“Trafficking in persons” & “human trafficking” are umbrella terms—often used interchangeably—to refer to a crime whereby traffickers exploit và profit at the expense of adults or children by compelling them to perform labor or engage in commercial sex. When a person younger than 18 is used to lớn perform a commercial sex act, it is a crime regardless of whether there is any force, fraud, or coercion involved.

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The United States recognizes two primary forms of trafficking in persons: forced labor và sex trafficking. The basic meaning of these forms of human trafficking & some quality characteristics of each are set forth below, followed by several key principles và concepts that relate khổng lồ all forms of human trafficking.

More than 180 nations have ratified or acceded khổng lồ the UN Protocol khổng lồ Prevent, Suppress & Punish Trafficking in Persons (the UN TIP Protocol), which defines trafficking in persons and contains obligations to prevent & combat the crime.

The United States’ TVPA & the UN TIP Protocol contain similar definitions of human trafficking. The elements of both definitions can be described using a three-element framework focused on the trafficker’s 1) acts; 2) means; and 3) purpose. All three elements are essential to size a human trafficking violation.

Forced Labor

Forced Labor, sometimes also referred to lớn as labor trafficking, encompasses the range of activities involved when a person uses force, fraud, or coercion khổng lồ exploit the labor or services of another person.

The “acts” element of forced labor is met when the trafficker recruits, harbors, transports, provides, or obtains a person for labor or services.

The “means” element of forced labor includes a trafficker’s use of force, fraud, or coercion. The coercive scheme can include threats of force, debt manipulation, withholding of pay, confiscation of identity documents, psychological coercion, reputational harm, manipulation of the use of addictive substances, threats khổng lồ other people, or other forms of coercion.

The “purpose” element focuses on the perpetrator’s goal to exploit a person’s labor or services. There is no limit on the location or type of industry. Traffickers can commit this crime in any sector or setting, whether legal or illicit, including but not limited to lớn agricultural fields, factories, restaurants, hotels, mát xa parlors, retail stores, fishing vessels, mines, private homes, or drug trafficking operations.

All three elements are essential lớn constitute the crime of forced labor.

There are certain types of forced labor that are frequently distinguished for emphasis or because they are widespread:

Domestic Servitude

“Domestic servitude” is a size of forced labor in which the trafficker requires a victim to lớn perform work in a private residence. Such circumstances create unique vulnerabilities. Domestic workers are often isolated và may work alone in a house. Their employer often controls their access to lớn food, transportation, and housing. What happens in a private residence is hidden from the world – including from law enforcement and labor inspectors – resulting in barriers to lớn victim identification. Foreign domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to lớn abuse due to language và cultural barriers, as well as a lack of community ties. Some perpetrators use these types of conditions as part of their coercive schemes khổng lồ compel the labor of domestic workers with little risk of detection.

Forced Child Labor

The term “forced child labor” describes forced labor schemes in which traffickers compel children lớn work. Traffickers often target children because they are more vulnerable. Although some children may legally engage in certain forms of work, forcing or coercing children to work remains illegal. Forms of slavery or slavery-like practices – including the sale of children, forced or compulsory child labor, và debt bondage & serfdom of children – continue lớn exist, despite legal prohibitions and widespread condemnation. Some indicators of forced labor of a child include situations in which the child appears to lớn be in the custody of a non-family member and the child’s work financially benefits someone outside the child’s family; or the denial of food, rest, or schooling to lớn a child who is working.

Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking encompasses the range of activities involved when a trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion lớn compel another person lớn engage in a commercial sex act or causes a child to lớn engage in a commercial sex act.

The crime of sex trafficking is also understood through the “acts,” “means,” và “purpose” framework. All three elements are required to establish a sex trafficking crime (except in the case of child sex trafficking where the means are irrelevant).

The “acts” element of sex trafficking is met when a trafficker recruits, harbors, transports, provides, obtains, patronizes, or solicits another person to engage in commercial sex.

