Learn more about our work and gain perspective about topics related to human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children was ratified by 177 countries and sets the internationally recognized definition of human trafficking. It establishes that human trafficking is a crime and human rights violation that has three parts: it is an act carried out through a means for a purpose.
A trafficker engages in the act of transporting, harboring, transferring or recruiting a person using means. In other words, they use a manner or method to engage in the acts involved in human trafficking. The means are violent and abusive toward the person they are trafficking: the threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or a position of vulnerability, or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits.
The purpose, or end goal, of human trafficking is always the exploitation of the person who is being trafficked. Exploitation can manifest in numerous forms but the Protocol highlights and separates four distinct forms: exploitation of the prostitution of others and other forms of sexual exploitation (sex trafficking); forced labor or services (labor trafficking); slavery, practices similar to slavery and servitude; the removal of organs. Each requires distinct solutions, but are all equally important to combat.
The UN defines sexual exploitation as “Any actual or attempted abuse of [someone’s] position of vulnerability, differential power or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.”
Prostitution is a particular form of sexual exploitation that involves commodifying someone to be bought, sold, and exchanged for money or social and political currency.
Sexual exploitation erodes a person’s human right to dignity, equality, autonomy, and physical and mental well-being.
Our international headquarters based in New York City engages in advocacy and awareness raising on an international, national and local level and supports survivor leaders’ advocacy efforts. We don’t provide direct services, such as housing, medical services, trauma-informed counseling, education or job trainings, to victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. However, we do partner with direct service providers and survivor-led organizations to support their work and inform our own advocacy efforts. Our regional offices, CATW-LAC in Mexico City and CATW-AP in Manila, both provide different direct services to victims and survivors on the ground in their areas. For more information check out CATW-LAC and CATW-AP’s pages. If you are looking for help for yourself or a loved one, please view our list of resources.