Stop the Traffick: The role of clients and civil society in combating sexual exploitation

VIDC (Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation) panel discussion as part of the conference “Joining Forces against Human Trafficking” organized by the Task Force on Combating Human Trafficking (established by the Austrian Federal Government; coordinated by the Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs) on the occasion of the EU-Anti-Trafficking Day.

October 21, 2013, Diplomatic Academy of Vienna

  • Mag. Nadja Schuster, MA | Gender Consultant, VIDC
Panel discussion
  • Joanna Garnier | Co-founder and Vice President of La Strada Foundation against Trafficking in Persons and Slavery, Poland
  • Dr. Andrea di Nicola | Assistant Professor of Criminology and Coordinator of eCrime, Faculty of Law, University of Trento, Italy
  • Esta Steyn, BA | Director and Coordinator Stop the Traffik Netherlands
  • Irene Brickner | Author and Editorial Journalist at Der Standard


The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated in June 2012 that in the time frame 2002 – 2011 20.9 million people were victims of forced labour globally. This estimate includes victims of sexual exploitation. The majority of victims are from Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary.

Where does the demand for cheap, unprotected and flexible labour stem from? Is there a demand per se for trafficking victim’s prostitution? What prevails: the demand for ‘exotic sexual services’ (Di Nicola et al 2009) or the demand for low prices and the possibility to exploit women with a low social status who cannot claim their rights (O’Connel Davidson, Anderson 2003)? To what extent are buyers of sexual services violent, abusive and demand unconventional sexual practices? With regard to the four different models to regulate prostitution (abolitionism, new abolitionism, criminalization, regulation): which model would rather lead to a decrease in demand for unprotected sex workers? To what extent is sex trafficking related to racism, discrimination and exploitation of (undocumented) migrants?

To identify the demand for sexual exploitation per se is a very challenging task and requires further research. However, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo (UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children) regards it as “the desire for labour that is exploitative or services which breach the human rights of the person delivering those services…demand must be understood expansively, as any act that fosters any form of exploitation that, in turn, leads to trafficking”. The three panellists will represent perspectives of different actors in the field of human trafficking of

  1. victims,
  2. individuals, civil society, private sector and
  3. clients of sexual services.

During the discussion we will tackle the questions: How can demand for sex trafficking be decreased? What measures can be taken by various actors in the field?




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