Human Trafficking Emphasis on Human Rights

Human trafficking is not only a crime, it is also a gross violation of human rights. Traffickers treat trafficked persons like a commodity, trampling on their basic rights to make their own decisions, to move freely, and to work where and for whom they choose. A human rights approach when addressing human trafficking is crucial to restore the dignity and well-being of the trafficked person.

One of the stated purposes of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol is to protect and assist the trafficked person, with full respect for their human rights.

In 1948, the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares that:

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights
  • No one shall be held in slavery or servitude
  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Human Rights at the Centre.  The U.N.'s High Commissioner for Human Rights has encouraged all nations—and by extension, all service providers—to place human rights "at the centre of all efforts to prevent and combat trafficking and to protect, assist and provide redress to victims." (From Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking, 2002).

By taking these human rights away, says Kyung-wha Kang, U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, human trafficking "violates the most fundamental of rights we all hold dear: the right to life, to equality, dignity, and security; the right to health; the right to freedom of movement, freedom from violence and abuse, the right to be recognized as a person before the law." (From a speech delivered at the U.N.’s Trafficking in Women and Girls: Meeting the Challenge Together Conference, 2007.

My Story: They killed my spirit and made me feel so down.  They are allowed to jail you, to treat you like an animal.  One day I was dancing upstairs, because the place has two floors.  I didn't hear my music and my boss came with a security guard and grabbed my arm pulled me downstairs and put me on the stage.

- Maria

In addition to the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, there are numerous other relevant international treaties which inform responses to trafficking in persons. These can be found in the web resources list in the Resources section of this training

In Module 4, you will learn what it means to take a human rights approach when assisting a trafficked person.


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