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Trafficking in women

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Human Rights
Wordcount: 5453 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation is not a new problem. It existed for centuries and it still exists everywhere in the world. “Sex trafficking is an epidemic which does not limit itself to one place or one group of people.”Trafficking in women is very serious problem and it cannot be approached ‘from the behind’/only on the surface. The seriousness of this topic requires careful research and great attention. Women’s trafficking as a global problem appears both in countries in political and economic transition, as well as in countries that are in post-conflict periods. Moreover, it also affects the economically developed and countries and affects all major industrialized nations in the world.Many of the developing or the ‘third world’ countries are trying to hide this problem ‘under the rug’ due to lack of legislative or lack of financial sources. The question/problem is that although we are aware of the existence of the victims of trafficking around us in society, why is such little progress being made?

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Nevertheless, in the period between 1970’s and 1980’s the trafficker’s destinations were the Western European countries.Victims of trafficking usually were brought from Asia and Latin America.However, after the fall of the communist regimes, in the 90’s, there been an evident change in the situation. Now women from Eastern Europe represent the main ‘goods’ of trafficking in Western Europe.This is the case also for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania, two post-communist Balkan countries. As much we can say that trafficking in women for the so called sex industry is very old matter, the exposure of this problem in these two countries is not from the distant past. It started emerging after the post-communist period and escalated in the transition that is currently going on in both of the countries.

I am working on the topic of trafficking in women and the democratic transition, with a special overview on two countries: Bosnia and Albania, because I want to find out if these countries are doing enough and everything that is in their power to combat this problem. The questions that are needed to be set/appointed here, are, will the democratic transition and the democratic development of the Western Balkan countries, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania – the two countries I will be taking as a case studies, help in making this problem smaller in range? Is new and improved legislation and new law going to help in combating this problem? Moreover, is the further development and the possible EU integration of these countries going to suppress this problem?

In this paper, I will try to analyze the problem of trafficking in women, mainly concerning the sex industry (prostitution), as a global problem and then referring to it on local level. Comparing two countries that are post – communist countries and are still in what seems to be everlasting process of transition; will show what the home governments are doing concerning this problem. Moreover, it will show what more can be done in the field of combating trafficking on local and even on global level; as a path towards the European Union.

Firstly, in the first chapter, I will address this problem from the international perspective. Taking in consideration conventions, reports of many international organizations and also from non – governmental organizations; will show what has been done so far in combating trafficking in women in the international society. Secondly, I will try to present this problem as one of the main issues of every country. Following, in the second chapter, I will compare two transitional Western Balkan countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania and how they handle this problem. Also, are these countries following the European Union directives in combating trafficking, as part of the organized crime, as one of the conditions in becoming a member state.

There is a lot to say on this topic and there are a lot more examples on this subject, but due to limited time and resources, I will keep my research and my analysis short and within these frames. My research is contained mostly from exploring the conventions on anti-trafficking that are part of the international legal system, conventions on the same subject on European level, the home legislative of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania concerning this problem, relevant articles concerning trafficking in women, research papers from international organizations who worked on projects of trafficking in women (primary and secondary sources).


Women’s trafficking has been described as a modern day form of slavery.“Too often the crime of sex trafficking is ignored because it is termed prostitution.”The distinction between the term trafficking in women and the phenomenon of prostitution is form a great importance, taking into consideration the fact that the common people still have delusions in the existence or non existence of these two aspects. This is confirmed by the survey made for IOM in which the results showed that the biggest percentage of the answers (61.6%) were that prostitution was voluntary and paid and trafficking is forced.Only 24.6% answered that they know the difference between prostitution and trafficking in women. But what is the main difference in fact? The general characteristic is the voluntariness in exercising prostitution. It is an opinion that these persons (women) can give up doing the ‘oldest business in the world’ if they want to. On the other hand we cannot disregard the economic pressure they are in and the forced actions from the traffickers. On the contrary, in the situation of trafficking this opportunity is lost together with the passports, ID cards and other documents that these women used to posses, as is also the fear of rejection and despise from the family and the community.