The “means” element of sex trafficking occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion. Coercion in the case of sex trafficking includes the broad array of means included in the forced labor definition. These can include threats of serious harm, psychological harm, reputational harm, threats to lớn others, & debt manipulation.

The “purpose” element is a commercial sex act. Sex trafficking can take place in private homes, mát xa parlors, hotels, or brothels, among other locations, as well as on the internet.

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Child Sex Trafficking

In cases where an individual engages in any of the specified “acts” with a child (under the age of 18), the means element is irrelevant regardless of whether evidence of force, fraud, or coercion exists. The use of children in commercial sex is prohibited by law in the United States & most countries around the world.

Key Principles and Concepts

These key principles và concepts relate lớn all forms of trafficking in persons, including forced labor & sex trafficking.


Human trafficking can take place even if the victim initially consented to providing labor, services, or commercial sex acts. The analysis is primarily focused on the trafficker’s conduct and not that of the victim. A trafficker can target a victim after a victim applies for a job or migrates to lớn earn a living. The trafficker’s exploitative scheme is what matters, not a victim’s prior consent or ability lớn meaningfully consent thereafter. Likewise, in a sex trafficking case, an adult victim’s initial willingness lớn engage in commercial sex acts is not relevant where a perpetrator subsequently uses force, fraud, or coercion khổng lồ exploit the victim and cause them to lớn continue engaging in the same acts. In the case of child sex trafficking, the consent of the victim is never relevant as a child cannot legally consent to lớn commercial sex.


Neither U.S. Law nor international law requires that a trafficker or victim move across a border for a human trafficking offense lớn take place. Trafficking in persons is a crime of exploitation và coercion, & not movement. Traffickers can use schemes that take victims hundreds of miles away from their homes or exploit them in the same neighborhoods where they were born.

Debt Bondage

“Debt bondage” is focused on human trafficking crimes in which the trafficker’s primary means of coercion is debt manipulation. U.S. Law prohibits perpetrators from using debts as part of their scheme, plan, or pattern lớn compel a person lớn work or engage in commercial sex. Traffickers target some individuals with an initial debt assumed willingly as a condition of future employment, while in certain countries traffickers tell individuals they “inherited” the debt from relatives. Traffickers can also manipulate debts after the economic relationship begins by withholding earnings or forcing the victim lớn assume debts for expenses lượt thích food, housing, or transportation. They can also manipulate debts a victim owes lớn other people. When traffickers use debts as a means lớn compel labor or commercial sex, they have committed a crime.

The Non-Punishment Principle 

A victim-centered and trauma-informed approach is key to successful anti-trafficking efforts. A central tenet lớn such an approach is that victims of trafficking should not be inappropriately penalized solely for unlawful acts they committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Effective implementation of the “non-punishment principle,” as it is increasingly referred to, not only requires recognizing & embracing the principle in regional và national laws, but also increasing proactive victim identification.

State-Sponsored Human Trafficking

While the TVPA and UN TIP Protocol call on governments to proactively address trafficking crimes, some governments are part of the problem, directly compelling their citizens into sexual slavery or forced labor schemes. From forced labor in local or national public work projects, military operations, & economically important sectors, or as part of government-funded projects or missions abroad, officials use their power to exploit their nationals. To lớn extract this work, governments coerce by threatening the withdrawal of public benefits, withholding salaries, failing khổng lồ adhere to limits on national service, manipulating the lack of legal status of stateless individuals & members of minority groups, threatening to punish family members, or conditioning services or freedom of movement on labor or sex. In 2019, Congress amended the TVPA to acknowledge that governments can also act as traffickers, referring specifically lớn a “government policy or pattern” of human trafficking, trafficking in government-funded programs, forced labor in government-affiliated medical services or other sectors, sexual slavery in government camps, or the employment or recruitment of child soldiers.

