*Trigger warning - some content may be distressing

What is human trafficking?

Tearfund’s partner LIFT International was founded to strategically address the crime of sex trafficking through supporting criminal investigations against traffickers and offering aftercare and legal support for trafficking survivors.

LIFT’s teams have been involved in varied cases of exploitation. For example, LIFT worked on a case where Ugandan women were being brought to Bangkok and sold for sex to pay off their debts. LIFT has also helped law enforcement to remove children trafficked into brothels, karaoke bars, and for online exploitation. The organisation also saw a case of a woman trafficked for sex and labour on a farm.

Victims of trafficking don’t always fall under strict definitions. However, it helps to understand various legal categories of trafficking. Laws must be strengthened; law enforcement must be trained and technologies must be implemented to bring freedom and justice for victims of all forms of trafficking and exploitation.

2-(1).jpgTearfund’s prevention partners are helping to protect children from being ever becoming victims of trafficking.

Sex Trafficking

When an adult engages in a commercial sex act, such as prostitution, as the result of force, fraud, coercion, or any combination, that person is a victim of trafficking. Under such circumstances, those involved in recruiting, harbouring, transporting, providing, obtaining, patronising, or soliciting of a person for that purpose, are guilty of sex trafficking of an adult. Sex trafficking also may occur through a specific form of coercion whereby individuals are compelled to continue in prostitution through the use of unlawful “debt”. Mostly this is incurred through their transportation, recruitment, or even their “sale”—which exploiters insist they must pay off before they can be free. Even if an adult initially consents to engage in commercial sex, it is irrelevant. If an adult, after consenting, is subsequently held in service through psychological manipulation or physical force, he or she is a trafficking victim.

Child Sex Trafficking

When a child (under 18 years of age) is recruited, harboured, transported, provided, obtained, patronised, or solicited for sex; proving force, fraud, or coercion is not necessary for the offence to be prosecuted as human trafficking. A child cannot legally give consent. There are no exceptions to this rule. The use of children in the commercial sex industry is prohibited under US law and by statute in most countries around the world.

Being trafficked for sex has devastating consequences for all victims, including long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and even death.

Forced Labour

Forced labour, sometimes also referred to as labour trafficking, includes the range of activities—recruiting, harbouring, transporting, providing, or obtaining—involved when a person uses force or physical threats, psychological coercion, abuse of the legal process, deception, or other coercive means to compel someone to work. Once a person’s labour is obtained by such means, the person’s prior consent to work for an employer is legally irrelevant. The employer is a trafficker and the employee a trafficking victim. Migrants are particularly vulnerable to this form of human trafficking, but many may be forced into labour in their own countries. Female victims of forced or bonded labour, especially women and girls in domestic servitude, are often sexually abused or exploited as well.

The more we can deter traffickers, by strengthening local law enforcement agencies, the better we can protect children!


Bonded Labour or Debt Bondage

One form of coercion used by traffickers in both sex trafficking and forced labour is the imposition of a bond or debt. Some workers inherit debt; for example, in South Asia, it is estimated that there are millions of trafficking victims working to pay off generational debts. Others fall victim to traffickers or recruiters who unlawfully exploit an initial debt assumed, wittingly or unwittingly, as a term of employment.

Traffickers, labour agencies, recruiters, and employers in both the country of origin and the destination country can contribute to debt bondage by charging workers recruitment fees and exorbitant interest rates, making it difficult, if not impossible, to pay off the debt. Such circumstances may occur in the context of employment-based temporary work programmes in which a worker’s legal status in the destination country is tied to the employer so workers fear seeking redress.

Domestic Servitude

Domestic Servitude is a crime in which a domestic worker is not free to leave his or her employment and is abused, underpaid or not paid at all. Many domestic workers do not receive the basic benefits and protections commonly extended to other groups of workers—things as simple as a day off. Moreover, their ability to move freely is often limited, and employment in private homes increases their isolation and vulnerability. Labour officials generally do not have the authority to inspect employment conditions in private homes. Domestic workers, especially women, confront various forms of abuse, harassment, and exploitation, including sexual and gender-based violence.

Forced Child Labour

Although children may legally engage in certain forms of work, children can also be found in slavery or slavery-like situations. Some indicators of forced labour of a child include situations in which the child appears to be in the custody of a non-family member who requires the child to perform work that financially benefits someone outside the child’s family. They do not offer the child the option of leaving, such as forced begging. Anti-trafficking responses should supplement, not replace, traditional actions against child labour, such as remediation and education. When children are enslaved, their exploiters should not escape criminal punishment—something that occurs when governments exclusively use administrative responses to address cases of forced child labour.

Human trafficking is a terrible trade. If you'd like to help us combat it and seek justice for victims, you can support the extraordinary work of our partners by donating to our Modern Slavery cause.



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