A Look at the Most Common Types of Human Trafficking


SEATTLE — Human trafficking has become a common topic of issue in the human rights and global poverty conversation. There are multiple elements of human trafficking to be aware of, such as what is done, how it is done and why it is done that all combine to create trafficking. The act involves recruitment, transport, harboring and receipt of people. The means include the threat or use of force, coercion, abductions, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability and giving payments or benefits. The purpose of human trafficking is exploitation, including prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery or similar practices, removal of organs and other types of exploitation. It is important to be able to recognize the common types of human trafficking in order to prevent exploitation.

The Human Rights Commission proposed three common forms of human trafficking: sex trafficking, forced labor and debt bondage. Knowing these types is the first step in the prevention of future human trafficking events.

Sex Trafficking

When thinking of human trafficking, sex trafficking is the first form that typically comes to mind. This type of trafficking affects women and children more than any other subsection of society. It involves forced participation in commercial sex acts. According to the Human Rights Commission, “In the United States, any child under the age of 18 who has been involved in a commercial sex act is considered a trafficking victim.” This is despite the presence of coercion. Women and children account for 80 percent of those who are trafficked between countries. It is important to note that forced prostitution is only one aspect of human trafficking. Also, many believe that women and girls are the only victims of sexual trafficking, but men are also perpetrated against in this form of trafficking.

Forced Labor

Another common type of human trafficking is forced labor. The Human Rights Commission gave an example of situations that lead to forced labor: “A family gives up a child to an adoption agent in Nepal because they cannot afford to care for him. He is then, in turn, sold to a sweatshop owner who forces the child to learn to sew garments without pay for hours each day. The child receives minimal nutrition and does not attend school.” Forced labor may come in the forms of domestic servitude, agricultural work, manufacturing, janitorial services, hotel services, construction, health and elder care or hair and nail salon work. Although this form of human trafficking is vastly different from sex trafficking, it is very common. Forced labor is often a cause of poverty, since they are being forced to work for little or no pay.

Debt Bondage

Lastly, debt bondage is a common form of human trafficking that occurs worldwide. The U.S. State Department describes debt bondage as “the use of a bond, or debt, to keep a person under subjugation. … Many workers around the world fall victim to debt bondage when traffickers or recruiters unlawfully exploit an initial debt the worker assumed as part of the terms of employment, or when workers inherit debt in more traditional systems of bonded labor.” This form of human trafficking is crucial to address since it is directly linked to an individual’s financial success. When a person is being exploited for a debt, they become trapped in a cycle of poverty.

Signs of Common Types of Human Trafficking

While being educated in the common types of human trafficking is important, it is more crucial to be aware of the signs of human trafficking in order to stop trafficking in its tracks. As the Human Rights Commission explains, “a person who has been trafficked may show signs that their movement is controlled, have false identity or travel documents, not know their home or work address, have no access to their earnings, be unable to negotiate working conditions, work excessively long hours over long periods, have limited or no social interaction, have limited contact with their families or with people outside of their immediate environment and think that they are bonded by debt.” Recognizing these signs of human trafficking and being aware of the common types of human trafficking are crucial first steps in eradicating these harmful occurrences in society.

– Jenna Walmer
Photo: Flickr


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