In international law, the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children [the Trafficking in Persons Protocol],supplementing the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which came into existence in 2000, marks the international community’s most comprehensive effort to deal with trafficking in persons in its modern forms.  The Protocol partly substitutes, partly complements a long list of international treaties dating back to the 1800s that seek to combat various aspects of trafficking in persons.  This page outlines the evolution of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, its purpose and key provisions, and reflects on the implementation and uptake by States Parties.

Evolution of International Law relating to Trafficking in Persons

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries a great range of international treaties emerged which sought to prevent and combat the exploitation of human beings.  Often aimed at or limited to specific categories of persons, these treaties shaped the evolution of international law in this field and explain the direction the Trafficking in Persons Protocol has taken.  Five principal areas of international law contributed to the contemporary framework to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, both internationally and domestically.  These include slavery, prostitution, labour, human rights, and the rights of the child.

The following sections briefly outline each of these five influences.  For a complete account and analysis, see Corin Morcom & Andreas Schloenhardt, All About Sex?! The Evolution of Trafficking in Persons in International Law, UQ Human Trafficking Working Group, Research Paper (March 2011).  Download the complete report (PDF, 441KB).