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Sexual slavery

Sexual slavery is slavery for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Sexual slavery may involve single-owner sexual slavery; ritual slavery, sometimes associated with certain religious practices, such as ritual servitude in Ghana, Togo and Benin; slavery for primarily non-sexual purposes but where non-consensual sexual activity is common; or forced prostitution. Concubines were a traditional form of sexual slavery in many cultures, in which women spent their lives in sexual servitude. In some cultures, concubines and their children had distinct rights and legitimate social position.

The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action calls for an international response in order to attempt to eradicate sexual slavery on the basis that it is a human rights issue. The incidence of sexual slavery by country has been studied and tabulated by UNESCO, with the cooperation of various international agencies.[1]


  • Definitions 1
  • Type 2
    • Sex trafficking 2.1
    • Commercial sexual exploitation of children 2.2
      • Child prostitution 2.2.1
      • Child pornography 2.2.2
      • Child sex tourism 2.2.3
    • Forced prostitution 2.3
    • Forced marriage 2.4
    • Crime against humanity 2.5
    • Bride kidnapping and raptio 2.6
    • During armed conflict and war 2.7
  • Historical cases 3
    • Ancient 3.1
    • Greek and Roman Empire 3.2
    • Asia 3.3
    • Arab slave trade 3.4
    • White slavery 3.5
    • United States 3.6
    • During the Second World War 3.7
      • Germany during World War II 3.7.1
      • Japan during World War II 3.7.2
    • After World War II 3.8
      • Japan 3.8.1
    • During the Korean War 3.9
  • Contemporary 4
    • Europe 4.1
    • North America 4.2
    • Africa 4.3
    • Asia 4.4
    • Middle East 4.5
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Cited sources 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


The Rome Statute (1998) (that defines the crimes over which the International Criminal Court may have jurisdiction) encompass crimes against humanity (Article 7) which includes "enslavement" (Article 7.1.c) and "sexual enslavement" (Article 7.1.g) "when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population". It also defines sexual enslavement as a war crime and a breach of the Geneva Conventions when committed during an international armed conflict (Article 8.b.xxii) and indirectly in an internal armed conflict under Article(8.c.ii), but the courts jurisdiction over war crimes is explicitly excluded from including crimes committed during "situations of internal disturbances and tensions, such as riots, isolated and sporadic acts of violence or other acts of a similar nature" (Article 8.d).[2]

The text of the Rome Statute does not explicitly define sexual enslavement, but does define enslavement as "the exercise of any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership over a person and includes the exercise of such power in the course of trafficking in persons, in particular women and children" (Article 7.2.c).[2][3]

In the commentary on the Rome Statute,[4] Mark Klamberg states:[5][6]

Sexual slavery is particular form of enslavement which includes limitations on one's autonomy, freedom of movement and power to decide matters relating to one's sexual activity. Thus, the crime also includes forced marriages, domestic servitude or other forced labor that ultimately involves forced sexual activity. In contrast to the crime of rape, which is a completed offence, sexual slavery constitutes a continuing offence. ... Forms of sexual slavery can, for example, be practices such as the detention of women in "rape camps" or "comfort stations", forced temporary "marriages" to soldiers and other practices involving the treatment of women as chattel, and as such, violations of the peremptory norm prohibiting slavery.


Sex trafficking

Sex trafficking is a type of human trafficking involving the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbour or receipt of people, by coercive or abusive means for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking is not the only form of human trafficking and estimates vary as to the percentage of human trafficking which is for the purpose of transporting someone into sexual slavery.

The BBC News cited a report by UNODC as listing the most common destinations for victims of human trafficking in 2007 as Thailand, Japan, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the US. The report lists Thailand, China, Nigeria, Albania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine as major sources of trafficked persons.[7]

Commercial sexual exploitation of children

Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) includes [8][9]

A declaration of the World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, held in Stockholm in 1996, defined CSEC as, "sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in cash or in kind to the child or to a third person or persons. The child is treated as a sexual object and as a commercial object".[9]

Child prostitution

The prostitution of children is a form of commercial sexual exploitation of children in which a child performs the services of prostitution, usually for the financial benefit of an adult.

India's federal police said in 2009 that they believed around 1.2 million children in India to be involved in prostitution.[10] A CBI statement said that studies and surveys sponsored by the Ministry of Women and Child Development estimated about 40% of India's prostitutes to be children.[10]

Thailand’s Health System Research Institute reported that children in prostitution make up 40% of prostitutes in Thailand.[11]

In some parts of the world, child prostitution is tolerated or ignored by the authorities. Reflecting an attitude which prevails in many developing countries, a judge from Honduras said, on condition of anonymity: "If the victim [the child prostitute] is older than 12, if he or she refuses to file a complaint and if the parents clearly profit from their child's commerce, we tend to look the other way".[12]

Child pornography

Child pornography, sometimes referred to as 'child abuse images',[13][14][15] refers to images or films depicting sexually explicit activities involving a child. As such, child pornography is a visual record of child sexual abuse.[16][17][18][19][20][21] Abuse of the child occurs during the sexual acts which are photographed in the production of child pornography,[16][17][19][20][21][22][23] and the effects of the abuse on the child (and continuing into maturity) are compounded by the wide distribution and lasting availability of the photographs of the abuse.[21][22][24]

