The issues surrounding human trafficking, sex trafficking, and prostitution are complex and profound.

From the largest cities to the smallest villages, human trafficking touches every community on the planet — and destroys lives. explores these issues from a gender equality and human rights perspective, and includes provocative images, information, video clips, and links to the top human trafficking resources on the web. is a group of concerned citizens based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver endeavours to be the greenest city in the world; yet, it suffers an ugly blight.

Among other sources, we use video clips from the film Red Light, Green Light, by two filmmakers who travel across ten countries to explore these issues. The first video clip is below, and others follow. 

Watch the short clip below, and then click the "Next" button (lower right) to get informed about human trafficking. 





Video clip from the film Red Light, Green Light: Prevention, Prosecution, and Protection

Human trafficking is the recruitment and transportation of persons within or across boundaries by force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of exploiting them. Exploitation can include sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.  

The defining feature of trafficking is not travel but control. A victim need not be physically transported from one location to another in order for this crime to be committed.  

Trafficking is a global form of prostitution. The crime continues to grow because victims are coerced into silence, frozen in fear and kept hidden by the tactics of intimidation, power and control.  

Many traffickers go unpunished, thus the crime is increasing, resulting in great profits for the perpetrators while continuing to destroy the lives of women and children.

In 2000, the UN articulated the Palermo Agreement, which was signed by 121 countries. The Palermo Agreement defines human trafficking with three essential components:  Process, Means, and Purpose.  

  • Process is recruiting, luring, harbouring, moving or obtaining a person

  • Means is the use of force, fraud, coercion, power and control. Force could mean the use of rape, beating, and confinement to control the person. Fraud involves false offers to induce people into trafficking, such as promising jobs etc. Coercion involves threats of harm, physical restraining, abuse, or threatening family or pets. 

   Purpose is for sexual exploitation, slavery, forced labor or organ trafficking. 


Prostitution is gender-based violence. Today it has become mostly secretive, discretely hidden, more complex and underground. It is exploitative, harmful, dangerous to body and soul and diminishes the person. It takes advantage of the most vulnerable, those suffering from poverty, racism and abuse. It is a criminal industry driven by the ability of the perpetrators to make large profits behind closed doors.  

  • 85-95% of prostituted persons are victims of child abuse in the family.

  • Many prostituted persons are victims of incest.

  • The average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 years of age.

  • About 44% of current prostituted persons entered the industry younger than 18.  

Research by Mellissa Farley, who studied 854 women, of whom 100 were from Vancouver Downtown Eastside, showed the following: 

  • 56% were aboriginal women and girls.

  • 91% were physically assaulted.

  • 76% were raped.

  • 75 % were stabbed, beaten, and had bones broken.

  • 74% had a PTSD diagnosis.

  • 67% were threatened with a weapon, raped more than 5 times, and had pornography made of them in prostitution.

  • 50% suffered traumatic head injuries.

Prostitution is not a choice, nor is it work.  It does not meet standards for acceptable work, since the the entry point is poverty, racism, ageism and/or child abuse; it has a high level of harm to health, and the working conditions are very harmful.

Image Credit: By FloNight (Sydney Poore) and Russell Poore (self-made by Russell and Sydney Poore) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Video clip from Exiting the Sex Industry: Quick Money vs. Sustainable Employment

The trafficking in human beings is a multi-billion dollar form of international organized crime, estimated by the International Labour Organization to have an annual value of $39 billion USD.  It affects every region in the world.  Human Trafficking victims are recruited and trafficked between countries and regions through the use of deception, threats or force. Typically the victims are unwilling participants. Trafficking is a crime under international law and many national and regional legal systems.   (INTERPOL Fact Sheet)

There are three main types of human trafficking:

   Trafficking for forced labor (18%).

   Trafficking for sexual exploitation (79%).

  • Trafficking for organs.

Women are disproportionally involved in human trafficking as victims (2/3 of reported victims) and the majority of traffickers are male.  

It is estimated that 29 million people live in slavery globally, with 55% women and 26% children.  Approximately 800,000 to 900,000 persons are trafficked across international borders yearly.  

Image Credit: Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons. Original text: "Like slaves on an auction block waiting to be selected, victims of human trafficking have to perform as they are told or risk being beaten. Sex buyers often claim they had no idea that most women and girls abused in prostitution are desperate to escape, or are there as a result of force, fraud, or coercion."

Other Links:

ECPAT, a global network dedicated to protecting children, estimates two million boys and girls are victims of sexual exploitation worldwide.

UNODC is the guardian of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish trafficking in persons – the first internationally agreed definition of trafficking in persons which entered into force on Dec. 25, 2003.

  • The RCMP estimates that 600 to 800 people are trafficked into Canada annually year, and another 1500 to 2200 persons are trafficked through Canada to the United States annually. 90% of Canada’s trafficking cases involve domestic human trafficking and less than 10% involve people being brought into Canada. Community organizations estimate that as many as 16,000 Canadians are trafficked annually. (RCMP, Statistics Canada)

   Canada is a source, destination and transit country for human trafficking. Human trafficking is a $32 billion per year business with 79% of victims destined for the sex industry.  

   The trafficking of girls and women is driven by demand. If there was no demand, there would be no trafficking or prostitution

   There is a high demand for young girls. A recent court case in BC concerned 10 underage girls who had been forced into prostitution. Girls are vulnerable due to poverty, childhood sexual abuse, family breakdown, and addiction issues. 85% of prostituted women were sexually abused as children.

   The average age of entry into prostitution in Canada is 13 years of age. The typical age range of females trafficked for sexual exploitation by organized crime networks in Canada is between 12-25 years of age.   (Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women and Children)

   There is a high level of trafficking of Aboriginal girls between the ages of 7 to 12. Traffickers are reportedly both within and outside of Aboriginal communities. Aboriginal girls are grossly over-represented in prostitution and among the women who have been murdered in prostitution. Aboriginal girls are over-represented in street prostitution while Asian girls are over-represented in indoor prostitution.

   The majority of the victims are lured, tricked or trafficked into prostitution.  30% of street youth are involved in the sex industry primarily for survival. 

   Most traffickers deceive girls and women with false promises, then take their identification, isolate and/drug them, and threaten them in order to get them to comply. 

   Traffickers seek out victims at bus stations, shelters, group homes, bars, malls and schools.  Women and girls from remote or marginalized communities are recruited to the cities and found in bus stops, shopping malls etc. Vulnerable girls and women are lured through social media, dating website, chat lines, and    

Image Credit: By The Blackbird (Jay Black) (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo location is Vancouver's downtown east side near Oppenheimer Park.

Other links:

Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children – The Learning Network

Video clip from How Pimps Recruit: Harmony's Story