Trafficking FAQs

Q 1: What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking has been defined by various bodies like the various agencies of the United Nations, United States of America, SAARC, etc
Although there are many sources of the definition of human trafficking there is not much difference among them. In fact there is a considerable agreement among them. The definition by SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) is limited to the end purpose of prostitution. For the precise definitions go to ****

Here we shall try to understand the meaning of the term human trafficking.
You will find that the term ‘trafficking’ is often used as a quick reference to the term and phenomenon ‘Human Trafficking’. You should keep in mind that it may not be fully correct as currently we are encountering trafficking in humans as well as trafficking in drugs.

You will also come across the terms ‘sex trafficking’ and ‘bride trafficking’ Here the reference is to the end result or purpose of trafficking. When it is for inducting the trafficked person in the sex trade it is often called as sex trafficking. Similarly, when a woman is trafficked for exploiting her variously in the prime role of a common wife then it is called bride trafficking.
The term ‘child trafficking’ refers to that category of human trafficking where the object of trafficking is a child.

Trafficking is colloquially used for the movement of vehicles from one place to another.

Trafficking, in short, is the buying, selling, moving, confining of persons for illegal and criminal purposes with force, deception and such other means. Persons are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation (conventionally called prostitution), servitude, bondage, forced labour and other criminal purposes.

The end purpose of trafficking is to make profit for the trafficker and not for the person subjected to trafficking.

Almost always illegal criminal and unethical means starting from lure, deception, false promise, etc to drugging, criminal force, wrongful confinement, kidnapping/abduction etc are used to accomplish this movement.
Hence human trafficking has three components-

the Act (procuring, buying, recruiting, taking, receiving, harbouring, transporting, transferring, a person

the Means – Force, Fraud, Deception, Coercion, buying, drugging, wrongfully confining, kidnapping/abducting, and such other criminal means

the Purpose- the purpose is to exploit the person for someone else’s gains
e.g. sex trade, bonded or forced labour, organ harvesting and trade, slavery, slavery like conditions, servitude, illegal adoption (baby selling), mail bride, human sacrifice, child soldiers. The activities indicated in the point on purpose above are actually the crimes to which the person is subjected at the destinations hence they are aptly called the destination crimes

Q 2: Is human trafficking a global problem?

Yes! Human trafficking is present in almost all countries regardless of their;

  • Size (small or large countries)
  • Economic standing (rich or poor)
  • Technological advancement
  • Religious status (religious or secular)
  • Economic order (state ownership, liberal economy or mixed economy)
  • Political ideology (communist, liberal, democratic, socialist)
  • History of civilization (old civilizations as well as new nations)

It is often seen that the economically backward countries and politically disintegrated societies are also high on supplying the trafficking victims while the rich stable and technologically advanced countries are low on supply and high on exploitation of trafficked victims.

Q 3: Is trafficking different from prostitution?

Trafficking is different from prostitution. Trafficking refers to a set of acts such as procuring, buying, selling, moving, transporting etc of human beings through deception, coercion, force, fraud, compulsion etc. Prostitution is one of the sites or purposes for which a person is trafficked.

Q 5: Must human trafficking involve transportation of a person from one place to another?

In strict technical terms change of place often happens in most of our normal life activities. If by change of place we mean across districts, states, nations and continents then that is not the essential condition for human trafficking although we often come across such shifts. The definitions use a term Transfer which refers to the change of status or situation of the person subjected to trafficking without the change of place.
Many young girls are employed in certain types of establishments and jobs in one position and then with force or fraud they are made to engage in exploitative life. E.g. girls and women working in cigarette industry for rolling beedis, or in ladies bars for serving liquor, or Dance bar for dancing but soon pressurized to sell their bodily sex without having to change their place of residence or work. This is what is suggested by the use of the term transfer in the definitions.

Q 6: Is Human Trafficking same as sex trade, indentured labour, prostitution, slavery, bonded labour, organized beggary It is important to note that trafficking?

