Human trafficking involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring or receiving a person through the use of force, coercion, fraud, deception or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them. A report commissioned by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) states that in Sri Lanka men, women and children are trafficked primarily for labour, commercial sexual exploitation, including domestic child sex tourism. There are also growing concerns about trafficking for employment to the Middle East, Singapore and other countries for jobs in domestic work, construction and factory employment. The demand for cheap labour for 3D jobs (Dirty, Dangerous and Demeaning) fuel trafficking in countries like Sri Lanka.

To read the full Report please visit the following link: UNODC – Legal and Policy Review


Article 3 (a) of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines trafficking in persons as:

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation or the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.



Examples of Common Forms of Trafficking in Sri Lanka

Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals. Source: CENWOR research

Samanmali is Promised a Job but is taken to a Brothel
Samanmali is a young girl living in Galewela. Her uncle Ruparatne tells her that he will find her a job in the city and takes her, with her parents’ permission, to Colombo. In Colombo the uncle keeps her in the house of Senasinghe. Senasinghe forces her to have sexual intercourse with his friends. Later Samanmali comes to know that her uncle had given her to Senasinghe for 25,000 rupees and that Senasinghe’s house is a brothel.

Illegal Adoption for Forced Sex
Sumudu, a young girl, has no parents and lives with her aunt. A man known to her aunt takes Sumudu to a foreigner for adoption. He then hands Sumudu over to a woman who takes her to another village. There Sumudu is kept hidden in a house and forced to have sex with men who come there.

Good Samaritan turned Madam
Rupa was only eleven years old when her mother moved out with one of her brothers. She stayed with her brother and sister-in-law but was constantly harassed by both. She says “In desperation I went out to look for my mother. A kind lady at the bus stop started chatting and I told her why I was there. She offered to help and I gladly accepted. She took me to a place where I was forced to have sex with outsiders”.

Sisters Trafficked into Slavery
Kishani and Shanika, two young girls who were in school were keen to get a job to tide over their parents’ financial problems. A neighbour, who was known to the parents as well offered to take them to a garment factory. He took them to Colombo and kept them in his house for a night. They were looked after well by his relatives in Colombo. The next day the neighbour took them by bus to Katunayake. They ended up in a house where they were kept locked inside and required to do all the house work. They had only four hours of sleep and were never allowed to go out.

Duped Migrant Worker
Kavita had worked as a cleaner for a private company for three years. At 29 she met Michael, a tourist who offered her a job in his house in Singapore for a salary of $200 a month. Michael also promised that she would be able to have one day off every week, visit friends and travel with his family. Michael organized a visa for Kavita and paid for her ticket. Kavita soon realized that Michael had lied. He forced her to work seven days a week, at least 12 hours a day, sometimes 16 hours a day. Despite the many hours worked, she was paid only US$100 a month and she did not receive any holidays. Michael took away Kavita’s passport. She was forced to work even when sick.

Reporting Trafficking
  • If family or friends suspect that an individual has been trafficked they should report it to the nearest police station, the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau, the employment agency that found her the job and the Sri Lankan embassy in the country she went to.
  • A medical examination should be obtained as soon as possible from an authorized medical officer. The medical officer has a duty to collect hair, body fluids, fibers and other evidence, if any. Medical officers have a duty to report any incident of suspected trafficking to the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) and Police.
  • The incident should be reported to the National Child Protection Authority if the victim-survivor is a child below the age of 18 years.
  • Inquire whether the police station has a Women and Children’s Desk or ask for a woman police officer if you prefer speaking to a woman instead of a male constable. Service Providers
  • Make sure all details of the incident are covered.
  • Ensure that you read the statement before signing it.
  • In addition to taking a statement, police will collect physical evidence and take statements from witnesses if there are any.
  • The police interview may take several hours, depending on the circumstances of your case. Some questions may be intrusive, and the officer may go over the details of the incident several times. The extensive questioning is often justified by the need to get every detail down precisely, to make the strongest possible case against the perpetrator.
  • It helps to write down every detail you can remember, as soon as possible, so you can communicate the details to the police.

Certain organizations provide support through the reporting process. They can clarify your doubts and questions.

Click to learn more about Service Providers
Click to learn about Laws
Click to learn about Safety Plans


The Law on Trafficking in Persons

The main trafficking law is found in Section 360C of the Penal Code (Amendment) Act, No. 16 of 2006.


  • Anyone who buys, sells or barters another person for money or any other benefit commits the criminal offence of trafficking.
  • A person who instigates or helps another person to buy, sell or barter any person too is guilty of the crime of trafficking.
  • Doing anything to promote, facilitate or induce the buying, selling or bartering of any person is also a crime.
  • Recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring or receiving persons hoping to use them as forced labour, slaves, for their organs, prostitution or any other form of sexual exploitation is a crime.
  • Threatening, forcing, misleading or exploiting the vulnerability in order to push someone into forced labour, slavery, prostitution, selling their organs is a criminal offence.
  • When it comes to children, the fact that the child has given consent or not, is immaterial.

The 2006 Amendment to the Penal Code draws on the language of the international instrument known as the Palermo Protocol. However, the Protocol definition is broader. The Sri Lankan Penal Code provisions do not state that in the case of an adult consent is not relevant.


The Sri Lankan Parliament has passed the Convention Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution Act, No. 30 of 2005. While this act has not yet come into force, when it does it will give effect to the SAARC Convention. A National Task Force on Human Trafficking has been set up in partnership with the International Organization for Migration to support successful prosecutions and protect victim-survivors.


International Laws That Prohibit Trafficking
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which prohibits slavery, servitude, and the slave trade, as well as torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • U.N. Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic of Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1949), which provides a variety of measures against all forms of trafficking in women and the exploitation of prostitution. Sri Lanka ratified this Convention on 7th August 1958.
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979) Article 6, which includes a provision dealing specifically with trafficking of women and requires that all of the ratifying countries to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of trafficking in women and the exploitation of prostitution of women. Sri Lanka ratified CEDAW in 1981.
    Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which requires that all ratifying nations protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, to prevent the abduction of, sale of, or traffic in children for any purpose or in any form, and require provision of recovery and reintegration for all child victims of these crimes. Sri Lanka ratified this Convention on 12th July 1991.
    Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000). Sri Lanka is a signatory to this Convention from 13th December 2010.
    United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and Protocols Thereto
  • The SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating the Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution 2002 : The scope of this Convention is ‘to promote cooperation amongst member States to effectively deal with various aspects of prevention, interdiction and suppression of trafficking in women and children; repatriation and rehabilitation of victims of trafficking, and preventing the use of women and children in international prostitution networks, particularly where the SAARC member countries are the countries of origin, transit and destination’.
    Saarc Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution