Throughout this knowledge module, reference to certain provisions or sections of a piece of legislation, part of a legal judgment, or aspect of a practice does not imply that the legislation, judgment, or practice is considered in its entirety to be a good example or a promising practice.

Some of the laws cited herein may contain provisions which authorize the death penalty. In light of the United Nations General Assembly resolutions 62/14963/16865/206, and 67/176 calling for a moratorium on and ultimate abolition of capital punishment, the death penalty should not be included in sentencing provisions for crimes of violence against women and girls.

Other Provisions Related to Domestic Violence LawsResources for Developing Legislation on Domestic Violence
Sexual Harassment in Sport Tools for Drafting Sexual Harassment Laws and Policies
Immigration Provisions Resources for developing legislation on sex trafficking of women and girls
Child Protection Provisions Resources on Forced and Child Marriage
Other provisions related to dowry-related and domestic violence laws
Related Tools

Overview and identification and screening for sex trafficking

Last edited: January 25, 2011

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Legislation on violence against women should provide safety, aid, and empowerment to survivors through criminal and civil provisions which include a broad range of remedies and reparations for women who have been subjected to violence.

Drafters should ensure that protections for victims and witnesses include the identification and screening for sex trafficking victims, a reflection period, provision of benefits and services, crime victim rights, crime victim-witness protection, and remedies for immigrant victims.

Identification and Screening for Sex Trafficking

While the identification of sex trafficking victims is incredibly important, drafters should ensure that the law does not require verification of trafficking in order to receive services.  (See: UNHCR The Identification and Referral of Trafficked Persons to Procedures for Determining International Protection Needs, para. 22)

Drafters should ensure that sex trafficking laws require law enforcement and other first responders to proactively identify trafficking victims. Indicators and screening questions have been developed to assist non-governmental organizations, law enforcement and others to identify trafficking victims. (See: UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual, Module 2, 2009) Once identified, trafficking victims should be referred to service providers for assistance. 

Law enforcement, service providers and medical professionals, in particular, should look beneath the surface of any situation where they suspect an individual has been trafficked for labor or for sexual exploitation. In particular, individuals detained on prostitution-related offences must be screened given the clear links between sex trafficking and prostitution. Screening is particularly important where children are concerned so that rather than being placed in juvenile detention, children receive services. 


Caring for Trafficked Persons: Guidance for Health Providers, International Organization for Migration, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 2012; available in English

Law Enforcement Pocket Card, Office of Refugee Resettlement, United States Department of Health and Human Services. Available in English.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime created an UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners, which contains a module describing the indictors that may be present to assist first responders in identifying trafficking victims. Indicators include, but are not limited to:

  • The individual feels they cannot leave the situation;
  • The individual displays anxiety, fear, and distrust;
  • The individual feels threatened or that he/she will be threatened or that his/her family is or will be threatened if she is not compliant;
  • The individual has injuries that appear to have resulted from an assault;
  • The individual is unable to move or leave a job;
  • The individual is isolated from any support system;
  • The individual is deprived of basic necessities such as food, water, shelter and medical care;
  • The individual is indebted with no possibility of repaying the debt; and
  • The individual lacks access to identity documents such as a state identification card, driver’s license, or passport.


Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners, Module 2, 2009; available in English;

Screening Tools for Victims of Trafficking, US Department of Health and Human Services; available in English.

Trafficking in Human Beings: Identification of Potential and Presumed Victims, A Community Policing Approach, OSCE, 2011; available in English

In Their Shoes: Understanding Victims’ Mindsets and Common Barriers to Victim Identification, Polaris Project, 2010 Available in English

Promising Practices:

In many countries, state and local governments have taken steps to proactively identify victims among vulnerable populations, including women and children in the sex industry. For example, in Austria, the police screen women in prostitution for trafficking indicators. The Austrian government, in coordination with an NGO, also launched a program to begin screening individuals seeking asylum for trafficking indicators in 2011. The Austrian government continued these efforts to proactively identify victims among vulnerable populations in 2012. (See: U.S. State Department 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report, 76, 2012; U.S. State Department 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report, 82, 2013)

In Minnesota, USA, the state legislature enacted a law which provides sexually exploited youth and youth at risk of sexual exploitation with the services and assistance they need. The legislation includes funding for a statewide coordinator and 6 regional navigators to identify and connect youth with needed services. In addition to these positions, the legislation also provided funding for training and victim housing and redefined ‘sexually exploited youth’ to ensure that youth victims of sexual exploitation are given the protection and services needed, rather than criminalized for prostitution related offences. (See: Safe Harbor 2013/No Wrong Door, Sections 43-45, 622.17; Section 37, 130.14, Minnesota, USA, 2013)

The United Kingdom created practice guidance for a cross-sector approach that specifically targets youth at risk of sexual exploitation. Offering guidance to emergency health personnel, teachers and youth workers on identification, screening and initial actions where there are concerns a child has been trafficked (See: Safeguarding children who may have been trafficked, Department for Education, United Kingdom, 2011)

London Safeguarding Trafficked Children Toolkit 2011, London Safeguarding Children Board, 2011; available in English

Drafters should ensure that the law does not require verification of trafficking in order to receive services. Rather, victims must be identified, but need not be verified. (See: UNHCR The Identification and Referral of Trafficked Persons to Procedures for Determining International Protection Needs, para. 22)