Sexual exploitation and human trafficking

Sexual exploitation and human trafficking, especially of women and girls, is sexual violence and violence against women. Human trafficking consists of recruiting, moving or harboring people with a view to exploiting them, most often for the sex industry and for forced labor and sometimes also for organ trafficking.

In most countries, sex trafficking is defined as “the recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, acquaintance or solicitation of an individual by force, fraud or coercion to purposes of sex trade ”.

Trafficking in persons can take place within the borders of one country, or from one country to another, and it usually involves large organized crime networks. Trafficking in human beings is a violation of fundamental human rights. Victims of trafficking may suffer abuse and be forced into forced labor, prostitution or other forms of servitude. They risk serious consequences if they try to escape these networks. To achieve their ends, traffickers do not hesitate to use force and physical or emotional violence, to sexually assault their victims, to threaten them with violence to keep them under their control, or to have recourse to fraud, lies and deceit.

The trafficked persons are regarded by the perpetrators of these crimes as commodities. They may be sexually exploited, subjected to forced labor or certain forms of slavery, or be victims of forced organ harvesting. Although different forms of human trafficking exist, this section of the site deals with trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

The object of human trafficking is the exploitation of persons and does not necessarily involve the displacement of victims.
One person exploits another:
  1. if he leads the other person to work or to offer his services by making him believe that a refusal on his part would endanger his safety or that of a person he knows;
  2. if it causes a person, by deception or under the threat or use of force or any other form of coercion, to part with an organ.

Where is sexual exploitation practiced?
Sexual exploitation takes different forms:
It can be exercised by:
– Social networks,
– “Escort” services
– False advertisements
– “massage” salons
– Motel, hotels, or even “brothels” called “brothel”
– In the street

When situations resemble or arise from trafficking, police services can also lay charges:
  • sequestration;
  • kidnapping;
  • threats;
  • extortion;
  • assault;
  • sexual assault;
  • serious sexual assault;
  • prostitution-related offenses;
  • offenses linked to criminal organizations.

Prostitution: a form of sexual exploitation

The term “prostitution” is widely used in public debate, however an official definition is hardly accepted.

Whether it is international organizations such as the UN (United Nations) or national laws, the definitions adopted are never the same and no standardization seems to be relevant.

This definitional desert reveals both the difficulty in unilaterally evoking the prostitution phenomenon, the lack of will of international, regional and national bodies to deal seriously with an omnipresent “social fact”, but also the complexity. of this phenomenon, with variable and removable limits.

Thus to speak of prostitution appears complicated without a commonly accepted axiom. If the United Nations (UN) does not take the trouble to define in its Convention of 2 December 1949 on “the suppression of the traffic in human beings and the exploitation of the prostitution of others” the term prostitution in itself, the convention stipulates in its preamble that “prostitution and the evil which accompanies it, namely the trafficking in human beings for the purpose of prostitution, are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person and endanger the well-being of the individual, the family and the community ”.

This reference to the dignity of the human person, a notion to which we will return in this report, shows, failing to define prostitution rigorously, that the international community has adopted an abolitionist position, in particular by using emotional language. (See below)

In these definitional issues, the abolitionist movement, although recalling the regrettable lack of a globally recognized definition, asserts that prostitution is the act of delivering one’s sex and one’s body to others for money.

In addition, this term also encompasses the act of legally or illegally marketing sexual services and / or products and exploiting the human body for profit. Abolitionist activists point out that this is a veritable system of exploitation affecting mainly women and children but also, and to an increasing extent, men.

