It has been suggested that White slavery and Talk:Sexual slavery#Merger Proposal be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since September 2008.

Sexual slavery refers to the organised coercion of persons into various different sexual practices:

  1. forced prostitution
  2. single-owner sexual slavery
  3. ritual slavery, sometimes associated with traditional religious practices
  4. slavery for primarily non-sexual purposes where sex is common or permissible

In general, the nature of slavery means that the slave is de facto available for sex, and ordinary social conventions and legal protections that would otherwise constrain an owner's actions are not effective. For example, extra-marital sex between a married man and a slave was not considered adultery in most societies that accepted slavery.[1] Female slaves are at higher risk of sexual abuse and sexual slavery.

The term "sex slave" and "consensual sexual slavery" are sometimes used in BDSM to refer to a consensual agreement between sexual partners (see also total power exchange). This should not be confused with the meaning of the term as defined in this article, which refers specifically to unwilling slavery.


According to the Rome Statute (Article 7(2)(c)) sexual enslavement means the exercise of any or all of the powers attached to the "right of ownership" over a person. It comprises the repeated violation or sexual abuse or forcing the victim to provide sexual services as well as the rape by the captor. The crime has the character of a continuing offence. The Rome Statute's definition of sexual slavery includes situations where persons are forced to domestic servitude, marriage or any other forced labour involving sexual activity, as well as the trafficking of persons, in particular women and children.[2]

Crimes against humanity and war crimes

Main article: Crimes against humanity

Main article: war crimes

The Rome Statute Explanatory Memorandum, which defines the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, recognises rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced 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.[3][4]

Sexual slavery was first recognised as 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 Foca (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.[5] 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.[5] The indictment was confirmed by a 2001 verdict by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia that rape and sexual enslavement are crimes again humanity. This ruling challenged the widespread acceptance of rape and sexual enslavement of women as intrinsic part of war.[6] 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 Foca, eastern Bosnia-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 centres. Many of the women subsequently disappeared.[6]

Historical Sexual Slavery

United Kingdom

In Victorian Britain, campaigning journalist William Thomas Stead procured a 13 year old virgin for £5, an amount then equal to a labourer's monthly wage. See the Eliza Armstrong case.

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. However, it has been reported that the most extreme claims "were almost certainly exaggerated". Investigations of alleged abductions in Victorian England often found that the purported "victims" had participated voluntarily. Still, the "climate of prudery" prevalent in the late Victorian era made for easy scandalization of almost anything sexual, and numerous prohibitions were enacted.[7]

North America

This article possibly contains original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding inline citations. Statements consisting only of original research should be removed. (May 2008) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

In the mid-nineteenth century in the U.S., there was a white slavery scare which suggested that large numbers of white women were being kidnapped and forced into prostitution. The prevalence of this practice was greatly exaggerated due to xenophobia[citation needed], and this phenomenon is generally regarded today as having been an example of a moral panic.

In the antebellum era, US victims of sexual slavery were overwhelmingly women of African descent, held as slaves, often purchased primarily for sexual exploitation.[citation needed] One unverified story of such a girl, purchased as a sexual slave when she was fourteen, is told in Celia, A Slave by Melton A. Mclaurin. Such practice is also widely referred to in other literature discussing the era e.g. Roots by Alex Haley and Chapter thirty of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Frederick Douglass, in his autobiography, described the sale of female slaves openly advertised for sexual purposes at slave auctions in the nineteenth century United States. According to John A. Morone's book Hellfire Nation, slaveowners in the American South openly admitted to practicing sexual slavery, while Southern diarist, Mary Chestnut, famously wrote that

Like the patriarchs of old, our men live all in one house with their wives and their concubines; and the mulattoes one sees in every family partly resemble the white children. Any lady is ready to tell you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody’s household but her own. Those, she seems to think, drop from the clouds.

