International Instruments and Trafficking

It was in 1949 that an international instrument first attempted to bring a common understanding to the issue of trafficking. The UN Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others agrees to punish any person who “procures, entices or leads away, for purposes of prostitution, another person, even with the consent of that person and exploits the prostitution of another person, even with the consent of that person.”

The new Trafficking Protocol adopted in Palermo by the UN General Assembly in November, 2000, takes a different approach to trafficking from that of the 1949 Convention. According to the Protocol, “Trafficking in persons shall mean 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 was given to include, at a minimum, forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. The consent of a victim to the intended exploitation is irrelevant where any of the exploitative means have been used.

Although the Protocol does recognize the distinction between voluntary prostitution and forced prostitution, it shies away from defining the phrase "exploitation of prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation" because government delegates to the negotiations could not agree on a common meaning. Groups on both sides of the trafficking debate see this indecision as potential for prejudice by governments in addressing prostitution in their domestic laws.


Content by Mini Singh
Research Analyst, FSE

Content in Arabic by Raja El Habti Research Assistant, FSE