Armed Conflict and Trafficking in Women

Thursday, January 1, 2004
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ)

Trafficking in human beings is flourishing. The global business involving “human goods” has now reached dimensions comparable to those of the illicit trades in drugs and weapons. In terms of numbers, the major victims of human trafficking are women and children who are forced into exploitative labour or prostitution.

There are two main reasons why this business is thriving: first, the harsh living conditions, mostly characterised by poverty, unemployment and a lack of perspectives, in the countries of origin. And, secondly, the demand that exists in the rich countries of the West. It is in their shadow economies that the victims are exploited: as cheap labour in the restaurant trade or the sex industry, through forced marriage and illegal adoption or for the removal of organs. Human rights standards are trampled under foot in the process. The trafficked themselves know far too little about their rights or about the appropriate channels to take to assert them.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has therefore commissioned the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH, German technical cooperation, to implement a sector project to combat trafficking in women, using funds from the German federal government's Action Program 2015 for poverty reduction.
By means of networking, improving knowledge management and taking better account of the socio-cultural background, the sector project is to help combat the trafficking of women and to improve the counselling offered to its victims.

The objective of this study is to examine prevalent forms of trafficking in women during armed conflicts and in post-conflict situations. It is based on the analysis of reports of international governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as newspaper articles and academic publications. In addition, experts and representatives of different NGOs and international organizations were interviewed.

This study uses the definition of trafficking in women provided by the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (hereafter Trafficking Protocol), attached to the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (2000). The study examines war and post-conflict zones as areas of origin, transit and destination. Examples of different regions are used, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Colombia, South Korea and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Special emphasis is given to the linkage between trafficking and the presence of international peace support operations.

Further information on the subject of trafficking in women and the work of the sector project can be accessed at If you have any queries or suggestions, please contact us at

Anna Erdelmann
Project Manager
Sector Project against Trafficking in Women

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