Human Trafficking: Global and Local Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking: Global and Local Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking

Author: Ms Champa Devi, PhD. Research Scholar, Department of Laws, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla.

*The author has written this article while pursuing a training program on article writing by


Human trafficking being a violation of human rights is a very heinous crime. It involves the illicit transportation of persons either by force or by deception with the motive of labour, sexual exploitation, or unlawful activities that benefitted the trafficker fiscally. Labour trafficking, sex trafficking, child trafficking, and all sorts of modern-day slavery are diverse forms of human trafficking. It is regarded as an extremely structured and organized crime that occurs in all countries in the world. With the advancement in technologies and development in society, this menace also increased day by day. The internet and new technologies play a significant role in its rising. Even if human trafficking is a global dilemma affecting inhabitants of all ages, women and children are the mainstream of its victimisation.

Understanding the phenomenon:

Traffick in human being means “selling and buying men and women akin to commodities and includes immoral traffic in women and children for immoral or other purposes.”[1] Even though human trafficking is known as an emergent international tendency, a one and the same definition has however to be internationally accepted.

Human Trafficking Defines

Article 3 of the Trafficking Protocol, 2000 defines trafficking in persons as

“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 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. The consent of a victim of trafficking to the intended exploitation shall be irrelevant.” [2]

The United Nations recognize trafficking as “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”.[3]

UN classifies trafficking as sex trafficking, labour trafficking and child trafficking. For that reason, human trafficking can be categorized into different forms, such as:

i) Sexual exploitation

The main reason for human trafficking, both universally as well as nationally, is sexual exploitation. Since sexual exploitation is the prime motive of trafficking in women, generally most of the trafficked women are forced into commercial sexual services while several are also victims of domestic servitude.[4] Trafficking for sexual exploitation is unlike street prostitution which is mostly covert ones, working in brothels or private homes. Essentially, trafficking is broader than exploitation for prostitution. As in the case of trafficking, it is more perceptible. Sometimes public venues, like massage parlours and strip clubs can also be utilized for trafficking and sexual exploitation. Violence is a primary tool implemented for dominating and preventing fatalities from absconding.

ii) Forced labour or Bonded labour:

Bonded means to put into bond or a tie or an agreement. Labour means work. The labour may either be physical or mental. Hence bonded labourers are the persons who are bound to perform certain forced labour. They have no freedom of movement and are forced labour. The main cause of bonded labour is poverty which makes a person accept bonded labour or forced labour. The Supreme Court of India held the view that ‘where a person provides labour or service to another for remuneration, which is less than minimum wage, that labour or service provided by him clearly falls within the scope and ambit of the word forced labour’.[5] Most of the time the persons are trafficked for the reasons of forced labour in all fields whether it be agricultural, domestic, industrial or others. Actually most of the trafficking victims are labourers.

Human trafficking involves all kinds of labour exploitation, for example, not paying for work, providing work for the workers unlawfully in unsafe and hazardous working situations, or compelling workers to sustain debts that are paid off by labour. Females are trafficked for the employ of domestic servitude because domestic work is veiled, which is particularly not easy to perceive. These victims are compelled to work for hours in spite of incredibly low or no salary. Trafficked victims lived in intolerable situations and sometimes suffered emotional and physical violence, humiliation, abuse and punishment.

 iii) Child Trafficking:

Child trafficking means ‘the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child with the motive of sexual or labour exploitation, forced labour or slavery. It is estimated that over a million children get cheated and trafficked every year. They are given false assurance of education, jobs and professional training and are transported within the country or to other countries for exploitative labour, sexual abuse and so on.[6] Both girls and boys are trafficked. The boys are used for hard labour in the industries or agricultural fields and the girls are made to do domestic work, thus making them subject to physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

iv) Slavery and Begar

Slavery and Begar is also the reason behind the human trafficking. ‘Even though slavery is not expressly mentioned in Article 23, it is included in the expression traffic in human beings’.[7] Begar means involuntary work without payment.

International efforts for combating Human Trafficking:

International concern for human trafficking has started with the adoption of the International Agreement by 13 European countries for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic in 1904. This was followed by two League of Nation’s conventions i. e. the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children, 1921 and the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women of Full Age, 1933. The 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution or Others also dealt with trafficking. The 1949 Convention was the first to criminalize the act of exploiting persons for prostitution.[8]

In 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted for women’s human rights. The Convention required “states to take appropriate measure to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of the prostitution of women”.[9]

The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) prohibited trafficking in children for any purpose and States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.[10] Consequently in 2002, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, ‘gravely concerned at the significant and increasing international traffic in children for the purpose of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography’. The protocol requires each State Party shall ensure that all activities of child exploitation and child trafficking are fully covered under its criminal or penal law.[11]   

These factors were momentum for the 2000 United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (known as the Palermo Convention)[12] and the related Trafficking Protocol. The UN Trafficking Protocol which also includes a Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, has been consented to by all EU Member States. The protocol defines the term ‘trafficking in persons’ which was accepted internationally for subsequent international instruments. The Trafficking Protocol extended the definition of trafficking to comprise all persons who are in repressive working situations because of force or deceit, not only women and children.[13] One hundred forty-seven countries had confirmed the Trafficking Protocol till 2011.

