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What is Human Trafficking?

Slavery, throughout all of human history, has meant holding people against their will through the threat or reality of violence, forcing them to work, and paying them nothing beyond subsistence.

— Kevin Bales & Ron Soodalter, The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today, p. 112, University of California Press, 2009.

Human trafficking is the process of compelling a person to perform labor through force, fraud, or coercion. Often described as modern-day slavery, human trafficking exploits people’s dreams, robs them of their dignity, and violates their basic human rights.

No industry or form of labor is immune — human trafficking happens in manufacturing, agriculture, domestic work such as nannies or maids, the sex industry, and many others. Traffickers use a variety of methods, including and especially psychological coercion, to control victims.

US Federal law The United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act uses the term Severe Trafficking in Persons, which is defined as The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

The United Nations, with the “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children” define trafficking as: “The action of recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by means of the threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim for the purposes of exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery or similar practices, and the removal of organs. Consent of the victim is irrelevant where illicit means are established ”.

Human Trafficking is different from smuggling. The relationship between the smuggler and the individual is solely for the purpose of leaving one country and crossing into another against payment. The relationship ends at the point at which illegal entry is achieved.

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