By Minakshi Goswami, Research Fellow, Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture, Assam.

Human trafficking refers to a process wherein individuals are placed or maintained in an exploitative situation for monetary gain. Trafficking can occur within a country or may involve movement across borders. Anyone anytime may become a victim of trafficking. Whether women, men or children. The motive behind commission of this crime are many; including forced and exploitative labour in factories, farms and private households, sexual exploitation, and forced marriage. Trafficking affects all regions and most countries of the world.

International agreement on what constitutes “trafficking in persons” is very recent. In fact, it was not until the late 1990s that States began the task of separating out trafficking from other practices with which it was commonly associated such as facilitated irregular migration. The first-ever agreed definition of trafficking was incorporated into the 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Trafficking Protocol).


Article 3(a) of the Trafficking Protocol defines that “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 shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.


Slavery, in the 21st century has taken many forms and is known by many names. Human trafficking, forced or servile marriage, forced labour, debt bondage, sale or exploitation of children including in armed conflict and the list goes on. The victims of these many types of ‘modern day slavery’ are denied freedom; used, controlled and exploited by another person for profit, sex or the thrill of domination. Perpetrators are smart enough to escape punishment find out ways to conceal, rationalise and justify their act. The most commonly used ways of justifying this evil practice is to blame the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, caste and customs. Human trafficking and the resulting exploitations is a deep rooted issue that needs to be tackled. In the absence of effective protection mechanisms the miseries of the victims remains hidden within houses, communities and worksites.

Modern slavery is a global issue. Some countries/communities are more vulnerable than the others; but the crime affects all of us. The trafficking industry has spread across borders and its products flow into global supply chains, into local shops and ultimately into our homes. The main factors that help this industry flourish are apathy, vulnerability, poverty, war, conflict, corruption, discrimination, lack of law enforcement, lack of awareness and action etc.


Human trafficking is a global crime and it can be committed against any vulnerable person. However, some people are more vulnerable than the others. The likelihood of today’s technology driven youths to become victims of trafficking is far more as compared to the technologically inactive sections of the society. Social networking sites, which have become a platform to report daily activities and other personal details is like a golden box for the traffickers. Stocking a virtually active person becomes quiet easy if one gets access to the target’s profile.  It helps the trafficker plan, prepare and execute the crime more efficiently. In this regard, family members or Schools has an active role to play. Young children should be taught about personal safety, encouraged to learn self-defence skills, taught to become alert and fight the trafficking business.


Human trafficking is a deep rooted evil that demands early action. Any step taken towards elimination of this practice will not be effective enough unless the people are aware about the basic facts of this problem. Hence, raising awareness to inform the world of this crime and to mobilize people to strengthen prevention is necessary. Deep understanding of the issue of trafficking through data collection and analysis, joint research initiatives, creation of evidence based report on global trafficking etc. are the areas where efforts need to be taken. Elimination of this evil practice is not possible unless all the organs of the society work collaboratively. Therefore, the government, civil society organizations as well as individuals must come forward and contribute their shares for a trafficking free world. Statutory provisions are definitely necessary to make the authorities more responsible and obligated to do the given tasks more effectively. However, apart from all these laws the Government also take initiative to eradicate trafficking by creating awareness programmes and gives education to the people so that they are well acquainted with this heinous crime. In the countries and States where there are no strict law or anti-trafficking laws to prohibit trafficking, by raising awareness among the people, this crime may be eliminated. The media also play a vital in exposing stories of trafficking to the Government and to take action.