Members' Research Service By / November 25, 2015

Trafficking in Women

Written by Anja Radjenovic Trafficking in persons for the purpose of any form of exploitation is a serious crime and…

aradaphotography / Fotolia
Written by Anja Radjenovic
Violence against women
aradaphotography / Fotolia

Trafficking in persons for the purpose of any form of exploitation is a serious crime and a violation of human rights. According to the UNOCD Report on Trafficking in Persons women and girls account for 70 per cent of detected trafficking victims worldwide. This is due to the fact that the majority of trafficked victims (53 per cent) are trafficked for sexual exploitation, with women and girls representing 97 per cent of those victims. According to the same report, 40 per cent of victims globally are trafficked for labour, with women and girls representing over one-third of those victims.

While trafficking of women is a global phenomenon, most victims in the EU (65 per cent) come from EU Member States. Data collected on different forms of exploitation in the EU showed that the majority (69 per cent) of registered victims were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation and that victims of this crime are predominantly female (95 per cent).

Women and girls are more vulnerable to trafficking because they are disproportionally affected by some factors which make them easy prey for traffickers. Root causes of trafficking include poverty, economic exclusion, social and gender inequality, domestic violence, armed conflicts and demand for labour and sexual services.

The EU is committed to addressing the problem of trafficking in human beings through its Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting victims. The directive includes provisions on the prosecution of traffickers and prevention, placing victims at its heart. It recognizes the gender-specific character of trafficking and focuses on particularly vulnerable persons, such as women and children. The European Parliament initiated a procedure on the implementation of that directive.


Trafficking in Women: Explore the Issue / The Advocates for Human Rights, website.
This site gives an overview defining what trafficking in women is, how common it is, and focuses on the factors that contribute to it; it also looks at protection, support and assistance of the victims; and the prevention of the trafficking in women.

Trafficking in human beings / EUROSTAT report, 2015.
This report includes statistics on the total number of victims disaggregated by gender, age and form of exploitation, and also contains statistics on victims’ citizenship and type of assistance and protection received. Moreover, the report also includes statistics on suspected, prosecuted and convicted traffickers disaggregated by gender, citizenship and form of exploitation.

Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014 / UNODC, November 2014, 90 p.
It provides an overview of patterns and flows of human trafficking at the global, regional and national levels to support countries to respond more effectively to this crime.

The problem of human trafficking in the European Union / Piotr Bąkowski, April 2014, 8p.
Abstract: Whereas the prevalence of human trafficking in the EU is very difficult to assess, some estimates have been made on the basis of limited data. These point, among other things, to a high proportion of women among the victims of trafficking, especially as victims of sexual exploitation.


A modern response to modern slavery / The Centre for Social Justice (with Europol support), April 2015, 92p.
This report has found that a huge amount of modern slavery in Europe is driven by Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) who profit from the exploitation of vulnerable people. These highly sophisticated illegal businesses show a detailed understanding of how to avoid detection and prosecution by Europe’s law enforcement agencies. The kind of modern slavery that is driven by OCGs involves men, women and children being moved across international and national borders through various means of transportation and deception. Criminals will exploit victims in the most profitable of ways and by the easiest of means.

Trafficking in Human Beings in the European Union – Gender, Sexual Exploitation, and Digital Communication Technologies / Donna M. Hughes, October 2014, 8 p.
Abstract: “In this article, the intersection of gender, trafficking for sexual exploitation, and use of digital communication technologies are analysed based on data from the European Union. […] This article concludes that the combination of gender, trafficking for sexual exploitation, and use of digital communication technologies has created a nexus of victimization for women and girls. Based on this analysis and other sources of information, the European region is the world’s leading region for trafficking for sexual exploitation.”

Tackling demand for sexual services of trafficked women and girls / Nusha Yonkova, Edward Keegan, Immigrant Council of Ireland, 2014, 108 p.
This report analyses and assesses efficient approaches to discourage demand for the services provided by victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation, based on a greater understanding of experiences, attitudes and motivations of the people who purchase sex.

Identification of victims of trafficking in human beings in international protection and forced return procedures / European Migration Network study, March 2014, 46 p.
The aim of this study is to examine whether and how potential victims of trafficking in human beings are detected and identified in International Protection and Forced Return Procedures in (Member) State. Check the page for country reports, containing national statistics.

