Human Sex Trafficking is a form of slavery. It happens when human beings are sold and bought for the purposes of sexual exploitation. It includes people (mostly women and girls) being recruited, transported, transferred, harboured or received. These actions are accomplished by means of force, the threat of force, or other forms of coercion. It is always involuntary because even when consent is achieved, it is through some form of fraud, deception, abduction/kidnapping or abuse of power/vulnerability (adapted from the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, 2000). Although there are numerous forms of human trafficking.
Extent of the Problem
Estimates range from a low of 700,000 to a high of 4 million people that are trafficked annually worldwide. It is estimated that two children per minute are trafficked for sexual exploitation─an estimated 1.2 million every year (UNICEF). The sale of human beings is run by international organized crime. Human trafficking is a $10 billion (USD) annual business. Profits from human trafficking fuel other criminal activities.
Trafficking in Canada
The R.C.M.P. estimates that 800 foreign women are bought into the Canadian sex trade each year by human traffickers. Another 2,200 newcomers to Canada are smuggled into the United States from Canada for work in brothels, sweatshops, domestic jobs and construction work. It is widely believed that only 1 in 10 victims in trafficking report to the police, so the numbers are likely much larger.
Who is Being Trafficked?
90% of people sexually trafficked are women and girls. Members of society who are most at risk of sexual trafficking are women, the poor, youth, widows/abandoned wives, orphans/abandoned children, and those with histories of (sexual) abuse.
Why it Happens
Pull factor: Demand for sex. There is a global marketplace made up of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of brothels, bars, strip clubs, massage parlors, escort services, and street corners where (mostly) men purchase people for sexual acts.
Push factors: Poverty, high unemployment rates, domestic violence/childhood abuse, discrimination against women, desire for a better life and a way to help their families. These factors make women and girls more vulnerable to entry into the global sex trade.
Trafficking vs. Prostitution
Sometimes the terms prostitution and sexual trafficking are used interchangeably, but they are different. Trafficking requires an element of force, coercion, deception and exploitation (whereas this is not always the case for prostitution). People are also trafficked sexually for many different aspects of commercial sexual exploitation; not just prostitution. If prostitution/procuring becomes legalized in Canada, this will directly increase the size of the sex industry, as well as the demand for more prostitutes and others in the sex trade. These extra bodies will be supplied internationally, and trafficked into Canada. (Case example: Victoria, Australia: Prostitution was legalized in 1994. This led to a massive increase in the sex industry, and also the levels of sex trafficking into the country).
Local pimps, family members or other small-time criminals can be involved in human trafficking. In Canada, gangs and larger organized crime networks are significantly involved in the sale and distribution of humans for exploitation. Traffickers may be male or female, family members or trusted associates, and affluent and seemingly upstanding members of the community. Recruiters and traffickers are often women and sometimes relatives; almost always known and trusted by targeted victims. Traffickers use various methods to trap victims and exploit vulnerable persons for profit or personal gain