Definition of human trafficking
Human trafficking is a serious breach of human rights. Put simply, trafficking is exploiting another person for prostitution or other sexual purposes, in forced labour or services, in slavery or practices similar to slavery or through the removal of organs. Exploitation involves violence and/or threats, abuse of a person’s vulnerability or other improper conduct.

In Article 3 of the Palermo protocol, the UN defines human trafficking as follows:

a) “trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

b) the consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used.

c) recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in persons” even if this does not involve any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article.

d) “Child” shall mean any person under eighteen years of age.

The Palermo protocol’s definition is very broad, and both within Norway and internationally there is disagreement about what elements must be present for a situation to be considered human trafficking.

According to the protocol, there are three main aspects to human trafficking:

Exploitation: Trafficking involves someone aiming to exploit other people.

Coercion/deception: Trafficking involves one person gaining control over another person through various kinds of threats, violence, coercion, deception or the abuse of a position of vulnerability.

Transport: Trafficking involves recruiting, transporting, receiving and housing people.

As well as defining what is involved in human trafficking, it is just as important to clarify what issues aren’t relevant when deciding whether trafficking has taken place. These are:

  • Whether or not national borders have been crossed.
  • Whether or not organised crime groups are involved.
  • Whether some freedom of choice was involved; which choices a person made before he/she was a victim of human trafficking.
  • The level of exploitation, coercion and threats.
  • The willingness of the person to work with the police and the authorities in general.

Human trafficking and migrant prostitution

Not all foreign prostitution in Norway is the result of human trafficking. Most foreign prostitution fits into one of two categories: migrant prostitution and human trafficking. The main difference between migrant prostitution and trafficking is that migrant prostitution does not involve exploitation and coercion by a third party. The prostitute freely chooses to travel abroad in order to sell sexual services. There is a grey area between the two categories, and in practice it can be difficult to distinguish between victims of trafficking and other foreigners working in prostitution. What is true in the case of both human trafficking and migrant prostitution, is that poverty, lack of equality and social marginalisation make people feel that they have been forced into prostitution due to a lack of alternatives.

Human trafficking and smuggling

There is a clear distinction between human trafficking and human smuggling. The aim of human smuggling is to cross the border illegally, whereas the purpose of human trafficking is to exploit the victims. Unlike smuggling, trafficking doesn’t necessarily involve crossing national borders: it can also take place within a country. In practice, however, it can be difficult to distinguish between human smuggling and human trafficking, as human trafficking can involve elements of smuggling.

You can read the Palermo protocol here.

You can also find the Norwegian plans to combat human trafficking here.

Children who sell/exchange sexual services

Normally when talking about children and young people, we talk about exchanging sex rather than selling sex. There are several reasons for this. Children and young people rarely operate in the traditional prostitution markets, and normally they are given other things than money in return for sex. For example, they may be given accommodation, food, clothes, drugs or top-up cards for their phones.

It is not illegal to sell sex in Norway, even in the case of young people. However, the preparatory works to the Child Welfare Act make it clear that prostitution is considered a serious behavioural problem, which requires special intervention. This means that young people are not simply free to sell sexual services without the authorities stepping in. These rules are based on the belief that people above the age of consent, but below the age of 18, are not yet sufficiently secure in their own sexuality, and therefore need extra protection.