The United Nations Human Rights Office is at the forefront of efforts to promote a human rights-based approach to trafficking in persons. The Office has developed Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking (PDF) and its extensive Commentary (PDF) that aim to help all those involved in anti-trafficking efforts to fully integrate human rights into their analysis and responses to trafficking. The document includes seventeen recommended principles that address the following core areas: (a) the primacy of human rights; (b) preventing trafficking; (c) protection and assistance; (d) criminalization, punishment and redress. Additionally, eleven recommended guidelines provide practical measures for their implementation.
Even though our knowledge on trafficking in persons remains incomplete, it is widely acknowledged that certain factors make an individual, a social group or a community more vulnerable to trafficking and related exploitation. Discrimination in the denial of economic and social rights are critical factors in rendering certain persons more vulnerable than others. Discrimination and poverty results in fewer and poorer life choices, and may lead certain individuals to take risks and make decisions that they would never have done if their basic needs were being met. This lack of genuine choice can in turn increase the vulnerability of certain groups, such as minorities, migrants and women and girls, to trafficking. In addition to economic deprivation and inequalities, gender and race-based discrimination are important factors that may limit life choices and make some persons and communities more vulnerable to trafficking.
The links between human rights and trafficking in persons are manifold. Human rights are universal and hence victims of trafficking are entitled to the full range of human rights, irrespective of their sex, age, race, ethnic origin, nationality, migratory status or other distinction. International human rights law also recognizes that certain groups, such as women and children, require additional or special protection. Different human rights are relevant at different points in the trafficking cycle. Some are especially relevant to the causes of trafficking. This is when a violation of human rights, for instance the violation of the right to an adequate standard of living, lead to increase vulnerability of a person. Other human rights are relevant to the actual process of trafficking. In fact, trafficking and associated practices such as slavery, sexual exploitation, child labour, forced labour, debt bondage and forced marriage, are themselves violations of basic human rights and are prohibited under international human rights law. Finally, certain human rights concern the response to trafficking, such as the right to access to justice, the right to effective remedies, and the right to a fair trial.