A subsequent scare peaked about 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 Mann Act, which forbade the transportation of minors across state lines for "immoral purposes".[8]

The Middle East

Main article: Arab slave trade

Slave trade, including trade of sex slaves,[9] fluctuated in certain regions in the Middle East up until the twentieth century.[10] These slaves came largely from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caucasus,[11] and often from parts of Central Asia and Eastern Europe.[12] The Barbary pirates also captured many slaves from Western Europe and North America between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.[13][14]

Sexual slavery during armed conflict and war

Main article: war rape

Shōwa Japan during World War II

Main article: Comfort women

"Comfort women" is a euphemism for the up to 200,000 women who served in the Japanese army's brothels during World War II. Historians and researchers into the subject have stated that the majority were from Korea, China, and other occupied territories part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and were recruited by force or deception to serve as sex slaves.[15][16][17][18]

By Nazi Germany in WWII

Main article: Sexual enslavement by Nazi Germany in World War II

At least 34,000 women from Europe were forced into prostitution. Usually organized in hotels confiscated from their rightful places, they also served travelling soldiers or those withdrawn from the front. Usually they also included a bar, a restaurant and a brothel. In most cases, especially in the East, the women were forced to serve as prostitutes after being caught at random on the streets in Łapankas, kidnapping raids by Nazi German military of civilians in Poland.

Forced prostitution

Forced prostitution is a form of sexual slavery that is considered more profitable than the drug trade and arms trade.[1] Often the "owners" of these people will confiscate passports and/or money in order to make them completely dependent. This practice, also known as sex trafficking or human trafficking, is illegal in most countries.

Human trafficking is not the same as people smuggling. A smuggler will facilitate illegal entry into a country for a fee, but on arrival at their destination, the smuggled person is free; the trafficking victim is enslaved. Traffickers use coercive tactics including deception, fraud, intimidation, isolation, threat and use of physical force, debt bondage or even force-feeding with drugs to control their victims. Women are typically recruited with promises of good, legal jobs in other countries or provinces, or are tricked into a false 'marriage', and, lacking better options at home, agree to migrate. Traffickers arrange the travel and job placements, the women are escorted to their destinations and delivered to the employers. Upon reaching their destinations, some women learn that they have been deceived about the nature of the work they will do; most have been lied to about the financial arrangements and conditions of their employment; and all find themselves in coercive and abusive situations and kept in a financial situation that they are stuck in a form of debt bondage from which escape is both difficult and dangerous.

Proponents of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in the United States, and Sweden's Act On Prohibiting The Purchase Of Sexual Services have sought to define all forms of prostitution as exploitive or de facto slavery, and place emphasis on suppressing the demand for sex services, by prosecuting profiteers and customers. While this effort is advanced as a means to protect trafficked children and women, that are variously estimated at 20,000-100,000 annually in the United States, who have issued numerous critiques of these laws as another form of prohibition and stigmatization, that serve mainly to marginalize sex workers.[19] Prostitute rights organizations argue that decriminalization and extension of labor rights to sex workers is more effective in ensuring their economic, mental and medical health than any form of prohibition.[20]

The term "sex worker" itself is rejected by the advocates of anti-slavery laws, who argue that women cannot choose sex as an economic activity, and claim it is the criminal networks and customer demand that are the driving forces, not economic necessity.[citation needed]


Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the impoverished former Eastern bloc countries such as Albania, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine have been identified as major trafficking source countries for women and children.[21][22] Young women and girls are often lured to wealthier countries by the promises of money and work and then reduced to sexual slavery.[23] It is estimated that two thirds of women trafficked for prostitution worldwide annually come from Eastern Europe, three-quarters have never worked as prostitutes before.[24][25]

The major destinations are Western Europe (Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, UK, Greece), the Middle East (Turkey, Israel, the United Arab Emirates), Asia, Russia and the United States.[26][27]

The Council of Europe states that "people trafficking has reached epidemic proportions over the past decade, with a global annual market of about $42.5 billion."[28][29] Trafficking victims typically are recruited using coercion, deception, fraud, the abuse of power, or outright abduction. Threats, violence, and economic leverage such as debt bondage can often make a victim consent to exploitation.

