Is Trafficking in Human Beings Demand Driven?

A Multi-Country Pilot Study

image of Is Trafficking in Human Beings Demand Driven?

This research paper reveals the findings of a multi-country pilot study carried out to investigate the demand side related to the trafficking of human beings. It focuses on employer demand for domestic workers in private homes and consumer demand for commercial sexual services in selected European and Asian countries. In both sex and domestic work, the absence of effective regulation is one of the factors that help to create an environment in which it is possible and profitable to use forced labour.



The demand side of trafficking - Conceptual and political problems

To conduct research on any given topic, it is necessary to define the phenomenon under investigation. Exploring the demand for the labour/services of “trafficked” persons presented two sets of very serious problems. First, who is to be counted as a “trafficked” person and, second, what is meant by “demand”? The problems and political divisions surrounding the term “trafficking” are not fully resolved by the definition adopted in the United Nations’ Palermo Protocol on trafficking in persons (2000), since it fails to define many of the constituent elements of “trafficking”. For example, the terms “sexual exploitation” and “exploitation of the prostitution of others” are not defined. This makes it virtually impossible to specify who has or has not been “trafficked” into the commercial sex trade without becoming embroiled in the more general debate about the rights and wrongs of prostitution — a debate which is both highly polarized and hugely emotive. The protocol’s failure to explicitly define difficult terms such as “exploitation”, “coercion”, “vulnerability” and so on, is equally problematic in relation to other sectors (Anderson and O’Connell Davidson, 2002). The question of who counts as a “trafficked” person is also clouded by the fuzzy and unworkable distinctions between trafficking, smuggling and migration.


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