Om trafficking


Trafficking or human trading, is exactly what it sounds like: the trading of human beings. It means that someone has been forced, tricked or threatened with the purpose of being exploited in various ways. Trafficking has increased during the last few decades and it’s often called our time’s slavery, rightly so.

Trading with humans is the third largest type of organized crime, after drugs and weapons trafficking. It is also the fastest growing criminal activity. The Swedish Delegation for Human Rights state that approximately 80% of human trading are for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

UN’s definition

UN’s Trafficking-Protocol states that a person is considered a victim of human trading when someone has violated their vulnerability with the purpose of exploitation.

According to UN’s definition (The Palermo Protocol or The UN-Protocol), three criteria must be met:

  • trade arrangements are needed such as recruiting, transport or housing
  • inappropriate ways and means, such as threats, coercion or deception, should have been used
  • the victim should have been recruited with the purpose of being exploited

Countries who adopted (ratified) the protocol must criminalize human trading. In 2002, human trading for sexual purposes was criminalized in Sweden.

Crimes against human rights

According to Joy Ngozi Ezeilo – The United Nation’s Special Reporter on Human Trading – trafficking is a gross violation of human rights:

A human being has a right to freedom, dignity and to never be held captive as a slave.

From experiences around the world, we can see that human trading is often related to violations of several other fundamental human rights. The right to be free from discrimination, torture, inhumane or degrading treatment, the right to be treated as an equal in a court of law, the right to privacy, freedom of movement, freedom of information, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and of association, to be free from forced labor, to enjoy justice and fair work conditions, to equal pay for equal work, to marry, to have good health, to your own body, to decide when to have children and the right to equality.

How great is the problem?

The problem is global, but Europe has the highest amount of sex slaves per inhabitant. How did this happen?

The business is very profitable and the risks are few. It is easier and less risky to transport humans across borders than weapons and drugs. Several countries have an established market for prostitution. Laws which criminalize human trading for sexual purposes are relatively new in Europe

The UN estimates that approximately 4 million people all over the world are trafficked every year. About 1.2 million of these are children, people under the age of 18. According to a report from the UN-agency UNODC, the human trade businesses earn 23 billion SEK per year.

The Swedish Sex Trade Law: Working Against Trafficking

The Swedish Sex Trade Law was adopted in 1998, with the purpose of protecting people who have been forced to sell sexual services. Sweden was the first country in the world to criminalize the buyer but not the seller (the prostitutes). Iceland and Norway followed suit in 2009.

With the law, Sweden counteracts the demand for sexual services which reduces the need for prostitutes. The Swedish model is known all around the world and is often considered a successful legislation

The amount of people brought to Sweden to be sold for sexual purposes has diminished greatly since the law was put in effect. This is because the police is allowed to act and prevent sales of sexual services. The criminal organizations in Sweden make less profit and need to take more risks compared to those in other parts of Europe.

Studies also show that the amount of men who once or twice purchased sex has diminished. Since the introduction of the Sex Trade Law, the amount of buyers have shrunk from 1 out of 8 men, to 1 out of 12. Among German men, the figure is 1 out of 4.

The supply is governed by the demand and the demand for purchasing sexual services strengthens trafficking.

Prostitution and trafficking

Human trafficking is illegal in most European countries, but buying sexual services from prostitutes is allowed. Research shows that the line between trafficking and prostitution is very thin;

  • Running a brothel is legal in the Netherlands. 80% of the women who work at brothels come from Eastern European countries and according to The International Organization of Immigration, they are probably victims of trafficking.
  • In Germany, where the sex industry is legal as well, there are over 400.000 prostitutes. Half of those are believed to be from other countries, primarily poor Eastern European countries.
  • The Amsterdam-based Child Right Organization states that the amount of child prostitutes have increased from 4000 to 15.000 during the exposure of the infamous RedLight District. Most of these child prostitutes are underage girls from Nigeria.
  • According to an international survey of prostitutes, 92% were raped at leastonce. 84% of them had been hurt physically and psychologically and as many as 72% suffered from PTSD. 98% of the prostitutes were homeless and 92% said they would quit prostitution if they had an opportunity to do so.

More information

The Swedish government’s plan against prostitution and human trading for sexual purposes

MTV EXIT what is trafficking?

The international organization CATW works with informing and making aware the connection between trafficking and inequality.

Nätverket mot trafficking (The Network against Trafficking)

Kvinnofronten (The Women’s Front) works with everything related to oppression of women

Prostitution Research and Education Website has information about prostitution, trafficking and arguments regarding why more countries should adopt the Swedish legislation

Sisyphe, a French website with several articles concerning prostitution.

Hubert Dubois, the producer of the documentary La vitrine hollandaise.

Books worth reading

Siddharth Karas’ book Sextrafficking Inside the business of Modern Slavery makes for an interesting read. For a short version see video clip.

Claudine Legardinier, editor for the magazine Prostitution et societé, has written many great books.

Kajsa Ekis Ekman about prostitution and surrogate motherhood Varat och varan

Natasja T. & Efron, Vera (2006) Såld. Saltsjö-Duvnäs: Efron & dotter

Olsson, Hanna (2005) Catrine och rättvisan. Stockholm: Pocky

Eek, Louise (2005) Att köpa eller köpas – frihet och makt i sexindustrin. Stockholm: Atlas

Eek, Louise (2001) Spelat liv. Stockholm: Atlas