What Is Trafficking In Persons?
“Trafficking in persons” and “human trafficking” have been used as umbrella terms for the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 (Pub. L. 106-386), as amended, and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (the Palermo Protocol), describe this compelled service using a number of different terms, including involuntary servitude, slavery or practices similar to slavery, debt bondage, and forced labor.
Human trafficking can include, but does not require, movement. People may be considered trafficking victims regardless of whether they were born into a state of servitude, were transported to the exploitative situation, previously consented to work for a trafficker, or participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked. At the heart of this phenomenon is the traffickers’ goal of exploiting and enslaving their victims and the myriad coercive and deceptive practices they use to do so.
The Face of Modern Slavery
When an adult engages in a commercial sex act, such as prostitution, as the result of force, threats of force, fraud, coercion or any combination of such means, that person is a victim of trafficking. Under such circumstances, perpetrators involved in recruiting, harboring, enticing, transporting, providing, obtaining, or maintaining a person for that purpose are guilty of sex trafficking of an adult. Sex trafficking also may occur within debt bondage, as individuals are forced to continue in prostitution through the use of unlawful “debt,” purportedly incurred through their transportation, recruitment, or even their crude “sale”—which exploiters insist they must pay off before they can be free. An adult’s consent to participate in prostitution is not legally determinative: if one is thereafter held in service through psychological manipulation or physical force, he or she is a trafficking victim and should receive benefits outlined in the Palermo Protocol and applicable domestic laws.
Child Sex Trafficking
When a child (under 18 years of age) is recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, or maintained to perform a commercial sex act, proving force, fraud, or coercion is not necessary for the offense to be characterized as human trafficking. There are no exceptions to this rule: no cultural or socioeconomic rationalizations alter the fact that children who are prostituted are trafficking victims.
The use of children in the commercial sex trade is prohibited both under U.S. law and by statute in most countries around the world. Sex trafficking has devastating consequences for minors, including long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and even death.
Forced labor, sometimes also referred to as labor trafficking, encompasses the range of activities—recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining—involved when a person uses force or physical threats, psychological coercion, abuse of the legal process, deception, or other coercive means to compel someone to work. Once a person’s labor is exploited by such means, the person’s prior consent to work for an employer is legally irrelevant: the employer is a trafficker and the employee is a trafficking victim. Migrants are particularly vulnerable to this form of human trafficking, but individuals also may be forced into labor in their own countries. Female victims of forced or bonded labor, especially women and girls in domestic servitude, are often sexually exploited as well.
Bonded Labor or Debt Bondage
One form of coercion is the use of a bond or debt. U.S. law prohibits the use of a debt or other threats of financial harm as a form of coercion and the Palermo Protocol requires states to criminalize threats and other forms of coercion for the purpose of forced labor or services or practices similar to slavery or servitude. Some workers inherit debt; for example, in South Asia it is estimated that there are millions of trafficking victims working to pay off their ancestors’ debts. Others fall victim to traffickers or recruiters who unlawfully exploit an initial debt assumed as a term of employment.
Debts taken on by migrant laborers in their countries of origin, often with the support of labor agencies and employers in the destination country, can also contribute to a situation of debt bondage. Such circumstances may occur in the context of employment-based temporary work programs in which a worker’s legal status in the destination country is tied to the employer and workers fear seeking redress.
Involuntary Domestic Servitude
Involuntary domestic servitude is a form of human trafficking found in unique circumstances—work in a private residence—that create unique vulnerabilities for victims. It is a crime where domestic workers are not free to leave their employment and are often abused and underpaid. Many domestic workers do not receive the basic benefits and protections commonly extended to other groups of workers—things as simple as a day off. Moreover, their ability to move freely is often limited, and employment in private homes increases their vulnerability and isolation. Authorities cannot inspect homes as easily as formal workplaces, and in many cases do not have the mandate or capacity to do so. Domestic workers, especially women, confront various forms of abuse, harassment, and exploitation, including sexual and gender-based violence. These issues, taken together, may be symptoms of a situation of domestic servitude.
Forced Child Labor
Although children may legally engage in certain forms of work, children can also be found in situations of forced labor. A child can be a victim of human trafficking regardless of the location of that exploitation. Some indicators of possible forced labor of a child include situations in which the child appears to be in the custody of a non-family member who requires the child to perform work that financially benefits someone outside the child’s family and does not offer the child the option of leaving. When the victim of forced labor is a child, the crime is still one of trafficking. Anti-trafficking responses should supplement, not replace, traditional actions against child labor, such as remediation and education. When children are compelled to work, their abusers should not be able to escape criminal punishment by taking weaker administrative responses to child labor practices.
