What is human trafficking?


“Trafficking in persons” or “human trafficking” are terms for the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Trafficking is:

a human rights violation

forced sexual exploitation of adults

commercial sexual exploitation of children

labor trafficking 

forced marriage.  

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its subsequent reauthorizations define human trafficking as:

a) Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or

b) The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. (22 U.S.C. § 7102(9)).



According to a September 2017 report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Walk Free Foundation:  An estimated 24.9 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery worldwide. Of these, 16 million (64%) were exploited for labor, 4.8 million (19%) were sexually exploited, and 4.1 million (17%) were exploited in state-imposed forced labor.  


The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 41,088 contacts and 10, 949 cases in the United States in 2018.

More Facts

  • Human Trafficking only became illegal in the United States in 2000 with passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) 

  • Human Trafficking is a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex.

  • Human trafficking is often confused with human smuggling, which involves illegal border crossings. In fact, the crime of human trafficking does not require any movement whatsoever. Survivors can be recruited and trafficked in their own home towns, even their own homes.