Child sex tourism

Child sex tourism is a travel to a foreign country for the purpose of engaging in commercially facilitated child sexual abuse.[25] Child sex tourism results in both mental and physical consequences for the exploited children, that may include "disease (including HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and possibly death", according to the State Department of the United States.[25] Thailand, Cambodia, India, Brazil and Mexico have been identified as leading hotspots of child sexual exploitation.[26]

Forced prostitution

Most, if not all, forms of forced prostitution may be viewed as a kind of sexual slavery.[27] The terms "forced prostitution" or "enforced prostitution" appear in international and humanitarian conventions but have been insufficiently understood and inconsistently applied. "Forced prostitution" generally refers to conditions of control over a person who is coerced by another to engage in sexual activity.[28]

The issue of consent in prostitution is hotly debated. Opinion in places such as Europe has been divided over the question of whether prostitution should be considered as a free choice or as inherently exploitative of women.[29] The law in Sweden, Norway and Iceland – where it is illegal to pay for sex, but not to sell sexual services – is based on the notion that all forms of prostitution are inherently exploitative, opposing the notion that prostitution can be voluntary.[30] In contrast, prostitution is a recognized profession in countries such as the Netherlands and Germany.

In 1949 the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (the 1949 Convention). The 1949 Convention supersedes a number of earlier conventions that covered some aspects of forced prostitution. Signatories are charged with three obligations under the 1949 Convention: prohibition of trafficking, specific administrative and enforcement measures, and social measures aimed at trafficked persons. The 1949 Convention presents two shifts in perspective of the trafficking problem in that it views prostitutes as victims of the procurers, and in that it eschews the terms "white slave traffic" and "women," using for the first time race- and gender-neutral language.[31] Article 1 of the 1949 Convention provides punishment for any person who "[p]rocures, entices or leads away, for purposes of prostitution, another person" or "[e]xploits the prostitution of another person, even with the consent of that person." To fall under the provisions of the 1949 Convention, the trafficking need not cross international lines.[31]

Forced marriage

A forced marriage is a marriage where one or both participants are married without their freely given consent.[32] Forced marriage is a form of sexual slavery.[5][6] Causes for forced marriages include customs such as bride price and dowry; poverty; the importance given to female premarital virginity; "family honor"; the fact that marriage is considered in certain communities a social arrangement between the extended families of the bride and groom; limited education and economic options; perceived protection of cultural or religious traditions; assisting immigration.[33][34][35][36][37] Forced marriage is most common in parts of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.[38]

Crime against humanity

The Rome Statute Explanatory Memorandum, which defines the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, recognizes rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced sterilization, "or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity" as crime against humanity if the action is part of a widespread or systematic practice.[39][40] Sexual slavery was first recognized as a crime against humanity when the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia issued arrest warrants based on the Geneva Conventions and Violations of the Laws or Customs of War. Specifically, it was recognised that Muslim women in Foča (southeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina) were subjected to systematic and widespread gang rape, torture and sexual enslavement by Bosnian Serb soldiers, policemen, and members of paramilitary groups after the takeover of the city in April 1992.[41] The indictment was of major legal significance and was the first time that sexual assaults were investigated for the purpose of prosecution under the rubric of torture and enslavement as a crime against humanity.[41] The indictment was confirmed by a 2001 verdict by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia that rape and sexual enslavement are crimes against humanity. This ruling challenged the widespread acceptance of rape and sexual enslavement of women as intrinsic part of war.[42] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia found three Bosnian Serb men guilty of rape of Bosniac (Bosnian Muslim) women and girls – some as young as 12 and 15 years of age – in Foča, eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. The charges were brought as crimes against humanity and war crimes. Furthermore, two of the men were found guilty of the crime against humanity of sexual enslavement for holding women and girls captive in a number of de facto detention centers. Many of the women had subsequently disappeared.[42]

In areas controlled by Islamic militants, non-Muslim women are enslaved in occupied territories. Many Islamists see the abolition of slavery as forced upon Muslims by the West and want to revive the practice of slavery. (see Slavery in 21st century Islamism).

Bride kidnapping and raptio

Bride kidnapping, also known as marriage by abduction or marriage by captive, is a form of forced marriage practised in some traditional cultures. Bride kidnapping has reportedly occurred in countries spanning Central Asia, the Caucasus region, parts of Africa, and among the Hmong in southeast Asia, the Tzeltal in Mexico, and the Romani in Europe. Though the motivations behind bride kidnapping vary by region, the cultures with traditions of marriage by abduction are generally patriarchal with a strong social stigma against sex or pregnancy outside marriage and illegitimate births.[43][44] In most cases, however, the men who resort to capturing a wife are often of lower social status, whether because of poverty, disease, poor character or criminality. In some cases, the couple collude together to elope under the guise of a bride kidnapping, presenting their parents with a fait accompli.[43][45] These men are sometimes deterred from legitimately seeking a wife because of the payment the woman's family expects, the bride price (not to be confused with a dowry, paid by the woman's family).[43][46]

The Mongol invasion of Hungary. The Mongols, with captured women, are on the left, the Hungarians, with one saved woman, on the right.

Bride kidnapping is distinguished from raptio in that the former refers to the abduction of one woman by one man (and/or his friends and relatives), and is often a widespread and ongoing practice. The latter refers to the large-scale abduction of women by groups of men, most frequently in a time of war (see also war rape). The Latin term raptio refers to abduction of women, either for marriage (by kidnapping or elopement) or enslavement (particularly sexual slavery). In Roman Catholic canon law, raptio refers to the legal prohibition of matrimony if the bride was abducted forcibly (Canon 1089 CIC).