Apart from international treaties, individual countries have also enacted laws for combating human trafficking. Particularly, the United States enacted Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2000 to support global perception. The definition of trafficking in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and that recommended in the Protocol is almost similar.[14]

In 2005, the ‘Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings’[15] was adopted by the Council of Europe that was consented by 27 EU Member States. It is broader than the UN Protocol because it applies to both, transnational and national trafficking in human beings.

Moreover, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also assists to combat trafficking by banning slavery under Article 4 and giving everyone the right to work under just and favourable conditions.[16]

Legal Control of Human Trafficking in India:

Human Trafficking is proscribed in the Constitution of India under Article 23 which deals with the right against exploitation which includes forced labour, human trafficking etc. Article embodies that “traffic in human beings and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law”.[17] Protection of human beings is considered not only against the State but also against other persons. Thus Article 23 is not restricted for its appliance against the State only rather application of Article is wide and unlimited.[18] In ‘Peoples Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India’,[19] the Supreme Court stipulates broadly the extent and domain of Article 23. The Court held that the ambit of Article 23 is broad and indefinite and fights in human trafficking, begar and other forms of forced labour wherever they are found.

Under Article 35 of the Constitution of India, Parliament has enacted the ‘Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956’[20] for punishing the sexual exploitation of women and children. Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956 is the foremost law to prevent trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. All forms of human trafficking are made punishable under the provisions of the Act.

India has confirmed the UN Trafficking Protocol and has been taken diverse steps to implement the UNCTOC. By enacting the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013human trafficking has been explicitly made punishable in India. The Amendment replaced Section 370 IPC, 1860 with Sections 370 and 370A wherein adequate measures are endowed for combating the menace of human trafficking and trafficking of children for exploitation, such as physical or sexual exploitation, slavery, servitude, forced labour or the removal of organs.[21]

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, is a specific enactment for the protection of children against sexual abuse and exploitation. It specifically defines the different types of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Moreover, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, also contains the provisions for counteracting human trafficking.

The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) invited proposals for the draft of the ‘Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021’. The rationale of the bill is “to prevent and counter-trafficking in persons, particularly women and children, to provide for care, protection, and rehabilitation to the victims, while respecting their rights, and creating a supportive legal, economic and social environment for them,”[22] the ministry said in a press release. The proposed Bill if approved has increased the scope of the nature of offences of trafficking, with stringent penalties including life imprisonment, and even the death penalty in certain cases.


Trafficking in persons is the gross commercialization of innocent human lives, especially women and children. Trafficking in persons contravenes all known norms of human dignity and becomes a matter of grave concern globally. Despite strong steps taken at the international and national level, the menace has been expanded into newer forms day by day. Merely enacting laws will not be sufficient to combat human trafficking to the full extent. But some other measures in the vein of spreading awareness and educating people about their human rights and duties are also helpful. Further international cooperation could be a significant method to combat human trafficking globally.



  • Indian Panel Code, 1860
  • The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
  • The Constitution of India, 1950
  • The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
  • The Protection of Children from Sexual offences (POCSO) Act, 2012
  • The Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994


  • Karuppiah & M. John Sundar, “Children’s Rights: Investing in Future” in V. N. Viswanathan (ed.), Human Rights – Twenty First Century Challenges 137 (2009).
  • G. Gowthaman. “Human Rights and Bonded Labour” in V.N. Viswanathan, Human Rights – Twenty First Century Challenges 181-82 (2009).


  • Dubar Goala v. Union of India, AIR 1952 Cal. 496.
  • Raj Bahadur v. Legal Remembrancer, AIR 1953 Cal. 522.


[1] Raj Bahadur v. Legal Remembrancer, AIR 1953 Cal. 522.

[2] Protocol To Prevent, Suppress And Punish Trafficking In Persons, Especially Women And Children, Supplementing The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, , United Nations, 2000; available at

[3]  TRAFFICKING VICTIMS PROTECTION – 22 U.S.C. § 7102 (2012) Definitions :: Title 22 – Foreign Relations and Intercourse :: 2012 US Code :: US Codes and Statutes :: US Law :: Justia visited on 26 July 2021.

[4]  (last visited on 20 July, 2021).

[5] G. Gowthaman. “Human Rights and Bonded Labour” in V.N. Viswanathan, Human Rights – Twenty First Century Challenges 181-82 (2009).

[6] A. Karuppiah & M. John Sundar, “Children’s Rights: Investing in Future” in V. N. Viswanathan (ed.), Human Rights – Twenty First Century Challenges 137 (2009).

[7] Dubar Goala v. Union of India, AIR 1952 Cal. 496.

[8] Available at Gallagher: The international law of human trafficking – Google Scholar visited on 20 July 2021.

[9] Article 6, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979.

[10] Articles 34 & 35, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989.

[11] OHCHR | Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child visited on 20 July, 2021.

[12] visited on 20 July, 2021.

[13] Lloyd Paulette, Simmons Beth A. Framing for a New Transnational Legal Order: The Case of Human Trafficking. In: Shaffer Gregory C, Halliday Terence C., editors. Transnational Legal Orders. Cambridge University Press; 2014. Available at

[14] Supra note 8.

[15]  visited on 20 July, 2021.

[16] Article 23, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. 

[17] Article 23, The Constitution of India, 1950.

[18] M.P. Jain, Constitution of India, 1233

[19] AIR 1982 SC 1943.

[20] Now, “The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.”

[21] See Sections 370 & 370A, Indian Panel Code, 1860.

[22] visited on 21 July, 2021.