Another confusion made is that of equating trafficking as a crime that goes only beyond national borders. Trafficking also happens within a domestic territory of one country, which is basically moving women from one part of the country to another. It is often the case where women coming from rural environment are moving to the big cities in search for a better life and better earnings easily become pray for traffickers who deceive them with promises for ‘bright future’. In conclusion, trafficking in women is not just a transnational issue, but a national also. Hence, under victims of trafficking we put not only women that are transferred from domestic countries to foreign ones, but also the citizen of one country that are moved within it.

Generally speaking, trafficking in women for sexual exploitation has always been a ‘un – solved matter’ and a very ‘hard task’ for most of the countries. Trafficking in women and in human beings in general, is on regular basis supported by the corruption in the domestic governments, as much in the countries of origin of the trafficked victims, also in the countries of transit and final destination.This fact is not so astonishing/unbelievable considering the reality that the ‘business’ of trafficking is the one of the most profitable ones in the world with approximated income of over 7 billion US dollars per year from prostitution only.

Furthermore, two main factors: supplementing and demanding; promote the growth of trafficking, in particular the commercial sex work. “Male demand for the services of sex workers, combined with male perceptions about woman’s societal role, lead to exploitation of women.”The supplementation side includes such factors as women’s weaker economic position, lack of real employment and educational opportunities, increased militarization of specific regions after conflicts and the expansion of transnational crime, push women toward work in the commercial sex industry and to situations where they are at risk of being trafficked.

1.1. What is trafficking in women?

More than a half of century ago since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was introduced, which proclaimed that “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms,”we are witnesses of the unscrupulous violations of this human rights. Being very sensitive and serious problem, trafficking requires a definition that will incorporate all the key elements of this criminal act as such. Basically the definition for the term trafficking can be found in international legal instruments dedicated to the subject.  For example, Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (known as the Palermo Protocol) defines trafficking in the following way:

Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

This original definition was a model from which in many countries in the domestic criminal code the definition for trafficking has been derived. On the other hand, it was intentionally decided that the Protocol not define ‘exploitation of prostitution of others and other forms of sexual exploitations’ more precisely, because there was no consensus among government delegates to the negotiations on the common meaning of the phrase.Furthermore, the delegates agreed that involuntary forced participation in prostitution would constitute trafficking, but most of the government delegates rejected the idea that voluntary, non-coercive participation by adults in prostitution is tantamount to trafficking.This means that the states define only forced prostitution in their domestic legislature.

Moreover, the Protocol makes a clear distinction between sex work and trafficking and between trafficking and smuggling, which is addressed in different protocol. Smuggling concerns facilitating illegal stay or entry, while the aim of trafficking is the exploitation of human beings under forced labour or slavery-like conditions. Yet, trafficking does not always involve the illegal crossing of borders.It can also appear within a country; in other words without crossing any national borders.Moreover, “in many cases trafficked persons enter a country legally, for example as tourists, spouses, students, domestic workers or au pairs.”Sometimes they only become illegal when they remove themselves from the power of their exploiters, e.g. in the case of au pairs or women who are forced into prostitution by their husband.Hence, trafficking is a crime against the person, while smuggling is primarily a crime against the state, infringing upon its borders.

Another definition we can take in mind is the U.S. government definition of trafficking in persons which encompasses “All acts involved in the transport, harboring, or sale of persons within national or across international borders through coercion, force, kidnapping, deception or fraud, for purposes of placing persons in situation of forced labor or services, such as forced prostitution, domestic servitude, debt bondage or other slavery – like practices”.

In other words, the definition of trafficking consists of three core elements: the action of trafficking, the means and the purpose.If all the elements of human trafficking are present, the fact that an adult initially consented is irrelevantIt is also considered trafficking if the victim had no real or acceptable alternative but to submit to the abuse.

1.2. Trafficking in women as a international problem

The international community is actively working on the issue of fighting this form of organized crime. The United Nations, the Council of Europe, OSCE and the EU, as well as some other international organizations, became involved in dealing with this matter on a global plan.On international plan many Conventions were produce for the purpose of combating the crime of trafficking in women. In the system of United Nations the start was made firstly with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948.  Among the other conventions on UN level is the 1949 United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, which “deems prostitution and the ‘accompanying evil’ of the traffic of persons for the purpose of prostitution incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person.”The main objective of the Convention is to provide effective measures against all forms of trafficking in women and the exploitation of prostitution.Another convention that is important is the 1979 Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which in Article 6 prescribes the obligation for all the state parties to “take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.”

