Human trafficking: how women and girls are exploited in the sex trade
Trafficking for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, with women and girls making up 96% of its victims. Though international law and the laws of 158 countries criminalize sex trafficking, it is still legally and socially acceptable to treat women and girls as merchandise.
Many countries have laws that either fully criminalize, decriminalize or legalize the sex trade in harmful ways: either they punish those who are being exploited, or openly promote their exploitation and give traffickers, pimps, brothel-owners and sex buyers a safer environment in which to operate.
Elements of Sex Trafficking
Act: Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons;
Means: Threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim;
Purpose: Prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, or slavery.
- From the 2000 UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, ratified by 171 countries.
How Equality Now works to end sex trafficking
“Society’s understanding of human trafficking and prostitution needs to change… Women are human beings, not commodities to be bought and sold.”
– Alma, Philippines, survivor/ activist and Buklod Center co-founder
Countless women and girls are bought and sold every year in the commercial sex trade, i.e. prostitution, which is often the end destination of sex trafficking. Without the sex trade, there would be no industry to traffic women and girls into, so efforts to address sex trafficking must also address prostitution.
Equality Now pushes for laws that address both those who profit from this crime – sex traffickers, brothel owners, sex tour operators and pimps – and also those who fuel and prop it up with their demand: the buyers. Holding buyers of commercial sex accountable reduces sex trafficking. We also support grassroots groups working to end sex trafficking in their countries.
Strong human rights and gender equality-based laws and policies are the basis of Equality Now’s work to end sex trafficking and exploitation. By targeting the root of the problem – the demand for paid sex – we can protect women and girls. No demand, no supply.