PHR Working Paper
The central problem in human trafficking since the first global efforts to abolish the slave trade in the late eighteenth century is the persistence of demand for unfree women, children, and men. Women and children have increasingly composed the largest share of trafficked people. Women and children can be forced into a wide range of work—from sex work and domestic labor to farm work and low skilled manufacturing—where their labor and their bodies are exploited by their owners and their clients. Women and children have distinctive social and cultural vulnerabilities that enhance their risks of being trafficked and exploited. Of the approximately 700,000 to 2,400,000 people trafficked annually across international borders today, 88% are women and children.1 As long as profits from the exploitation of unfree women and children remain high and as long as patriarchy in its many forms entrenches women and children’s vulnerabilities and seeks to exploit those vulnerabilities, trafficking will continue.