Connecting human rights with the problem of trafficking resulted in the need of the UN for a multi – disciplinary approach in the fight against trafficking in women. For that, in June 2000 the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime was issued; later that year Protocols for Preventing the Trade with Women and Children and Against Illegal Trade and Transportation of Immigrants were issued.They were adopted in 2001 and with that started the new era of the work of the national institutions (Law enforcement institutions).

In the same way, other international organizations also incorporated the issue of trafficking in their own constitutions/organizational structures. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) adopted the Convention concerning forced labor (Convention no.29) in 1930 and the Abolition of Forced Labor Convention in 1957. On European level, the most recent legal instrument introduced for combating trafficking in women is the Council of Europe’s Convention on Actions against Trafficking in Human Beings,adopted 2005. Following this further, the European Union also made instruments about the issue of trafficking: Council Framework Decision of 19 July 2002 on combating trafficking in human beings,instruments such as Investing in People, European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI),etc. In conclusion, a mutual statement from all the EU member states is that under trafficking should be put all the cases where the ones that commit this crime are recruiting their victims for forced labor or prostitution, no matter the means, even by just enticement or abusing their weak situation or position.

Other international organizations that are involved in the matter of trafficking are OSCE (The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), UNDP (the United Nations Development Program), ICITAP (International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance), OPDAT (The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training), USAID (TheUnited States Agency for International Development), ICMPD (The International Centre for Migration Policy Development).

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On the other hand, there are the non-governmental organizations, which are important in building civil society by fostering ‘governance’, whereby actions are framed not simply by governments, but with the participation of other organizations, with which information is shared.Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the globe are engaged in combating trafficking by taking part in variety activities including prevention, prosecution, protection, rescues/raids, reintegration, and repatriation.“NGOs often work with few resources yet can be effective in complimenting the activities of governments, or even taking the place of government efforts.”NGO’s appear to be ‘watchdogs’ against trafficking in women. Worldwide NGOs in this area are Amnesty International, The International La Strada Association (La Strada International), Anti Slavery International, The Churches´ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), Global Alliance against Traffic in Women (GAATW), Save the Children – Europe Group, Terre des Hommes International Federation, ECPAT International, etc. “It is helpful for NGOs that engage in preventive and rehabilitative work with women, children and communities to be able to identify common characteristics of trafficking.”

Despite the international level of fighting against the crime of trafficking, every country has prescribed this act as a criminal one in the domestic criminal codes. Almost all democratic countries are signatories of the conventions mentioned above and had implemented them in their home legislative.  This is the case also with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania,which incorporated trafficking in women in their criminal codes as a punishable crime by all means, which I will show later in the paper.


The geographical map of Southeastern Europe, step by step, has been changing in the past decade. The fall of the iron curtain created a flow of migration from east to west,and vice – versa, if we consider the international missions and special delegations residing in the Balkan region. Contributory factors that have helped cause the problem of trafficking in women have been “globalization of economic sector, followed by globalization of crime, as well as the outbreak of conflicts in the region.”The fragmentation of Yugoslavia intensified the impact of processes of transition, globalization and regionalization.Turbulent ethnic conflict, external interventions (often involving force), and the persistent use of violence by criminal elements, provided waves of challenges to civil society in the region.The Yugoslav wars intensified the scale of transnational organized crime, here including trafficking in women mainly for prostitution, and the levels at which criminal networks preyed on the population.The area has been military, politically and economically divided: new states have been created and new borders established.The countries of SEE have been seriously affected by the problems of organized crime and corruption, which have been the main obstruction to further development and regional stability.

Because of the limited economic resources available, governments in the region have not been able to establish an effective control over economic fraud and other forms of organized crime, including trafficking in women.Therefore, “organized criminal groups in the region have successfully exploited insufficiently controlled borders, corruption, a legislative vacuum and the lack of regional cooperation in the fight against organized crime.”