The practice of raptio is surmised to have existed since anthropological antiquity. In Neolithic Europe, excavation of a Linear Pottery culture site at Asparn-Schletz, Austria, unearthed the remains of numerous slain victims. Among them, young adult females and children were clearly under-represented, suggesting that perhaps the attackers had killed the men but abducted the young females.[47]

During armed conflict and war

Rape and sexual violence have accompanied warfare in virtually every known historical era.[48] Before the 19th century, military circles supported the notion that all persons, including unarmed women and children, were still the enemy, with the belligerent (nation or person engaged in conflict) having conquering rights over them.[49] "To the victor goes the spoils" has been a war cry for centuries and women were included as part of the spoils of war.[50] Institutionalised sexual slavery and enforced prostitution have been documented in a number of wars, most notably the Second World War. ( See #During the Second World War )

Historical cases


Greek and Roman Empire


During the Chinese domination of Vietnam, Vietnamese girls were sold as sex slaves to the Chinese.[51] The poet Yuan Chen wrote a poem which contained the line "Slave girls of Viet (Yüeh), sleek of buttery flesh". A large trade developed where the native girls of Vietnam were enslaved and brought north to the Chinese.[52][53][54][55][56][57] Southern Yue girls were sexually eroticized in Chinese literature and in poems written by Chinese who were exiled to the south.[58]

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Portuguese visitors and their South Asian lascar (and sometimes African) crewmembers often engaged in slavery in Japan, where they bought or captured young Japanese women and girls, who were either used as sexual slaves on their ships or taken to Macau and other Portuguese colonies in Southeast Asia, the Americas,[59] and India.[60] For example, in Goa, a Portuguese colony in India, there was a community of Japanese slaves and traders during the late 16th and 17th centuries.[59][60]

During the 1662 Siege of Fort Zeelandia in which Chinese Ming loyalist forces commanded by Koxinga besieged and defeated the Dutch East India Company and conquered Taiwan, the Chinese took Dutch women and children prisoner. The Dutch missionary Antonius Hambroek, two of his daughters, and his wife were among the Dutch prisoners of war with Koxinga. Koxinga sent Hambroek to Fort Zeelandia demanding he persuade them to surrender or else Hambroek would be killed when he returned. Hambroek returned to the Fort, where two of his other daughters were. He urged the Fort not to surrender, and returned to Koxinga's camp. He was then executed by decapitation, and in addition to this, a rumor was spreading among the Chinese that the Dutch were encouraging the native Taiwan aboriginals to kill Chinese, so Koxinga ordered the mass execution of Dutch male prisoners in retaliation, in addition to a few women and children also being killed. The surviving Dutch women and children were then turned into slaves. Koxinga took Hambroek's teenage daughter as a concubine,[61][62][63] and Dutch women were sold to Chinese soldiers to become their wives, the daily journal of the Dutch fort recorded that "the best were preserved for the use of the commanders, and then sold to the common soldiers. Happy was she that fell to the lot of an unmarried man, being thereby freed from vexations by the Chinese women, who are very jealous of their husbands."[64] In 1684 some of these Dutch wives were still captives of the Chinese.[65] Some Dutch physical looks like auburn and red hair among people in regions of south Taiwan are a consequence of this episode of Dutch women becoming concubines to the Chinese commanders.[64] The Chinese took Dutch women as slave concubines and wives and they were never freed: in 1684 some were reported to be living, in Quemoy a Dutch merchant was contacted with an arrangement to release the prisoners which was proposed by a son of Koxinga's but it came to nothing.[66] The Chinese officers used the Dutch women they received as concubines.[64][67][68] The Dutch women were used for sexual pleasure by Koxinga's commanders.[69] This event of Dutch women being distributed to the Chinese soldiers and commanders was recorded in the daily journal of the fort.[64] A teenage daughter of the Dutch missionary Anthonius Hambroek became a concubine to Koxinga, she was described by the Dutch commander Caeuw as "a very sweet and pleasing maiden".[70][71] Dutch language accounts record this incident of Chinese taking Dutch women as concubines and the date of Hambroek's daughter[72][73][74][75]

