Trafficking of women for the purpose of sexual exploitation in Europe


  • Gautam Kok



Tens of thousands of women and girls are trafficked from mainly poorer to richer regions of Europe and forced into prostitution. Traffickers abuse the poor socio-economic situation of young women in these poorer regions to exploit them into prostitution. Sex trafficking poses a huge impact on society. Besides the economical side – sanctions for not complying with certain anti-trafficking efforts or health care costs for victims – the political- and social impact is drastic. Social impact for victims is huge: during their trafficking they face extreme violence, coercion, and rape, which leave both psychological as physical marks after their return. Additionally, drug use by victims will eventually place another burden on society. In order to stop sex trafficking the pre-departure state, transit stage, exploitation stage and demand side need to be targeted. The pre-departure state is most important for source countries. The exploitation- and demand stages are tightly intertwined with legislation on prostitution. When prostitution is legalized and demand is high, exploitation is a natural result. Sweden has shown that demand can be strongly decreased by criminalizing the purchase of sex. By not criminalizing sales of sex, victims of sexual exploitation cannot be prosecuted. The European Commission has recently adopted a law prohibiting the purchase of sex, therewith copying this system. Country-specific adaptations might be necessary, as European countries are very different and deal with trafficking in very dissimilar ways. Adopting demand-tackling legislation might not have the desired effect in Eastern European source countries. Additionally, European countries must continue to work together. Sex trafficking seemingly follows basic economics: when there’s no demand, there’s no market, and therefore supplies will drop. Having looked at the different efforts countries make, it can be concluded that – although all stages of sex trafficking need to be targeted – eliminating the demand for sex workers seems to work as a best method.


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