Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women

Human Rights
at home, abroad and on the way...


Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women

Human Rights
at home, abroad and on the way...

Events and News

Prevention of Trafficking

In the long run, real “prevention” will be through the enactment and enforcement of laws, policies and practices that improve women's status and enable women to exercise all their human rights, including the right to inherit and own property and the right to work under fair and just conditions and to receive appropriate wages etc. This involves improvement in economic, legal and social systems, action for justice and democracy within and between states.

In the short and middle term, a prevention strategy must include:

  • human rights education for all persons, especially women and children;

  • advocacy for development of economic opportunities, including opportunities for legal migration for work;

  • elimination of discrimination of women in all spheres, especially in the labour market;

  • reform of restrictive immigration policies and laws and creation of legal channels of labour migration for women.

Any remedy or strategy proposed to combat trafficking and provide assistance to victims of trafficking must be assessed in terms of whether and how it promotes and provides protection for the human rights of women. It has been pointed out that even seemingly harmless mechanisms of prevention, such as education campaigns, may be problematic if they aid in the immobilisation of women or the entrenchment of harmful or disempowering stereotypes. While anti-trafficking campaigns may merely seek to warn women of the potential dangers of trafficking, they may also serve to further restrict women's free movement.

Prosecution of Traffickers

Empowering strategies will lead to more effective investigation and successful prosecution of traffickers. Women who understand their rights and are protected from retaliation and prosecutions will cooperate in investigations.

Often trafficked persons receive protection if they agree to act as witnesses for the prosecution of traffickers, however if they do not act as witnesses, they remain unprotected. In any case, the protection witnesses do receive is often limited to the trial process, and following the trial the need for protection of personal safety is often even more pronounced, though rarely addressed.

Protection of Human Rights of Trafficked Persons

Trafficked persons must be protected not only from retaliation by the traffickers, but also from revictimisation by governments, including the judicial system itself. However, protection of trafficked persons in itself is not the same as protection of their human rights.

There is a need to move from a paradigm of rescue, rehabilitation and deportation to an approach, which is designed to protect and promote women's human rights, in both countries of origin and countries of destination. Although some women may be traumatised by their experiences and may, on a case-by-case basis, desire counselling and support services, overwhelmingly it is not "rehabilitation" that women need. Rather, they may need support and sustainable incomes.

The Special Rapporteur call on Governments to move away from paternalistic approaches that seek to "protect" innocent women to more holistic approaches that seek to protect and promote human rights of all women, including their civil, political, economic and social rights.

At the regional level, governments and regional bodies must interpret and apply regional human rights instruments to trafficked persons and engage in regional cooperation to locate and prosecute traffickers.

At the international level, countries must recognise the rights of all migrant workers, including sex workers, and apply all international human rights law to trafficked persons, as well as cooperate to locate and prosecute traffickers.

Q: What is trafficking in persons?

Human trafficking, or trafficking in persons, involves three core elements:
  • the movement of a person (inside a country or across borders)
  • with deception or coercion
  • into a situation of forced labour, servitude or slavery-like practices


Trafficking in persons involves the criminal manipulation of persons who want or need to migrate for a better life. It exists at the intersection of organised crime (small and large) and migration.


In many cases trafficking begins when a person voluntarily decides to migrate, but ends up being trafficked. Migrants are often forced by restrictive and complicated immigration laws to rely upon third parties to help them travel. If they are lucky, the person is honest; if they are unlucky, the person is a trafficker who will use all means necessary to ensure the submission of the ‘victim’ to his/her will. Trafficking also begins through recruitment, forced migration, purchase, sale or receipt of people. Following movement (whether forced or voluntary), through deception or coercion – including force, the threat of force or debt bondage – a person is then forced into an exploitative situation such as servitude, forced or bonded labour.


The first international definition of “trafficking in persons” was developed in 2000 as part of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC).


This Protocol defines trafficking in persons as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal or organs”.


Strategic Thematic Direction

During 2011-13, through our Power in Migration and Work thematic programme, we engaged more directly with the migrant rights and labour rights movements. During 2014-2016 our work will build on the work of previous years; we will continue to push for a human rights based approach in anti-trafficking policies and practices.  We will also deepen our engagement with the issue of migration and labour.

The three thematic strategic issues outlined below are continuations of our work during 2011-13.

ACCOUNTABILITY Increasing the accountability of all anti-trafficking stakeholders involved in the design or implementation of anti-trafficking responses, towards the persons whose human rights they purport to protect.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE Broadening spaces for trafficked persons and migrant workers to practice their human rights by improving access to justice and combating all forms of discrimination that impact women’s ability to exercise their human rights as they relate to trafficking.

POWER IN MIGRATION AND WORK Centring an analysis of women’s power in their labour and migration to better assess migration and labour policies’ impact on women, and to work towards labour and migration processes that reflect migrants’ needs, aspirations and capabilities.