Definitions & Statistics

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Over the past 15 years, “trafficking in persons” and “human trafficking” have been used as umbrella terms for activities involved when one person obtains or holds another person in compelled service. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) describes this compelled service using a number of different terms: involuntary servitude, slavery, debt bondage, and forced labor.

Under the TVPA, individuals may be trafficking victims regardless of whether they once consented, participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked, were transported into the exploitative situation, or were simply born into a state of servitude. At the heart of this phenomenon are the myriad forms of enslavement – not the activities involved in international transportation.

Major forms of human trafficking include forced labor, sex trafficking, bonded labor, debt bondage among migrant laborers, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, child soldiers, and child sex trafficking [TIP Report, 2010].  


The following information appears in the United National Office on Drugs and Crime's A Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, February 2009:
  • Human trafficking is made up of 79% sex trafficking, 18% forced labor, and 3% other trafficking.
  • Trafficking victims are 66% women, 13% girls, 12% men, and 9% boys.

The following information appears in Encyclopedia of Social Problems, Vol. 2, edited by Vincent N. Parrillo (Sage Publications, 2008), pp. 462-463:
  • Global annual profits from human trafficking are estimated at $44.3 billion.
  • Estimates range from 12 - 27 million people worldwide are trafficked each year.
  • Estimates are that up to 17,500 persons are trafficked into the United States every year.
  • Human trafficking occurs in at least 127 countries and trafficked persons are exploited in 137 countries.
Other statistics that help tell the story of the scourge of human trafficking:
  • Demand is driving the markets and thriving due to the culture of tolerance that exists globally for the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls [Hearing before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, House of Representatives, 111th Congress, Second Session, 25 March 2010].
  • Once out on the street, one out of every three teens will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home [National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children (NISMART-2), (2002). Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs, U.S. Department of Justice].
  • According to a 2007 report by the Department of Health and Human Services, 45 beds in the U.S. were available in shelters for victims of commercial sex trafficking in the nation. Since then, six beds have had to close due to lack of funding.