Last Updated March 2015

In partnership with UN Women, The Advocates for Human Rights created the following sections for UN Women's Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls. This section, along with sections addressing other forms of violence against women and girls, may be found under Legislation at


Drafters should criminalize the offence of human trafficking. Widows may be vulnerable to trafficking because of a number of factors, such as financial hardship and lack of housing, shelter or viable economic opportunities. Also, women who are victims of violence are susceptible to being trafficked as they leave an abusive home to find work. (See: Factors That Contribute to Trafficking in Women, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights) Drafters should criminalize attempts to commit trafficking, aiding and abetting trafficking, the unlawful use of documents in furtherance of trafficking, and unlawful disclosure of the identity of victims or witnesses; and create accomplice liability for trafficking.  Drafters should ensure that the penalties for trafficking address aggravating circumstances and punishment for public officials involvement and complicity in trafficking and related exploitation. (See: UN Trafficking Protocol, Arts. 3 and 5)

Criminal provisions addressing the following should be included in legislation to combat human trafficking:

  • Criminal trafficking offences by traffickers and buyers

  • Attempted trafficking offences (those who attempt trafficking should be held accountable in line with the offence of “attempt” of other serious crimes)

  • Aiding and abetting (those who assist and participate in the trafficking of others should be held accountable in line with the offence of “aiding and abetting” other serious offences)

  • Accomplice liability for trafficking

  • Organizing and directing others to commit trafficking offences

  • Unlawful use of documents in furtherance of trafficking

  • Unlawful disclosure of the identity of victims or witnesses

  • Aggravating circumstances for trafficking offences

  • Punishment for public officials’ involvement and complicity in trafficking and related exploitation

(See: UN Trafficking Protocol, Art.5; UNODC Model Law Against Trafficking in Persons, Chapters V and VII, 2009; See: UN Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking, Guideline 4(10); UNHCR Guidelines on International Protection: The application of Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Convention and/or 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees to victims of trafficking and persons at risk of being trafficked, Section II(d)(21-24), 9-10, 2008.)

Drafters should ensure that criminalization of trafficking and related offences do not inadvertently penalize trafficking victims for crimes committed as a result of being trafficked. Drafters should affirmatively protect trafficking victims from being arrested, charged, detained and convicted of such crimes. Without such protections, the human rights of trafficking victims cannot be protected. Furthermore, trafficking victims will be reluctant if not unwilling to participate in the prosecution of their traffickers without such protections because they fear retaliation, harm and death.  Without prosecutions and convictions of traffickers, there will be no deterrents for this crime and no message to the community about its heinous and criminal nature.

See the section on Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls in this module for more information.