The focus of this section is on the trafficking of women and girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation, otherwise known as sex trafficking. The authors recognize that sex trafficking may and often does overlap with other forms of human trafficking. For example, an individual may initially be trafficked into forced labor as a domestic worker or caregiver, but later sold into prostitution. However, the guidance in this section will focus on the development of legislation to specifically address the trafficking of women and girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

The United Nations Human Rights Council appointed the first Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Slavery in 2008, pursuant to resolution 6/14. As listed on the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Slavery’s website, the mandate on contemporary forms of slavery includes, but is not limited to:

  • Debt bondage
  • Forced labor
  • Child slavery
  • Sexual slavery
  • Forced or early marriages
  • The sale of wives

The mandate further instructs the Special Rapporteur to coordinate efforts with the existing human rights mechanisms and treaty bodies, specifically the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography; the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; and the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children. (See: Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Slavery, Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights) 

See: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Combating Trafficking In Persons: A Handbook for Parliamentarians, 18, 2009; available in English and French.

See: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Toolkit to Combat Trafficking in Persons, 2006.

Various groups have attempted to quantify the numbers of individuals exploited in human trafficking. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that, at any given time, there are 20.9 million adults and children in forced labor. Of these victims, 4.5 million are estimated to be victims of forced sexual exploitation. This data suggests that trafficking for forced labor is more prevalent than trafficking for sexual exploitation. At the same time, the ILO further estimates that 55 percent, or 11.4 million, of all forced labor victims are women and girls.

This 2012 estimate, of 20.9 million victims globally, is considerably higher than ILO’s previous estimate given in 2005 of 12.3 million individuals; the ILO cites the increase as a result of a new and more rigorous methodology, as well as improved data sources. (See: ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labour 2012: Results and Methodology, International Labor Organization, 2012)