce the vulnerability of children to exploitation, focusing on preventing offences from occuring in the first place rather than only offering help once the harm is done.

8. There is a failure to address underlying drivers. The trafficking of women for the purposes of sexual exploitation is driven by demand. Despite the proliferation of international institution, conventions and agents united in combating trafficking, sex trafficking is still a growing transnational process.145

States in the UN are obliged to address the demand for services of trafficked women. The UN The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (see below), explicitly calls on states to adopt ‘legislative or other measures … to discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation of persons, especially women and children, that leads to trafficking’.

‘This need to reduce demand for the services of trafficked people through legislation is addressed differently throughout Europe. Countries such as Sweden, Norway and Iceland have adopted the Nordic model, which penalises buyers of sexual services while decriminalising prostitutes and providing them with social support and help if they want to leave the exploitative situation. However some, like the Netherlands and Germany, have legalised prostitution, enabling prostitutes to work as service providers’.146

‘… research shows that trafficking increases where prostitution is legalised, and decreases where the sex buyer is criminalised. In its report on sex trafficking in the UK, All Party Parliamentary Group identifies how the current laws on prostitution facilitate exploitation to occur and recommends that the ‘should combat the demand that drives sexual exploitation by making paying for sex a criminal offence in all locations.’’147

SLIDER QUOTES:

‘Sex trafficking is far from being an isolated problem. Its causes are intrinsically linked to other social, economic, political and cultural phenomena, meaning that in several cases it does not just involve a violation of rights resulting from trafficking.’

‘Because sex trafficking is anchored in and involves unequal relationships that are legitimized by culture, demand must be reduced by a coherent and concerted approach to change the social, economic and international inequalities.’148

References

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