Trafficking, Prostitution: Conference on Traffic in Persons CONFERENCE ON TRAFFIC IN PERSONS


An International Conference on Traffic in Persons took place in Utrecht
and Maastricht, the Netherlands, from 15 - 19 November 1994. This
Conference was organised by the Department of the Law of International
Organizations and the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM) of
Utrecht University and the Centre of Human Rights of the University of

Forty-one experts from all over the world in the field of the problem of
traffic in persons and human rights discussed measures to combat traffic
in persons. During these discussions a number of relevant views and
suggestions were raised which are summarized below. It should be noted
that the views mentioned below do not necessarily reflect the opinion of
all participants.


At the moment, the traffic in persons is a world-wide phenomenon, often
highly organized, dramatically on the increase and taking new forms. The
traffic in persons mainly affects women.

The dignity of all human beings, the right of individuals to
self-determination and the freedom of choice is reaffirmed.

Traffic in women is a manifestation of violence against women and traffic
in persons constitutes a violation of human rights as stated among others
in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted by the World
Conference on Human Rights (1993), in the Declaration on the Elimination
of Violence Against Women (1993), in Recommendation No. 19 of the
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (1992).

Both international and national traffic in persons should be eliminated.
It should be kept in mind that a State can at the same time be a country
of origin, a country of destination and a country of transit.

The issue of traffic in persons should be dealt with in the international
socio-economic context. Relevant factors in this respect are: the present
day inequitable international economic order, the consequent economic and
social conditions in the countries of origin, the protectionist economic
and migration policies and growing demands for cheap sexual services and
domestic labour in receiving countries. Measures should be taken at the
national and international level to improve the general socio-economic
conditions of women, e.g. through availability of education and job
opportunities and the elimination of discrimination and gender inequality
in laws and practices.

Trafficking in persons should be an offence even when the actions that
make up its component parts take place in different countries. Measures
should be taken to strengthen national and international cooperation
between departments of justice and the police, and between state agencies
and NGOs working in direct contact with the persons concerned to combat
such traffic. An international standard should be developed to secure the
protection and well-being of trafficked persons. International cooperation
should focus on the identification, apprehension and extradition of the
traffickers, on gathering evidence, especially when the constituent
elements take place in several states, and on the exchange of information
about trafficking routes into and within countries or regions of the
world. Close cooperation with NGOs working directly with the people
involved is necessary. The participation of those involved at the grass
roots level will ensure that the most adequate measures can be planned and
implemented and that the interests of the women involved are adequately
represented. NGOs in countries of origin and of destination should be
encouraged to cooperate in developing strategies to deal with the problem
of traffic in persons and its consequences.

Scope of the Problem
The traffic in persons is not only for purposes of prostitution, but for a
range of other activities as well. Any slavery-like practice in the formal
and informal sphere (e.g. domestic services and activities related to the
sex industry) should be eliminated. `Force' includes 1) an act of violence
or any other act or 2) a threat of violence or any other act or 3) abuse
of authority that results from actual circumstances such as making abuse
of the process of law, the use of extortion or coercion, or making abuse
of the subordinate position people are in because they do not dispose of
their passports or legal visa, are equipped with false documents or do not
speak the language of the country they are in, or 4) deception.

Traffic in persons is a dynamic process. It may start with agreements and
consent and can become a matter of force and deception, and vice versa.
However, it is important to emphasize that the element that defines
traffic is force, as defined above, and not the nature of labour to be
performed or the current or previous occupation or background of the
person who is trafficked. The trafficker can not use as a defence the fact
that the person is or was at any time, for example, a prostitute or a
domestic worker.

While there are definitely occurrences of coercion, deceit and violence
associated with prostitution, not all individuals who work as prostitutes
do so as a result of trafficking practices. Where such practices are
involved, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
However, the individual right to self-determination includes the ability
and the right of the individual to decide to work as a prostitute. In
order to reduce the vulnerability of prostitutes and others to trafficking
in this context, prostitution and other activities in the informal sphere
should be recognized as a form of work. Consequently, prostitutes and
other sex workers have the right to safe working conditions through the
use of occupational safety and health and other labour ordinances.

The phenomenon of `mail-order brides' involves many problems. Women who
marry in another country through an intermediary agency often operating
behind a legal facade, may find themselves in slavery-like conditions.
States should consider the possibility of setting up a system of licensing
and monitoring marriage agencies. While keeping in mind the right to
privacy, both immigration authorities and the authorities of the countries
of origin should give full information to the parties involved. Laws and
policies should protect women against abusive relationships and States
should include rape in marriage as a crime in their laws.

Certain customary and traditional practices, may amount to or lead to
traffic in persons.