Unlawful Recruitment or Use of Child Soldiers

Another manifestation of human trafficking occurs when government forces or any non-state armed group unlawfully recruits or uses children – through force, fraud, or coercion – as soldiers or for labor or services in conflict situations. Children are also used as sex slaves. Sexual slavery, as referred lớn here, occurs when armed groups force or coerce children khổng lồ “marry” or be raped by commanders or combatants. Both male & female children are often sexually abused or exploited by members of armed groups và suffer the same types of devastating physical & psychological consequences associated with sex trafficking.

Accountability in Supply Chains

Forced labor is well documented in the private economy, particularly in agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, construction, và domestic work; but no sector is immune. Sex trafficking occurs in several industries as well. Most well-known is the hospitality industry, but the crime also occurs in connection with extractive industries where activities are often remote & lack meaningful government presence. Governments should hold all entities, including businesses, accountable for human trafficking. In some countries, the law provides for corporate accountability in both the civil & criminal justice systems. U.S. Law provides such liability for any legal person, including a business that benefits financially from its involvement in a human trafficking scheme, provided that the business knew or should have known of the scheme.

These crimes are happening in every corner of the world and can include any person, regardless of age, socio-economic background or location.As a result, each case can look very different. Below are some of the most commonly reported forms of human trafficking & modern slavery.


Sexual Exploitation


This is when someone is deceived, coerced or forced khổng lồ take part in sexual activity. Places where someone could be sexually exploited:

Brothels – massage/sauna
Escort agencies
Pole/lap dancing
Forced marriage
Stripping on a website cam
Phone sex lines
Internet chat rooms
Mail order brides
Sex tourism

This refers lớn situations where people are coerced lớn work for little or no remuneration, often under threat of punishment. There are a number of means through which a person can be coerced, including:

Use of violence or intimidation
Accumulated debt
Retention of identity papers
Threat of exposure lớn immigration authorities

All types of labour, within every industry, are susceptible khổng lồ labour exploitation. Some common sectors và industries that are identified as vulnerable include:

Factory work
Car washes
Nail bars

Domestic Servitude


A domestic worker or helper is a person who works within their employer’s home, performing a variety of tasks. This arrangement becomes exploitative when there are restrictions on the domestic worker’s movement, và they are forced lớn work long hours for little pay. They may also suffer physical và sexual abuse.

Domestic servitude can be particularly hard lớn identify as it happens in private households but it is estimated that 16 million people are exploited in the private sector which includes domestic work.

Forced Marriage


This is when a person is put under pressure lớn marry someone. They may be threatened with physical or sexual violence or placed under emotional or psychological distress to achieve these aims.

Situations where you may find forced marriage used:

To gain access into a country
To gain access khổng lồ benefits

Forced Criminality



This is when somebody is forced to lớn carry out criminal activity through coercion or deception. Forced criminality can take many forms, including:

Drug trade, e.g. Cannabis cultivation, drug distribution
Bag snatching
ATM theft
Selling of counterfeit goods

We have seen a significant rise in the trafficking of children into forced criminality (sometimes referred khổng lồ as Child Criminal Exploitation or CCE). The most prevalent form of CCE is related to ‘County Lines’ gangs who coerce children into participating in the movement and sale of drugs. Children can be coerced with gifts, money or perceived status, or they can be threatened with violence or blackmailed.

Forced criminality also encompasses social welfare fraud. This takes place when exploiters falsely apply for tax credits and other welfare benefits using the victims’ details. It is not only the state that is the victim of social welfare fraud, there is often horrific abuse used against the individual in order lớn coerce them into falsely applying for benefits.

Organ harvesting


The trafficking in organs involves removing a part of the body, commonly the kidneys or a lobe of the liver, khổng lồ sell often as an illegal trade. Organs can be taken in a number of ways:

Trade – a victim formally or informally agrees lớn sell an organ, but are then cheated because they are not paid for the organ, or are paid less than the promised price
Ailments – a vulnerable person is treated for an ailment, which may or may not exist, & the organs are removed without the victim’s knowledge
Extortion – a victim may be kidnapped from their family & organs removed without consent