Informed Approach to Designing Anti-Trafficking Prevention Strategies Focused on Demand

Informed Approach to Designing Anti-Trafficking Prevention Strategies Focused on Demand

Nusha Yonkova, Immigrant Council of Ireland

2 March 2015

Most international treaties as well as regional agreements in the area of human trafficking recognise the reduction of demand that fosters exploitation as a corner stone in the prevention of the crime of human trafficking. In the context of the most widely spread form of human trafficking in Europe - trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation – the preferred approach to demand reduction is based on the discouragement of users, who knowingly purchase services from trafficked persons. In 2013, the European Programme for Prevention of and Fight Against Crime (ISEC) funded a project aimed at the identification of principles underpinning effective demand reduction strategies, informed by the opinions and characteristics of users of paid sex, titled “Stop Traffick! Tackling Demand for Sexual Service of Trafficked Women and Girls”. The resulting report, published in 2014, intends to inform awareness and policy on the reduction in demand for the sexual services of victims of trafficking based on research of the context of demand and the attitudes of buyers and potential buyers to human trafficking.

The research was based on mixed research methodologies. In total 763 buyers of sex participated in either in-depth interviews or an on-line survey in five EU member states (71 interviews in two countries and 692 qualified online survey responses out of total of 2,004 received in a further three countries). A Research Ethics Framework was drawn up to protect the anonymity of interviewees and to ensure that no safety or security risks existed for interviewers or respondents, with a team of experts overseeing and consulting the work of the research teams.

The research produced rich findings, which can be studied under ‘Resources’ at A wide range of recommendations were issued on the basis of the data analysis, which were welcomed by the EC Commissioner for Home Affairs last year. This referred to the need for demand reduction strategies to target the general population of men due to the fact that buyers of sex are overwhelmingly male, and to take into account a number of characteristics pertaining to the average buyer as a person of relatively high social standing with middle to high income and a high level of education and employment. Other important recommendations refer to the need to challenge the perception of women in prostitution as a different type of women, and the fact that a significant proportion of buyers of sex witness serious exploitation, including of minors. The research revealed that laws criminalising the purchase of services of victims of trafficking are not having deterrent effect on buyers and therefore strategies have to reconsider measures that solely focus on victims of trafficking, in particular those that involve knowledge on the part of the buyer. The full list of recommendations can be accessed at the above link.


The research also informed the design of an innovative awareness raising strategy that was a direct result of the knowledge received from in-depth interviews indicating that habits change over time and views become more entrenched, while the capacity to experience empathy erodes. Therefore, strategies to reduce demand should be geared at younger men and potential buyers among them. Based on the finding that the first time experience of the purchase of sex is usually unplanned, spontaneous in nature and very often linked with collective experiences and alcohol consumption, a Beer Mat awareness campaign was designed and successfully promoted in centrally located pubs in Dublin (