Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children

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Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children


By: United Nations

Date: 2000

Source: United Nations General Assembly. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. 2000.

About the Author: The phrase "United Nations" was used during World War II (1939–1945) to describe the dozens of nations allied together to fight Germany and Japan, most notably including China, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States of America. These allies decided to develop a new organization to facilitate international cooperation and help prevent future wars. It would replace the League of Nations, which had failed to prevent World War II. They called it the United Nations (UN). The UN Charter was ratified on October 24, 1945. In the years since the UN has served as a forum for international negotiation and cooperation on many issues, including international security, human rights, trade and economics, and the environment.


Human trafficking for the purposes of labor and/or commercial sex has a long history, but it gained particular attention of policymakers worldwide in the twentieth century. International conventions on human trafficking include the 1910 International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic, the 1921 International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children, and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women of Full Age in 1933. While these conventions focused on women and children, future conventions, such as the 1949 United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, used more gender-neutral language and focused more on the elimination of human trafficking for the sex trade.

The United Nations defines trafficking as "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs."

Women who are used as workers in the sex industries in regions such as southeast Asia find themselves sold into brothels and turned into virtual slaves due to lack of education, debt, or drug addiction. According to an International Labor Organization 1998 estimate, the sex trade and sex tourism represents between two percent and fourteen percent of the economic activities of the countries of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Labor trafficking of men, women and children for work in sweatshop clothing factories, agricultural settings, construction, domestic settings, and in restaurants involves the exploitation of human beings and either the flagrant refusal to obey labor laws or the use of legal, but not always ethical, practices. Reports of women in India offered high-paying jobs in Saudi Arabia and forced to work for low wages for over seventy hours per week, or Chinese immigrants to the United States placed in virtual indentured servitude, working eighty or more hours in restaurants to pay back the person who smuggled them into the country are examples of illegal and dangerous aspects of forced labor. Not only does labor trafficking represent a significant percentage of the 1.4 million people trafficked within countries and across international borders, the practice often involves minors as well.

In 2000, the United Nations developed the following Protocol to control human trafficking.


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The Protocol compels UN member states to create legislation with severe penalties for those persons directly involved in human trafficking. In 2003, the United States updated the U.S. Code to make illegal the importation of minors for use in the commercial sex trade or in the creation of pornographic materials. Human trafficking, according to the International Labor Organization, is the third most profitable criminal activity in the world, after the sale of illegal drugs and weaponry.

The Council of Europe, with forty-six member nations, crafted the 2005 "Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in human beings," which would require nations who sign the convention to adopt policies that reduce human trafficking, increase penalties for human smugglers, provide basic housing, food, and medical assistance to trafficked persons seeking safe harbor, and to permit trafficked persons to remain in the country for thirty or more days.

International recognition of the scope of human trafficking was highlighted by recent stories of humans perishing in ship containers, in the backs of vans, or in semi trucks. The 2000 story of sixty Chinese immigrants found in a truck container in Dover, England—fifty-eight of whom had suffocated to death—triggered international outcry and fed international and national policy directives and conventions to control human trafficking. As the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons illustrates, effective measures against human trafficking—a $13 billion per year industry—challenge human rights policy on a global scale.



Barnitz, Laura A. Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: Youth Involved in Prostitution, Pornography & Sex Trafficking. Washington, D.C.: Youth Advocate Program International, 1998.

Oxfam International. Gender, Trafficking, and Slavery. Oxford: Oxfam, 2002.


Estes, Richard J. and Neil Alan Weiner. "The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico." Center for the Study of Youth Policy, Full Report. February 2002.

Web sites

Council of Europe. "Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings." 〈〉 (accessed April 15, 2006).

UNICEF. "Child Trafficking Research Hub." 〈〉 (accessed April 11, 2006).

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. "Trafficking in Human Beings." 〈〉 (accessed April 11, 2006).