Sexual slavery Definitions

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 trokosi in GhanaTogo andBenin; slavery for primarily non-sexual purposes but where non-consensual sexual activity is common; or forced prostitutionConcubines 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]


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 Conventionswhen 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

Main article: Human 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 and Japan.[7] The report lists Thailand, China, NigeriaAlbaniaBulgariaBelarusMoldovaand Ukraine as major sources of trafficked persons.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children[edit]

Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) includes prostitution of childrenchild pornographychild sex tourismtrafficking of children for sexual purposes, or other forms of transactional sex with children. The Youth Advocate Program International (YAPI) describes CSEC as a form of coercion and violence against children and a contemporary form of slavery.[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

Main article: 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

Main article: 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

Main article: 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 SwedenNorway 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

Main article: 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. [33][34] 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. [35][36][37][38][39] Forced marriage is most common in parts of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.[40]

Crime against humanity

The Rome Statute Explanatory Memorandum, which defines the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, recognizes rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancyforced sterilization, “or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity” ascrime against humanity if the action is part of a widespread or systematic practice.[41][42] 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.[43] 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.[43] 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.[44] 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.[44]

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 Posted on : June 16, 2014