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, there was a network of Chinese prostitutes trafficked to cities like Singapore, and a separate network of Japanese prostitutes being trafficked across Asia, in countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Singapore and British India, in what was then known as the ’Yellow Slave Traffic’. There was also a network of prostitutes from continental Europe being trafficked to India, Ceylon, Singapore, China and Japan at around the same time, in what was then known as the ’White Slave Traffic’.[76] Karayuki-san (唐行きさん, literally "Ms. Gone-to-China" but actually meaning Ms. Gone Abroad") were Japanese girls and women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who were trafficked from poverty stricken agricultural prefectures in Japan to destinations in East Asia, Southeast Asia, Siberia (Russian Far East), Manchuria, and British India to serve as prostitutes and sexually serviced men from a variety of races, including Chinese, Europeans, native Southeast Asians, and others. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, there was a network of Japanese prostitutes being trafficked across Asia, in countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Singapore and British India, in what was then known as the ’Yellow Slave Traffic’.[76] The main destinations of karayuki-san included China (particularly Shanghai), Hong Kong, the Philippines, Borneo, Sumatra,[77] Thailand, Indonesia, and the western USA (in particular San Francisco). They were often sent to Western colonies in Asia where there was a strong demand from Western military personnel and Chinese men.[78] The experience of Japanese prostitutes in China was written about in a book by a Japanese woman, Tomoko Yamazaki.[79][80][81][82][83][84][85][86][87][88][89] Japanese girls were easily trafficked abroad since Korean and Chinese ports did not require Japanese citizens to use passports and the Japanese government realized that money earned by the karayuki-san helped the Japanese economy since it was being remmitted,[90][91] and the Chinese boycott of Japanese products in 1919 led to reliance on revenue from the karayuki-san.[92] Since the Japanese viewed non-westerners as inferior, the karayuki-san Japanese women felt humiliated since they mainly sexually served Chinese men or native Southeast Asians.[93][94] Borneo natives, Malaysians, Chinese, Japanese, French, American, British and men from every race utilized the Japanese prostitutes of Sandakan.[95] A Japanese woman named Osaki said that the men, Japanese, Chinese, whites, and natives, were dealt with alike by the prostitutes regardless of race, and that a Japanese prostitute's "most disgusting customers" were Japanese men, while they used "kind enough" to describe Chinese men, and the English and Americans were the second best clients, while the native men were the best and fastest to have sex with.[96]

During World War II, Japanese soldiers engaged in sexual slavery during their invasions across East Asia and Southeast Asia. The term "comfort women" is a euphemism for the estimated 200,000, mostly Korean, Chinese, and Filipino women who were forced into prostitution in Japanese military brothels during World War II.[97]

Arab slave trade

Slave trade, including trade of sex slaves,[98] fluctuated in certain regions in the Middle East up until the 20th century.[99] These slaves came largely from Sub-Saharan Africa (mainly Zanj), the Caucasus (mainly Circassians),[100] Central Asia (mainly Turks), and Central and Eastern Europe (mainly Saqaliba).[101] The Barbary pirates also captured 1.25 million slaves from Western Europe between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.[102][103]

In contrast to the Atlantic slave trade where the male-female ratio was 2:1 or 3:1, the Arab slave trade usually had a higher female:male ratio instead, suggesting a general preference for female slaves. Concubinage and reproduction served as incentives for importing female slaves (often European), though many were also imported mainly for performing household tasks.[104]

White slavery

The Slave Market (c. 1884), painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme.

In English-speaking countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the phrase "white slavery" was used to refer to sexual enslavement of white women. It was particularly associated with accounts of women enslaved in Middle Eastern harems, such as the so-called Circassian beauties.[105] The phrase gradually came to be used as a euphemism for prostitution.[106] The phrase was especially common in the context of the exploitation of minors, with the implication that children and young women in such circumstances were not free to decide their own fates.

Statue entitled The White Slavery by Abastenia St. Leger Eberle, a controversial sculpture meant to depict modern western sexual enslavement.

In Victorian Britain, campaigning journalist William Thomas Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, procured a 13-year-old girl for £5, an amount then equal to a labourer's monthly wage (see the Eliza Armstrong case). Moral panic over the "traffic in women" rose to a peak in England in the 1880s. At the time, "white slavery" was a natural target for defenders of public morality and crusading journalists. The ensuing outcry led to the passage of antislavery legislation in Parliament. Parliament passed the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act, raising the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen in that year.[107]

The Merchant's Pearl by Alfredo Valenzuela Puelma,
(c. 1884)

A subsequent scare occurred in the United States in the early twentieth century, peaking in 1910, when Chicago's U.S. attorney announced (without giving details) that an international crime ring was abducting young girls in Europe, importing them, and forcing them to work in Chicago brothels. These claims, and the panic they inflamed, led to the passage of the United States White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910, generally known as the "Mann Act". It also banned the interstate transport of females for immoral purposes. Its primary intent was to address prostitution and immorality.[108]

Immigration inspectors at Ellis Island in New York City were held responsible for questioning and screening European prostitutes from the U.S. Immigration inspectors expressed frustration at the ineffectiveness of questioning in determining if a European woman was a prostitute, and claimed that many were "lying" and "framing skillful responses" to their questions. They were also accused of negligence should they accept a fictitious address from an immigrant or accept less-than-complete responses. Inspector Helen Bullis investigated several homes of assignment in the Tenderloin district of New York, and found brothels existed in the early 20th century in New York City. She compiled a list of houses of prostitutes, their proprietors, and their "inmates."[109] The New York inspection director wrote a report in 1907, defending against accusations of negligence, saying there was no sense to the public "panic," and he was doing everything he could to screen European immigrants for prostitution, especially unmarried ones. In a report by the Commissioner General of Immigration in 1914, the Commissioner said that many prostitutes would intentionally marry American men to secure citizenship. He said that for prostitutes, it was "no difficult task to secure a disreputable citizen who will marry a prostitute" from Europe.

Chinese immigrants in the U.S. were singled out as white slavers, although any such activity was restricted to the criminal segment of the Chinese community. As an example of this in American culture, the musical comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie features a Chinese-run prostitution ring, which is specifically referred to as "white slavery". The gangster movie Prime Cut has mid-West white slaves sold like cattle.

