Study finds half of traffickers in Australia are women, and many were victims themselves

A Flinders University Study has found the stereotype of sex traffickers all being male to be false, with many perpetrators identified as females who may have been victims of trafficking themselves. The study highlights the common story of female perpetrators, who originally were victims who payed off their trafficking debts and remained stuck in the sex trafficking industry due to limited opportunities to leave.

Alexandra Baxter, PhD candidate at Flinders University who conducted the research pressed that judges should consider the background of these women when sentencing. She argues that the background of the perpetrator “will often give a good reason why the offending occurred”, commending that this principle is applied in drug abuse, sexual abuse and bullying cases, and thus should be applied in this circumstance.

"It's quite simplistic to say 'you should have known better' and 'you should have chosen a life away from that', but how realistically could they have done that?" Ms Baxter said.

She argues that many perpetrators with circumstances such as this have no other options but to continue working in the trafficking industry, citing language barriers and limited trade skills and obstacles. Ms Baxters findings were supported by Flinders University Associate Professor in Criminology Marinella Marmo, who stated that "[the] study indicates that [a] more inclusive, social preventative approach may be required to minimise the cycle of victim-offender in the area of human trafficking”.

There were only 20 convictions for human trafficking in Australia between 2004 and 2017, but these numbers are expected to rise with the introduction of the Federal Modern Slavery Act in January of this year.

For more information on Alexandra Baxter and her work, see

Sonja DuncanComment