What Is Human Trafficking? Meaning, Definition, Types, Global Issue Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is one of the most heinous forms of organised crime and violation of human rights all over the world. There is a strong concern on the rising trend and multidimensional nature of this criminal phenomenon which victimises men, women and children. Traffickers take into account neither borders, laws nor national prejudices. The objective of human trafficking is profit whether through abduction or deception, they trap innocent people whose lives are then transformed into the worst of nightmares. Trafficking assaults human dignity, violates Fundamental Rights and erodes conscience,

Types of Human Trafficking

It is important to understand the various types of human trafficking prevailing in the world. People can be trafficked and exploited in many forms, including being forced into sexual exploitation, labour, begging, crime, domestic servitude, marriage or organ removal. Trafficking in children is likely for the purpose of either child pornography or bonded labour.

Trafficking in women for sexual exploitation affects every region in the world. Victims are often provided with false promises of decent employment and are transported to the other country to be forced into sexual slavery. A forced marriage qualifies as a form of human trafficking if a woman is sent abroad, forced into the marriage and then repeatedly compelled to engage in sexual conduct . Trafficking in humans for the purpose of using their organs particularly kidneys, is a rapidly growing field of criminal activity.

Human Trafficking is a Global Issue/Concern

‘A Global Report on Trafficking in Persons’ by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) offers the first global assessment of the scope of human trafficking. It is based on data gathered from 155 countries. According to the report, the most common form of human trafficking is sexual exploitation (79%). The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls.

The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labour (18%), although this may be a misrepresentation because forced labour is less frequently detected and reported than trafficking for sexual exploitation World wide almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children.

However, in some parts of Mekong region and Africa, children are the majority (100%). Bangladesh takes the first spot on the list of 155 countries with the highest rate of human trafficking in the world. Ghana in Africa has become a point of destination for a lot of trafficking in children who are forced to work as labourers in the mines, specially gold mines. In Uganda, children are either trafficked for forced labour or they are killed for their organs. Nepal is considered to be the busiest route in human trafficking where trafficking of women takes place Some other countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Haiti where forced labour and prostitution is on high rate. Women in Iraq are also vulnerable to crimes such as sexual assault and human trafficking while women from India (mostly from poor families) are generally sold to Saudi Arabia for marriage purpose.

The Consequences of Trafficking

The consequences of human trafficking are most directly felt by those who are its victims. Trafficking usually involves prolonged and repeated trauma. The victims are at great risk of HIV infection. On the other hand, there are economic consequences of human trafficking. The amount of money that countries spend in its prevention, the treatment and support of victims and the prosecution and apprehension of offenders is huge. According to estimates from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), every year the human trafficking industry generates 32 billion USD a large but non-taxable income.

Initiatives Taken by the United Nations

Initiatives have been taken worldwide to deal with the severe issue of human trafficking. These include

(i) UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) assisted many NGOs in their fight against human trafficking,

(ii) The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UNGIHT) was conceived to promote the global fight against this crime,

(iii) United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, 2010, provide humanitarian, legal and financial aid to victims of human trafficking.

Human Trafficking in India

Human Trafficking has expanded to almost every state in India. Especially in the state of Jharkhand, human trafficking is wide-spread. Some Southern states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka also lead in human trafficking. Delhi is the hotspot for illegal trade of young girls for domestic labour, forced marriage and prostitution. Children especially young girls and women mostly from North-East are taken from their homes and sold in faraway states of India for sexual exploitation and to work as bonded labour. Girls are forced to marry more than one man in some states where female to male sex ratio is highly imbalanced.

New data released by Indian Government shows that reports of human trafficking rose by 20% in 2016 against the previous year. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) said that there were 8,132 human trafficking cases in 2016 against 6,877 in 2015, with highest number of cases reported in the state of West Bengal followed by Rajasthan.

Steps Taken by the Government of India

• Efforts have been made by the Government of India to combat the issue of human trafficking. It penalises trafficking for commercial, sexual exploitation through the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA), 1986 which prescribes penalty ranging from seven years to life imprisonment.

• India also prohibits bonded and forced labour through the Bonded Labour Abolition Act, the Child Labour Prohibition Act and the Juvenile Justice Act.

• Indian authorities also use Sections 366(A) and 372 of the Indian Penal Code prohibiting kidnapping and selling minors into prostitution respectively.

• An anti-trafficking nodal cell has been set-up under the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Home Ministry has also launched a web portal on anti-human trafficking and the Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing Ujjawala’, a programme that focuses on rescue, rehabilitation and repatriation of victims.

• Indian Constitution bans the human trafficking in person. Article 23, in the Fundamental Rights Section of the Constitution, prohibits “Traffic in human beings and other similar forms of forced labour”.

• The government has launched a “Lost and Found” or “Khoya Paya” website to help families trace the tens of thousands of children in the country who go missing every year-often abducted for forced labour or sexual exploitation-and are never found.


Even though a large number of efforts are being made in India as well as in the world against this crime, it is still prevailing in the society to a large extent. More efforts are needed to drive away this evil from the society at large. Some stringent anti-trafficking laws and their right implementation is required. People should be educated on human trafficking issues and help the survivors to find security and happiness.