Estimated turnover of prostitution in the world

CountryTurnoverNumber de prostitutesPopulationSource
China73 000 000 0005 000 0001 400 000 000Jinghao Zhou “Chinese Prostitution: Consequences and solutions in the post-Mao Era”
USA40 000 000 000700 000329 000 000Richard Ssewakiryanga “Ch.7 Sexual identities and sex work – interrogating the interface study on constructed identities among female sex workers in Kampala city”, Economies and Entitlement in Africa, CODESRIA Gender Series, Vol.2, December 2004
Spain26 000 000 000400 00046 000 000“Prostitution thrives on edge of legality in Spain” Taipei Times, September 6, 2009
Japan24 000 000 000150 000126 000 000Michael Hoffman, “Japan’s love affairs with sex” Japan Times, April 29, 2007. David McNeill, “Running the sex trade gantlet” Japan Times, November 11, 2003
Germany18 000 000 000300 00083 000 000Erik Kirschbaum, “Global economic crisis hits German sex industry”, Reuters, April 20, 2009
South Korea12 000 000 000147 00052 000 000Kim So-hyun, “Sex trade accounts for 1.6% of GDP”, The Korea Herald, September 20, 2008
India8 400 000 0003 000 0001 400 000 000SankarSen and P.M. Nair, “A report on trafficking in women and children in India 2002-2003” NHRCUNIFEM-ISS Project Vol.1 July 2004
Philippines6 000 000 000800 000107 000 000“Fact sheet about the sex trade in the Philippines”, CBC News, January 16, 2007
Canada5 300 000 000  “Le crime organisé et la traite intérieure des personnes au Canada”, Service canadien de renseignements criminels, Aout 2008
UK5 000 000 00070 00067 000 000Sophie Morris, “Sex for sale: The truth about prostitution in Britain”, The Independent, November 26, 2008
Thaïland4 300 000 000250 00069 000 000“Thailand mulls legal prostitution”, The Age, November 26, 2003
France4 000 000 00065 00060 000 000Proscost
Italy3 000 000 00060 00060 000 000EUROPOL “2005 EU organized Crime report” October 25, 2005
Swiss2 600 000 00020 0008 500 000“Swiss sex industry is thriving”, Swissinfo, June 3, 2006
Indonesia2 100 000 000230 000268 000 000Donna M. Hugues, “The demand for victims of sex trafficking”, University of Rhodes Island, June 2005
Israel2 000 000 00017 0009 000 000Rita Chaikin, “Fighting against trafficking in women in the north of Israel”. “Trafficking and the global sex industry”, ed. Karen Beeks and Delila Amir, 2006.
Taiwan1 840 000 000100 00023 000 000AFP, “Taiwan court to scrap unfair law on prostitutes” November 7, 2009
Ukraine1 500 000 00080 00044 000 000James Marson, “Ukraine’s other crisis: weak currency, cheap flights spur sex tourism”. Christian Science Monitor, June 13, 2009
Bulgaria1 300 000 00014 0007 200 000Stefan Nikolov “The sex industry in Bulgaria generates 1B€ income”, September 17, 2008
Greece1 000 000 000  “Campaign against sex slavery”, Kathinerini
Malaysia930 000 000  Reuters, “Foreign prostitutes rent Malaysian husbands for visas” ABC News, March 23, 2010
Hungary500 000 000  Zoltan Simon, “Hungary sizes up prostitution, drugs, boosting GDP” Bloomberg, September 30, 2009.
Netherlands800 000 00020 00017 000 000 
Cambodge511 000 00034 00015 000 000 
Czech republic300 000 00013 00010 600 000 
TOTAL244 381 000 00011 523 0004 224 300 000

The extrapolation of the turnover in 25 countries with a total population of 4.2 billion inhabitants, leads to an estimate of the annual income of prostitution in the world at more than 350 billion dollars

Women are the first victims

According to a French study, women remain in the majority at 85%. Violence is omnipresent, 1 in 2 prostitutes have suffered acts of physical violence during their activities and 64% share acts of humiliation or stigmatization while 38% of them relate to sexual violence and rape.

The French ministry report also notes that 93% of prostituted women are foreigners. Indeed, prostitution is organized as a veritable interconnected network that has taken advantage of globalization. All over the world, violence is heard. According to Canadian studies, prostitutes are between 60 and 120 times more likely to be beaten and have a death rate 40 times higher than the Canadian national average.


Sexual violence is also ubiquitous, whether in a country that has legalized the practice of prostitution such as Australia, where 81% of those questioned declared having suffered sexual abuse while exercising their activity, or as in England where the rates of sexual assault and rape are even higher than in France. For example, in Glasgow, 94% of street prostitutes interviewed had been sexually assaulted, 75% had been raped by a client.

the economic dimension of sexual exploitation

A true global phenomenon, prostitution has become part of economic globalization and operates like any market for goods and services, using economic techniques of imports / exports, relocation and managing prostitution companies ”in order to do so. prosper. Thus in 2016, trafficking in human beings and therefore a fortiori prostitution appears to be the 2nd most successful illicit market in the world behind drug trafficking and generates gigantic profits of around 100 billion dollars per year worldwide.

Faced with the magnitude of the prostitution industry, many voices have been raised and are still rising to provide a lasting and thoughtful solution to what is often perceived as “the oldest profession in the world”.

Thinking about prostitution requires looking at several areas of reflection in order to have a global and complete vision of the subject. As a societal phenomenon, prostitution must be seen through historical, cultural, social, political, legal, economic, scientific, medical, health, philosophical and ethical prisms.

This multidimensional aspect makes long and complex research often subject to ideological changes.

The perspective of prostitutes and survivors, but also their place in society, their status and the changes in their activity are all elements that can shed light on our understanding of more modern legal treatment.

Sex trafficking: supply and demand

Sex trafficking is a criminal industry that functions as a market dependent on supply and demand. Consumers (people who buy commercial sex) increase demand, which in turn provides benefits to traffickers and pimps who maximize their income by exploiting more people for trafficking. To reduce the demand for sex trafficking and the number of people who are exploited, buyers must stop getting involved in the purchase of commercial sex and understand that they are a critical part of the problem.

Customer responsibility
Sex buyers increase demand, pimps profit and lead to more victims of sexual exploitation