The United States

In 2002, the US Department of State repeated an earlier CIA estimate that each year, about 50,000 women and children are brought against their will to the United States for sexual exploitation.[30][31] Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said that "[h]ere and abroad, the victims of trafficking toil under inhuman conditions -- in brothels, sweatshops, fields and even in private homes."[32]

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has also been implicated in the trafficking of underage women across state and international boundaries (US/Canada). In most cases, this is for the continuation of polygamous practices, in the form of plural marriage.[33][34]


According to one advocacy group, thousands of women are forced into prostitution in and from China every year.[35]


Main article: Slavery in modern Africa

The colonial powers abolished slavery in the nineteenth century, but in areas outside their jurisdiction, such as the Mahdist empire in Sudan, the practice continued to thrive. Now, institutional slavery has been banned worldwide, but there are numerous reports of women sex slaves in areas without an effective government control, such as until recently, Sudan,[36] Liberia,[37] Sierra Leone,[38] northern Uganda,[39] Congo,[40] Niger[41] and Mauritania.[42]

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.[43] This can be compared with the devadasi system in India.

The Middle East / Israel

In the contemporary Middle East, sexual slavery exists, and transportation and trafficking occurs. In Israel, officials report a significant problem in human trafficking for the sex trade industry [44][45] — much of it involving women from Eastern Europe. Eastern European women also end up in Turkey and United Arab Emirates.[46]

Many of the Iraqi women fleeing the Iraq War are turning to prostitution, while others are trafficked abroad, to countries like Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Iran.[47] In Syria alone, an estimated 50,000 Iraqi refugee girls and women, many of them widows, have become prostitutes.[48] Cheap Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists. The clients come from wealthier countries in the Middle East [49] High prices are offered for virgins.[50][51]


As many as 200,000 Nepali girls, many under the age of 14, have been sold into sex slavery in India. Nepalese women and girls, especially virgins, are favoured in India because of their fair skin and young looks.[52][53]


Although illegal by Pakistani law, young girls (sometimes as young as 9 years old) on few instances have been sold by their families to brothels as sex slaves in big cities. 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[54]. Few cases have also been recorded where wives and sisters have been sold to brothels to raise money for gambling, drinking or consuming drugs. Many sex slaves are 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 for many years. [55][56]. Watta satta (Urdu: وٹہ سٹہ), a tribal practice; when executed without consent is also considered a form of sexual slavery by certain groups in Pakistan [57].

Southeast Asia

In Asia, Japan is the major destination country for trafficked women, especially from the Philippines and Thailand. The US State Department has rated Japan as either a ‘Tier 2’ or a ‘Tier 2 Watchlist’ country every year since 2001, in its annual Trafficking in Persons reports. Both these ratings implied that Japan was (to a greater or lesser extent) not fully compliant with minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking trade.

Currently an estimated 300,000 women and children are involved in the sex trade throughout Southeast Asia.[58] It is common that Thai women are lured to Japan and sold to Yakuza-controlled brothels where they are forced to work off their price.[59][60] In Cambodia at least a quarter of the 20,000 people working as prostitutes are children with some being as young as 5.[61] By the late 1990s, UNICEF estimated that there are 60,000 child prostitutes in the Philippines, describing Angeles City brothels as "notorious" for offering sex with children. UNICEF estimates many of the 200 brothels in the notorious Angeles City offer children for sex. [62]


