Sexual Slavery and the International Criminal Court: Advancing International Law


Oosterveld, Valerie. 2003. “Sexual Slavery and the International Criminal Court: Advancing International Law.” Michigan Journal of International Law 25: 605-51.

Author: Valerie Oosterveld


Sexual slavery is an unfortunate fact of armed conflicts around the world. For example, during World War II, more than 200,000 girls and women were enslaved in so-called "comfort stations" associated with the Japanese Imperial Army located throughout Asia. In more recent armed conflicts, girls and women have been forced into sexual slavery in East and West Timor, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and other countries. Sexual slavery is also prevalent during peacetime, in the form of trafficking for sexual purposes. 700,000 human beings - mostly women and girls - are trafficked into sexual exploitation and forced labour every year. They are bought and sold, kidnapped, deceived and coerced into being trafficked within and across borders in all regions. While clearly a global problem, sexual slavery was not recognized under international law as a crime against humanity, nor as a war crime, until 1998, when it was explicitly included in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The finalization of the ICC's Elements of Crimes in 2000 resulted in another important step forward in international law, as the specific elements of the crime of sexual slavery were enumerated for the first time.

Topics: International Law, International Criminal Law, Sexual Violence, Sexual Slavery, Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Sex Trafficking

Year: 2003

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