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What is human trafficking?


Human trafficking in The Netherlands is defined as any form of financial exploitation or forced labor, someone working in prostitution under the age of 18 or a form of organ trafficking. Human trafficking is illegal in The Netherlands and punishable by law under article 273F. The current Dutch law makes a clear separation between prostitution and human trafficking, and does not see prostitution itself as human trafficking.

Prostitution is however only legal if you are 18 years or older. People under the age of 18 will automatically be seen as victims of trafficking, even if there's no trafficker. Anyone however who does aid in helping a prostitute under the age of 18 will be seen as a human trafficker, even if there's no sign or form of any financial exploitation or coercion.

The Dutch law also states that any person recruiting, transporting or abducting someone from another country with the aim of making that person work in prostitution in The Netherlands, is also considered human trafficking under the Dutch law. However, due to a verdict of the high court in The Netherlands, it was pointed out that helping someone to come to the Netherlands if that person wants to work in prostitution, and if that person is not being financially exploited, is not human trafficking.

The verdict of the high court in The Netherlands regarding the transportation or recruitment of prostitutes itself without any form of exploitation or coercion has therefore led to a change. Before the verdict of the high court, the public prosecutors would prosecute anyone helping a prostitute to cross the border into the Netherlands for human trafficking if that person ended up working in prostitution. But since the verdict of the high courted has ruled this as not in line with the aim of the human trafficking law, to prevent people from being exploited and/or coerced into labor, this has put a stop to this. Only if a prostitute is being exploited or coerced she is now considered a victim of trafficking, and not just anymore if they received any help to migrate to The Netherlands.

Because victims of trafficking are often scared to admit they're victims, it's often difficult to find victims. It is therefore unknown how many victims of trafficking there are in The Netherlands. To gain some insight to this, the Dutch government have appointed a Dutch National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking. The Dutch Rapporteur reports each year reports how many 'presumed' victims are reported by Dutch authorities and anti-trafficking organisations.

Before 2005 human trafficking in The Netherlands was defined as 'women trafficking' and only saw forms of exploitation and coercion in relation to prostitution as a crime. After 2005 the definition of human trafficking was introduced and the law applies to any form of exploitation and coercion in any industry, not solely prostitution anymore.

Key for determining financial exploitation is some form of coercion. Therefore a prostitute who willingly and freely decides to share a portion of her money with someone else, like for example her partner, is not considered to be human trafficking, unless there's some form of coercion. Coercion can happen through violence, threatening, extortion, misdirection, circumstances in which a person gains power over someone or taking advantage of, or getting someone in, a vulnerable position.
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