Sex Trafficking and International Law

  • Heather Smith-CannoyEmail author
Living reference work entry

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Part of the International Human Rights book series (IHR)


The main concern of this chapter is to show that by beginning with a criminal justice approach to sex trafficking, the international community has been decisively less focused on trafficking victims’ human rights. Indeed, there are often moments during the criminal prosecution of traffickers that necessitate that victim’s rights be trampled in the name of securing a conviction. In this way, victim protection and prosecution of traffickers can be at odds – forcing state authorities to pick one over the other. Further, when prominent reporting institutions use successful convictions as the metric by which success in the fight against trafficking is measured, victim protections are sacrificed. Section “Sex Trafficking and Modern International Law: A Short History” reviews the development of modern international law on trafficking. Section “Trends” highlights global trafficking trends, and section “Data Collection Challenges” illustrates some ways in which current approaches to trafficking victims sacrifices their rights in order to convict traffickers. A version of this chapter orginally appeared in the Human Rights Review.


Sex trafficking Palermo protocol International law Victims’ rights 


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Law and Cases

  1. LON (1921) International convention for the suppression of traffic in women and children. Geneva, 30 Sept 1921. League of Nations.
  2. LON (1933) International convention for the suppression of traffic in women of full age. Geneva, 11 Oct 1933. League of Nations.
  3. UN (1949) Convention for the suppression of the traffic in persons and of the exploitation of the prostitution of others. General Assembly resolution 317. United Nations.
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lewis & Clark CollegePortlandUSA

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