Elements of human trafficking
On the basis of the definition given in the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, it is evident that trafficking in persons
has three constituent elements;
The Act (What is done)
Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons
The Means (How it is done)
Threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits
to a person in control of the victim
The Purpose (Why it is done)
For the purpose of exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labour,
slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs.
To ascertain whether a particular circumstance constitutes trafficking in persons, consider the definition of trafficking
in the Trafficking in Persons Protocol and the constituent elements of the offense, as defined by relevant domestic legislation.
Criminalization of human trafficking
The definition contained in article 3 of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol is meant to provide consistency and consensus
around the world on the phenomenon of trafficking in persons. Article 5 therefore requires that the conduct set out in article
3 be criminalized in domestic legislation. Domestic legislation does not need to follow the language of the Trafficking in
Persons Protocol precisely, but should be adapted in accordance with domestic legal systems to give effect to the concepts
contained in the Protocol.
In addition to the criminalization of trafficking, the Trafficking in Persons Protocol requires criminalization also of:
- Attempts to commit a trafficking offence
- Participation as an accomplice in such an offence
- Organizing or directing others to commit trafficking.
National legislation should adopt the broad definition of trafficking prescribed in the Protocol. The legislative definition
should be dynamic and flexible so as to empower the legislative framework to respond effectively to trafficking which:
- Occurs both across borders and within a country (not just cross-border)
- Is for a range of exploitative purposes (not just sexual exploitation)
- Victimizes children, women and men (Not just women, or adults, but also men and children)
- Takes place with or without the involvement of organized crime groups.
For a checklist of Criminalization under the Protocol, click here.
For more resources, visit our Publications
To see how human trafficking is different to migrant smuggling, click here.