The Transnational Illegal Market of Trafficking in Human Beings – Actors and Discourses: A Transatlantic Comparison

23 Pages Posted: 7 May 2011

See all articles by Jürgen Nautz

Jürgen Nautz

University of Vienna

Euridice Marquez

University of Vienna

Date Written: April 5, 2011


The paper analyses the development of trafficking in human beings (THB) as an economic crime and as a severe violation of human rights by focusing on the different actors’ involved in counter-trafficking efforts. The paper outlines how the crime evolved in Austria, Germany and the United States of America (USA) since the 19th century until present.

The phenomenon of human trafficking as defined by the UN Trafficking Protocol of 2000 it relates to slavery and it is considered as modern day slavery. Finding the right words to describe the crime remains a persistent challenge in combating human trafficking.

Most formulations used to describe trafficking focus on the trade or buying and selling of people, or they mean something closer to “smuggling,” which relates specifically to movement over borders. These words, including the word trafficking in English, may not adequately capture the most important aspect of the practice: exploitation.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that in the 19th and early 20th century practices nowadays considered as human trafficking referred as ‘White Slavery’, Slavery and ‘Mädchenhandel’. THB was also primarily saw as a feeding of the sex industry; excluding forced labour, domestic servitude, forced begging, among other forms of human trafficking from the today internationally agreed upon definition.

A growing demand for (cheap) labour, sexual services and women for (forced) marriages, economic and demographic disparities have stimulated the trafficking and smuggling in human beings through time. The perpetrators force the individuals to work in conditions of forced labour, servitude, or debt bondage; this privation of freedom and poor living conditions is thus a severe violation of human rights. Efforts to combat THB have mostly been geared at victim support and prevention as a response to the severe harm to victims, but little has been done to diminish the profitability of the business, which is why it is valuable to look at how this business has developed through time. Trafficking still remains a very profitable business in which the traffickers face relatively small risks.

Keywords: trafficking in human beings, organized crime, corruption

JEL Classification: D64, F22, J49, J61, J7, K14, K33, K42, N12, N14, N31, N32, N33, N34

Suggested Citation

Nautz, Jürgen and Marquez, Euridice, The Transnational Illegal Market of Trafficking in Human Beings – Actors and Discourses: A Transatlantic Comparison (April 5, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Jürgen Nautz (Contact Author)

University of Vienna ( email )

Bruenner Strasse 72
Vienna 1210, Vienna

Euridice Marquez

University of Vienna ( email )


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