The International Law on Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution: Making it Live Up to its Potential

43 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2006

See all articles by Stephanie Farrior

Stephanie Farrior

Hunter College, Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute


A wide array of international legal norms applies to the trafficking in women and children for prostitution. The subject cuts across several categories of rights. Trafficking implicates civil and political rights, including freedom of movement, the right to be free from cruel and degrading treatment, and the right to be free from slavery and slavery-like practices. Trafficking is also deeply connected to the deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights.

Though a number of treaties and UN resolutions address trafficking, it is apparent that there is a wealth of words on paper but a glaring lack of enforcement. This situation is due in large part to substantive and structural weaknesses in the relevant instruments, as well as to powerful economic and social forces and a corresponding lack of political will. The anti-trafficking measures, after all, are aimed at protecting one of the most marginalized populations in the world, a population from which many individuals and even national economies profit.

Both treaty law and UN Charter-based human rights mechanisms offer advocates opportunities to press for the implementation of the prohibition of trafficking in people for prostitution. This article provides an overview and analysis of these treaties and mechanisms. Though many of them are weak, some have the ability to generate pressure and help create the political will necessary for change. The article first discusses international treaties on trafficking and slavery, as well as the relevant ILO treaties. Next, the UN human rights treaties are addressed, followed by discussion of UN Charter-based mechanisms, and the "soft law" on trafficking. The article concludes by recommending which mechanisms would be of the most use in making the international law against trafficking for prostitution live up to its potential.

Keywords: human rights, trafficking, prostitution, international, treaty, economic social and cultural rights

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Farrior, Stephanie, The International Law on Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution: Making it Live Up to its Potential. Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol. 10, 1997, Available at SSRN:

Stephanie Farrior (Contact Author)

Hunter College, Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute ( email )

47-49 E 65th St
New York, NY 10065
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics