Human trafficking is often referred to as the slavery of our time. It is taking place throughout the world; both domestically and internationally. This form of criminal activity has increased in recent decades and leaves no country unaffected. Human trafficking implies the forceful removal and exploitation of a person in a vulnerable position. The overall aim is to take advantage of this individual through slave labor and/or sexual exploitation.
Slavery is a global issue. The most common procedure is the transportation of people from poorer countries to more wealthy nations. These nations are sometimes referred to as “destination countries”, but domestic removals of people from rural parts of a country to bigger cities is also common. Some European destination countries are Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Great Britain and France. The victims of this cruel trade are extremely vulnerable.
As of today, human trafficking is the second biggest form of organised crime in the world. According to the UN, this business has an annual turnover of 32 billion dollars. Europe is believed to have the world’s highest number of sex slaves per capita according to “Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery” author Siddharth Kara.
Women and children hit the hardest
Human trafficking is affecting millions of people; most of them women and children. According to some sources there has never been so much ongoing slavery in the world. Walk free foundations and Global Slavery Index estimate that as many as 30 million people are currently in a position of slavery.
Around 1,2 million children are estimated to be victims of human trafficking worldwide. The goals of human trafficking vary; organ trade, adoption and slave labor are a few examples. The biggest part however, around 70 percent, is human trafficking for sexual purposes. 95 percent of the victims of this trade are women and children. The male victims, roughly 15 percent, are more often used as labor. Read more here.
The sex trade with children is a global problem. This trade also incorporates sex tourism where people from wealthy nations travel to poorer countries with the aim of exploiting women and children sexually.
Hard to estimate the number of victims
The resources needed to make precise and comprehensive estimations of the number of victims are lacking. Consequently, it is difficult to know for sure how many people are affected. The number of organisations and authorities working to properly estimate these numbers are however increasing.
According to the UN, around 880,000 people in Europe are victims of human trafficking. This would imply that 700,000 of these are being sold for sexual purposes. If we look at the registered human trafficking cases reported by the European Commission in 2014, in other words those who have been in contact with authorities, the number is 30,000. Read more here.
As is obvious there is a great number of unreported cases. The extent of this business indicates that the problem is far bigger than what is shown by official statistics. With prostitution comes violence and the fact that selling sex is still legal in many countries further increases the demand. In these states, the police has little or no means for intervention.
Sex trafficking in Sweden
In the early 2000’s, the number of sex trafficking victims in Sweden was believed to be around 400-600 people. Today, Rikspolisstyrelsen (the National Police Board), states that it is hard to determine the exact number. The possibility of identifying victims is tied to the overall resources of the Police; the more resources, the more victims can be rescued.
Recent numbers indicate that most of the victims, around 62 percent, are from other EU nations (mostly from Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Lithuania). Outside the EU, most of the victims are from Nigeria. Between the years 2009-2013 the police received a total of 46 reports regarding trafficking of underage children. The number of reported cases of sexual trafficking in recent years has been around 600 per year.
Before the Swedish Sex Purchase Act was put into practice in 1999, 12,5 percent of Swedish men said that they had paid for sexual services. In the latest report, published in 2015, 7,5 percent of men age 18-65 stated they had purchased sexual services at some point; only 1 percent during the last year.Statistics also show that 80 percent of these purchases took place abroad and a third of these during business travels.
A large part of the statistics from the report Prostitutionen i Sverige 2014 – En omfattningskartläggning by Länsstyrelsen (the County Administration Board) is based on population surveys. These types of surveys are, among other things, used in order to figure out the number of buyers and the number of people selling sex. A big problem however is that a lot of people in the prostitution business are not Swedish citizens and thereby not included in these statistics. The same goes for women in correctional facilities and women with intellectual disabilities.
The same report shows that the Internet has become a significant forum for sex trafficking and the number of ads for internet prostitution has increased dramatically. The number of people selling sex in Sweden is however believed to be fairly consistent. Street prostitution is said to have been reduced by half since 1995 with an estimated involvement of around 200-250 women. For international comparisons (France, Germany, Holland, Great Britain and Spain) please visit our campaign site.