Though the extent of the phenomenon of traffic in persons is not yet
precisely known, it is clear that it is a very serious problem. New
developments and the extent of the traffic in persons should be further
thoroughly researched. There is evidence that it has been increasing at an
alarming rate and that it has assumed global dimensions. More research is
needed regarding the scope, extent, trafficking routes, organized crime,
who are the traffickers, who are the persons who are trafficked. This
information could be gathered from, for instance, governments' reports,
specialized organisations dealing with international and national crime
prevention (e.g. INTERPOL, national criminal investigation organisations)
and non-governmental organizations. The lack of precise quantitative data
on the extent and different manifestations of the traffic in persons may
not be used as an excuse to delay action in this field.

International Measures

Various existing international legal human rights instruments offer points
of reference to combat the traffic in persons. This is in particular true
for relevant articles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women, the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the
Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, Slave Trade, and
Institutions and Practices siminlar to Slavery, and relevant ILO
Conventions (on forced labour, equal remuneration for work and the freedom
of association). All States should ratify these conventions as soon as
possible, if they have not done so.

Supervisory bodies are urged to pay attention to the subject of traffic in
persons and to make general comments or recommendations on this issue. In
the reporting guidelines specific questions on the subject of traffic in
persons and related issues such as immigration should be developed. States
should report on relevant national legislation and policies in this
respect, including immigration, prostitution, and labour legislation and
policies and programmes of empowerment of women, and on the practical
implementation and the actual consequences thereof. As far as possible
they should provide precise data. The supervisory bodies should also take
into account the information provided by NGOs.

Individual complaints procedures may be important instruments in the
combat against the traffic in persons. Such a procedure should be included
in particular in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women and the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights.

The inclusion of the traffic in persons in the mandate of the recently
appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women is welcomed.
However, the mandate of this Special Rapporteur is a broad one and she has
only limited resources. Therefore it is suggested that the Commission on
Human Rights should establish a thematic Special Rapporteur or a thematic
Working Group on Traffic in Persons, consisting of independent experts, to
complement the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against
Women. The Commission on Human Rights should equally continue to support
the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child
Prostitution and Child Pornography. In the light of the above, the
Commission on Human Rights and the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of
Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities should consider the
usefulness of the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery and, if
appropriate, consider strengthening its mandate. The Commission on Human
Rights should finally consider the adequacy of the Convention for the
Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the
Prostitution of Others in the fight against the traffic in persons.

All human rights organs, both treaty based and non-treaty based, the
Commission on the Status of Women, and Specialised Agencies, in particular
the ILO and WHO, should closely cooperate on the issue of traffic in
persons. They should exchange information on this subject and, where
possible, attend each others' meetings. UNESCO is specifically invited to
say what activities in relation to this issue fall within their mandate.

The ILO has taken steps to develop standards appropriate to the informal
sectors, particularly those of concern to a large number of women, such as
domestic and sex work. The ILO is urged to continue to develop this work.

International lending agencies are enjoined to give due consideration to
the impact of conditionalities for loans on the quality of life and
survival especially of women and children in the borrowing countries.

The Committee on Crime Prevention should be invited to consider the
possibility of drafting a Convention on Traffic in Persons dealing with
the criminal aspects of the problem. In this respect States should also be
encouraged to conclude multilateral and bilateral treaties.

National Measures

Public awareness of the problem of traffic in persons should be raised;
the human rights dimensions should be especially addressed.

Both countries of destination and of origin should develop policies for
supporting the persons who are trafficked.

Countries should be encouraged to develop innovative approaches combining
decriminalisation of prostitution, per se, with workplace regulations,
such as regulations covering occupational safety and health, and the
provision of workers' benefits, consistent with other workplace
regulations within their countries, to reduce the problems common to
prostitution when it is illegal.

It should be recalled that the restrictive immigration policies of
countries of destination contribute to the traffic of persons. A
consequence of these policies is that the persons who are trafficked are
predominantly seen as illegal aliens and for that reason deported by
countries of destination. These countries should ensure in their laws and
policies that persons claiming to be trafficked: a) have access to
judicial remedies; b) may instigate criminal procedures against
traffickers; c) enjoy appropriate witness protection, particularly in view
of the fact that traffic in persons is often organized by international
criminal networks; d) are permitted to stay in the country and to continue
to work during the trial against the accused traffickers; e) may institute
civil proceedings for compensation against traffickers.

States of destination should promote social support, health and medical
support and should arrange safe return where necessary. They should also
seriously consider granting permanent resident permits on humanitarian
grounds to persons who are trafficked and who cannot return to their own
countries for fear of persecution or reprisals, either by traffickers, by
their own families or by the authorities, due to the fact that they have
been trafficked. No statement of facts should be given to the authorities
of the country of origin while sending the persons who are trafficked
back. All confidentiality should be maintained.

Countries of destination and countries of origin should cooperate in
providing information on the possibilities of migration and the
consequences they may become confronted with. States should supervise
agencies offering overseas employment, especially with regard to the
informal sector. NGOs should play a important role in this respect.

On a long term basis, both countries of destination and of origin should
examine socio- cultural structures which makes the present continuing
supply and demand for trafficking possible. Both countries of destination
and of origin should take steps to rectify such structures wherever