No! As explained above Human Trafficking refers to acquiring human beings by criminal means and inducting them into a variety of exploitative purposes or destination crimes. Thus they are not the same as the destination crimes. More clearly human trafficking is not the same as slavery or bonded labour while they are distinct they are also very close to one another. Sex trafficking is different than the sex trade. The former is carried out for the latter.

Q 7: What is Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE)?

Commercial Sexual Exploitation is a better term for what is traditionally and conventionally but inaccurately referred to as prostitution. It is an act;

  • carried out in an organized manner
  • of sexual exploitation of a person
  • involves an exploiter
  • the exploitation is effected singularly or in an organized manner
  • it is for the profit of the exploiter
  • by providing to the buyer access to the sexual faculties of the exploited person
  • the person’s sexuality is sold to any customer who buys it.

The term commercial sexual exploitation essentially indicates exploitation as an essential characteristic of the transaction. The word Commercial in it indicates the commoditization of a human being, and presupposes production/ collection (procurement), storage, transport, packing, labeling, display, advertisement, sale, retail outlet, sales manager, and commission.
The term prostitution was conventionally understood as a solo act of selling of sex by a woman.
The term prostitution in itself did not convey exploitation.
The conventional term prostitution did not indicate the presence or role of any person other than a woman seller and a male buyer.
The term prostitution did not convey the reality accurately but wrongly projected the woman as an independent solo actor acting on her own accord, for her own profits by selling her sexuality.
The definition also did not take note of the criminal organization of the flesh trade and the role of the procurers, traffickers, managers, brothel keepers, pimps and financiers.
The term Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) covers the reality far more accurately as compared to any other terms, which have been used to refer to the phenomenon under discussion.

Q 8: What is the definition of Bonded Labour System?

Sec 2 (g) of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 defines bonded labour as follows;
(g) “bonded labour system” means the system of forced, or partly forced, labour under which a debtor enters, or has, or is presumed to have, entered, into an agreement with the creditor to the effect that,-

    • in consideration of an advance obtained by him or by any of his lineal ascendants or descendants (whether or not such advance is evidenced by any document) and in consideration of the interest, if any, due on such advance,


    • in pursuance of any customary or social obligation,


    • in pursuance of an obligation devolving on him by succession,


    • for any economic consideration received by him or by any of his lineal ascendants or descendants,


    • by reason of his birth in any particular caste or community,

he would-
(1) render, by himself or through any member of his family, or any person dependent on him, labour or service to the creditor, or for the benefit of the creditor, for a specified period or for an unspecified period, either without wages or for nominal wages, or
(2) for the freedom of employment or other means of livelihood for a specified period or for an unspecified period, or
(3) forfeit the right to move freely throughout the territory of India, or
(4) forfeit the right to appropriate or sell at market value any of his property or product of his labour or the labour of a member of his family or any person dependent on him,
and includes the system of forced, or partly forced, labour under which a surety for a debtor enters, or has, or is presumed to have, entered, into an agreement with the creditor to the effect that in the event of the failure of the debtor to repay the debt, he would render the bonded labour on behalf of the debtor;
1 [Explanation.-For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that any system of force or partly forced labour under which any workman being contract labour as defined in clause (b) of subsection (1) of section 2 of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 (73 of 1970), or an inter-State migrant workman as defined in clause (e) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of the Inter-state Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 (30 of 1979), is required to render labour or service in circumstances of the nature mentioned in sub-clause (1) of this clause or is subjected to all or any of the disabilities referred to in subclauses (2) to ( 4), is “bonded labour system” within the meaning of this clause].

Q 9: What is the difference between trafficking and migration?

Migration is a relatively permanent shift of abode by a person, family or a group of people. Historically the term migration has been used to indicate a voluntary shift of abode for betterment. There was a routine shift of abode of women outside their village or district or city due to marriage. In the developing countries there is also a similar shift in the abode of the student population as it moves to higher education. In other cases more important jobs made people leave their place of origin and shift to newer places often permanently.

