This article is authored by Pankhuri Pankaj, a 3rd year student pursuing BA-LLB (Hons.) from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, affiliated to GGSIPU. She is currently interning with Lexpeeps. This article summarises certain key provisions of “Human Trafficking”.


Human Trafficking is the illegal practice or action of transporting people from one country to another or to a different area for the purposes of forced labour or sexual exploitation. According to the definition of Human Trafficking in the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, there are three constituent elements in trafficking: the Act which means ¨what is done¨ and it includes recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipts of persons, the Means which means ¨how it is done¨ and it includes the threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of powers or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim, and the Purpose which means ¨why it is done¨ and it includes the exploitation of the persons of others, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs.

Article 3 of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol provides consistency and consensus around the world on the phenomenon of trafficking in persons. Article 5 of the Protocol requires that the conduct set out in Article 3 should be criminalized in domestic legislation. It is not necessary that the domestic legislation should follow the language of the Protocol precisely, but it should be adapted in accordance with the domestic legal systems to give effect to the concept contained in the Protocol.

History of Human Trafficking in the World

According to the definition of Human Trafficking, if any person, of whatever gender or age, is taken somewhere against his or hell will, without full information about what that person may be getting into, it is human trafficking. 

To understand the history of human trafficking, one can understand it through the following tiers:

1. African Slave Trade

The earliest form of human trafficking that can be traced leads to the ¨African Slave Trade¨. Different African groups served as both, an item of trade and middlemen, for the American and European continents that were involved as buyers. This trade is the earliest memory in the history of human kind to prove human trafficking. 

This trade was both legal and government-tolerated, prior to the first law against slavery by the British in 1807 followed by the United States suit in 1820 which banned slavery over 40 years before the American Civil War. 

2. White Slavery

White slavery can be defined as the procurement of a white female against her will for prostitution, by use of force, deceit, or drugs. It came into the picture after the African Slave Trade and gained attention after which the government began to cooperate to fight it. The International Conference against white slavery was organized in the year 1899 and 1902 in Paris and in 1904, the International Agreement for the Suppression of the ¨White Slave Traffic¨, was signed, yet the criminalization of white slavery was not legalised until 1910.

3. World War I

Much needed attention was drawn towards the efforts against white slavery with the first world war crisis. However, the first international organization of nations, the League of Nations, arose out of the First World War, and it was the first time agreements could be made within a set of organizations. 

The mandates given to the various Allied Powers over nations in Africa and the Middle East brought attention to the international trafficking in all women, not simply white women; and additionally in children, both male and female. In 1921, 33 countries at a League of Nations international conference signed the International Convention for the Suppression of Traffic in Women and Children. At this time, human trafficking only covered trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation and prostitution.


United Nations criminalized trafficking under the protocol of Transnational Organized Crime in 2000, still, at the very least 510, known trafficking flows all over the world. In recent years forced labour mitigations have been increasing which in turn has decreased the share of trafficking for sexual exploitation. In the year 2007, 32% of trafficked persons were forced labour migrants, and 4 years later, the share reached 40%. At the same time, trafficking in women is decreasing steadily, from a 74% share in female victims in 2004 to 49% in 2011. Unfortunately, it is matched by an increase in trafficked girls, from 10% up to 21% in 2011.

Development of Human Trafficking

In the past decades, human trafficking was carried out in various forms on various magnitudes, from African slave trade to Modern human trafficking, the growing international phenomenon of human trafficking has most certainly walked a long path and unfortunately, still continues to exist even in the year 2020.

After existing for decades, this illegal activity is usually seen to have originated from countries in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and Sub-Saharan Africa, and the main cause of human trafficking in these origin countries stems from adverse circumstances like religious persecution, political dissension, lack of employment opportunities, globalization, poverty, wars, and natural disasters. Here, the recruiters seek migrants through various mediums, like the internet, employment opportunities, agencies, media, and local contacts, and the migrants view the services of the smuggler as an opportunity to move from impoverished conditions in their home countries to a more stable and developed environment. Although these victims often leave their destination country voluntarily, the majority are unaware that they are being recruited for a trafficking scheme. Some may be kidnapped or coerced, but many are bribed by false job opportunities, passports, or visas, for various types of exploitations like sex slavery, bonded labour, forced labour, prostitution, child labour, organ transplant etcetera. 

