As of August 2018, 168 countries among the 181 assessed, have legislation in place that criminalises trafficking in persons broadly in line with the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol, the first global legally binding instrument with an agreed definition of trafficking in persons, entered into force in 2003.
Between August 2016 and August 2018, one country adopted new trafficking legislation and five additional countries amended it from partial compliance to being fully in line with the definition of trafficking of the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol.
Share of countries according to the number of convictions recorded per year, by reporting period, 2007-2017
For 12 of the 193 United Nations Member States, the status of their trafficking legislation is unknown to UNODC. Another nine countries have anti-trafficking legislation that only criminalise some aspects of the trafficking definition (for example, only trafficking for sexual exploitation, or trafficking in children). Four countries have criminal codes that do not include the offence of trafficking in persons.
A few countries in West and Southern Africa as well as some small African island states either lack trafficking legislation or have partial legislative coverage.
Criminalisation of trafficking in persons with a specific offence covering all or some forms as defined in the UN Protocol, shares of countries 2003-2018
However, the last six years have brought rapid improvements, as some 15 countries amended their criminal codes to introduce a trafficking offence in line with the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol definition. In North Africa and the Middle East only a couple of countries have not yet introduced specific trafficking legislation.
Most European countries introduced the offence of trafficking before 2004. Most Asian countries introduced trafficking legislation between 2004 and 2012, and similar measures were followed by countries in the Americas. Countries in Africa and the Middle East have a more recent anti trafficking legislative framework.
Number of countries reporting trafficking convictions, by region and number of convictions, 2014-2017
The criminal justice response to trafficking in persons follows geographical patterns that seem to be connected to the time of introduction of national trafficking legislation. For example, most countries in sub-Saharan Africa are recording a limited number of convictions, with some countries registering no convictions at all during the reporting period (2014-2017).
The total number of convictions recorded has generally increased. Over the past ten years, the share of countries recording no convictions declined from 15 per cent to nine per cent.
Some countries recorded their first convictions during the 2014-2016 period; reflected in the increasing size of the group recording from one up to 10 convictions per year. The group of countries reporting 11-50 convictions has increased significantly in recent years.
IMAGE CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons / Dannielle Blumenthal