2017 Trafficking In Persons Report

The 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report or TIP Report was released on the 27th of June by the U.S. State Department. The TIP report is released annually and categorizes governments based on their documented efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking. The report begins with an introduction to human trafficking from the US Secretary of State and reads: “Human trafficking is one of the most tragic human rights issues of our time. It splinters families, distorts global markets, undermines the rule of law, and spurs other transnational criminal activity. It threatens public safety and national security. But worst of all, the crime robs human beings of their freedom and their dignity. That’s why we must pursue an end to the scourge of human trafficking” (1).The report calls attention to many forms of human trafficking, which it defines as: “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery” (3). It is important to note that a person does not need to be physically moved in order to fall under this definition and be a victim of human trafficking.

Sex Trafficking:

The report then goes onto define sex trafficking as when “an adult engages in commercial sex act[s], such as prostitution as result of force, threats of force, fraud, coercion or any combination of such means” (17). Sex trafficking can exist in many forms, including unlawful “debt bondage”. This occurs when an individual is coerced into continuing to subject themselves to prostitution due to accumulated debt owed. The debt is likely derived from transportation costs, recruitment or even their “sale” as they are passed from one trafficker to the next. The debts are held against the victims as they are told they must repay the large debt before they can be freed. In addition to debt bondage, traffickers use various methods, including psychological, physical and emotional abuse to control victims.

“There are situations where you have to force girls by using rape, abuse, torture. When she begins to fear for her life, she stops resisting and starts working.”

-South African brothel owner and human trafficker

Child Sex Trafficking:

While sex trafficking can happen to anyone, the majority of victims are female and many are under 18 years of age. Free To Shine is dedicated to preventing and protecting girls from child sex trafficking. The TIP Report defines "child" as anyone under the age of 18, and thus, the element of "force, fraud, or coercion is not necessary for the offense to be prosecuted as human trafficking. There are no exceptions to this rule: no cultural or socioeconomic rationalizations alter the fact that children who are exploited in prostitution are trafficking victims” (17).The dire and long-lasting effects of child sex trafficking on the victims are listed in the TIP Report and include “physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and even death” (1).

The Rating System:

One of the most anticipated aspects of the Trafficking in Persons Report are the ratings given to each country. The tier rating system is described below:

The following map shows the rankings for countries in the East Asia and Pacific region.


Cambodia was given tier 2 status in the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report. As stated above, this means that Cambodia does not fully meet the minimum standards to reduce and eliminate trafficking, but is taking significant steps to bring themselves into compliance.Cambodia improved compared to last year by increasing the number of traffickers convicted, increasing the national anti-trafficking budget and by establishing a new action plan to curb child debt bondage and other forms of labor exploitation.Although there have been strides to improve the country’s response to human trafficking, there are still many areas that need improvement. The TIP Report states that in order for Cambodia to improve their rating, they must investigate, prosecute or convict complicit officials, combat the increasingly normal practice of monetary settlements to the victims instead of prison sentences for the perpetrators, allow formal guidance for undercover investigations to obtain more substantial evidence, improve anti-trafficking data collection and information sharing, and improve victim identification efforts and practices. In order to improve victim recovery practices, Cambodia must provide more safe places for victims to recover, often times child victims are returned to high-risk environments with minimal assistance, leaving them vulnerable to being re-trafficked.

“Cambodia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking” (115).

Cambodia: Lai's Story:

“After Lai’s family fell into debt to loan sharks, her mother asked her to help the family earn more money. Lai, just 12 years old, was examined by a doctor and issued a certificate of virginity. Her mother then delivered her to a hotel where a man raped her repeatedly. For nearly two years, Lai’s mother continued to sell her to make money to pay off their debts. After learning her mother was planning to sell her again, this time for a six-month stretch, Lai fled her home and found sanctuary in a residence for sex trafficking victims” (25).

Free To Shine's Approach:

Alternatively to the TIP Report, which focuses most of it’s attention on the criminalization and prosecution of sex trafficking, Free To Shine focuses on root causes and preventative actions to combat sex trafficking and protect those who may be at-risk. Free To Shine’s preventative approach was established after our founder spoke directly with survivors of sex trafficking in Cambodia:

“I asked survivors who had been rescued how I could help, and I was hardly prepared for their answer. I thought they’d want something straight-forward and easy to provide, like university tuition fees, but they didn’t want anything for themselves. Instead they wanted for no other girl to go through the horrors they’d been through. They asked me to go out into the rural villages, find the girls who weren’t in school, and protect them. They told me that if these young girls were in school they would not be trafficked.”

-Nicky Mih, Founder & Managing Director of Free To Shine

The International Labour Organisation states that “getting girls into schools and keeping them there is vital to reducing their vulnerability to trafficking,” while UNESCO reports that there are currently 25,697 girls in Cambodia who should be in primary school but are not, and a further 119,972 girls who should be in grades 7-9 but are not. With these statistics in mind, Free To Shine continues to work hard at finding the most vulnerable girls throughout the province and empowering them through education to ensure they are not susceptible to the atrocities of sex trafficking.

To help Free To Shine combat sex trafficking in Cambodia please give a gift here.

To read the 2017 Trafficking In Persons report in its entirety follow this link

United States Department of State, 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report - June 2017, available at: [accessed 6 July 2017]