Human trafficking: The relationship between government efforts & survivor punishment

Glob Public Health. 2020 Oct;15(10):1496-1508. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2020.1763421. Epub 2020 May 12.


Human trafficking is a global public health and human rights issue, although it remains unknown how governmental-level systems impact survivors of human trafficking. Survivor punishment (where federal or local officials arrest, fine, imprison, deport, or otherwise punish survivors) is evident even with global promotion of survivor-centred approaches to human trafficking. This study serves as an initial investigation of how government involvement in survivor services and prevention progress are related to survivor punishment. This cross-national study utilised the 2011 Human Trafficking Indicators. Although this dataset heavily relies on the U.S. TIP reports, our analyses are guided by a human rights framework that recognises the importance of prevention and partnerships in mitigating the vulnerability of survivors. Multiple logistic regression was conducted to determine factors associated with survivor punishment. Findings indicate that countries categorised by the U.S. as showing substantial prevention progress have a lower likelihood of survivor punishment (OR = 0.30; 95% CI [0.15, 0.62]). Government survivor service offering was not significantly associated with punishment (OR = 0.65; 95% CI [0.33, 1.28]). Findings call for the development of global measures resulting from international partnerships to characterise stocks and flows of human trafficking, as well as the quality and effectiveness of governmental efforts and partnerships.

Keywords: Human trafficking; governmental efforts; prevention; survivor punishment; survivor services.

MeSH terms

  • Global Health
  • Government*
  • Human Rights
  • Human Trafficking*
  • Humans
  • Punishment
  • Survivors* / legislation & jurisprudence