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An introduction to sex trafficking in Western Europe » Violence

An introduction to sex trafficking in Western Europe

October 9th, 2008 by stlong@stanford.edu Leave a reply »

Sex trafficking in Western Europe has long been a problem, but in the last ten years, the estimated number of victims has risen sharply. Some argue that technology has made trafficking easier, along with the creation of the European Union. As of June 2008, the organization Solidarity with Women in Distress estimated that 700,000 women are trafficked to Western Europe each year.

Because prostitution is legal in several Western European countries (including Germany, the Netherlands and Great Britain) there is a high demand for sex workers. Foreigners make up the majority of prostitutes. For example, up to 90% of Spain’s and 70% of Germany’s sex workers are foreign born. A minority enters the country through legal procedures. In Spain it is estimated that 80% of foreign sex workers are trafficked into the country. These trafficked women are often under the false belief that they are going to be married or have a job lined up. Instead they are forced into prostitution. While this is not always the case, only 30% of women trafficked to Germany claim to have known that they would be involved in prostitution, according to www.humantrafficking.org.

Prostitution itself does not violate a human right by current international standards. However, every human being has the right to choose whether they wish to enter this line of work, along with if and when they wish to leave it. Many times even those who did choose to become a prostitute are shocked to discover the dangers and the mistreatment that they face on a daily basis. Yet it is not within their power to simply quit. Many are forced to make the sacrifice in order to combat extreme poverty, but find themselves in an unbearable situation that violates their rights and risks their health.

In this blog, I plan to explore three different aspects of the issue:
1. The circumstances surrounding women who have been trafficked,
2. Laws and their efficacy in protecting women from being taken advantage of in this way, and
3. The role that society plays in perpetuating this problem.

For those of you who are interested, here is a blog post that I found with a good overview of human trafficking around the world:




  1. cmccourt@stanford.edu says:

    The statistics that you presented here were surprising to me, mainly because rarely have I heard “sex trafficking” and “prostitution” together in the same breath in the U.S. but in most of the U.S. (I think, perhaps with a few localized exceptions), like in many Western European countries, prostitution is illegal, so one would think that the “market” exists. That said, sex trafficking could be a bigger issue in the U.S. than I had thought. Have you found any information on what those people who are unknowingly trafficked for the purpose of prostitution typically think they are going to be doing? What story are they most often given?

    You mentioned that the creation of the European Union has made sex trafficking easier – has sex trafficking become less of a smuggling operation and more of an operation in which people hear about an opportunity and travel by themselves (now that they can pass freely over national borders)? Also, you mentioned that one of the topics you wish to investigate is “laws and their efficacy in protecting women…” Do you know what have been the major obstacles to prostitution’s status as a human rights violation (by the U.N.)? Have any major laws been passed recently that have been a significant help in protecting women from sex trafficking?

  2. Harya says:

    Going along with what Casey said I was wondering about the fact that the European Union has made sex trafficking easier. If it is an illegal activity how has the creation of the union made it any easier?

    Also I would love to hear more about the specific countries that these women and young girls are trafficked from. Would you suggest, in your opinion that legislation should come from the countries where most of the girls are being taken from or do you think it would be more effective to try and diminish the demand in the other countries?