In 1932, at the time of the first attempts to combat trafficking on the international level, Nina Boyle wrote: "In much of the world the right to dispose of (women) from infancy onwards, for profit, pleasure or other advantage, is a clear matter." The author argued that in many countries governments boasted of achieving the abolition of slavery, while silence fell over the trade in women and girls. More than a century later, trafficking retains its character as a highly significant and lucrative transnational criminal activity. More than 20 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery, compelled into forced labor, seen as an organ resource or sexually exploited. Women and children are the most affected victims, 66% and 13% respectively. In addition, the numbers increase for sexual exploitation, of which 98% of victims are women and girls. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to end up in labor intensive chains.
Human trafficking is a crime and a serious violation of human rights. Every year thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad. Almost every country in the world is affected by trafficking, both as countries of origin and as countries of transit or destination for victims.
EU countries reported 14,145 victims of trafficking in the period between 2017 and 2018, 72% of whom were women and girls. According to a European Commission report, Italy ranks second in the EU-27 for the number of victims. Child victims of trafficking represent 22% of the registered victims. However, the real figure could be much higher, given the absence of consistent and comparable data. In addition, more than half of the registered victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation. Fifteen percent of victims were brought in for other types of forced labor and the other 15 percent for forced begging, organ harvesting or domestic servitude.
The European Union is working to prevent and combat human trafficking with action on the ground and collaboration at the local and international levels. The prohibition of human trafficking is expressed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Art. 5.3) and countering the phenomenon is one of the most important priorities of the Union. In fact, a comprehensive approach has been conceived and put into practice to prevent human trafficking, prosecute criminals, protect victims and establish partnerships. All of this is linked to the European Union's Anti-Trafficking Directive, invoking and putting into action the motto "Together Against Human Trafficking."
Gender-specific human trafficking is also recognized by the EU, which means that the assistance and support measures provided by the EU must also be gender-specific. In addition, the vulnerability of children cannot be ignored and highlights the importance of prevention and protection of child victims and potential victims.
The will to eradicate human trafficking has been strengthened by the European Union's Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024, which poses particular challenges to the implementation and protection of human rights and the fight for European values and interests.
At the international level, the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization adopted in 2010 a Global Plan of Action to Combat Human Trafficking and urged governments of all countries to take coordinated and consistent action to defeat this form of violence.
Trafficking in persons is now strongly combated thanks to the multilevel protection established as a result of adherence to international conventions and supranational bodies. The UNODC, as custodian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols, assists States in their efforts to implement the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons.
Despite this, human trafficking remains one of the fastest growing crimes to date. New technologies, migration flows, and the crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic are creating new risks and challenges for the international community as a whole in fighting this new form of slavery to be eradicated worldwide.
Translated by Francesca Cioffi
Original version by Valeriana Savino