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The Challenge

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Women and Girls

No government or international agency knows how many people are victims of human trafficking due to the crime’s illicit nature. Some agencies estimate 2.5 million victims (UNODC), others 27 million (U.S. State Department). However, there are some things we do know.

Human trafficking exists in every country in the world — as a place of origin, transit or destination for victims of the crime. An extreme violation of human rights, trafficking in persons occurs across borders and within cities and towns victims have never left. The overwhelming majority of human trafficking victims are women and girls, most of whom are bought and sold in the multi-billion dollar sex trade, where they suffer extreme violence at the hands of exploiters, including sex buyers. Women and girls trafficked for forced labor are equally vulnerable to sexual exploitation and violence.

Understanding Human Trafficking

Understanding Human Trafficking

There are many myths and misconceptions about human trafficking. The internationally accepted definition helps set the record straight about what this human rights violation really is.

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Violence Against Women and Girls

Violence Against Women and Girls

The trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls are forms of sex-based and gender-based violence and discrimination. They infringe on the human rights of women and girls and prevent their full inclusion and participation in society.

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Human Rights Violations

Human Rights Violations

All people have equal, inalienable and indivisible human rights by virtue of their birth. Human trafficking and sexual exploitation are violations of these rights.

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The Sex Trade

The Sex Trade

Sex trafficking is intricately linked to the sex trade. It is the process through which exploiters deliver women and girls into this multi-billion dollar enterprise, where they experience unspeakable violence. To combat sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, we must work toward ending the sex trade.

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The Demand

The Demand

Demand drives all forms of human trafficking. To combat labor trafficking, we must disrupt consumers’ demand for cheap goods and forced labor. To end sex trafficking, we must target the demand for prostitution that sustains the sex trade. No buyer, no business.

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Society and Culture

Society and Culture

The media we consume and the cultures in which we live constantly sexualize and objectify women and girls, feeding a system of sex-based and gender-based violence and discrimination. The sex trade, both a cause and consequence of this system, commodifies and dehumanizes women and girls.

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Labor Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation

Labor Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation

While trafficking for forced labor and trafficking for sexual exploitation are distinct, labor trafficked women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and sexual exploitation

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72%

of identified trafficking victims are women and girls.

UNODC 2018 Global Trafficking in Persons Report

94%

of detected sex trafficking victims are women and girls.

UNODC 2018 Global Trafficking in Persons Report

1 in 3

women has experienced physical or sexual violence in her lifetime.

Global and regional estimates of violence against women, WHO, 2013

Human trafficking and sexual exploitation overwhelmingly impact women and girls globally. Basing our work on international law, women’s rights and human rights principles, we fight these forms of gender-based violence and discrimination to create a world where everyone can live free from violence and exploitation.

Questions? We answer FAQs about our work to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

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Help us create a world where no woman or girl is bought or sold.

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