United States

From the beginning of African slavery in the North American colonies, white men took African enslaved women as concubines or occasional mistresses. As populations increased, slave women might be taken advantage of by white overseers, planter's younger sons before they married, and other white men associated with the slaveholders. Some were sold into brothels outright. Plaçage, a formalized system of concubinage among slave women or free people of color, developed in Louisiana and particularly New Orleans by the 18th century. Young mixed-race women (considered highly desirable) would receive a dowry or property as part of an associated settlement negotiated by their mothers with white men. The fathers would often pay for education for their children, especially sons, who might be educated in France and enter the army.

But, Paul Heinegg's research showed that most mixed-race, free black families in the censuses of 1790–1810 were descended from unions between free white women and African men, whether free, indentured servant or slave that took place in colonial Virginia. It had half the slaves in the colonies at the time of the Revolution. In the early colonial years, the working class of indentured servants and slaves often worked and lived together.[110]

From the 17th century, Virginia and other colonies passed laws making the children of slave mothers born into slavery, regardless of their paternity and of how much European ancestry they had. The term white slaves was used for those mixed-race or mulatto slaves with a high proportion of European ancestry. Among the most notable were Sally Hemings, who was 3/4 white and believed to be a half sister of Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson by their common father John Wayles. Hemings was known for her four surviving children from her decades-long concubinage with President Thomas Jefferson; they were 7/8 European by ancestry, and three passed easily into white society as adults. (Jefferson freed them all – two informally and two in his will.) Three of his Hemings grandsons served on the Union side as regular Army in the American Civil War; one advanced to the rank of colonel.

Not all white fathers abandoned their slave children; some provided them with education or apprenticeships, or capital; wealthy planters sent their mixed-race children to the North for education, and sometimes for freedom. Some men freed both their slave mistresses and their mixed-race children, especially in the 20 years after the American Revolution, but southern legislatures made such manumissions more difficult. Both Mary Chesnut and Fanny Kemble wrote in the 19th century about the scandal of white men having their mistresses and natural mixed-race children as part of their extended households. Numerous mixed-race families were begun before the Civil War, and there were many in the Upper South.

After slaves were emancipated, many states passed anti-miscegenation laws, which prohibited interracial marriage between whites and non-whites. But this did not stop white men from taking sexual advantage of black women by using their social positions of power under the Jim Crow system and white supremacy, or in other parts of the country by ordinary power and wealth dynamics. For instance, Strom Thurmond at age 21 had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old maid in his parents' household; he did provide support for their daughter. She was officially raised by her aunt and uncle, not learning about her real parents until her late teens. She said nothing about her status until after Thurmond's death, but has been added as one of his children on his memorial.

Zora Neale Hurston wrote about contemporary practices in her anthropological studies in the 1930s of the turpentine camps of North Florida.

Although she never named the practice as "paramour rights," author C. Arthur Ellis ascribed this term to the fictionalized Hurston in his book, Zora Hurston and the Strange Case of Ruby McCollum was given these words.[111] The same character asserted that the death knell of paramour rights was sounded by the trial of Ruby McCollum, a black woman who murdered Dr. C. Leroy Adams, in Live Oak, Florida, in 1952. She said he had forced her into sex and bearing his child. Journalist Hurston covered McCollum's trial in 1952 for the Pittsburgh Courier.

During the California Gold Rush in the late 1840s, Chinese merchants transported thousands of young Chinese girls, including babies, from China to the United States and sold them into sexual slavery within the red light district of San Francisco. Girls could be bought for as cheap as $40 (about $1104 in 2013 dollars) in Guangzhou, and sold for $400 (about $11,040 in 2013 dollars) in the United States. Many of these girls were forced into opium addiction and lived their entire lives as prostitutes.[112][113]

During the Second World War

Germany during World War II

During World War II, Germany established brothels in Nazi concentration camps (Lagerbordell). The women forced to work in these brothels came from the Ravensbrück concentration camp,[114] Soldier's brothels (Wehrmachtsbordell) were usually organized in already established whorehouses or in hotels confiscated by the Germans. The leaders of the Wehrmacht became interested in running their own brothels when sexual disease spread among the soldiers. In the controlled brothels, the women were checked frequently to avoid and treat sexually transmittable diseases (STD).

It is estimated that a minimum of 34,140 women from occupied states were forced to work as prostitutes during the Third Reich.[115] In occupied Europe, the local women were often forced into prostitution. On 3 May 1941 the Foreign Ministry of the Polish government-in-exile issued a document describing the mass Nazi raids made in Polish cities with the goal of capturing young women, who later were forced to work in brothels used by German soldiers and officers. Women often tried to escape from such facilities, with at least one mass escape known to have been attempted by women in Norway.

Japan during World War II

Rangoon, Burma. 8 August 1945. A young ethnic Chinese woman who was in one of the Imperial Japanese Army's "comfort battalions" is interviewed by an RAF officer.
Historical Marker, in the memory of Comfort women; Plaza Lawton, Liwasang Bonifacio, Manila

"Comfort women" are a widely publicised example of sexual slavery. The term refers to the women, from occupied countries, who were forced to serve as prostitutes in the Japanese army's camps during World War II. Estimates vary as to how many women were involved, with numbers ranging from as low as 20,000 from some Japanese scholars to as high as 410,000 from some Chinese scholars.[116] The numbers are still being researched and debated. The majority of women were taken from Korea, China, and other occupied territories part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. They were often recruited by kidnapping or deception to serve as sex slaves.[117][118][119][120] Many women were raped to the point of death, or killed by torture, such as having their breasts sliced off or having their abdomens slit open.[121] Each slave was reportedly raped "an average of 10 rapes per day (considered by some to be a low estimate), for a five-day work week; this figure can be extrapolated to estimate that each 'comfort girl' was raped around 50 times per week or 2,500 times per year. For three years of service – the average – a comfort girl would have been raped 7,500 times." (Parker, 1995 United Nations Commissions on Human Rights)[122]

