Policy Issues

Human Trafficking

“Human trafficking” and “trafficking in persons” are umbrella terms used to refer to both sex trafficking and compelled labor.  Relevant U.S. and international law describe this compelled service using a number of different terms, including involuntary servitude, slavery or practices similar to slavery, debt bondage, or 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 exploited in their hometown, 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’ aim to exploit and enslave their victims and the myriad coercive and deceptive practices they use to do so.

Human trafficking deprives millions worldwide of their dignity and freedom.  It undermines national security, distorts markets, and enriches transnational criminals and terrorists, and is an affront to our universal values.   At-risk populations can face deceitful recruitment practices by those bent on exploiting them for labor or commercial sex. Meaningful partnerships between public and private sectors and civil society can expand awareness, leverage expertise, and facilitate creative solutions.  The Department of State leads the U.S. global engagement to combat human trafficking and supports the coordination of anti-trafficking efforts across the U.S. government.

The United States follows the widely used “3P” paradigm — prosecution, protection, and prevention — to combat human trafficking worldwide.  In addition, the Department of State employs a “4th P” — for partnership — as a complementary means to achieve progress across the 3Ps and enlist all segments of society in the fight against human trafficking.

Read more about what specific bureaus are doing to support this policy issue:

Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office): The TIP Office partners with foreign governments, international organizations, other federal agencies, civil society, the private sector, and survivors of human trafficking to combat human trafficking. It is responsible for bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, targeted foreign assistance, and public engagement on trafficking in persons. Read more about TIP Office

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future