Human trafficking is an issue that has grabbed the attention of the world over the past 15 years. But meaningful progress and research are still held back by a number of debates between academics, policy makers, and activists. Agreeing upon a consistent definition and methods of measuring trafficking presents a challenge, as does the continued focus on the sex trafficking of women into prostitution to the exclusion of other types of trafficking and genders. Debates over what type of crime trafficking is and what drives it (organized crime, human rights, migration policies) have also had important impacts on the way that the phenomenon is conceptualized and dealt with at the national and international levels. This article outlines these debates and suggests directions for future research that can reveal the complexities of the phenomenon but also clarify our understandings of the lived experiences of people involved and the processes that drive it.


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