Types of Human Trafficking

There are two main types of human trafficking: sex trafficking and labor trafficking.

  • Sex trafficking occurs when a person is made to perform commercial sexual acts through force, fraud, and/or coercion; or when a person made to perform commercial sexual acts is under the age of 18. Examples of sex trafficking include forced prostitution of adults, any type of child prostitution, trafficking for forced marriage, and more.
  • Labor trafficking involves recruiting, transporting, harboring, providing, or purchasing a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Examples include forced labor on American farms under violence, domestic servitude (maids and nannies), sweatshops, and fraudulent labor contracts that keep people in bondage through an ever-increasing debt. Note that labor trafficking can happen in any industry, including agriculture, manufacturing, restaurant work, construction, fishing, mining, custodial work, and many more.

It is important to recognize that despite their distinct definitions, sex and labor trafficking often overlap in real trafficking situations. For example, a woman trafficked primarily into prostitution (sex trafficking) might also be forced to clean or cook around the brothel (labor trafficking).

Other types of human trafficking include:

  • Child soldiers. A notable subcategory of labor trafficking, child soldiering occurs when a person under the age of 18 is made to be a combatant in a national army or rebel militia. Examples include the so-called “Invisible Children” forced to fight for the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group originally from Uganda, or children impressed into military service in Burma (Myanmar).
  • Organ trafficking. Although not officially recognized by the US government as a form of human trafficking, the UN and a number of foreign governments include forced removal of human organs for sale on the black market as a “service” under the heading of labor trafficking. An example of organ trafficking is the execution and organ harvesting of practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, a sect of Buddhism outlawed in China.