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How Lifelong Discrimination and Legal Inequality Facilitate Sex Trafficking in Women and Girls


This chapter will explore the life of a girl, based on a composite drawn from case studies globally, highlighting how sex discrimination and inequality – often explicitly underpinned by law – set girls and women up to be particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking and sexual exploitation as compared to their male counterparts. Many women and girls are systematically pushed into the hands of sex traffickers via this route. For example, a girl victim of childhood sexual abuse or a woman escaping domestic violence in contexts where social safety nets, if they exist, have failed are likely to be more vulnerable to sex trafficking, which may be further compounded by prior and/or concurrent discrimination including regarding access to education, economic empowerment, marriage, family planning, and access to justice. The chapter will further explore the interplay between consent and coercion in the context of such structural inequality and the right to not be subjected to sexual exploitation, concluding with positive obligations of the state and taking into account the Sustainable Development Goals.


  • Sex trafficking
  • Vulnerability
  • Sex discrimination
  • Consent and coercion

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Correspondence to Jacqui Hunt .

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© 2019 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

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Ferrell-Schweppenstedde, S., Hunt, J., Matekaire, T. (2019). How Lifelong Discrimination and Legal Inequality Facilitate Sex Trafficking in Women and Girls. In: Winterdyk, J., Jones, J. (eds) The Palgrave International Handbook of Human Trafficking. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-63192-9

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-63192-9

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