Press Release

In the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, the IACHR call on States to Adopt a Human Rights Approach in Response to the Diverse Forms of Human Trafficking

July 31, 2017

   Contact info

IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9000

   More on the IACHR
A+ A-

Washington, D.C – On the occasion of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) invite the States of the region to adopt a human rights approach that involves measures aimed at the detection, prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership in order to combat the diverse forms of human trafficking identified in the Americas.

According to the "Global Report on Trafficking in Persons" by the UNODC, published in December 2016, women and girls represent the 71% of all the victims of human trafficking worldwide (51% women, 20% girls). The IACHR has confirmed that there are many forms of this crime. Trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor are the most common forms identified. According to the UNODC, in the Americas, sexual exploitation of women accounts for 57% of all human trafficking in Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. This figure stands at 55% in North America. Forced labor constitutes 39% of human trafficking in North America, 29% in South America and 16% in Central America. Other forms of human trafficking mentioned in the report include forced marriage, illegal adoption, organ removal and forced begging. The report notes that while women and girls tend to be trafficked for marriage and sexual exploitation, men and boys are usually exploited for forced labor. In Central America and the Caribbean, children represent 62% of the victims.

"In the Americas, it is still necessary to keep working on the definition and awareness of human trafficking and of its different forms of exploitation to promote a better understanding of this problem," said the President of the IACHR, Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren. "It is important to adopt preventing measures in order to counteract demand and to protect the victims and survivors of human trafficking in the region."

The Inter-American standards on this matter should support a more precise definition of the concepts for the defense and promotion of human rights for the victims of human trafficking. The right not to be subject to slavery, involuntary servitude, forced labor, slave trade or traffic in women is essential to the Charter of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights. This right is part of the irrevocable core of rights, in accordance with the statements issued by the organs of the Inter-American System of Human Rights.

The Commission highlights that the Member States have the duty to prevent human trafficking, to implement measures to promote the identification of victims, particularly groups in a situation of vulnerability such as women, children, LGBTI persons, migrants, persons in the situation of sexual exploitation, children and youth recruited to gangs, and to adopt the necessary measures to protect them. They also reaffirm the obligation of States to act with due diligence to investigate trafficking in persons and to punish the traffickers, and that any omission in this regard constitutes a violation of human rights.

Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants at the IACHR -who oversees mandate associated with the victims of human trafficking-, emphasized that: "Human trafficking, particularly that of women and children, constitutes a crime and a serious threat to the dignity and integrity of persons, human rights and development". The Rapporteur added that "States must implement measures such as awareness campaigns to prevent and fight human trafficking. Additionally, they must adopt actions to protect the victims against a new risk of victimization."

Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Children, said that: "It is important that the public policies that address human trafficking take into consideration the superior interest of the child". In this sense, she declared that "the States must tackle the social, economic, cultural, political and other factors that aggravate vulnerability to trafficking, including violence and armed conflict, sexual violence, discrimination, social exclusion and marginalization."  

Likewise, the Rapporteur on Rights of Women, Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, stressed that "Gender-based discrimination and sexism present in many countries in the region are factors that explain the disproportionate impact of human trafficking on women's victimization."  The Commissioner points out that "human trafficking constitutes a way of violence against women according to the Convention of Belem do Pará, as well as manifestation of historically unequal power relations between women and men." 

The IACHR emphasize that the countries approved the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes among its goals the fight against trafficking in persons and every form of violence and exploitation against women and girls.

The Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrão exhorted the States to “provide efficient criminal justice responses to human trafficking focused on addressing the protection and assistance needs of different groups and victims, with full respect of their human rights." The Executive Secretary drew attention to the fact that “there are some situations in which the people are being trafficked in mixed migration flows due to the increase of the vulnerability of migrants and refugees to human trafficking."

In 2014, the Inter-American Declaration against Trafficking in Persons (Declaration of Brasilia) recognized the need to develop and perfect national and sub-regional migration policies, to prevent the violation of the human rights of migrants and the vulnerability to human trafficking associated with the increase of migration flows. In this sense, the IACHR reminds Member States of their political commitments and legal obligations regarding the prevention and combat against human trafficking, reiterating their duty to adopt comprehensive measures on this matter and to promote ample, coordinated and systemic responses to tackle human trafficking.

In order to address human trafficking, the involvement of the Judiciary System as well as other levels of government and the private sector has to be reinforced. For instance, these actors could expand the networks that promote anti-trafficking actions, not only from a criminal perspective, but by promoting the prevention, early detection of trafficking, and attention to the persons who experience these situations. Additionally, it is relevant to strengthen the interconnection among different public policies to address human trafficking in a comprehensive way. From a human rights-based approach, this could include the integration of policies and mechanisms, such as inter-institutional forums, joint action plans, and interaction among levels and other branches of government.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 110/17