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  • Writer's pictureTc Li

Human Trafficking: What It Is and Isn't

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

Human Trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons; it is done by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or the giving or receiving of payments; it attempts to allow one person to gain control over another for the purpose of exploitation.

The Action-Means-Purpose (AMP) Model is helpful when trying to understand the law surrounding trafficking. Human trafficking occurs when a perpetrator or trafficker takes an action, and then employs the means of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of compelling the victim to provide commercial sex acts, labor or services. At least one element from each column has to be present in order to establish a potential situation of human trafficking. However, minors under commercial sex are victims of human trafficking even if force, fraud or coercion is not present.

Key Terms

Forced Labor is any work that is performed involuntarily and under the menace of penalty. It refers to situations in which people are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation, or by more subtle means, such as manipulated debt, retention of identity papers or threats of denunciation to immigration authorities.

Slavery is defined as the status or conditions of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised. It thus refers to control of one person or persons over others, and is considered a serious criminal offence.

Bonded Labor: South Asian laws generally define bonded labor systems as those where workers provide work or services to a landlord or employer in exchange for a monetary advance. These workers incur restrictions on their freedom of movement or occupation until this debt has been worked off.

  • Myth: It’s always or usually a violent crime.

Reality: Human trafficking does not always involve kidnapping or physically forcing someone into a situation. In reality, most human traffickers use psychological means of coercion such as, tricking, defrauding, manipulating or threatening victims into providing commercial sex or exploitative labor.

  • Myth: All human trafficking involves commercial sex.

Reality: Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion to get another person to provide labor or commercial sex. Worldwide, experts believe there are more situations of labor trafficking than of sex trafficking. However, there is much wider awareness of the latter.

  • Myth: Only undocumented foreign nationals get trafficked.

Reality: There have been thousands of cases of trafficking involving foreign national survivors who are legally living and/or working in the country. These include survivors of both sex and labor trafficking.

  • Myth: Human trafficking only happens in illegal or underground industries.

Reality: Human trafficking cases have been reported and prosecuted in industries including restaurants, cleaning services, construction, hotels, factories and more.

  • Myth: Only women and girls can be victims and survivors of sex trafficking.

Reality: One study estimates that around a third of sex trafficking victims and survivors are male. Advocates believe that percentage may be even higher but that male victims are far less likely to be identified. LGBTQ boys and young men are seen as particularly vulnerable to trafficking.

  • Myth: If the trafficked person consented to be in their initial situation, then it cannot be human trafficking or against their will.

Reality: Initial consent to commercial sex or a labor setting prior to acts of force, fraud, or coercion (or if the victim is a minor in a sex trafficking situation) is not relevant to the crime, nor is payment.

  • Myth: Traffickers target victims they don’t know.

Reality: Many survivors have been trafficked by romantic partners, including spouses, and by family members, including parents.


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