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Sex Trafficking


Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery in which someone coerces another person into commercial sex or exploits a child in the commercial sex trade. Simply, it is sexual violence as a business. The nightmare of forced prostitution thrives when law enforcement cannot or does not protect vulnerable children and women.

Suhana’s Story

“Blaming poverty for crimes like this is convenient – it seems to make trafficking a problem beyond our control. But I strongly believe that poverty is just one of the factors that makes people vulnerable to being trafficked, and that trafficking still exists because an effective public justice system doesn’t in my country.” – IJM social worker

The Facts

  • Worldwide, there are nearly two million childrenin the commercial sex trade.1
  • Sex trafficking drives significant profits for perpetrators – a subset of the $32 billion market valueof illicit human trafficking.2

Understanding the Issue

The vast majority of victims of trafficking come from backgrounds of poverty. Impoverished women and girls are especially susceptible to traffickers’ schemes of deception because the desperation of their economic situation makes them (or their parents or caretakers) more willing to take risks – so they are more likely to accept a perpetrators’ fraudulent job offer or insincere marriage proposal, to move to another location or migrate to another country, or to believe other deceptive techniques criminals use to entrap victims.

Once trafficked, victims find themselves facing violence as a constant threat. In addition to serial rape, children and forced adults in the commercial sex trade are particularly vulnerable to physical assault from owners, pimps, recruiters and customers. In IJM cases, sex trafficking survivors have described being beaten with sticks, clubs, electrical cords and metal rods; forcibly injected with narcotics; and forced to watch their own children be physically abused. They are at high risk of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted illnesses.

Though sex trafficking is a worldwide phenomenon, it is most pervasive in countries with weak justice systems, where perpetrators know they are unlikely to face any significant consequences for profiting from repeated sexual assault. The good news is that, because the crime is an economic one, traffickers, pimps and others who profit from forced prostitution are particularly sensitive to law enforcement action. When the likelihood of serving serious jail time and paying significant financial damages increases, the potential financial rewards are no longer worth the high risk, and traffickers change their behavior.

Our Response

IJM combats sex trafficking in Latin America, South Asia and Southeast Asia.


Rescue Victims

We identify people trapped in slavery, partner with local authorities to conduct rescue operations and ensure each victim is legally emancipated and receives government support.


Bring Criminals to Justice

We advocate for police reports to be filed against owners or traffickers, and support prosecution of slave owners.


Restore Survivors

We create individualized care plans for each person to respond to trauma and pursue dignifying jobs and educational opportunities


Strengthen Justice Systems

We provide hands-on mentoring for law enforcement, government officials and partner organisations. We also create social demand and advocate with state and national leaders to make ending slavery a top priority.

More Resources


1UNICEF. State of the World’s Children 2005. 2United Nations. “UNODC Launches global initiative to fight human trafficking.” *A pseudonym