To emphasize, within the structure of organized crime the countries are classified weather they are countries of origin, destination or transition. The origination countries of trafficking of women can be classified by the regions of the world. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania are part of the East Europe region and are mostly considered originating countries, although the trafficking to and within the country is stacking up. On the other hand, as destination countries for trafficked women are the Western European countries, the Nordic countries, the Middle East, even United States of America, where the women from BIH and Albania are trafficked to.

2.1. The case of Bosnia and Herzegovina

For Bosnia and Herzegovina the collapse of the communism was not the only overturn of the society. Right after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, BIH experienced a civil war on its territory. Therefore, it is excusably to say that BIH went through double transition period. Furthermore, the breakdown of the social, economic and political structure resulting from the civil war in BIH caused the expansion of various forms of organized crime, including trafficking in human beings.On the other hand, “in the pre – war period this kind of crime was not present in BIH to the degree to which it is now, according to official statistics and available sources.”The two dramatic changes in the country’s past brought up rise in trafficking in women. The country was and still is “a fertile ground for the criminal abuse of women”mainly for sexual exploitation.

“Economic hardship, global market penetration and transitional economic conditions along with conflict and post-war trauma have transformed many traditional relationships into service exchanges.”] Moreover, the almost four year long war caused collapse of the economy and social collapse which emerged in great unemployment. Therefore, people in BIH, mostly women, felt jeopardized for their survival so they started looking for any kind of job just to support their families. Sexual exploitation for prostitution, and human trafficking in general was a taboo in BIH until recently. In early 1998, human trafficking to BIH did not officially exist, “it inhabited an invisible netherworld – unacknowledged, unreported and unnamed.”According to experts of nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s) and the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH), trafficking first began to appear in 1995.Human Rights Watch investigators first learned of trafficking of women to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1998, while on a research mission to investigate post-conflict discrimination against Bosnian women.As public attention began to increase and more cases emerged, trafficking finally became visibly in the early 1999.In fact, by early 2000, “human trafficking for forced prostitution had become blatant and notorious, but this visibility did not result in coherent anti – trafficking policies.”

Another factor that bolstered trafficking in women was the post – war peacekeeping missions and the international influence in BIH. The placing of peacekeeping forces in BIH encouraged the sex industry there, especially in the early years after the war.This is a very sensitive issue concerning the fact that the peacekeepers and other stuff of the international missions enjoyed immunity,plus there were insufficient evidence of such conducts by the missionaries. Along with this, the lack of state responsibility concerning the involvement of members of the peacekeeping force in trafficking, doubtlessly contributed to the problem.UNMIBH has “denied any participation of its personnel in trafficking but acknowledges that several members of its staff have been let go for sexual misconduct.”The promotion of prostitution by the forces of UN, who were directly involved in the sex industry and the sexual exploitation of Bosnian women, was contradicting with their main mission of protecting them and providing them with a peaceful life. There is no doubt that there was a existing correlation between the phenomenon of trafficking in women and the settlement of a peacekeeping force in BIH, but it would be wrong to observe the settlement of peacekeeping force as a primary cause of the phenomenon.Trafficking in women, as a problem and concern, existed and exists in other parts of the Balkan, as well as all over the world, where peacekeepers were and are not based.

To conclude, BIH has been politically unstable during the post – war period. Laws have been made to control traffickers, but regional conflicts still exist and the lack of cooperation between entities, and entities and the state in general, in suppressing organized crime has been high.The high profits available, the low risk of detention and minor penalties exacted have made trafficking in human beings for the purpose of prostitution very attractive on the ‘black market’in BIH.oday, the lack of political will has been replaced with the “building of collaboration between BIH law enforcement agencies and the creation of new BIH state institutions for enforcing the law.”Furthermore, BIH is now participating in regional and international initiatives against organized crime, especially within Stability Pace (a benchmark for bringing peace and normalcy to the region) in Southeastern Europe, as a way towards reaching EU and insuring its place as future member state.. The local government is trying to harmonize the domestic legislative with the international and to improve the cooperation between the entities and the state. However, the suppression of trafficking in women is not just a legislative problem, but also a practical one.In addition, another future in combating trafficking is awareness of the problem, such as public education, that the state has to make sure to provide it.

