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Vulnerability and Trafficking in Persons: evidentiary challenges

November 12, 2021

Vulnerability refers to a range of factors including but not limited to gender, disability, ethnicity, class, age and sexuality that can increase a person’s risk of being exploited or taken advantage of.

The abuse of position of vulnerability’ (APOV) has been internationally recognised as one of the ‘means’ used by traffickers.

However, what evidence is required to prove it has been used in a trafficking case?

Without a clear definition for ASEAN member states, there are many challenges in the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of trafficking in persons cases.

As an evidentiary issue, the challenge remains:

  • How does one recognise the vulnerability of a victim and prove its existence?
  • How do we prove that the vulnerability of the victim was abused by the trafficker as a means to undertake the action and achieve the intended purpose?
  • Would proving evidence of the victim’s vulnerability alone be sufficient?
  • Should the prosecutor instead prove the abuse of victim’s vulnerability or both?

Our panel of experts will discuss the concept of vulnerability, abuse of the position of vulnerability as one of the means of trafficking in persons, and handling cases involving ‘abuse of position of vulnerability’.


  • Dr Marika McAdam, International Law and Policy Adviser for ASEAN-ACT
  • Adel Maged, Vice President, Court of Cassation, Regional expert in combatting TIP and State of Migration (Cairo, Egypt)
  • Pamela Bowen, Senior Policy Advisor, Strategy and Policy Directorate, Crown Prosecution Service (London, UK)