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What is Human Trafficking?

The word ‘slavery’ conjures up thoughts of the archaic Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade which was abolished in the British Empire in the mid-1800s. However, the reality is that, in this 21st century, more people are enslaved than during the entire Trans-Atlantic slave trade!

Today, slavery is called “Trafficking in Persons” or “Human Trafficking”. These are regarded as the umbrella terms for the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring, or receiving a person for the purpose of exploitation (such as forced labour or commercial sex acts) through the use of force, fraud, deception, abduction, abuse of power, etc.​

Human Trafficking is the second largest criminal activity in the world after the trade in narcotics! It is an increasing global scourge affecting all sectors in society and involving as its victims literally millions of persons every year.

Women and children are the primary targets for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Men are often trafficked for labour exploitation although some have been rescued from sex trafficking.

Almost every country in the world is affected by Trafficking In Persons – either as a source, transit or destination country or a combination thereof.


Although the offence is mentioned in the context of transnational organized crime, human trafficking can occur on a small scale without organized criminal involvement. Furthermore, persons may be trafficked into, within and out of a country. This means that those who are at-risk of human trafficking are not only migrants. 

Human trafficking can include but does not require movement. People may be considered trafficking victims regardless of whether they were born into a state of servitude, were transported to the exploitative situation, previously consented to work for a trafficker, or participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked.

The International Organisation for Migration has conducted research in the Caribbean and has found that there are three major forms of human trafficking occurring here. They are Trafficking for the purpose of (1) Labour exploitation, (2) Sexual exploitation including that of children, and (3) Domestic servitude.

Labour Trafficking.

Labour trafficking encompasses the range of activities – recruiting, harboring, 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 exploited by such means, the person’s previous consent or effort to obtain employment with the trafficker becomes irrelevant.

Migrants are particularly vulnerable to this form of human trafficking, but individuals also may be forced into labour in their own countries. Female victims of  labour trafficking may be sexually exploited as well.​

Adult & Child Sex Trafficking.

When an adult is coerced, forced, or deceived into prostitution – or maintained in prostitution through one of these means after initially consenting – that person is a victim of trafficking. If the victim is under 18 years, there is no need to prove the traffickers used force, fraud or deception, etc.

Under such circumstances, perpetrators involved in recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for that purpose are responsible for trafficking crimes.

Sex trafficking also may occur within debt bondage, as women and girls are forced to continue in prostitution through the use of unlawful “debt” purportedly incurred through their transportation, recruitment, or even their crude “sale” – which exploiters insist they must pay off before they can be free.​

Domestic Servitude.

Involuntary domestic servitude is a form of human trafficking found in unique circumstances—informal work in a private residence—these circumstances create unique vulnerabilities for victims.

Domestic workplaces are informal, connected to off-duty living quarters, and often not shared with other workers. Such an environment, which can isolate domestic workers, is conducive to exploitation because authorities cannot inspect homes as easily as they can compared to formal workplaces.

Investigators and service providers report many cases of untreated illnesses and, tragically, widespread sexual abuse, which in some cases may be symptoms of a situation of involuntary servitude.​

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