Historically persons, families, and groups of people also shifted their abode due to certain unavoidable situations like war, organized violence (riots, ethnic cleansing), famines and droughts, manmade disasters like earthquakes, forest fires, and tsunamis, outbreak of epidemics, industrial depression, project displacement, or personal mishaps like marital desertion, abandonment, kidnapping, etc. The latter category has a striking element the element of lack of voluntarism or choice. Hence it is better described by the terms forced migration, eviction, uprootment, displacement or stress migration. The element of voluntarism makes migration distinctly stand out from the second category of shift namely eviction.

Trafficking is not the same as migration since the element of consent or voluntarism is missing. In some cases the element of voluntarism is apparent but closer analysis shows that the consent is for the apparently fair plan suggested by the trafficker as a part of his larger game of deception.
When trafficking is interpreted as migration the crime inherent therein is made invisible or trivial which is incorrect and unfair.

Trafficking and migration are however closely related. Unsafe migration often glides into trafficking easily.While some people make the conceptual error some others do it purposely as they have interest in the destination crime of human trafficking such as labour exploitation, sex trade etc.

Q 10: What are ‘destination crimes’ of human trafficking?

Human trafficking is carried out with the end purpose of subjecting a person so trafficked to a life of exploitation for the profit of person other than that person. The life of exploitation varies and includes although not limited to sex trade (prostitution), slavery, servitude, bonded labour, indentured labour, organized beggary, human organ harvesting and trading, mail brides,adoption)baby selling rackets), camel jockeying, etc.

All the above mentioned activities may be aptly called ‘the destination crimes’. The activities named as destinations crimes are prohibited by law in most countries. In India there are separate laws to address each type of the destination crime.

Q 11: In India are their laws against human trafficking?

India does not have a union of state law specifically or exclusively against trafficking. The various laws against the destination crimes also cover the offence of trafficking.

There are some provisions in the principal criminal law of India the Indian Penal Code -1860. e. g. Until 2013 there was a provision that declared slavery as offence in Section 370.
Through an amendment in the criminal laws in March 2013 Sec 370 was replaced by a definition of trafficking an declaring it as a punishable offence.

Q 12: In India are there laws against the destination crimes?

Yes! In India there are laws against the abovementioned destination crimes. e.g. Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1056, Bonded Labour Systems (Abolition) Act 1977, Transplantation of Human Organs Act XX, Bombay Prohibition of Beggaries Act XX, CARA Guidelines for adoption, Child Labour ( Prohibition and Regulation) Act, Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act 2012, Devadasi Abolition Acts of some states, Indian Penal Code 1860 etc

Q 13: In India are there laws against migration?

No and Yes!
In general the Constitution of India gives the right to its citizens to move around freely in any part of the country.
Articles 19 (d) (e) and (g) give the following rights to the citizens of India;
(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;
(e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India;
(g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

The State is authorized to put some restrictions on the movement such as certain scheduled areas and army areas etc.

There is a union law The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 that governs the conditions of migrant workers across the states of India with a view to protect the workers.

As regards the movement across the national borders there are various country specific immigration procedures. Although the human movement across the countries of the SARC region have been made more liberal in recent years strict procedures still govern the movement in most cases. There are no immigration procedures across the Indo Nepal Border whether for tourism or for employment. But strict laws govern the movement between India and Pakistan.

Q 14: What is Sex Tourism? Is it connected with trafficking?

In most cases of human trafficking the victim is shifted from his/her place of origin to the destination place where exploitation occurs routinely. In some case of sexual exploitation the exploiters travel long or short distances and visit the countries and foreign places where they can sexually exploit victims without mush risk or fear of the law. This phenomenon is termed as sex tourism. Today, a substantial part of business and entertainment tourism includes sex tourism. Some places have emerged as the world capitals of sex tourism e.g. Bangkok in Thailand, Amsterdam in the Netherland and Goa in India.

Q 15: Is sex Tourism exclusively international in nature?

No! Domestic tourism is as much a reality as international tourism.