Unlawful Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers
Child soldiering is a manifestation of human trafficking when it involves the unlawful recruitment or use of children—through force, fraud, or coercion—by armed forces as combatants or other forms of labor. Some child soldiers are also sexually exploited by members of armed groups. Perpetrators may be government armed forces, paramilitary organizations, or rebel groups. Many children are forcibly abducted to be used as combatants. Others are unlawfully made to work as porters, cooks, guards, servants, messengers, or spies. Young girls can be forced to marry or have sex with male combatants. Both male and female child soldiers are often sexually abused and are at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
The U.S. Department of State prepared this Report using information from U.S. embassies, government officials, non-governmental and international organizations, published reports, news articles, academic studies, research trips to every region of the world, and information submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. This email address provides a means by which organizations and individuals can share information with the Department of State on government progress in addressing trafficking.
U.S. diplomatic posts and domestic agencies reported on the trafficking situation and governmental action to fight trafficking based on thorough research that included meetings with a wide variety of government officials, local and international NGO representatives, officials of international organizations, journalists, academics, and survivors. U.S. missions overseas are dedicated to covering human trafficking issues. The 2014 TIP Report covers government efforts undertaken from April 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014.
The Department places each country in the 2014 TIP Report onto one of four tiers, as mandated by the TVPA. This placement is based more on the extent of government action to combat trafficking than on the size of the country’s problem. The analyses are based on the extent of governments’ efforts to reach compliance with the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking (see page 425), which are generally consistent with the Palermo Protocol.
While Tier 1 is the highest ranking, it does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem or that it is doing enough to address the problem. Rather, a Tier 1 ranking indicates that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, has made efforts to address the problem, and meets the TVPA’s minimum standards. Each year, governments need to demonstrate appreciable progress in combating trafficking to maintain a Tier 1 ranking. Indeed, Tier 1 represents a responsibility rather than a reprieve. A country is never finished with the job of fighting trafficking.
Tier rankings and narratives in the 2014 TIP Report reflect an assessment of the following:
Tier rankings and narratives are NOT affected by the following:
A Guide to the Tiers
Countries whose governments fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
Tier 2 Watch List
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards, and for which:
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
The TVPA lists additional factors to determine whether a country should be on Tier 2 (or Tier 2 Watch List) versus Tier 3. First is the extent to which the country is a country of origin, transit, or destination for severe forms of trafficking. Second is the extent to which the country’s government does not comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards and, in particular, the extent to which officials or government employees have been complicit in severe forms of trafficking. And the third factor is the reasonable measures that the government would need to undertake to be in compliance with the minimum standards in light of the government’s resources and capabilities to address and eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons.
A 2008 amendment to the TVPA provides that any country that has been ranked Tier 2 Watch List for two consecutive years and that would otherwise be ranked Tier 2 Watch List for the next year will instead be ranked Tier 3 in that third year. This automatic downgrade provision came into effect for the first time in the 2013 Report. The Secretary of State is authorized to waive the automatic downgrade based on credible evidence that a waiver is justified because the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement the plan. The Secretary can only issue this waiver for two consecutive years. After the third year, a country must either go up to Tier 2 or down to Tier 3. Governments subject to the automatic downgrade provision are noted as such in the country narratives.
Penalties for Tier 3 Countries
Pursuant to the TVPA, governments of countries on Tier 3 may be subject to certain restrictions on bilateral assistance, whereby the U.S. government may withhold or withdraw non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance. In addition, certain countries on Tier 3 may not receive funding for government employees’ participation in educational and cultural exchange programs. Consistent with the TVPA, governments subject to restrictions would also face U.S. opposition to assistance (except for humanitarian, trade-related, and certain development-related assistance) from international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Imposed restrictions will take effect upon the beginning of the U.S. government’s next Fiscal Year—October 1, 2014—however, all or part of the TVPA’s restrictions can be waived if the President determines that the provision of such assistance to the government would promote the purposes of the statute or is otherwise in the United States’ national interest. The TVPA also provides for a waiver of restrictions if necessary to avoid significant adverse effects on vulnerable populations, including women and children.
No tier ranking is permanent. Every country, including the United States, can do more. All countries must maintain and increase efforts to combat trafficking.