Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings

Prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe

Prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe

Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

Rapporteur: Mr José MENDES BOTA, Portugal, Group of the European People's Party

Trafficking in human beings is a hideous human rights violation and one of the most lucrative activities for criminal organisations worldwide. It occurs for various purposes, including forced labour, criminality and organ removal. In Europe, trafficking for sexual exploitation is by far the most widespread form: an estimated 84% of victims are trafficked for this purpose. Efforts to tackle trafficking in human beings have intensified in the last decade but remain insufficient. As transnational trafficking represents the greatest part of this phenomenon, harmonisation of legal standards and effective international co-operation in criminal matters are crucial to succeed in the fight against human trafficking. The lack of reliable and comparable data on prostitution and trafficking in Europe is a major barrier to making and implementing effective policies against trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation. Creating a Europe-wide data collection system on prostitution and trafficking is therefore crucial. As a pan-European organisation, the Council of Europe has an important role to play in promoting such a data collection system.

Some Council of Europe member States have drawn up prostitution regulations and policies aimed at countering trafficking by curbing the demand for victims. This is true of Sweden, together with Iceland and Norway. The “Swedish approach”, based on criminalising the purchase of sexual services, is currently under consideration by legislators in several European countries as a possible tool for tackling trafficking. While each system presents advantages and disadvantages, policies prohibiting the purchase of sexual services are those that are more likely to have a positive impact on reducing trafficking in human beings. Irrespective of the legal approach adopted, prostitution regulations should include harm-reduction measures aimed at countering the negative effects of prostitution on the people involved and supporting those who wish to leave the sex industry.


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Publication Date
Tuesday, 1 April, 2014
Section Publications
Policy Area Victims
Type of Publication Data collection
Year 2014
Means acts purpose Sexual exploitation