Click on 

a link below...


Home Page

Introduction & Navigation

A-Z guide to the situation in the Member States

Prostitutes, Pimps, Clients: defining the Sex Industry

To legalise prostitution is to deny civil and human rights

Failure to legalise prostitution is to deny civil and human rights

New Technologies and the Sex Industry

How Many Sex Workers?

Where do Europe's Sex workers come from?

What is Trafficking for the Purposes of Sexual Exploitation?

Can Legalising Prostitution bring an end to Trafficking for the Purposes of Sexual Exploitation?

Articles, Documents, Legal instruments, Pressure groups ...




Worldwide, 5-7 million men, women and children are trafficked each year. In Asia alone, around 1 million children are exploited as slave labour. There are no figures for children exploited in Europe, though as many as 400,000 women are abducted or recruited using deception in their home country, transported, often against their will, perhaps being bought and sold several times en route, to the EU or its borders, and forced into prostitution or other areas of the sex industry.

Trafficking and Smuggling

Trafficking differs from Smuggling in that it involves coercion and/or deceipt.  A trafficked migrant does not migrate voluntarily, though, as Adam Graycar, (Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology) describes in a paper presented at the International Conference on Migration, Culture and Crime held in Israel on 7th July 1999, "The International Organisation for Migration has noted that the issue of voluntariness is complicated by the realities of poverty and political upheaval. The IOM notes that: ‘ many instances, trafficked migrants are lured by false promises, misled by misinformation concerning migration regulations, or driven by economic despair or large scale violence. In such cases, the migrant’s freedom of choice is so seriously impaired that the ‘voluntariness’ of the transaction must be questioned"

In smuggling, the migrant voluntarily enters an agreement with a second party to facilitate his or her crossing of a border.  This might mean simply a driver accepting payment to hide a migrant whilst crossing a border, or the smuggling may involve advertising and recruitment in the migrant’s country of origin, organised transport over land, air and/or sea to the destination country (often with forged documents), over a period of weeks or months. The journey might include prolonged stays in transit countries at ‘nodal’ locations, the smuggled being provided with short-term work whilst in limbo, then secured employment on arrival in the destination country. 

The UN clearly makes the distinction between smuggling and trafficking in two protocols to supplement the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Crime which were opened for signatures in 2000: the Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. 

John Salt & Jeremy Stein describe trafficking as "an international business, involving the trading and systematic movement of people as ‘commodities’ by various means and potentially involving a variety of agents, institutions and intermediaries". (1997: 470-71) In other words, the individuals are traded against their will, almost as ‘slaves’.


Trafficking and Prostitution

Anti-Trafficking strategies go back to efforts to fully abolish the slave trade (see, for example, the 1904 International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Trade, signed in Paris in May 1904), with many organisations today seeing trafficking as synonymous with ‘modern slavery’. More recently the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (which entered into force in 1951) outlawed prostitution along with trafficking, in that the contracting parties agreed to punish any person who "Procures, entices or leads away, for purposes of prostitution, another person, even with the consent of that person" or "Keeps or manages, or knowingly finances or takes part in the financing of a brothel".  Prostitution is now no longer generally seen as so inextricable from trafficking and vice versa, indeed, some see them as diametrically opposed.  Not only would pro-prostitution campaigners not relish voluntary sex workers being put in the same box as coerced and exploited migrants, but, as Jo Doezema argues, there is a 'trafficking culture' and a 'sex work culture'.  The former takes the high ground in global debate, at the expense of the latter, the result being that all women in sex work are seen as commodified victims.

The reality of trafficking and the severe human rights abuses it involves are steadily becoming more widely recognised and talked about.  In March 2000 the European Parliament Directorate General for Research completed a report called  Trafficking in Women (.pdf) which collates the legal instruments Member States had in their penal codes at that time to deal with trafficking.  A summary table is copied below.






Recruiting or bringing a person into prostitution in another country

6 months to 10 years


Guilty of traffic in women

1-15 years


Abetting immorality

< 4 years


No specific law


No specific law - trafficking is included in the prostitution law

20 years


Trafficking of women for sexual purposes

6 months to 10 years


Trafficking in female minors

1-5 years



Trafficking in children.  Using Ireland as a transit point for trafficking


Trafficking is punished


Trafficking in human beings for prostitution, related to all forms of violence

Fine or 6-8 years



Trafficking equivalent to slavery-like practices

2-8 years


Abusing a position of power or forcing someone into prostitution

2-8 years


Trafficking in human beings

1-2 years


No specific law, related to law on illegal entry (under consideration)


In this report the French Ministry of the Interior is noted as having drawn attention to "the refusal of certain European countries to cooperate" on anti trafficking.  " the words of a senior official, 'the enormous difficulties encountered in police cooperation with certain EU Member States suggests that those countries do not consider trafficking in humans to be a priority area for action'".

The EU has put emphasis on trafficking by including it in Europol's mandate (trafficking is defined in the Europol Convention), and through the Commission's signing of the above mentioned UN Protocol to Suppress Trafficking in 2000 on behalf of all the Member States.  As the protocol specifies contracting parties should make trafficking a criminal offence in its own right, the above table will soon be outdated.  The UK (.pdf) is currently considering new anti-trafficking legislation.

Fighting the criminal aspect of trafficking attacks but one of the root causes, i.e. the criminal networks seeking to make profit through exploitation.  Two other causes can be identified: supply (individuals seeking to leave their homes) and demand (for cheap labour and cheap sex).  Whilst the EU and its Member States can have little control over the supply (other than through development aid), the criminal networks and demand can be controlled.  The emerging legal instruments as a result of the UN trafficking protocol, if put to good effect at home and accompanied by a harmonised pan-European crime fighting strategy may go a long way to control the criminal networks, however it is demand which fails to be addressed.  Employers who are willing to employ illegal labour in order to cut costs are abundant across the EU, as are opportunities for profit to be made from selling sex.  A question which must be asked is whether legalising and regulating prostitution would put paid to the demand for trafficked migrants in this part of the sex industry.

Please follow the link below.


Can Legalising Prostitution bring an end to Trafficking for the Purposes of Sexual Exploitation?




Go back to top