Trafficking in persons is an increasing problem that involves both sexual exploitation and labor exploitation of its victims. Trafficking affects all regions and the majority of countries in the world. Both men and women may be victims of trafficking, but the primary victims worldwide are women and girls, the majority of whom are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Traffickers primarily target women because they are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination, factors that impede their access to employment, educational opportunities and other resources.

Women’s advocates in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS), and around the world, are addressing the problem of women being trafficked into the commercial sex industry as a human rights violation and a form of gender-based violence.

Trafficking in women is a complicated phenomenon with many forces that affect women’s decisions to work abroad. Perhaps the strongest factor is the desperate economic situation, which impacts the availability of satisfactory employment in many countries for women more severely than men. Women may become victims of trafficking when they seek assistance to obtain employment, work permits, visas and other travel documents. Traffickers prey on women’s vulnerable circumstances and may lure them into crime networks through deceit and false promises of decent working conditions and fair pay.

Women from the CEE/CIS region are trafficked through formal and informal channels all over the world. In some cases, women go abroad knowing that they will work in the sex industry, but without awareness of the terrible work conditions and violence that accompany the trafficking business. Other women answer job advertisements for positions abroad such as dancers, waitresses, and nannies, only to find themselves held against their will and forced into prostitution and sexual slavery. In the destination countries, women are subjected to physical violence, sexual assault and rape, battery, imprisonment, threats and other forms of coercion.

Under international law, governments are obligated to protect their citizens from being trafficked, through programs that aim at prevention and the protection of victims. Prevention of trafficking in women requires examining the factors that contribute to the problem as well as providing education to potential victims. Both government and non-governmental programs should identify women who are at-risk for trafficking and provide them with the tools necessary to find work abroad without putting themselves at risk. At the same time, more far-reaching programs that address gender inequalities in the labor market are needed to combat trafficking in women.

A comprehensive strategy for combating trafficking must also consider the safety of the victims. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and state agencies that work with repatriated victims of trafficking should also address the multiple difficulties women face when they attempt to reintegrate. Victims of trafficking face a range of needs including physical and mental health care, job training and employment issues, housing issues and, possibly, childcare.

The following sections are available on this site:

Explore the Issue

This section of the site allows users to increase their understanding of the problem of trafficking in women through an exploration of the definition of trafficking, the prevalence of the problem, factors that contribute to trafficking, its effects on victims and strategies for protection and support of victims and for prevention of the problem.

Research and Reports

This section of the site provides advocates with selected materials on trafficking in women that are available on the web, on such topics as how international organizations, like the United Nations and the European Union, have responded to the problem, information about source and destination countries and resources for NGOs on addressing the problem of trafficking.

Law and Policy

This section of the site outlines the international legal obligations, in both the United Nations and the European human rights systems, to prevent and combat trafficking in women. This section also provides information on how national legislation and policy can address the problem of trafficking through, for example, criminal and immigration law.

Training Materials

The STOPVAW site offers sample training materials on trafficking in women. These materials are designed to provide advocates with basic training tools that can be adapted to country-specific circumstances, the goals of a training program and the training audience. It is recommended that advocates use the training materials on trafficking in women in conjunction with the more general Guidelines for Developing a Training Program which introduce a methodology for conducting training for the general public and individuals and organizations working to eliminate violence against women.

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