Trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining, by any means, any person for labor or services involving forced labor, slavery or servitude in any industry, such as forced or coerced participation in agriculture, prostitution, manufacturing, or other industries or in domestic service or marriage.
This illicit trade in persons is a multimillion-dollar, criminally organized global industry. Traffickers use deception, force or coercion to move people into situations in which they are vulnerable and easily held in conditions of forced labor and slavery. Trafficked persons are often treated as criminals, rather than as victims of crime, while traffickers escape prosecution. Those who try to escape or seek help risk retaliation from traffickers.
Although victims of traffickers can be of either gender, an overwhelming majority of victims are female. Gender discrimination, poverty, war and/or abuse drive millions of women and girls to migrate for work, marriage or to escape untenable situations. It is estimated that every year several million women and girls are trafficked within and out of Asia and the states of the former Soviet Union alone. Over 50,000 women and girls (and thousands of men) are trafficked into the United States from these and other countries each year.
Human rights groups and other organizations that engage in the struggle to bring a human rights perspective to trafficking and to provide services to trafficked persons face tremendous obstacles, including government inaction and, worse, official tolerance or participation in trafficking. IHRLG launched our Initiative Against Trafficking in Persons to assist advocates and NGOs in building their advocacy, legal literacy and case monitoring skills; encourage governments to incorporate human rights standards in the implementation of protective measures for victims of trafficking and also to prosecute traffickers; facilitate access to and exchange of up-to-date information on trafficking cases and anti-trafficking legislation in countries around the world; and increase the awareness of the link between trafficking and the subordinate status of women and other vulnerable groups in all societies.
Since 1998, IHRLG anti-trafficking initiative director, Ann Jordan, has trained and partnered with IHRLG staff in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Cambodia and with NGOs in other countries. Other IHRLG anti-trafficking activities undertaken include
- Drafting the "Human Rights Standards for the Treatment of Trafficked Persons", with two partner NGOs. The "Human Rights Standards" enumerate concrete actions governments should undertake in order to fulfill their international human rights obligations to trafficked persons. The document serves as a benchmark for assessing the adequacy of legal and policy responses to trafficking. NGOs are using the Human Rights Standards to educate the media, police, prosecutors, immigration officials, other NGOs and trafficked persons, as well as to advocate for appropriate legal and policy responses by their governments. Français Español Deutsch
- Coordinating an international Human Rights Caucus of 12 NGOs from Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, Africa, Latin America and North America. The Human Rights Caucus engaged in advocacy at the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice on the drafting of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which was adopted in December 2000. Some of the "Human Rights Standards" are incorporated.
- Coordinating legislative advocacy at the US Congress and Departments of Justice and State. IHRLG and our US partner groups advocated the inclusion of human rights protections in the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. Many of the "Human Rights Standards" are incorporated.
- Organized the Freedom Network (USA) to Empower Trafficked and Enslaved Persons. The first national network of its kind in the United States, the network is comprised of service providers, legal aid lawyers, psychologists, advocates and media experts from eight US states.
IHRLG is continuing to monitor new and ongoing trafficking cases in the United States and to expand the actions and membership of the Freedom Network (USA). We are also preparing an analysis of the United Nations Trafficking Protocol, which can be used as a tool by NGOs and government officials in creating domestic legislation and policy.
IHRLG is also developing Internet-accessible mechanisms to enable NGOs to communicate legal and policy developments in their own countries and to access information about NGOs in other countries for the purpose of assisting in victim rescues and repatriations.