Relevant International Conventions
International law has been a powerful medium for defining, preventing, protecting, prosecuting, and partnering against human trafficking world-wide. A set of eight international protocols and/or conventions are fundamental for countries to develop a national plan and display progress in anti-trafficking efforts. Meeting the minimum standard is demonstrated through legislation, prosecutions, and protection of victims as deemed necessary by the following relevant international conventions:
UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) created this convention as an effective action to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The Protocol supplements the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. In addition to preventing and combating trafficking of women and children, the Protocol also protects and assists the victims of trafficking with full respect to their human rights, and promote cooperation among State Parties against trafficking.
The Protocol defines “Trafficking in Persons” as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of a threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power of a position of vulnerability of the giving or receiving of payments to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography
In Articles 34 and 35 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, governments are compelled to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse and take all measures possible to ensure that they are not abducted, sold, or trafficked. The Convention’s Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography complements the Convention by providing States with detailed requirements to end the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. It also protects children from being sold for non-sexual purposes—such as other forms of forced labor, illegal adoption, and organ donation.
The Protocol provides definitions for the offenses of ‘sale of children’, ‘child prostitution’, and ‘child pornography’. It also creates obligations on governments to criminalize and punish the activities related to these offenses. It requires punishment not only for those offering or delivering children for the purposes of sexual exploitation, transfer of organs or children for profit or forced labour, but also for anyone accepting the child for these activities.
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Armed Conflict
As Annex I to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, this Protocol strives to promote and protect the rights of the child susceptible to recruitment in armed conflict. Article I of the Protocol requires State Parties’ to take all feasible measures to ensure that member of their armed forced who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities. Article II of the Protocol requires ratifying governments ensure that while their armed forces may accept volunteers under the age of 18, they cannot be conscripted.
ILO Convention 29, Forced Labour Convention
Originating in 1930, the Forced Labour Convention aimed to suppress compulsory labor thus defining it as “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.” The newly adopted ILO Protocol reinforced forced labor violations as found in modern era human trafficking.
As of 2016, the new obligations require governments to take measures to better protect workers, particularly migrant workers, from fraudulent and abusive recruitment practices emphasizing the role of employers and workers in the fight against forced labor. At present, an agreement by government, employer, and worker Committee members is recommending the Protocol becomes legally binding, but additional measures are still needed.
ILO Convention 105, Abolition of Forced Labour Convention
As a supplement to ILO Convention 29, Forced Labour Convention, this Protocol cancelled many exemptions to abolishment and requires States to suppress and not to make use of any form of forced or compulsory labor. The means of forced labor are specified as:
- A means of political coercion or education or as punishment for holding or expressing political views or views ideologically opposed to the established political, social, or economic system
- As a method of mobilizing and using forced labor for the purposes of economic development
- As a means of labor discipline
- As a punishment for having participated in strikes
- As a means of racial, social, national, or religious discrimination
ILO Convention 182, Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labour
Also known as the Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the WorstForms of Child Labour, this convention was adopted by the ILO in 1999 and requires immediate action to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labor by the ratifying State.
The Convention provides a predefined list of the worst forms of child labor:
- The sale of a child
- Trafficking children, meaning the recruitment of children to do work far away from home and from the care of their families
- Debt bondage or any other form of bonded labor or serfdom
- Forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict
- Commercial sexual exploitation, including the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution or the production of pornography
- Using, procuring or offering of a child by other for illegal activities, including trafficking or production of drugs
- Work but its nature is likely to harm the health, safety or moral of children
ILO Convention 189, Domestic Workers Convention
Concerning decent work for domestic workers, the Protocol provides basic rights and principles, requires by States to implement a series of measures that provide domestic workers with minimal labor standards.
The Convention defines a domestic worker as “any person engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship”. A domestic worker may be employed by an individual or agency, they may work part-time or full-time, may reside with their employer or live out of the residence, and they may be working in a country of which he or she is not a national.