After World War II


Yasuura House, one such center

The Recreation and Amusement Association (特殊慰安施設協会 Tokushu Ian Shisetsu Kyōkai (Special Comfort Facility Association)) (RAA) was the largest of the organizations established by the prostitution and other leisure facilities for occupying Allied troops immediately following World War II.[123]

The RAA established its first brothel on 28 August: the Komachien in Ōmori. By December 1945, the RAA owned 34 facilities, 16 of which were "comfort stations". The total number of prostitutes employed by the RAA amounted to 55,000 at its peak.

The dispersal of prostitution made it harder for GHQ to control STDs and also caused an increase in rapes by GIs, from an average of 40 a day before the SCAP order to an estimated 330 per day immediately after.

During the Korean War

During the Korean War, the South Korean military institutionalized a "special comfort unit" similar to the one used by the Japanese military during World War II, kidnapping and pressing several North Korean women into sexual slavery. Until recently, very little was known about this apart from testimonies of retired generals and soldiers who had fought in the war. In February 2002, Korean sociologist Kim Kwi-ok wrote the first scholarly work on Korea's comfort women through official records.[124]

The South Korean "comfort" system was organized around three operations. First, there were "special comfort units" called T'uksu Wiandae(특수위안대, 特殊慰安隊), which operated from seven different stations. Second, there were mobile units of comfort women that visited barracks. Third, there were prostitutes who worked in private brothels that were hired by the military. Although it is still not clear how recruitment of these comfort women were organized in the South, South Korean agents were known to have kidnapped some of the women from the North.[125]

According to anthropologist Chunghee Sarah Soh, the South Korean military's use of comfort women has produced "virtually no societal response," despite the country's women's movement's support for Korean comfort women within the Japanese military. Both Kim and Soh argue that this system is a legacy of Japanese colonialism, as many of Korea's army leadership were trained by the Japanese military. Both the Korean and Japanese militaries referred to these comfort women as "military supplies" in official documents and personal memoirs. The South Korean armed forces also used the same arguments as the Japanese military to justify the use of comfort women, viewing them as a "necessary social evil" that would raise soldiers' morale and prevent rape.[126]


Official estimates of individuals in sexual slavery worldwide vary. In 2001 the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimated 700,000 and UNICEF estimated 1.75 million.[127]


De Wallen red-light district in Amsterdam. Most of the trafficked girls and women come from central and eastern Europe.

In the Netherlands, the Bureau of the Dutch Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings in 2005 estimated that there are from 1,000 to 7,000 trafficking victims a year. Most police investigations relate to legal sex businesses, with all sectors of prostitution being well represented, but with window brothels being particularly overrepresented.[128][129][130] Dutch news site Expatica reported that in 2008, there were 809 registered trafficking victims in the Netherlands; out of those 763 were women and at least 60 percent of them were reportedly forced to work in the sex industry. Of reported victims, those from Hungary were all female and all forced into prostitution.[131][132]

In Germany, the trafficking of women from

  • Ex-Prostitutes Say South Korea and U.S. Enabled Sex Trade Near Bases –
  • Sex-trafficking online resources

External links

  • Markon, Jerry, Washington Post. "Human Trafficking Evokes Outrage, Little Evidence" 23 September 2007
  • Fine, Glenn U.S. Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine report 8 August 2008:
  • Davies, Nick Guardian newspaper "Inquiry fails to find single trafficker who forced anybody into prostitution" 20 October 2009
  • Davies, Nick Guardian newspaper "Prostitution and trafficking – the anatomy of a moral panic" 20 October 2009
  • Ozimek, John The register "UK gov prostituiton proposals caught with pants down" 22 October 2009:
  • Dasgupta, Rajashri, and Murthy, Laxmi The hoot media: "Human trafficking exaggerated numbers?" January 2009
  • Weitzer, Ronald -George Washington University report
  • Waterfield, Bruno Spiked online "Exposed: the myth of the World Cup sex slaves" February 2007
  • Slavery with a capital S
  • New York Times: "The Face of Slavery" By Kassie Bracken 4 January 2009

Further reading

Cited sources

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  3. ^ However the elements of the crime of sexual enslavement are described in more detail in a separate document originating from Article 9 of the Rome Statute: "General introduction 1. Pursuant to article 9 [of the Rome Statute], the following Elements of Crimes shall assist the Court in the interpretation and application of articles 6, 7 and 8, consistent with the Statute" (Article 1 of the Elements of the Crime). They are found in a paragraphs entitled "Article 7 (1) (g)-2 Crime against humanity of sexual slavery"; "Article 8 (2) (b) (xxii)-2 War crime of sexual slavery"; and "Article 8 (2) (e) (vi)-2 War crime of sexual slavery". The same wording is used in all three paragraphs ( )
  4. The perpetrator exercised any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership over one or more persons, such as by purchasing, selling, lending or bartering such a person or persons, or by imposing on them a similar deprivation of liberty.
  5. The perpetrator caused such person or persons to engage in one or more acts of a sexual nature.
  6. The conduct took place in the context of and was associated with an international armed conflict.
  7. The perpetrator was aware of factual circumstances that established the existence of an armed conflict.
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See also