  1. ^ Love and Sex and Women in the Art of Ancient Greece
  2. ^ pg.29-30
  3. ^ As quoted by Guy Horton in Dying Alive - A Legal Assessment of Human Rights Violations in Burma April 2005, co-Funded by The Netherlands Ministry for Development Co-Operation. See section "12.52 Crimes against humanity", Page 201. He references RSICC/C, Vol. 1 p. 360
  4. ^ Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
  5. ^ a b Rape as a Crime Against Humanity
  6. ^ a b Bosnia-Herzegovina : Foca verdict - rape and sexual enslavement are crimes against humanity. 22 February 2001. Amnesty International.
  7. ^ Cecil Adeams, "The Straight Dope: Was there really such a thing as "white slavery"?" January 15, 1999.
  8. ^ Cecil Adams, op. cit.
  9. ^ Islam and slavery: Sexual slavery
  10. ^ Mauritania made slavery illegal last month
  11. ^ "Horrible Traffic in Circassian Women—Infanticide in Turkey," New York Daily Times, August 6 1856
  12. ^ Soldier Khan
  13. ^ When europeans were slaves: Research suggests white slavery was much more common than previously believed
  14. ^ Davis, Robert. Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800.Based on "records for 27,233 voyages that set out to obtain slaves for the Americas". Stephen Behrendt, "Transatlantic Slave Trade", Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999), ISBN 0-465-00071-1.
  15. ^ Fackler, Martin (2007-03-06). "No Apology for Sex Slavery, Japan's Prime Minister Says". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-23. ((cite news)): Check date values in: |date= (help); Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  16. ^ "Abe questions sex slave 'coercion'". BBC News. 2007-03-02. Retrieved 2007-03-23. ((cite news)): Check date values in: |date= (help); Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  17. ^ "Japan party probes sex slave use". BBC News. 2007-03-08. Retrieved 2007-03-23. ((cite news)): Check date values in: |date= (help); Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  18. ^ Comfort Women Were 'Raped': U.S. Ambassador to Japan
  19. ^ Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA
  20. ^ Prostitutes Education Network
  21. ^ Eastern Europe Exports Flesh to the EU
  22. ^ Local women fall prey to sex slavery abroad
  23. ^ Crime gangs 'expand sex slavery into shires'
  24. ^ Eastern Europe - Coalition Against Trafficking of Women
  25. ^ A modern slave's brutal odyssey
  26. ^ Moldova: Lower prices behind sex slavery boom and child prostitution
  27. ^ The Russian Mafia in Asia
  28. ^ / More4 / Ghosts / Stop the Traffik campaign
  29. ^ Council of Europe says human trafficking has reached 'epidemic proportions' - Europe - International Herald Tribune
  30. ^ Worldwide Tragedy: U.S. Not Immune to Sexual Slavery
  31. ^ Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000: Trafficking in Persons Report
  32. ^ Modern Slavery: People for Sale
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation
  36. ^ Sudan: Darfur: Rape as a weapon of war: sexual violence and its consequences
  37. ^ Liberia's Taylor appears in court
  38. ^ Sierra Leone: Sexual Violence Widespread in War
  39. ^ Uganda: No Amnesty for Atrocities
  40. ^ Girls at U.N. meeting urge action against sex slavery, trafficking, child labor, AIDS
  41. ^ Born to be a slave in Niger
  42. ^ Mauritanian MPs pass slavery law
  43. ^ Ghana's trapped slaves, By Humphrey Hawksley in eastern Ghana, 8 February 2001. BBC News
  44. ^ Israel a Human Trafficking Haven
  45. ^ Israel's Sex Trade Escalating CBS News
  46. ^ World: Sex Traffickers Prey On Eastern Europeans
  47. ^ Sexual Slavery on the rise in Iraq
  48. ^ '50,000 Iraqi refugees' forced into prostitution
  49. ^ Iraqi refugees forced into prostitution
  50. ^ Desperate Iraqi Refugees Turn to Sex Trade in Syria
  51. ^ Iraqi refugees forced into prostitution
  52. ^ Millions Suffer in Sex Slavery
  53. ^ Fair skin and young looks: Nepalese victims of human trafficking languish in Indian brothels
  54. ^ BUSHELL, ANDREW. "PAKISTAN'S SLAVE TRADE:Afghan refugees sold into prostitution; indentured servitude flourishes;scenes from a slave auction".
  55. ^ Sex Slave Jihad
  56. ^ New York Times: Sex Slaves Returning Home Raise AIDS Risks, Study Says
  57. ^ Watta Satta (وٹہ سٹہ) in Pakistan
  58. ^ Sex-slave trade flourishes in Thailand
  59. ^ "Woman's Dying Wish: to punish traffickers who ruined her life" The Nation, January 23, 2006
  60. ^ A modern form of slavery: Trafficking of Burmese Women and Girls into Brothels in Thailand
  61. ^
  62. ^ BBC Politics 97

Although other countries to this a confirmed 3000 times more than the middle east who believe this to be wrong and inappropriate.

Further reading

See also