In parts of Ghana, a family may be punished for an offense by having to turn over a virgin female to serve as a sex slave within the offended family. In this instance, the woman does not gain the title of “wife.” In parts of Ghana, Togo, and Benin, shrine slavery persists, despite being illegal in Ghana since 1998. In this system of slavery of ritual servitude, sometimes called trokosi (in Ghana) or voodoosi in Togo and Benin, young virgin girls are given as slaves in traditional shrines and are used sexually by the priests in addition to providing free labor for the shrine.
In West Africa, trafficked children have often lost one or both parents to the African AIDS crisis. Thousands of male (and sometimes female) children have been forced to be child soldiers..
In 2004, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) estimated that 600-800 persons are trafficked into Canada annually and that additional 1,500-2,200 persons are trafficked through Canada into the United States. In Canada, foreign trafficking for prostitution is estimated to be worth $400 million annually.
In Mexico human trafficking is a $15 billion to $20 billion a year endeavor, second only to drug trafficking. Thousands of immigrants from Central and South America crossing the country to arrive in the U.S. are robbed, beaten and killed in Mexico.Women and children are also captured, forced into prostitution and killed. According to US State Department estimates, more than 20,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year—mainly destined for the sex trade. In the impoverished southern state of Chiapas, children are sold for as little as 100 to 200 dollars, according to human rights groups. That area is considered one of the worst places in the world in terms of child prostitution.
Young female migrants recounted being robbed, beaten, and raped by members of criminal gangs and then forced to work in table dance bars or as prostitutes under threat of further harm to them or their families.
A 2004 report from the Human Rights Center in Berkeley, California estimated that there were then about 10,000 forced laborers in the U.S., around one-third of whom are domestic servants and some portion of whom are children. The Associated Press reported on interviews conducted in California and Egypt that trafficking of children for domestic labor in the U.S. is an extension of an illegal but common practice in Africa.
The United States of America is principally a transit and destination country for trafficking in persons. It is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked to the U.S. annually.
Within the U.S., Atlanta, Georgia has been identified as currently having the highest rate of child sex trafficking, with 200-300 exploited for the commercial sex industry every month. In response, One Voice: Atlanta, an anti-trafficking organization based at the Georgia Institute of Technology, produced a video promo for their “No Traffic is Good Traffic” benefit gala which was held on October 17, 2010.
Poor economic conditions and social problems create a climate which is favorable to human trafficking.
In Brazil, the National Research on Trafficking in Women, Children, and Adolescents for Sexual Exploitation Purposes identified 241 international and national trafficking routes.
Interpol estimates that 35,000 women are trafficked out of Colombia every year, with estimated profits of $500 million, making it second only to the Dominican Republic in the West. In Colombia, the IOM and domestic NGOs estimate that international organized crime networks are responsible for most transnational trafficking. Domestically, organized crime networks, some related to illegal armed groups, are also responsible for trafficking for sexual exploitation or organized begging, and the armed conflict has made a large number of internal trafficking victims vulnerable.
In Asia, Japan is the major destination country for trafficked women, especially from the Philippines and Thailand. In Japan the prosperous entertainment market has created a huge demand for commercial sexual workers, and such demand is being met by trafficking women and their children from the Philippines, Colombia and Thailand. Women are forced into street prostitution, stripping and live sex acts. The US State Department has rated Japan as either a ‘Tier 2’ or a ‘Tier 2 Watchlist’ country every year since 2001 in its annual Trafficking in Persons reports. Both these ratings implied that Japan was (to a greater or lesser extent) not fully compliant with minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking trade.
Bernard Dickens, professor emeritus of health law and policy at the University of Toronto Law School, has said that “Hindu girls are being smuggled and purchased from poor countries like Nepal and Bhutan to be brides for Indian men”.
It has been estimated that at least 200,000 to 225,000 women and children are trafficked from Southeast Asia annually. Most of the trafficking destinations are within the region (60 percent are major cities of the region; 40 percent are outside the region).
Within Thailand, women are trafficked from the impoverished Northeast and the North to Bangkok for sexual exploitation. It is common that Thai women are lured to Japan and sold to Yakuza-controlled brothels where they are forced to work off their price. Thailand is a major destination for child sex tourism; children are exploited in sex establishments and are also approached directly in the street by tourists seeking sexual contact.
Quoting the subhead blurb of a December 2009 online article on a German media site, the Havocscope website, which bills itself as “An online database of black market activities”, estimated that there are about 800,000 women working as prostitutes in the Philippines, with up to half of them believed to be underage. A major obstacle which prevents effective anti-trafficking enforcement is the fact that government officials and the police are often involved in trafficking operations within the country, protect such activities, and demand bribes from traffickers and pimps. In the late 1990s, UNICEF estimated that many of the 200 brothels in Angeles City offered children for sex, describing the brothels as “notorious”.
In a country where trafficking is commonplace (especially in airports), organizations such as the Asia Foundation are calling attention to human trafficking in several different ways. In August 2007, the Philippine Star ran a front page article titled “Internet Pornography: The Untouchable Crime” which called attention to the dangerous nature of human trafficking. In addition, infomercials that depict possible trafficking scenarios are being produced and aired on television to provide viewers with potential situations they should be wary of. The Asia Foundation has also been successful in setting up halfway houses and help desks in international airports dedicated to providing information to individuals to prevent them from being trafficked, and support and consolation for those who have been victims of trafficking.
Many of the Iraqi women fleeing the Iraq War are turning to prostitution, while others are trafficked abroad, to countries like Syria, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey. Prostitution in Syria alone accounts for an estimated 50,000 Iraqi refugee girls and women, many of them widows. Cheap Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists. The clients come from wealthier countries in the Middle East. High prices are offered for virgins.