In the digital magazine Dabiq, ISIL claimed religious justification for enslaving Yazidi women whom they consider to be from a heretical sect. ISIL claimed that the Yazidi are idol worshipers and their enslavement part of the old shariah practice of spoils of war.[189][190][191][192][193] ISIL appealed to apocalyptic beliefs and "claimed justification by a Hadith that they interpret as portraying the revival of slavery as a precursor to the end of the world."[194] In late September 2014, 126 Islamic scholars from around the Muslim world signed an open letter to the Islamic State's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, rejecting his group's interpretations of the Qur'an and hadith to justify its actions.[195][196] The letter accuses the group of instigating fitna—sedition—by instituting slavery under its rule in contravention of the anti-slavery consensus of the Islamic scholarly community.[197] In late 2014 ISIL released a pamphlet on the treatment of female slaves.[198][199][200][201][202][203]

According to media reports from late 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was selling Yazidis and Christian women as slaves.[183][184][185] According to Haleh Esfandiari of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, after ISIL militants have captured an area "[t]hey usually take the older women to a makeshift slave market and try to sell them."[186] In mid-October 2014 the U.N. estimated that 5,000 to 7,000 Yazidi women and children were abducted by ISIL and sold into slavery.[187][188]

The Trafficking in Persons Report of 2007 from the US Department of State says that sexual slavery exists in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, where women and children may be trafficked from the post-Soviet states, Eastern Europe, Far East, Africa, South Asia or other parts of the Middle East.[180][181][182]

Middle East

In Thailand, the Health System Research Institute reported in 2005 that children in prostitution make up 40% of Thailand's prostitutes.[11] It said that a proportion of prostitutes over the age of 18, including foreign nationals mostly from Burma, China's Yunnan province, Laos and Cambodia, are also in some state of forced sexual servitude.[179] The Tourism Police Bureau in 1997 stated that there were 500 Chinese and 200 European women in prostitution in Bangkok, many of whom entered Thailand illegally, often through Burma and Laos. Earlier reports, however, suggest different figures. (Police Colonel Sanit Meephan, deputy chief of Tourism Police Bureau, "Thailand popular haunt for foreign prostitutes," The Nation, 15 January 1997)

In Pakistan, young girls have been sold by their families to big-city brothel owners. Often this happens due to poverty or debt, whereby the family has no other way to raise the money than to sell the young girl.[175] Cases have also been reported where wives and sisters have been sold to brothels to raise money for gambling, drinking or drug addictions. Sex slaves are reportedly also bought by 'agents' in Afghanistan who trick young girls into coming to Pakistan for well-paying jobs. Once in Pakistan they are taken to brothels (called kharabat) and forced into sexual slavery, some for many years.[176][177] Beardless young boys in Afghanistan may be sold as bacha bazi for use in dancing and prostitution (pederasty), and are sometimes valued in tens of thousands of dollars.[178]

In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Development estimated that there are around 2.8 million sex workers in India, with 35.47 percent of them entering the trade before the age of 18 years.[168][169] The number of prostitutes has also doubled in the recent decade.[170] One news article states that an estimated 200,000 Nepalese girls have been trafficked to red light areas of India.[171] Nepalese women and girls, especially virgins, are reportedly favoured in India because of their fair skin and young looks.[172][173] One report estimates that every year between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepalese girls are trafficked into the red light districts in Indian cities, and that many of the girls may only be 9 or 10 years old.[174]

An article about the Rescue Foundation in New Internationalist magazine states that "according to Save the Children India, clients now prefer 10- to 12-year-old girls". The same article attributes the rising number of prostitutes believed to have contracted HIV in India’s brothels as a factor in India becoming the country with the second-largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, behind South Africa.[167]

In January 2010, the supreme court of India stated that India is "becoming a hub" for large-scale child prostitution rackets. It suggested setting up of a special investigating agency to tackle the growing problem.[166]

Nepali mother who travelled to Mumbai, India, hoping to rescue her teenage daughter from an Indian brothel.


In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 female students from Chibok, Borno. More than 50 of them soon escaped, but the remainder have not been released. Instead Shekau, who has a reward of $7 million offered by the United States Department of State since June 2013 for information leading to his capture, announced his intention of selling them into slavery.

In Africa the colonial powers abolished slavery in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, in areas outside their jurisdiction, such as the Mahdist empire in Sudan, the practice continued to thrive. Institutional slavery has been banned worldwide, but there are numerous reports of women sex slaves in areas without effective government control, such as Sudan,[158] Liberia,[159] Sierra Leone,[160] northern Uganda,[161] Congo,[162] Niger[163] and Mauritania.[164] In Ghana, Togo, and Benin, a form of religious prostitution known as trokosi ("ritual servitude") forcibly keeps thousands of girls and women in traditional shrines as "wives of the gods", where priests perform the sexual function in place of the gods.[165]


