Trafficking, broadly defined, is illegal trade. However, the term “trafficking” is used
most frequently to describe illegal trade that crosses international bound­aries and
involves the transport of ­ people and commodities between places. International traf-
ficking involving the movement of persons and goods is the focus of this volume. ­
There are two broad types of trafficking: trafficking in persons and trafficking in
commodities. Persons have been trafficked and moved between countries in large
numbers since ancient times. The practice of slavery, in which ­ humans are treated,
bought, and sold as property and have few or no ­ legal rights as persons, has been
documented in socie­ties throughout the world for thousands of years. Despite the
fact that slavery is now illegal in ­ every country around the world, the practice has
not dis­appeared, and, according to reliable estimates, between 30 and 40 million ­
people worldwide live ­ under slave conditions today.­
Millions of other ­ people are trafficked across international borders although they
are not legally slaves and are not treated overtly as property. Unlike slaves, such persons
generally have some ­legal rights, although ­ these rights are often unenforced. How-
ever, such persons are forced into vari­ous types of activities that are often dangerous,
illegal, and/or degrading, and they live ­ under conditions that make it very difficult
for them to escape their condition. ­
People are trafficked for many reasons. The most common reasons are forced ­
labor and the sex trade. Forced laborers work in mining, agriculture, domestic ser­
vice, construction, and other jobs, many times involving work ­under dangerous
and dirty conditions. Often, forced laborers are given ­little or no pay, are provided
with substandard and unsanitary housing and food, and are subject to corporal
punishment if they attempt to escape their situations. Millions of trafficking vic-
tims, including girls and young ­ women and sometimes boys and young men, are
forced into prostitution, which is a lucrative business throughout the world even
though the practice is illegal in a majority of countries.
Large numbers of forced laborers and forced sex workers are teen­agers and ­
children, some as young as 8 or 9 years of age. Some of ­ these trafficking victims ­
were kidnapped or abducted before becoming forced laborers or sex workers. Some
are orphans or refugees. ­ Others, especially ­ children, are sold to traffickers by par-
ents or other relatives. Still ­ others are tricked into becoming trafficking victims ­ under
false pretenses—­for example by being led to believe that they can earn significant
sums of money to support their families or that they ­ will have the opportunity to
obtain educations or job skills. Once they become trafficking victims, however,
many find it difficult to escape, sometimes ­ because they are threatened with physical
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