The intersection of human trafficking and prostitution

22 February 2022

On the second annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day, we are thinking about the intersection of human trafficking and prostitution. 

The Justice Committee is reviewing Canada’s prostitution laws over the next few weeks and their conclusions could have an impact on sex trafficking. 

Prostitution and sex trafficking are inextricably linked. It is true that not all prostitution is trafficking, but most trafficking is for prostitution. Prostitution is the most common end point for trafficking, around the world and in Canada.  

Traffickers are motivated by profit. As long as there is a demand for paid sex, there will be traffickers to guarantee a steady supply of women, girls and boys are for sale. If there was no demand for paid sex, traffickers wouldn’t have a financial incentive to sexually exploit those who are vulnerable. As Dr. Melissa Farley has said, “Prostitution is where human trafficking happens.”  

The highest-ever number of trafficking incidents were reported to police in Canada in 2019, according to StatsCan data, an increase of 44 per cent over the previous year. These stats indicate the overwhelming majority of trafficking in Canada is domestic and involves exploitation in the commercial sex trade. Most human trafficking victims in Canada are women and girls (95 per cent in 2019), with the majority under 24 years old.  

We know from other countries that when prostitution is legalized or decriminalized, the sex industry expands, and so does trafficking. When the system of prostitution flourishes, rates of trafficking of women and children into the commercial sex trade increase.  

Decriminalizing prostitution runs counter to efforts to fight trafficking. But some groups are lobbying to have Canada’s prostitution laws repealed and for prostitution to be fully decriminalized. 

Canada’s laws on prostitution, known as the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA), are an essential tool in the fight against sexual exploitation in Canada.  

Passed in 2014, the laws target sex buyers and pimps; while those who are prostituted are not charged for selling their own sexual services.  

It’s important for each of us to let our local MP know that we support the prostitution laws, that we believe prostitution harms women, and to ask MPs to support PCEPA among their colleagues. 

Please call or write your MP today. See our website at for more information and resources.