Study of HHS Programs Serving Human Trafficking Victims. What Is Human Trafficking?

12/15/2009

The crime of human trafficking, commonly referred to as modern day slavery, affects virtually every country in the world (Europol, 2005; Miko & Park, 2000). It has been associated with transnational criminal organizations, small criminal networks and local gangs, violations of labor and immigration codes, and government corruption (Richard, 1999; U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2006). Historically, trafficking generally has been defined as the trade in women and children for prostitution or other immoral purposes (Europol, 2005). In 2000, however, the international community agreed upon a broader definition for trafficking in persons, found in Article 3 of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. At the same time, in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA),[2] the U.S. Congress defined and classified trafficking into two categories: sex trafficking and labor trafficking.

In the TVPA, Congress defined severe forms of trafficking in persons as:

  1. Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
  2. The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery (22 U.S.C. § 7102).

The term sex trafficking means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act. Sex trafficking can include prostitution, pornography, stripping, live sex shows, mail-order brides, and sex tourism. Labor trafficking situations may arise in domestic servitude, restaurant work, janitorial work, factory work, migrant agricultural work, construction, and peddling (22 U.S.C. § 7102). It is important to note that under this definition, emphasis is placed on the presence of force, fraud, or coercion and the differential power between the trafficker and victim. Also, while transportation or movement of the victim may occur, it is not a requirement of the crime.

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