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the industry

The trafficking of women for the sex industry contains two criminal elements: slave trade and slavery. The slave trade constitutes the supply side of the industry; the slavery constitutes the demand.


These two components of modern day slavery involve three fundamental steps.


  • The procurement

  • The transport

  • The exploitation


…and the “goods for sale” are the women and children who are forced into prostitution.


The internal relationship between the three components is what governs the supply and handling of the “goods”, the women traded for the sex industry. How the “businesses” and their function within the industry of human trading are connected is shown by the graphic illustration below.

The purchase of a sex slave is usually possible through one of the following methods: fraud, abduction, seduction, buying a girl from her family, or taking over an existing slave. All of these methods are used in almost all countries, but local circumstances, such as poverty, makes some methods more prevalent in some countries than others.


The transport of the women is carried out by every method imaginable: Women are transported in the trunks of cars, escorted on busses, planes, ferries, or on foot or horseback depending on the region.


Sometimes structured criminal organisations procure and take advantage of slaves from and in their own region before they send them off to brothel owners and other clients in all of Europe. This way the human traders can test, choose and traffic the slaves which are most likely to be able to fulfil their clients’ specific demands no matter if these are for commercial sex, manufacturing or begging.


Everyone, except from the victims, profits from this trade of women.


the people involved

The employment/travel agent

Arranges for the trip and its alleged purpose (e.g. job, job training, tourism). An employment agent arranges for a “legitimate” job and job description; a travel agent arranges for a “legitimate” trip. Employment and travel agents may serve as “fronts” for the criminal trafficking activity. Sometimes employment or travel agents arrange for the traveler's visa, passport and other identification papers.


The document thief/forger

Arranges for and obtains “legitimate” documentation for travel to another country. Document specialists may steal or otherwise illegally obtain legitimate documentation, or they may create false documentation.

The broker (agent)

A go-between or a middleman. Brokers typically buy women from a recruiter and then sell them to an employer. There may be more than one go-between (e.g. a broker may buy from a recruiter and then sell to another broker, who then sells to the employer.

The recruiter

Finds and brings women into the industry, usually by deception, but sometimes by force.

Recruiters sell their recruits to brokers or directly to employers, such as a brothel or bar owners or managers.

The employer (procurer)

Purchases and then sells the “commodity” to the customer, and provides a place of business for sex. Employers provide the women with a place to live and work; set up and tell them about the conditions of their work, living arrangements, and lifestyle; and inform them that they must work in the sex trade, while they pay off their debt.


Employers are most commonly bar, club, or brothel owners or managers; a small number of employers are street pimps and have no business establishment, and thus the sex transaction may occur in a public place.

The contractor

Organizes and oversees an entire trafficking transaction, or more typically, a set of transactions. This role is usually played by a relatively professional criminal organization or group.“Contractor” is the term for this role, which is comparable to that of a “general contractor” in a legitimate business – a project overseer who contracts out some of the labor for the project.

The transporters 

Also known as escort or "jockey", accompanies women on the trip – by airplane, train, bus and car or on foot – to their destination. Transporters may take the woman through one or more transit cities or countries.

They usually deliever the women to a broker at a border or inside a destination country, but sometimes the delivery is directly to an amployer.

The enforcer (guard, “roof”)

Provides protection for the place of business, and to a lesser extent, the trafficked women.

Enforcers protect the business from other criminal gangs, from extortionists, and from police or immigrant raids; they see that the women follow the house rules, and in particular, that they do not escape.

The enforcer may also make sure that the customer pays what he owes and otherwise abides by the house rules.


Enforcers – particularly if they are members of organized crime groups – may also be "extorters"; that is, on behalf of their crime group, they extort or demand money from brothels or bars, and if the owners don't pay, the crime group retaliates (e.g., burns down the business, murders the manager, arrange for a police raid on the business).

Extortion may be either a specialized enforcer role or one of several tasks of an enforcer; the line between extortion and payment for enforcement is thin.

The definitions are derived from two books; "Sex trafficking: Inside the business of modern slavery", Siddharth Kara, 2009 and the book "Sex trafficking", Kathryn Farr, 2005.


Human trafficking vs.

people smuggling

There are four main differences between trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants:


1. Consent to enter a country illegally: Smuggling migrants, although often undertaken in dangerous or humiliating conditions, involves consent. Some trafficked persons might start their journey by agreeing to be smuggled into a country illegally, but many do not, and never have any intention of doing so. In cases of trafficking from third countries, the victim may enter a country legally, on a tourist or student visa, (sometimes obtained with the help of traffickers), then be exploited by traffickers and held in the country beyond the expiration date, possibly against their will. Trafficking victims coming from EU Member States move legally all over the EU.


2. Exploitation: Smuggling of migrants ends with the migrants' arrival at their destination. In a trafficking case, the person is further exploited in coercive or inhuman conditions after crossing the border.


3. Transnationality: Smuggling of migrants is always transnational. Trafficking in human beings takes place both across international borders (international trafficking) and within the borders of their own countries (internal trafficking).


4. Source of profits: In smuggling cases, profits are derived from the transportation or facilitation of the illegal entry or stay of a person into another county. In trafficking cases, profits are derived from the exploitation.

Source: EU - Trafficking explained

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