Myths around trafficking

Trafficking in persons often looks like the movies, where someone is kidnapped and brought to another country to be exploited.

Fact: Most human traffickers play psychological games to trick, defraud, manipulate or threaten victims into providing exploitative labour or commercial sex. While physical coercion or abduction can play a role, most often victims are deceived through lies and promises of a better life.

ASEAN-ACT is working with the justice sector and related agencies in ASEAN Member States to assist them in improving their capacity to identify and support victims of trafficking.


Trafficking in persons is mostly about commercial sex exploitation.

Fact: Not all trafficking in persons is about sexual exploitation. Experts say that 40.3 million people were victims of trafficking in 2016. Among them, 24.9 million people were in forced labour (working as domestic workers, on construction sites, in factories, on farms and fishing boats, and in the sex industry), and 15.4 million were in a forced marriage.[2]

ASEAN-ACT works with the International Labour Organisation’s Triangle in ASEAN program, which seeks to enhance the contribution of labour migration to stable and inclusive growth and development. Together, ASEAN-ACT and Triangle in ASEAN work with ASEAN Member States to assist in reducing the number of people trafficked into forced labour. Triangle in ASEAN is funded by Australia and Canada.

2. International Labour Organization and Walk Free Foundation (2017), Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage, pp. 9–10.


Trafficking in persons always includes some form of travel or transportation across borders.

Fact: Trafficking in persons does not require travel or crossing borders. If someone is forced to work or engage in intended exploitation (for any purposes) against their will, it is considered trafficking. In 2016, more than half of the world’s trafficking victims were exploited in their own country.[3]

ASEAN-ACT works with ASEAN Member States at a national level to support justice agencies in strengthening their ability to identify and prosecute human traffickers. To find out more, see our country programs.

3. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2018), Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2018, p. 41.


Trafficking in persons (human trafficking) and people smuggling are the same thing.

Response: Trafficking in persons involves exploiting a person, most often for economic purposes, by means of force, fraud or deception. People smuggling, on the other hand, involves moving or aiding the illegal entry of people into a country where they are not a citizen or permanent resident in return for payment or other material benefits.

ASEAN-ACT focuses on trafficking in persons.


Trafficking doesn’t impact me.

Response: Trafficking is said to be one of the fastest growing criminal practices in the world. Companies are producing and distributing products made by trafficked persons to meet worldwide consumer demands for cheaper goods. Due to the global nature of trafficking, it affects all communities around the world in some way. As consumers, we are indirectly contributing to trafficking in persons when we buy goods produced using trafficked and forced labour.

ASEAN-ACT supports efforts to address the use of trafficked labour in supply chains through its work with the justice system and other organisations in ASEAN Member States.


There’s nothing I can do to stop trafficking in persons.

Fact: You can educate yourself to spot the signs of trafficking in persons. Inform yourself about the products you buy, including how and where they were made.


Human traffickers are men.

Response: Human traffickers are both men and women, and come from all walks of life. In 2016, 48 per cent of people convicted of trafficking in East Asia and the Pacific were women.[1]

ASEAN-ACT is working with justice officials in ASEAN Member States to share information on different trafficking cases in the region, as well as to improve capacity to recognise and prosecute traffickers.

1. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2018), Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2018, p. 68.


Further reading

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Human Trafficking FAQs

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2018

International Organisation for Migration
Migration Data Portal: Human trafficking