The Gendered Dimensions of Sex Trafficking / Madeleine Rees, Stanford Centre on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), Working Paper of the Program on Human Rights N° 007, June 2012, 8 p.
Excerpt: ‘The entire trafficking cycle from beginning to end is highly gendered: from the root causes that make women vulnerable to trafficking, to the normalization and implicitness of demand, and the gendered institutional responses and policy approaches to anti-trafficking. […] In the following pages I will outline the gendered nature of the trafficking cycle and advocate a response to trafficking that is based on the lessons learnt (and re-learnt) throughout my time in Bosnia and Herzegovina.’

Trafficking in women and children as vulnerable groups: talking through theories of international relations / Usman Mikail Usman, In: European Scientific Journal, June 2014, p. 282-292.
Human trafficking is a global issue involving almost all countries. It is an issue that affects people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and gender throughout the world. This highly profitable trade poses a relatively low risk of capture or conviction when compared with trade in drugs and arms. The targets of traffickers are often children and young women, and their ploys are designed to trick, coerce and win the confidence of potential victims. The topic of this article is analysed from the perspective of International Relations theories, focusing particularly on feminist theory, absolutist theory, constructivist theory, conflict theory and trauma theory within the framework of international politics.

Stakeholder views

European Commission

Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings / European Commission.
Website includes information on legislation and case law, EU policy, publications, EU projects and funding as well as information on how each EU Member State, tackles, prevents and identifies instances of trafficking in human beings.

Mid-term report on the implementation of the EU strategy towards the eradication of trafficking in human beings / COM (2014) 635 final, 17 October 2014.
This mid-term report takes stock of how the EU Strategy has been implemented, from early 2012 to the third quarter of 2014. The report includes work carried out through cooperation between EU institutions, agencies and bodies, Member States, civil society organisations and the private sector. It covers action taken within the EU and in cooperation with non-EU countries of origin, transit and destination.

The EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012–2016 / COM(2012) 286 final, 19 June 2012.
The objective of this Strategy is to provide a coherent framework for existing and planned initiatives, to set priorities, to fill gaps and complement the Directive 2011/36/EU.

European parliament

European Parliament report on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality / P7_TA(2014)0162, 26 February 2014.
The Resolution draws attention to prostitution, forced prostitution and sexual exploitation and stresses that there are several links between prostitution and trafficking. It recognises that prostitution – both globally and across Europe – feeds the trafficking of vulnerable women and under-age females.

Council of the EU

Revised Draft Council Conclusions on an EU Framework for the Provision of Information on the Rights of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings, Council of the European Union, 10966/13, 13 June 2013.
In this document the Council invites Member States to take into consideration and utilise the Commission document “The EU rights of victims of trafficking in human beings” for the purpose of drawing up specific documents with information on labour, social, victim and migrant rights that victims of trafficking in human beings have under EU law.

Council of Europe

Action against Trafficking in Human Beings / The Council of Europe, website.
Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which entered into force on 1 February 2008, aims to prevent trafficking in human beings, protect victims of trafficking, prosecute traffickers, and promote co-ordination of national actions and international co-operation. The countries which have signed up to the Convention are monitored by the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA).

Prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe / José Mendes Bota, Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination of the CoE Parliamentary Assembly, March 2014, 24 p.
The report examines the policies on prostitution adopted in Council of Europe member States and assesses their impact on curbing trafficking in human beings.

United Nations

Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against transnational organized crime / United Nations, 2000, 12 p.
The protocol commits ratifying states to preventing and combating trafficking in persons, protecting and assisting victims of trafficking and promoting cooperation among states in order to meet those objectives.
Trafficking in Persons to Europe for sexual exploitation, From ‘The Globalization of Crime. A Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment, Chapter 2: Trafficking in Persons‘, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2010, 16 p. The report focuses on human trafficking victims detected in Europe. A greater variety of nationalities has been found among human trafficking victims in West and Central Europe than in any other part of the world, and most of these victims (84%) were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

NGO, think tanks, etc.

A Guide to the Trafficking of Women / Proyecto Mujer Frontera, Barcelona 2013, 31 p.
This guide is part of the international project, Mujer Frontera (‘Border Woman’), which was launched in 2008 with the aim of empowering immigrant women who have been victims of human trafficking. It also seeks to assist and support other victims of trafficking. This guide is based on the experiences and obligations of the women both during, and following, their trafficking.

La Strada International / La Strada International (LSI) is a European NGO network against trafficking in human beings. See documentation on “trafficking in women”.

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