Q 16: Why is sex tourism flourishing?

Tourism offers several benefits to a tourist prominent among them for a sex tourist are novelty, near immunity against legal action, and most importantly facelessness or anonymity.
When the tourist is in a foreign land, the anonymity relieves him from several social and legal constraints, which he otherwise faces in his own country. As a Japanese proverb goes, “the traveler knows no shame” or as an European one states, “the farther I go from home the less moral I become”. He thus ventures in sexual experiments and attempts to gratify all his socially unacceptable sexual desires and fantasies.
Sex tourism consolidates racial discrimination and exploits other races, which the tourists think, are inferior. A variety of doctrines enable the tourists to justify the exploitation by saying that sex with children is acceptable in the culture of the society they are visiting.

In general due to globalization and advancement in air travel technology overall tourism has increased. The tourism and entertainment industry grow hand in hand. With growth in tourism sex tourism has also increased and has increased the demand for victims in the sex trade which in turn has fuelled human trafficking.

Q 17: Are children the prime victims in sex tourism? If yes, why

Yes! It has been observed that children are the prime victims of sex tourism. In general the sex tourists demand virgins due to a variety of myths surrounding the idea of sex with children. The fear of contracting HIV/AIDS through casual sex encounters has created huge demand for children and virgins in the sex trade as the tourist believe that they are least likely to be infected and least likely to infect others.

Q 18: What is the incidence of human trafficking in the world?

Human trafficking being a disguised heinous crime it is impossible to have any reliable statistics on it. The data keeping and data management standards of different countries are extremely wide ranging
The definitions of trafficking followed by different countries are also different. The understanding of the people engaged in collecting and quoting statistics about human trafficking across countries and withing countries is widely different.
The official data that are maintained are that of reported incidence of the trafficking crimes. Many countries do not have the crime of trafficking codified in their law books. e.g. India introduced the term and offence ‘trafficking’ in its law book only in the year 2013.

All these factors make it impossible to have any reliable statistics about human trafficking.
What get circulated in the name of statistics deserve to be aptly called as sheer ‘guesstimates’ and not even estimates.
When monetary and other incentives get attached with making higher guesstimates the guesstimates tend to snowball and become bigger in volume.
It does not mean that the problem of human trafficking is any less serious or not alarming. The inability to record or count the crime does not discredit the overall perception that human slavery is not at all over and that it is being encountered rampantly. As no one has any data about the historical incidence of slavery and human trafficking making a well founded empirically established comparative statement on the incidence may not be possible. However, that does not discredit the overall concern expressed by different stakeholders that the incidence is rising.

To the extent the various stake holders across the world follow a common definition and make a responsible and verified statement about the incidence as witnessed by them there is a hope and a way to arrive at a better idea about the overall incidence.

Q 19: Who gets trafficked?

Anyone who is vulnerable and available and by trafficking whom profits can be made by the trafficker, carries the risk of getting trafficked. Infants are trafficked for illegal adoption, organ harvesting and organized beggary. Children get trafficked for all these as well as for the labour sector. Young people get trafficked for labour sector exploitation, for the sex trade, for shadow entertainment. Young women also get trafficked as common or temporary brides. Old people get trafficked for organ harvesting. People of every religion, political system, age, race, creed get trafficked. Poor people, unsupported and unprotected persons people of poorer countries, belonging to lower social strata are most susceptible to getting trafficked.

Q 20: Are there any efforts to combat human trafficking?

Yes, the world has awakened to the alarming problem of human trafficking and numerous efforts are being made to combat trafficking and restore the dignity of the persons victimized by the trafficking crime.

The States of the world have together and individually passed laws, declared policies and Plans of Action to combat trafficking in persons. They have announced programmes and allocated financial and managerial resources to accomplish the anti trafficking agenda.
Many civil society organizations and committed individuals have contributed enormously to the anti trafficking cause. The civil society sector is on the forefront and has made great path-breaking contributions in various domains from prevention & protection to rehabilitation & repatriation.