Human trafficking, which includes Child Trafficking, is generally understood to refer to the trade in and exploitation of an individual for another person’s gain.
Trafficking can occur within a country or may involve movement across borders. Women, men and children are trafficked for a range of purposes, including forced and exploitative labour in factories, farms and private households, sexual exploitation, and forced marriage. Human Trafficking has been documented in almost all countries of the world.
The first-ever agreed definition of trafficking was incorporated into the 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Trafficking Protocol). That definition has since been incorporated into many other legal and policy instruments as well as national laws.
The Components of Trafficking
On the basis of the definition given in the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, it is evident that trafficking in persons has three constituent elements:
The Act (What is done): Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons
The Means (How it is done): Threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim
The Purpose (Why it is done): For the purpose of exploitation, which includes sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs.
Human v Child Trafficking
Child trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt” of a child for the purpose of exploitation. This definition comes from the United Nations Palermo Protocol. A child is defined by the Palermo Protocol and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as any person under the age of 18. Child Trafficking is regarded as a form of modern day slavery.
The trafficking of children is a process comprised of two distinct stages: the Act and the Purpose. This is the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or reception of persons, including the exchange or transfer of control over those persons … for the purpose of exploitation.”
The Means component is not required for the definition of child trafficking. This is not to say that this stage does not occur for child victims, but the definition recognises that a child cannot give informed consent to his or her own exploitation, even if he or she agrees to travel or understands what has happened.
Anyone can become a victim of human trafficking, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, age, gender or socio-economic status. However, children are especially vulnerable to being targeted by traffickers and being caught in exploitative situations.
The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 commenced operation on 7 June 2008. This legislation creates an offence of recruiting, transporting, transferring to another person, harbouring, or causing the entry into, travel within or departure from the State of a person or providing the person with accommodation or employment for the specific purpose of the trafficked person’s sexual or labour exploitation or removal of his or her organs. It provides for penalties of up to life imprisonment and, at the discretion of the court, a fine for persons who traffic or attempt to traffic other persons for the purposes of labour or sexual exploitation or for the removal of a person’s organs.
The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Act 2013 was enacted on 9 July 2013. The purpose of this Amendment is to facilitate full compliance with the criminal law measures set out in Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA by criminalising trafficking for the purpose of forced begging and trafficking for other criminal activities. This legislation also defines the term ‘forced labour’ as used in the 2008 Act. The definition is based on that set out in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 29 of 1930 on Forced or Compulsory Labour. In addition, the Amendment Act contains provisions to better facilitate children giving evidence in criminal prosecutions by increasing from 14 to 18 years the upper age threshold for out-of-court video recording of a complainant’s evidence and by making provision for video recording the evidence of a child (other than an accused) who is under the age of 18 years.
This Act makes it an offence to organise or knowingly facilitate the entry into, transit through, or exit from Ireland of a child for the purpose of the child’s sexual exploitation. The Second National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking in Ireland makes it an offense to exploit or provide accommodation for the child for such a purpose while in Ireland. It is also an offence to take, detain or restrict the personal liberty of a child for the purpose of the child’s sexual exploitation, to use a child for such purpose or to organise or knowingly facilitate such taking, detaining, restricting or use. Section 1 of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 amends the 1998 Act by extending the definition of a child from a person under the age of 17 years to a person under the age of 18 years. The maximum penalty on conviction is raised from 14 years to life imprisonment.
This was enacted on 22 February 2017. The Act enhanced and updated laws to combat the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children, including new offences relating to child sexual grooming and new and strengthened offences to tackle child pornography. The Act also criminalises the purchase of sexual services, introduces new provisions regarding the giving of evidence by victims in sexual offence trials and introduces a new offence addressing public indecency.