International Legislation on White Slavery and Anti-Trafficking in the Early Twentieth Century

Living reference work entry


The chapter focuses on the emergence of international legislation against trafficking in the early twentieth century, focusing on the years between 1904 and 1949. The chapter will introduce key legal measures adopted during that time but focus on the enactment of the International Agreement for the Suppression of the “White Slave Traffic” 1904 and the International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic 1910. These measures, unlike modern anti-trafficking legal standards that recognize more comprehensive forms of exploitation, focused solely on recruitment for prostitution and the exploitation of prostitution. The chapter argues that the early-twentieth-century legal framework was mostly a result of civil society action in the field and that the framework enabled the control of immigration and emigration of young women. The chapter will further show how the terminology changed from “white slavery” to a more neutral “traffic” with the League of Nations. Despite this change, immigration control and nationalism continued to underline much of the rhetoric even after the League of Nations took over the legal framework in 1921.


History of trafficking White slavery International law League of Nations Immigration control Civil society associations 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WarwickCoventryUK

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