Human and Sex Trafficking in Spain

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 5
Words: 1520
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: School


Human and sex trafficking have continued to plague many communities globally despite being abolished in many nations. Although human trafficking was made illegal in Spain in 2010, data on the subject is limited, comprising only cases formally designated by police as having a strong leaning towards sex trafficking (Villacampa et al. 14). Gender-based violence and other types of discriminatory practices against women might increase their vulnerability to human trafficking. This tendency is evident in Europe, where women account for 70% of the victims (Faraldo-Cabana 250). This research seeks to identify the causes of the continued practice despite regulations against it and its impact on human rights locally and globally. The research question is: How has human and sex trafficking thrived in Spain, and how does it affect human rights? This research is crucial for human rights activists and scholars who wish to research deeper into the issue and develop practical solutions.

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Literature Review and Theory

Human trafficking is the illegal use of force, deception, or compulsion to gain services or commercialized sex. Millions of men, women, and children are trafficked every year across the world. To attract victims into trafficking situations, traffickers may employ violence, deception, or false promises of lucrative jobs or personal relationships. Sex trafficking, labor exploitation, and debt slavery are the three most prominent forms of human trafficking, all of which are rampant in Spain but concealed (Cavanna 20). Several researchers have studied this subject from different perspectives through different research designs.

Slavery, servitude, and forced labor are common terms when discussing human trafficking, but the distinction is rarely made between them. Cavanna et al. show that, in compliance with EU Directive No. 36/2011, the Spanish Criminal Code (CC) establishes the crime of people trafficking (23). Enslavement is only outlawed when it occurs in the context of a widespread and organized attack on civilians. The Spanish CC is unclear on servitude and forced labor. As a result, while the Spanish Criminal Code does not provide explicit labor exploitation offenses outside of crimes against humanity, violations against workers’ rights apply (Cavanna 24). Therefore, the lack of a distinction between forced labor, servitude, and slavery is one of the contributors to increased human and sex trafficking in Spain.

While the government has set laws prohibiting human trafficking, only a few cases reach the authorities. Villacampa et al. evaluate the prevalence of human and sex trafficking in Spain by focusing on the data and its implications (14). The research on reported trafficking cases between 2017 and 2018 revealed that less than 10 percent of human and sex trafficking were reported while the rest were unrecognized (Villacampa et al. 15). In another research on the failure of identifying victims of human trafficking, Villacampa and Torres investigated the impact of undetected cases (395). The study shows that the criminal justice system’s failure to recognize trafficking victims hinders the success of a victim-focused approach to ending the vice in society (Villacampa et al. 400). In essence, the two articles by Villacampa et al. reveal how authorities need to define and regulate human trafficking through strict law enforcement.

Sex exploitation is one of the key drivers of human trafficking in Spain. Faraldo-Cabana studies human trafficking from a gender perspective and reveals that females are more likely to fall victim to human and sex trafficking than men (249). Human trafficking is seen as a gender-specific phenomenon, requiring a gender-oriented approach (Faraldo-Cabana 251). On the same subject, Fernández Rodríguez de Liévana and Viviana demonstrate how gender stereotyping obstructs victim recognition (510). Failure to recognize victims hinders the fulfillment of legal provisions, including the special protection necessary for child trafficking victims.

Although the European Union (EU) set clear guidelines for handling human trafficking, these cases have continued unnoticed. In their research, Fernández Rodríguez de Liévana and Viviana show that implementing the EU anti-trafficking regulation requires a concerted effort “to address human and sex-trafficking from a gender perspective” (513). In research was done by Melgar et al., sexual abuse and exploitation are significant problems in Spain (105). Sexual exploitation of adolescent girls is hidden from authorities because most are underprivileged and illegal immigrants, making it hard to track them (Melgar et al. 110). Essentially, the literature review shows that human and sex trafficking has continued in Spain, with women being more vulnerable than men. Despite state and international regulations, many victims have lacked an avenue to expose the perpetrators, probably because those involved are high-ranking and powerful.


In line with the research question, two problems will be evaluated to fill the gaps in the existing literature. First, the prevalence of human and sex trafficking in Spain, despite national and international regulations, will be assessed. The purpose of this research is to identify the forces that have facilitated trafficking and how they acquire their power. On the same note, sources of funds for human traffickers are important to consider. Second, the impact of human and sex trafficking on human rights will be analyzed. This question revolves around crimes against humanity and how human and sex trafficking hinder global efforts of human rights activism.

