Trafficking and Human Rights

Trafficking and Human Rights

European and Asia-Pacific Perspectives

Edited by Leslie Holmes

Human trafficking is widely considered to be the fastest growing branch of trafficking. It has moved rapidly up the agenda of states and international organisations since the early-1990s, not only because of this growth, but also as its implications for security and human rights have become clearer. This fascinating study by European and Australian specialists provides original research findings on human trafficking, with particular reference to Europe, South-East Asia and Australia. A major focus is on how many states and organisations act in ways that undermine trafficking victims’ rights.

Chapter 1: Introduction: The Issue of Human Trafficking

Leslie Holmes

Subjects: asian studies, asian law, development studies, migration, law - academic, asian law, human rights, politics and public policy, human rights, international relations, social policy and sociology, migration


Leslie Holmes Human trafficking has justifiably been called the slavery of our times. While the overwhelming majority of internationally trafficked persons – an estimated 80 per cent – are women and children, many thousands of men are trafficked each year too. The majority of internationally trafficked persons are forced into what is nowadays an antiquated term, ‘white slavery’ – that is, sex work. One reason why this term is no longer appropriate is that contemporary trafficking involves people of all colours, ethnicities and religions. But not all trafficked persons are engaged in sex work. While some – especially children – operate in the shadow economy as beggars or pickpockets, many others work in more or less legitimate areas of national economies, including agriculture, construction, fishing, domestic service, and manufacturing. Many other children are trafficked for adoption purposes, which sometimes results in them virtually becoming slaves to their new families. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), some 43 per cent of trafficked persons are trafficked for sexual exploitation, 32 per cent for non-sexual labour exploitation and circa 25 per cent for a mixture of sexual and nonsexual labour exploitation (ILO 2008: 3). One feature common to all trafficked persons is that, irrespective of the type of work in which they are engaged, they are being severely exploited, enjoy few if any human rights and, in one way or another, are being severely coerced. Most have also been deceived by traffickers. Before exploring this issue further, it is necessary to define two of the key terms...