The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) has been suspected of trafficking underage women across state lines, as well as across the US–Canada[150] and US–Mexico borders,[151] for the purpose of sometimes involuntary plural marriage and sexual abuse.[152] The FLDS is suspected by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police of having trafficked more than 30 under-age girls from Canada to the United States between the late 1990s and 2006 to be entered into polygamous marriages.[150] RCMP spokesman Dan Moskaluk said of the FLDS's activities: "In essence, it's human trafficking in connection with illicit sexual activity."[153] According to the Vancouver Sun, it's unclear whether or not Canada's anti-human trafficking statute can be effectively applied against the FLDS's pre-2005 activities, because the statute may not be able to be applied retroactively.[154] An earlier three-year-long investigation by local authorities in British Columbia into allegations of sexual abuse, human trafficking, and forced marriages by the FLDS resulted in no charges, but did result in legislative change.[155] Former FLDS members have also alleged that children belonging to the sect were forced to perform sexual acts as children upon older men while being unable to leave. This has been described by numerous former members as sexual slavery, and was reported as such by the Sydney Morning Herald,[156][157] One former resident of Yearning for Zion, Kathleen Mackert, stated: "I was required to perform oral sex on my father when I was seven, and it escalated from there."[157]

In 2000 Congress created the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act with tougher punishments for sex traffickers. It provides for the possibility for former sex slaves to obtain a T-1 visa.[147] To obtain the visa women must, "prove they were enslaved by 'force, fraud or coercion'."[147] The visa allows former victims of sex trafficking to stay in the United States for 3 years and then apply for a green card.[147]

The prostitutes in illegal massage parlors may be forced to work out of apartment complexes for many hours a day.[147] Many clients may not realize that some of the women who work in these massage sex parlors are actually forced in prostitution.[147] The women may initially be lured into the US under false pretenses. In huge debt to their 'owners', they are forced to earn enough to eventually "buy" their freedom.[147] In some cases women who have been sex trafficked may be forced to undergo plastic surgery or abortions.[148] A chapter in The Slave Next Door (2009) reports that human trafficking and sexual enslavement are not limited to any specific location or social class. It concludes that individuals in society need to be alert to report suspicious behavior, because the psychological and physical abuse occurs which can often leave a victim unable to escape on their own.[149]

The 2010 Trafficking in Persons report described the United States as, "a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor, debt bondage, and forced prostitution."[146] Sexual slavery in the United States may occur in multiple forms and in multiple venues. Sex trafficking in the United States may be present in Asian massage parlors, Mexican cantina bars, residential brothels, or street-based pimp-controlled prostitution. The anti-trafficking community in the United States is debating the extent of sexual slavery. Some groups argue that exploitation is inherent in the act of commercial sex, while other groups take a stricter approach to defining sexual slavery, considering an element of force, fraud or coercion to be necessary for sex slavery to exist.

According to a report conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, anywhere from 100,000 up to 300,000 American children at any given time may be at risk of exploitation due to factors such as drug use, homelessness, or other factors connected with increased risk for commercial sexual exploitation.[145] However, the report emphasized, "The numbers presented in these exhibits do not, therefore, reflect the actual number of cases of CSEC in the United States but, rather, what we estimate to be the number of children ‘at risk’ of commercial sexual exploitation."[145]

The Girl’s Education & Mentoring Services (GEMS), an organization based in New York, claims that the majority of girls in the sex trade were abused as children. Poverty and a lack of education play major roles in the lives of many women in the sex industry.

In 2001 the United States State Department estimated that 50,000 to 100,000 women and girls are trafficked each year into the United States. In 2003, the State Department report estimated that a total of 18,000 to 20,000 individuals were trafficked into the United States for either forced labor or sexual exploitation. The June 2004 report estimated the total trafficked annually at between 14,500 and 17,500.[143] The Bush administration set up 42 Justice Department task forces and spent more than $150 million on attempts to reduce human trafficking. However, in the seven years since the law was passed, the administration has identified only 1,362 victims of human trafficking brought into the United States since 2000, nowhere near the 50,000 or more per year the government had estimated.[144]

The San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2006 that in the 21st century, women, mostly from South America, Southeast Asia, and the former Soviet Union, are trafficked into the United States for the purposes of sexual slavery.[141] A 2006 ABC News story stated that, contrary to existing misconceptions, American citizens may also be coerced into sex slavery.[142]

North America

In Spain, in 2007, officials identified 1,035 sex trafficking victims and 445 labor trafficking victims.[140]

In Austria, Vienna has the largest number of reported trafficking cases, although trafficking is also a problem in urban centers such as Graz, Linz, Salzburg, and Innsbruck. The NGO Lateinamerikanische Frauen in Oesterreich–Interventionsstelle fuer Betroffene des Frauenhandels (LEFOE-IBF) reported assisting 108 victims of all types of human trafficking in 2006, down from 151 in 2005.[139]

In Belgium, in 2007, prosecutors handled a total of 418 trafficking cases, including 219 economic exploitation and 168 sexual exploitation cases. In the same year, the federal judicial police handled 196 trafficking files, compared with 184 in 2006. In 2007 the police arrested 342 persons for smuggling and trafficking-related crimes.[137] A recent report by RiskMonitor foundation estimated that 70% of the prostitutes who work in Belgium are from Bulgaria.[138]

[136] In

In Greece, according to NGO estimates in 2008, there may be a total 13,000–14,000 trafficking victims of all types in the country at any given time. Major countries of origin for trafficking victims brought into Greece include Nigeria, Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, Albania, Moldova, Romania, and Belarus.[135]

[134] reported in 2006 a total of 357 completed investigations of human trafficking, with 775 victims. Thirty-five percent of the suspects were Germans born in Germany and 8% were German citizens born outside Germany.BKA The German Federal Police Office [133]

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