While every year thousands of Sri Lankans migrate willingly, many also fall prey to exploitation, including trafficking in persons. Sri Lanka is primarily a source and to a lesser extent a destination country for human trafficking (UNODC 2006). Men, women and children are trafficked from Sri Lanka to West, South-East and South Asian countries and to Europe for various exploitative purposes, such as commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour. A small number of women from South-East and South Asia and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) are trafficked into Sri Lanka for commercial sexual exploitation (United States Department of State 2009).
Trafficking in persons is a serious issue in Sri Lanka. According to reports, there are a variety of factors which contribute to the vulnerability of children, increasing their incidences of being trafficked, including displacement caused by the armed conflict, the devastating effects of the 2004 tsunami, domestic violence and loss of traditional family structures due to increasing female labour migration (ECPAT International 2006).
At the national level, the Government of Sri Lanka has two main criminal laws relating to trafficking—the Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution (Act Nº. 30 of 2005)4 and the Penal Code (Amendment Act No 16 of 2006).5
Despite strengthened criminal laws to combat human trafficking, a report published in 2009 indicated that the number of recorded criminal investigations, and prosecutions had been small, with no convictions (UNODC 2009). With regard to action against fraudulent labour recruiters under the Bureau of Foreign Employment Act, the report stated that that in 2008 the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment initiated 400 raids on fraudulent labour recruitment agencies, and took legal action against 80 agencies, resulting in 32 licence cancellations and the imposition of fines (UNODC 2009).
With regard to regional commitments, Pakistan has ratified the SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution and is a signatory to the SAARC Convention on Child Welfare. It is party to other less formal regional arrangements such as the 1998 Bangkok Accord and Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Women and the 2001 Strategy against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Child Sexual Abuse.
4 See www.hsph.harvard.edu/population/trafficking/srilanka.traf.05.pdf.
5 See www.hsph.harvard.edu/population/trafficking/srilanka.traf.06.pdf.