Cross-border trafficking in human beings: prevention and intervention strategies for reducing sexual exploitation

Additional Info

  • Authors: Peter Van Der Laan, Monika Smit, Inge Busschers, Pauline Aarten
  • Published date: 2011-12-01
  • Coordinating group(s): Crime and Justice
  • Type of document: Title, Protocol, Review, User abstract
  • Volume: 7
  • Issue nr: 9
  • Category Image: Category Image
  • Title: Cross-border trafficking in human beings: prevention and intervention strategies for reducing sexual exploitation
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Over the years, growing attention has been given to the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings (THB). Sexual exploitation was until recently by far the most commonly identified feature of THB, followed by forced labour. Many activities to combat trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation have been initiated by numerous supranational, international as well as national organizations. Much is written about these initiatives, but some areas have been neglected. Knowledge on ‘what works’ is in particular limited. The growing attention to THB entails a demand for more information. The severity of the crime and the impact on its victims makes it of utmost importance to gain more insight into the working and effectiveness of anti-trafficking strategies and interventions.


The main objective of this review was to assess the presently available evidence on the effects of interventions that aim to prevent and suppress trafficking in human beings. The following questions were central to the systematic review:

  • What types of anti-THB strategies and interventions can be identified that have been accompanied by some form of empirical analysis?
  • Which of these studies incorporate (quasi-)experimental evaluations that are rigorous enough to determine the effect of these anti-THB strategies on preventing and suppressing THB?
  • What are the outcomes of these (quasi-)experimental studies?

Selection criteria

In this review only studies that focused on cross-border trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation were included. The focus is on cross-border trafficking, because internal trafficking is not (yet) or just recently recognized in many countries. Furthermore, this review was limited to trafficking for prostitution or sexual exploitation, in any form there is. Trafficking for forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs were kept out of consideration. In addition, included were only studies on anti-trafficking measures that involved evaluations of strategies - policies and interventions - to prevent or suppress cross border trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation with at least a level 3 research method of the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale (SMS).

Data collection

An extensive search strategy was used to identify studies for inclusion, consisting of a search in electronic databases, a search in the library of the Bureau of the (Dutch) National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings (BNRM), and an Internet search. Furthermore, we contacted relevant members of the professional network. Among the over 19.000 titles we came across, 144 studies were found, of which around 20 studies seemed possibly eligible and were coded by the authors.

Results and conclusion

No studies were found that met all criteria (prevention and suppression strategies, cross-border trafficking, sexual exploitation and a design of at least level 3 of the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale (SMS), i.e. a controlled design with both pretest and posttest measures and comparable control conditions. Consequently, no conclusions could be drawn on the effectiveness of anti-THB intervention strategies for preventing and reducing sexual exploitation. Some studies had employed other evaluation designs. We decided to include a narrative review presenting these studies since they sketch the landscape of anti-THB interventions, and are informative of the current state of evaluations of these interventions. However, since these are non-controlled studies, they do not provide a basis for drawing conclusions about actual outcomes and impacts.

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