Human Trafficking, Its History and Statistics


Human trafficking is the act of recruiting and transporting people using force, coercion, deception, or fraud. Trafficking is a form of trade that involves buying and selling humans against their will for commercial sex or forced labor. Traffickers are violent and manipulative people who use false promises and pretenses to take unknowing citizens into slavery within or outside the country. Trafficking happens worldwide and is rated third on the list of major crimes, with millions of people from different communities, sex, race, age, or nationality being victims.

I want to address human trafficking because it is an immoral and inhuman crime that causes emotional and psychological trauma to its victims. Families have also been separated, with loved ones being taken forcefully and suddenly regardless of their age. As such, discussing this topic will enlighten the public on the crimes of human trafficking, creating awareness of how they can be protected from becoming victims and help reduce the demand for this immoral practice. This paper will look at human trafficking while focusing on its history, statistics, type of labor involved in human trafficking, policies enacted to reduce the practice, and how the issue can be solved.


Human trafficking goes way back to the beginning of the world, where slavery was a common way of life. Human beings were traded as commodities in the marketplace and served as pets, sex slaves, and valuable property. With the beginning of colonization in the 1400s, trafficking became a famous trade in the European nations. Evidence shows that Portugal was the major country involved in the forceful kidnapping of Africans and transporting them to European countries to serve in agricultural farms and industries, especially the young men. In the mid-1800s, concerns about human trafficking and slavery were brought up, and antislavery laws were put in place. In 1991, a resurgence in women’s human trafficking emerged due to the fall of the Soviet Union. Records indicate that women were the most victims of this practice due to the mail-order brides law passed in countries such as Ukraine and Belarus. Traffickers took advantage of the regulation to forcefully trade women as wives and sex slaves.

With the fight for independence by colonized nations, human trafficking was on the decline until the 21st century when the exercise took a different form of illegal and forced labor. According to Bonilla and Mo (2019), the rise of trafficking in the 21st century is due to factors such as the ever-growing world population, poverty, corruption, political instability, and economic changes. Most human trafficking occurs in populations that are poor in society (Bonilla & Mo, 2019). Modern-day human trafficking involves forceful labor and sex trafficking, which targets people from developing countries being sold to rich countries. Asian countries lead in the trafficking of labor, followed by African countries, which are sold to Europe or the United States to provide cheap labor and sexual businesses. Human trafficking is seen as an exploitation of the vulnerable populations who are vehemently traded to become commodities in other developed countries.


The statistics of human trafficking take many forms, for example, total numbers of victims in terms of gender, the purpose of trafficking, race, and national and international cross-border trafficking, which will be discussed in detail. Statistics from the United Nations show decreased human trafficking for commercial sex and increased trafficking for confined and forced labor. It also states that different regions have different reports on human trafficking; for example, forced labor is higher in Africa than commercial sex in Europe (Cruyff et al., 2017). Thus, commercial sex is more exploited than forced labor for human trafficking. The International Labor Organization shows a global estimate of human trafficking victims to be 40.3 million, with most women at 75% (Bonilla & Mo, 2019). Out of the 40.3 million victims, 24.9 million end up in forced labor, while the remaining 15.4 enter into forceful marriages.

Moreover, one out of four victims of trafficking is between the age of 0 to 10. Forced labor comprises domestic work, working in agricultural farms and construction industries where 16 million of the 24.9 victims are exploited (Di Rienzo, 2018). Furthermore, 4.8 million victims of forceful labor are exploited sexually, while the remaining 4 million work with state authorities (Di Rienzo, 2018). Female victims of forced labor account for 99% of commercial sex while men work in industries and farms. California is estimated to be the leading state in human trafficking cases (Di Rienzo, 2018). It is estimated that victims of human trafficking are in hundreds of numbers when combined, but there are no precise totals on the national level. Globally, most human trafficking victims are transported through international cross-border routes that are official, for example, airports and national border control points, making the crimes go undetected. Alternatively, irregular cross-border routes are used to transport children and victims of commercial sex exploitation.


