Throughout this knowledge module, reference to certain provisions or sections of a piece of legislation, part of a legal judgment, or aspect of a practice does not imply that the legislation, judgment, or practice is considered in its entirety to be a good example or a promising practice.

Some of the laws cited herein may contain provisions which authorize the death penalty. In light of the United Nations General Assembly resolutions 62/14963/16865/206, and 67/176 calling for a moratorium on and ultimate abolition of capital punishment, the death penalty should not be included in sentencing provisions for crimes of violence against women and girls.

Other Provisions Related to Domestic Violence LawsResources for Developing Legislation on Domestic Violence
Sexual Harassment in Sport Tools for Drafting Sexual Harassment Laws and Policies
Immigration Provisions Resources for developing legislation on sex trafficking of women and girls
Child Protection Provisions Resources on Forced and Child Marriage
Other provisions related to dowry-related and domestic violence laws
Related Tools

Core elements of legislation on sex trafficking of women and girls

Last edited: January 25, 2011

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  • A definition of sex trafficking that focuses on the criminal acts of the offender rather than on the state of mind of the victim. The definition should include:
    • A provision which states that the consent of the trafficking victim is not a defense to the criminal offence of sex trafficking; and
    • A provision which states that a trafficking victim shall not be detained, arrested or charged with a criminal offence for the activities they are involved in as a direct consequence of being trafficked; and
  • A criminal offence for the offence of sex trafficking involving: 
    • Recruitment, receipt, enticement, harboring, obtaining, providing, transferring, or transportation of persons;
    • By any means (this language recognizes that no one can consent to being trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation and is recommended as a best practice); or
    • By one of the following means to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation (except where the trafficking victims are under age 18, in which case drafters should ensure the means element of the definition of sex trafficking is not required):
      • The threat or use of force; or
      • Other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability; or
      • The giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person;
      • The facilitating or controlling a victim's access to an addictive controlled substance; or
      • The unlawful conduct related to documents in furtherance of labor or sex trafficking; AND
    • For the purpose of sexual exploitation, which must include at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others. 
  • A criminal offence for:
    • Attempting to commit an offence mentioned above;
    • Participating as an accomplice to an offence mentioned above; and
    • Organizing or directing other persons to commit an offence mentioned above.
  • Enhanced criminal penalties for a the commercial sexual exploitation of another where the offender:
    • Has committed a prior qualified human trafficking-related offence, which should include labor trafficking, sex trafficking, prostitution of another, or unlawful conduct related to documents in furtherance of labor or sex trafficking; or
    • The offence involved a sex trafficking victim who suffered bodily harm during the commission of the offence; or
    • The time period that a sex trafficking victim was held in debt bondage or forced labor or services exceeded 180 days; or
    • The offence involved more than one sex trafficking victim; or
    • The offence involved a vulnerable victim, which must include, at a minimum, a victim under the age of 18.     
  • Protections for victims and witnesses, including:
    • Benefits and services;
    • Protection of a victim’s identity and/or privacy;
    • Protection in court proceedings;
    • Protection from summary deportation and permission to remain legally in the receiving state or the safe and timely return of a the victim to the state of which that individual is a national or has a permanent right of residence;
    • Compensation; and
    • The right to file a civil claim for damages; and
  • Civil Remedies, including:
    • Restitution; and
    • Asset forfeiture; and
    • Civil damages; and
  • Special Protection and assistance for child victims, including:
    • Treatment of a victim as a child and to the extent possible where the age is uncertain and until age is verified;
    • Appointment of a guardian to advocate for the best interests of the child and to accompany the child through the process ensuring that:
      • Direct contact between the child and perpetrator is avoided;
      • The child victim is fully informed about the criminal and security procedures;
      • The child may make an informed decision whether to testify in criminal proceedings ensuring that children who testify are kept safe;
      • Allowing for video or audio recorded testimony by child victims or witnesses, or alternatively that live testimony is given in a separate room, away from the perpetrator;
      • Appropriate shelter is provided based upon the child’s age and special needs;
      • Individuals responsible for the care of child victims are adequately trained; and
    • Adoption of clear policies and procedures for the return and repatriation of child victims. Policies should prioritize the best interests of the child and critically evaluate the capacity of the receiving state to provide long-term assistance;
    • Adoption of clear policies and procedures for the extradition of individuals for the offence of sex trafficking, or when extradition does not take place, the prosecution of nationals for sex trafficking offences committed abroad; and
  • Government investment in protection, prosecution, prevention, provision of services and partnerships, including:
    • Permanent funding for victim services;
    • A statewide or national human trafficking interagency task force;
    • Ongoing and regular reporting on the number and nature of sex trafficking investigations, arrests, charges, and convictions;
    • Funding for training of law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and other criminal justice system professionals; and
    • Funding for public awareness campaigns.

According to a 2012 Global Trafficking in Persons report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, at least 134 countries and territories have criminalized human trafficking. (See: Global Trafficking in Persons Report, UNODC, 2012)