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Human Trafficking: Introduction

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What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion . . . for the purposes of exploitation.”[1]  Human trafficking, the most common forms of which are labor and sex trafficking, is a form of modern-day slavery and is one of the most profitable criminal industries in the world.[2]  Trafficking is not confined to nations abroad: Pennsylvania itself is “a source, destination and pass-through state for trafficking in persons.”[3]

Practitioners researching human trafficking law must negotiate a complex web of state, federal, and international laws.  United States law is strongly influenced by the country’s commitment to international treaties that define human trafficking and aim to coordinate a global response.  State and federal law is constantly evolving to adapt to this developing area of law, making an understanding of international trafficking law essential.

This Research Guide serves to help researchers and practitioners navigate state, federal, and international law relating to human trafficking.  It is designed to supplement the Library at Villanova University School of Law (VUSL) and is not intended to constitute legal advice.  This Guide compiles a variety of resources, including primary sources, secondary authority, electronic resources.  It is organized to list the most helpful resources in a category first, followed by an alphabetical listing of the remaining resources.  This Guide also includes parallel citations to a source’s location in the VUSL Library, where possible. 

For more resources on human trafficking law available in the VUSL library, go to the VUSL library catalog and use search terms suggested below under “Possible Search Terms.

[1] Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transational Organized Crime, Dec. 25, 2003, 2237 U.N.T.S. 319.

[2] See Human Trafficking, Polaris Project (2013),

[3] Publications:  Human Trafficking in Pennsylvania:  Policy Recommendations and Proposed Legislation, Joint State Government Commission, General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (2012), cfm?JSPU_PUBLN_ID=283.

Guide Author

Emily Cathcart
Villanova Law Class of 2014