2.2. The case of Albania

Human trafficking is relatively ‘new’ social phenomenon, which emerged in Albania after the early 1990’s right after the failure of the dictatorship regime of Enver Hoxa. The “process of democratization started in Albania only in 1990, after the fall of the Berlin wall, when independent political parties were created and the freedom to travel for citizens was granted.”The economic and political instability increased in 1997 with the explosion of civil disorders and soon after the war in Kosovo in 1999 that brought many refugees to Albania. From then on, this phenomenon spread rapidly in the countries in transition or development including Albania.With the sudden intensive influence from the Eastern and Western European countries, it is understandable for a country that was once in total isolation, moreover, was a poor one, to become a target for many organized criminal groups and face new and different wave of criminality. The isolation encouraged the Albanian people to go across the borders of their homeland. Dreams for better lives, jobs and education for their children were overwhelming for many Albanians, while others sought reunification with family members that has already migrated to Western countries.Nevertheless, “Albania’s role in trafficking appears easy to attribute to the difficult political and economic transition from an authoritarian to a pluralistic system.”Other factors than changes to the system of governance, which facilitated the rise of trafficking in Albania were the bad economic conditions.

For some Albanians who had lost property, human trafficking and particularly exploitation of women, became a way of re-accumulating the wealth they lost, while for others, trafficking was considered as a solution to end their poverty and suffering.Women faced the greatest impact of unemployment as well as additional burden of maintaining their families as their spouses sought employment through emigration.Hence, women became increasingly vulnerable and these factors emerged trafficking, especially for women who turned to prostitution with the intent of doing it only temporarily.The once traditional values of the Albanian society were lost. Women easily become prey of traffickers with the help of their close family, which most of the time promised to find them husbandsas a way out of the heavy situation they were in. In addition, as middle men sometimes figured the spouses of these women, who saw ‘easy money’ by selling their wives, “without being aware of the consequences of the trafficking.”

Furthermore, the heightened trafficking of Albanian women, within and out of the country, has been facilitated by the erosion of social controls in society and the ‘chronic’ weakness of the state.The government was incapable of projecting its authority to fight crime, protect crime victims, control its borders and curtail corruption among its security forces.As shown above, trafficking in women for sexual exploitation surfaced as new problem in the early 1990’s. In that time few people believed in the treat of rising and that trafficking will escalate in a measure that is today.

During the transition from communism and dictatorship, Albania was not only a transit country for the trafficking of human beings, but also a source country.Trafficking of Albanian women was and continues to be widespread.“The absence of legal provisions and official statistics on trafficking inhibited recognition of the problem.”“In 1995, legislators added penalties for prostitution and operation of facilities for prostitution to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Albania, but did not include a definition on trafficking.”It was necessary for improvements to be implemented in the legal system and the reform was the first important step in combating trafficking. Amendments in 2001, however, began to bring Albanian law in the line with the Palermo Protocol, and further steps in 2004 boosted up that process.Albanian penal legislation concerning trafficking has been improving continuously in accordance with international legislation and the international efforts of the Albanian state.The ratification of several conventions concerning this issue, “demonstrates that the legal framework of the fight against the trafficking of human beings, especially of women and children, is almost complete.”The ratification of these conventions facilitated more effective regional and international cooperation in the efforts against organized crime and constitutes a concrete step in the process of making Albanian legislation compatible with international standards.However, despite the tendency for international cooperation, “international assistance for the Albanian Government has not been well coordinated.Following this further, ensuring of complementarities, avoiding duplication and facilitating the effective use of resources, will possibly improve this coordination.Moreover, introducing legislation and practice in accordance with European Union standards “remains imperative and is an important step towards the eventual free movement of people across borders”and the acceptance of Albania to the Union.

2.3. Analysis and possible future improvements

As already mentioned, the developing transition countries, as BIH and Albania, are not exception of the influence of trafficking in women. Moreover, they are a prolific ground for this ‘business’.



Following the democratic development, exiting from the ongoing transition, and the implementation of the international instruments for combating trafficking in women, and in human beings in general, can be very helpful for countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania in suppressing this major problem. The measures taken by the home governments and legislators of these two countries can improve the control over trafficking, reducing it, by implementing the international legislative and maybe making more strict penalties for the violators/ criminals.


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