International Studies – Blog #3
Slavery has been in existence since the inception of humanity. Most notably was the transportation, buying, and selling of Africans for manual labor. Previous to Britain making laws against slavery in 1807, and America in 1820, there were no international means of stopping such a trade. Succeeding this, however, was the trafficking of females for prostitution, known as “white slavery.” Although conferences were held internationally in 1899 and 1902 in attempts to hinder the spread of this new industry (Oster, 2015), it wasn’t until the 80’s that a women’s movement conceived the term “sex trafficking.” (Hughes, 2013)
It was during this period of “white slave traffic” that protests arose and agents of change were in full force to protect women and girls. Abolitionists in England, who also argued against African slave trade, were successful in raising international attention; so much so, that in 1904 royalty in Europe signed the International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic and upped the nation’s efforts in preventing the illegal transportation of women and girls. During the first World War, the League of Nations joined the rising international battle against human trafficking as well.
Following both World Wars, the United Nations founded the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. This agreement details human rights, makes it illegal for a nation to allow prostitution, and mandates that trafficking, whether consensual or not, is absolutely banned. The introductory statement states, “Whereas prostitution and the accompanying evil of the traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person and endanger the welfare of the individual, the family and the community…”
Despite the increase in international attention, sex trafficking was still a widely unknown issue during this time. In the 1960’s feminists began a surge of women’s movements that sought to raise awareness on the issue. A second international wave arose in the 1980’s, further raising awareness and defining sex trafficking. At the same time, women who voluntarily chose to sell themselves into prostitution fought back against the victimization of women being trafficking. Regardless, the international stage was presented with an increase in political awareness and action in combating the trafficking of women and girls.
While the definition of trafficking has grown beyond the limitations of the involuntary recruitment for sexual exploitation, the international arena continues to work tirelessly at putting an end to this atrocity. However, due to the expanse of the trade, blurry distinctions between voluntary and involuntary workers, ever-changing tactics used by perpetrators, and on demand access of the internet, this has been no small feat. New laws and acts are always being passed and organizations committed to fighting back and rescuing innocent victims are arising too. In order to piece together solutions and understand that change is possible, history must be studied. It’s a reminder that not only is historical knowledge crucial in avoiding repetition of negative events, but also that without knowledge the present and future cannot be improved.
Hughes, D. (2013). Combating sex trafficking: A history. Retrieved from https://www.fairobserver.com/region/north_america/combating-sex-trafficking-history/
Oster, G. (2015). The history of human trafficking. Retrieved from http://hankeringforhistory.com/the-history-of-human-trafficking/#The_History_of_Human_Trafficking