According to a new United Nations estimate, there may be as many as 270,000 victims of human trafficking in the European Union. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, former Eastern bloc countries such as Albania, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine have become the major source countries for trafficking of women and children. Young women and girls are often lured to wealthier countries by promises of money and work and then compelled to work in prostitution.
It is estimated that 2/3 of women trafficked for prostitution worldwide annually come from Eastern Europe, three-quarters having never worked as prostitutes before. The major destinations are Western Europe (most common European destinations are Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy, according to UNODC), the Middle East (Turkey, Israel, the United Arab Emirates), Asia, and Russia. An estimated 500,000 women from Central and Eastern Europe are working in prostitution in the EU alone, not all of them being victims of trafficking.
Russia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for various forms of exploitation. Many women have been trafficked overseas for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Annually, thousands of trafficked Russian women end up as prostitutes in Western Europe, United States, Canada, Israel and Asian countries. The ILO estimates that there may be up to one million illegal immigrants in Russia who are victims of forced labor, which is a form of trafficking. There have also been reports of child sex tourism in Russia; however, law enforcement authorities report a decrease in the number of cases of child sex tourism and attribute this to aggressive police investigations and Russian cooperation with foreign law enforcement.
In Ukraine, a survey conducted by the NGO La Strada Ukraine in 2001–2003, based on a sample of 106 women being trafficked out of Ukraine found that 3% were under 18, and the U.S. State Department reported in 2004 that incidents of minors being trafficked was increasing. It is estimated that half a million Ukrainian women were trafficked abroad since 1991 (80% of all unemployed in Ukraine are women).
In poverty-stricken Moldova, where the unemployment rate for women ranges as high as 68% and one-third of the workforce live and work abroad, experts estimate that since the dissolution of the Soviet Union between 200,000 and 400,000 women have been sold into prostitution abroad—perhaps up to 10% of the female population.
The problem of trafficking in human beings emerged in Belarus in the 1990s, with the development of negative socio-economic trends caused by the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Economic decline, unemployment and dramatically deteriorating living standards provoked people going abroad in search of a better life and work. 3989 victims of human trafficking were identified in 2002-2009.
In Austria, Vienna has the largest number of trafficking cases, although trafficking is also a problem in urban centers such as Graz, Linz, Salzburg, and Innsbruck. The NGO Lateinamerikanische Frauen in Oesterreich–Interventionsstelle fuer Betroffene des Frauenhandels (LEFOE-IBF) reported assisting 108 trafficking victims in 2006, down from 151 in 2005.
In Belgium, in 2007, prosecutors handled 418 trafficking cases, including 219 economic exploitation and 168 sexual exploitation cases. The federal judicial police handled 196 trafficking files, compared with 184 in 2006. In 2007 the police arrested 342 persons for smuggling and trafficking-related crimes. A recent report by RiskMonitor foundation found that 70% of the prostitutes who work in Belgium are from Bulgaria.
In Greece, according to NGO estimates, there are 13,000-14,000 trafficking victims in the country at any given time. Major countries of origin for trafficking victims include Nigeria, Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, Albania, Moldova, Romania, and Belarus.
In Germany, the trafficking of women from Eastern Europe is often organized by people from that same region. Authorities identified 676 sex-trafficking victims in 2008, compared with 689 in 2007, and 96 victims of forced labor in 2008, a decrease from 101 in 2007. The German Federal Police Office BKA reported in 2006 a total of 357 completed investigations of human trafficking, with 775 victims. Thirty-five percent of the suspects were Germans born in Germany and 8% were German citizens born outside of Germany.
In Netherlands, it is estimated that there are from 1,000 to 7,000 trafficking victims a year. Most police investigations relate to legal sex businesses, with all sectors of prostitution being well represented, but with window brothels being particularly overrepresented. In 2008, there were 809 registered trafficking victims, 763 were women and at least 60 percent of them were forced to work in the sex industry. All victims from Hungary were female and were forced into prostitution. Out of all Amsterdam‘s 8,000 to 11,000 prostitutes, more than 75% are from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, according to a former prostitute who produced a report about the sex trade in Amsterdam, in 2008. An article in Le Monde in 1997 found that 80% of prostitutes in the Netherlands were foreigners and 70% had no immigration papers.
In Spain, in 2007, officials identified 1,035 sex trafficking victims and 445 labor trafficking victims.
In Switzerland, the police estimates that there may be between 1,500 and 3,000 victims of human trafficking. The organisers and their victims generally come from Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, Lithuania, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Thailand and Cambodia, and, to a lesser extent, Africa.
In the United Kingdom, the Home Office has stated that 71 women were trafficked into prostitution in 1998. They also suggest that the actual figure could be up to 1,420 women trafficked into the UK during the same period. However, the figures are problematic as the definition used in the UK to identify cases of sex trafficking — derived from the Sexual Offences Act 2003 – does not require that victims have been coerced or misled. Thus, any individual who moves to the UK for the purposes of sex work can be regarded as having been trafficked — even if they did so with their knowledge and consent. The Home Office do not appear to be keeping records of the number of people trafficked into the UK for purposes other than sexual exploitation.
In the United Kingdom, after intense pressure from Human Rights organisations, trafficking for labour exploitation was made illegal in 2004 (trafficking for sexual exploitation being criminalised many years previously). However, the 2004 law has been used very rarely, therefore by mid-2007 there had not been a single conviction under these provisions.
It has been estimated that the number of victims of human trafficking in Australia ranges between 300 and 1000 a year. In Australia, a study in 2004 documented 300 cases of trafficking over a six-week period. All but 25 of these victims were women forced into prostitution. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) lists Australia as one of 21 trafficking destination countries in the high destination category.