In the U.S, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (TVPRA), enacted in 2008, is involved in combating trafficking, especially servitude and commercial sex exploitation. The department publishes an annual report on each government’s human trafficking, which is used to evaluate efforts made to combat trafficking. The governments are then rated on three tire bases in compliance with the minimum standards required by TVPRA to eliminate trafficking. Scholarly critics of anti-human trafficking disagree with how the TVPRA system works with claims that it relies more on complying with state protocols, convictions, and prosecutions, which only serve the economic and political interests of the U.S rather than combat trafficking (Bickford, 2018). They also claim that the system does not consider risk when it rates the efforts of diverse countries.

The United Nations has enacted policies and laws that define, prosecute and prevent human trafficking. The policies are achieved through protocols, for example, the protocol that prevents smuggling of individuals through other cross-border routes of land and sea, which has helped in supporting the ability of international laws in combating trafficking (Simmons et al., 2018). Although the United Nations provide international support for anti-trafficking laws, some member countries’ compliance is a challenge when it comes to signing treaties and agreements (Di Rienzo, 2018). Some of the member countries that agree to sign may not comply with the term of the agreement, for example, failure to submit the annual reports on trafficking and reluctance to monitor by the United Nations convention. Compliance is the main issue that faces the international fight against trafficking.

The European Council on Action Against Human Beings Trafficking signed a treaty among European countries to fight against human trafficking. It focuses on protecting victims of human trafficking and fighting for their rights as human beings. The convention establishes experts on human trafficking who monitor and implement the convention’s agenda through reports from member countries. Furthermore, Europe has an established organization for cooperation and security, which involves creating public awareness of human trafficking and gaining political support to combat human trafficking. With these policies, Europe has achieved in reducing cases of human trafficking and even sends a representative to other countries to help implement anti-trafficking policies.

Recommended Solutions for Anti-Trafficking

As a major crime, governments should have a clear definition of human trafficking based on trafficking for sex or labor and indicate a severe criminal punishment as a law. Countries that consider trafficking a civil offense should reconsider making it a criminal offense to emphasize the seriousness of the offense and the punishments that go with it. Traffickers will only feel the pressure of prosecution when they have more to lose than gain (Milian, 2019). Since trafficking is a very profitable venture, the law against trafficking can be effective if it focuses on the profits obtained by traffickers. The law should enact rules that ensure traffickers lose all the assets made from the business instead of giving minor punishments. A threat to the hard-earned assets can make traffickers rethink continuing with the human trafficking business. Public awareness is also necessary to combat acts of human trafficking. When citizens are enlightened on human trafficking, how it occurs, and the consequences, they will be more vigilant to acts that may point to human trafficking. Creating websites that the public can use to report cases of human trafficking may help in preventing many people from being involved in the trade.


In conclusion, the history of human trafficking shows that it is not a new trade but a business that started and advanced through different lenses over time. It began as a lifestyle and proceeded into a major crime against humanity which is seen as a profitable business venture. Statistics also show that instead of declining with modernization, human trafficking is rapidly increasing as the years advance. More needs to be done on national and international policies regarding anti-trafficking to curb the individuals involved in this industry.


Bickford, D. (2018). Hell gate: The implications of representations of human trafficking in popular culture. Journal of Human Trafficking, 4(1), 96-99. Web.

Bonilla, T., & Mo, C. H. (2019). The evolution of human trafficking messaging in the united states and its effect on public opinion. Journal of Public Policy, 39(2), 201-234. Web.

Cruyff, M., van Dijk, J., & van der Heijden, P. (2017). The challenge of counting victims of human trafficking: Not on the record: A multiple systems estimation of the numbers of human trafficking victims in the Netherlands in 2010–2015 by year, age, gender, and type of exploitation. Chance, 30(3), 41-49. Web.

Di Rienzo, C. (2018). Compliance with anti-human trafficking policies: The mediating effect of corruption. Crime, Law and Social Change, 70(5), 525-541. Web.

Milian, J. (2019). The human-trafficking probe has no human-trafficking arrests. Here’s why. TCA Regional News. Web.

Simmons, B. A., Lloyd, P., & Stewart, B. M. (2018). The global diffusion of law: Transnational crime and the case of human trafficking. International Organization, 72(2), 249-281. Web.

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