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Research Design

A qualitative approach will be followed in this research applying primary and secondary sources. First, interviews will involve twenty critical leaders in the human rights, child protection, and immigration sectors. The aim is to connect immigration, child abuse, and human and sex trafficking. Although the three sectors may not be working together, similar trends will be observed that can lead to a comprehensive problem evaluation. Second, victims of human and sex trafficking will be invited for interviews through emails to provide insight into the methods used to lure them and the problems they encountered at the hands of traffickers. In some cases, questionnaires will be issued both physically and electronically to the public to provide valuable information that may be concealed regarding human and sex trafficking. Interviews and questionnaires are chosen for this study because they provide first-hand information and are easy to administer and analyze (Xie 100). Second-hand information will be obtained from samples of reported human and sex trafficking cases.

The research will study the victims of human and sex trafficking, relevant authorities, and the public who have been affected by the vice in one way or another. The interviews will mainly focus on the current human and sex trafficking issues and the different dimensions taken by traffickers. Stratified and convenience sampling will be used whereby interviewees will be grouped depending on their roles, and some members picked randomly from each group.

The above-mentioned sampling techniques are the best options for this study because they facilitate equal representation from all members of the various groups relevant to the study (Xie 102). The key variables to be measured are human and sex trafficking and torture. These variables will be measured by the extent of their impacts on individuals in terms of severity on a scale of 1-10. Victims will be asked to tick the severity of torture received from traffickers and leaders to tick how prevalent they deem trafficking to be in their areas. Some questions to be used include: how severely did you suffer at the hands of traffickers? How prevalent is human and sex trafficking in your region?


Human and sex trafficking has been hidden from the public, and therefore, ethical considerations are vital to obtaining reliable and valuable information from victims. Anonymity is an essential factor to consider in this case as it influences victims’ safety. In this regard, all interviewees will fill out the questionnaires anonymously and be interviewed privately. Again, no person will be coerced to talk about any issue, and all information gathered will be analyzed without mentioning the sources.

Analysis of Data

The data will mainly be descriptive and statistical as it details the prevalence of human and sex trafficking and the extent of torture on victims. Since the data will be given in a narrative form and numerical data ranging from 1 to 10, cluster analysis is the most appropriate method. Those who experienced less suffering will be grouped on one side, with the areas having fewer trafficking cases. Those with high values of trafficking prevalence and individuals who experienced severe torture will be grouped on another side and the relative proportions calculated. A pie chart or a histogram will be used to display the data. The codebook in this study will have two sections, one with a person’s role, either leader or victim, and the other with a rating between 1 to 10, and any further details were given.


The data collected will be valid and reliable only if the interviewees are vetted for authenticity. One limitation of this research is that it would be difficult to know whether a person suffered from human and sex trafficking or not. Therefore, some people may provide biased information based on their attitudes towards human trafficking. In some cases, the actual victims may fear giving information for fear of stigmatization. In addition, the small sample size (20 leaders) and a single geographical reference limit the relevance of the research. However, the data will be screened for inconsistencies and compared with available secondary data.

Works Cited

Cavanna, Paola et al. “Securing The Prohibition Of Labour Exploitation In Law And Practice: Slavery, Servitude, Forced Labour And Human Trafficking In Italy, Spain, and The UK”. Journal of Modern Slavery, vol 4, no. 2, 2018, pp. 20-46.

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Faraldo-Cabana, Patricia. “Gender Dimension of Human Trafficking. Interferences from the Legal Culture. The Spanish Case”. Security Dialogues / Bezbednosni dijalozi, vol 1-2, 2017, pp. 249-266.

Fernández Rodríguez de Liévana, Gema, and Viviana Waisman. “‘Lost In Translation’: Assessment Of The (Non)-Implementation Of The Trafficking Directive From A Gender Perspective In Spain”. Journal of Human Rights Practice, vol 9, no. 3, 2017, pp. 504-525.

Melgar, Patricia et al. ““Petites Bonnes” Minors Sex Trafficked In Morocco and Spain”. Children and Youth Services Review, vol 120, 2021, p. 105-119.

Villacampa, Carolina et al. “Trafficking In Human Beings In Spain: What Do The Data On Detected Victims Tell Us?” European Journal of Criminology, 2021, p. 14-33.

Villacampa, Carolina, and Núria Torres. “Human Trafficking For Criminal Exploitation: The Failure to Identify Victims”. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, vol 23, no. 3, 2017, pp. 393-408.

Xie, Qing. “Research Design and Methods”. Technical and Vocational Education and Training: Issues, Concerns, and Prospects, 2016, pp. 99-116.