Although this inhumane practice unfortunately not very new to the world, concerted efforts specifically to curtail human trafficking started to emerge in the mid-1990s, when public awareness of the issue also emerged, and the first step taken to eradicate this problem was to convince multiple stakeholders that human trafficking was a problem warranting government intervention. Soon the first comprehensive federal legislation specifically addressing human trafficking, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) was passed and many federal agencies were given the oversight of human trafficking, including the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Labor and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The primary U.S. agency charged with monitoring human trafficking is the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (also called the trafficking office).

In addition, many governmental entities throughout the world started getting actively engaged in the attempt to stop or at least slow the activity of trafficking in humans, and in 2000 the UN finally established the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which provided a commonly accepted working definition of human trafficking and called upon countries to promulgate laws to combat the practice, to assist victims, and to promote coordination and cooperation between countries.

Magnitude of Human Trafficking

Currently, 12.3 million adults and children are forced into labour, bonded labour, and forced prostitution, and out of this number, 56 per cent consist of Women. 1.8 person per 1000 persons worldwide is a victim of human trafficking today and this number is increasing to 3 persons per 1000 persons in Asia and the Pacific. These victims are trafficked both within and outside the international borders and these victims consist of both migrants and internally displaced persons. 

Till date, there still exist 62 countries which are yet to convict a trafficker under the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, 2000 and 104 countries are yet to establish laws or regulations regarding human trafficking in the country. According to estimates, internationally 32 billion dollars are generated every year through human trafficking concluding that every year 32 billion dollars get traded illicitly in the world with no taxes being paid. According to the US Department’s Annual Trafficking in Persons Report, 2013 and the State Department’s Annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the global financial crisis has increased the worldwide trade in trafficked persons, especially in Africa and slaps six African nations on the blacklist of countries not meeting the minimum standard of combating trafficking.  

According to the report mandated by Congress, data and statistics from 175 countries around the world show that the amount of human trafficking goes on within their own borders, which amounts to modern slavery. It has been found that 79% of the women trafficked are subjected to sexual exploitation, and these victims are usually trapped by women from their own village and known persons on the facade of giving them a better life.

The huge number that illustrates the illegal trade of human trafficking quite efficiently portraits the magnitude of human trafficking in the world but unfortunately, that is not where this ghastly act end. According to many reports, many countries do not report the exact number of trafficking in their country as they fear that their country may be ranked in the list of defaulting countries. Until the government submits its exact statistics on the extent of trafficking and the conviction statistics, it becomes difficult not only to assess the magnitude of trafficking in the world and in each country but also to take measures to check the problem. 

Human Trafficking in India

Although the practice of Human Trafficking has been strictly banned under the Indian Law, yet this illegal activity exists in quite a shameful magnitude in the country. The most prominent practice of human trafficking in the country where women are considered goddesses is the trade of women and girls for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or forced marriages. 

According to estimates, 20 to 65 million people get affected by human trafficking in India and this trade takes place both in and out of the country. A most common sight is women getting transported from neighbouring countries for sexual exploitation and girls from the country getting trafficked to the Middle-East for the same purposes. 

Although the country is home to the largest democracy in the world, the reason for these illicit activities is found to be the widespread poverty in the country and lack of proper education. These shortcomings have resulted in a myriad of human rights violations, especially against the women and girls in the society where patriarchy prevails.

Even though this unjustified unfair practice of human trafficking still continues to exist in the world as a social stigma and as a blot on the developing society, but through time this illicit activity has gone through many folds of recognition and has been able to achieve a worldwide awareness, with appropriate laws enforced against it, which can possibly help erase this practice of unnecessary exploitation of the vulnerable and make the world a better place to exist in.

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