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Sexual Slavery

Korean "Comfort Women": The Intersection of Colonial Power, Gender, and Class


Min, Pyong Gap. 2003. “Korean ‘Comfort Women’: The Intersection of Colonial Power, Gender, and Class.” Gender & Society 17 (6): 938–57.

Author: Pyong Gap Min


During the Asian and Pacific War (1937-45), the Japanese government mobilized approximately 200,000 Asian women to military brothels to sexually serve Japanese soldiers. The majority of these victims were unmarried young women from Korea, Japan’s colony at that time. In the early 1990s, Korean feminist leaders helped more than 200 Korean survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery to come forward to tell the truth, which has further accelerated the redress movement for the women. One major issue in the redress movement and research relating to the so-called “comfort women” issue is whether Japan’s colonization of Korea or gender hierarchy was a more fundamental cause of the Korean women’s suffering. Using an intersectional perspective, this article analyzes how colonial power, gender hierarchy, and class were inseparably tied together to make the victims’ lives miserable. By doing so, it shows that a one-sided emphasis on colonization or gender hierarchy will misrepresent the feminist political issue and misinterpret the “comfort women’s” experiences.

Keywords: sexual violence against women, colonial power, gender, class

Topics: Armed Conflict, Class, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Sexual Violence, Male Perpetrators, Sexual Slavery, SV against women Regions: Asia, East Asia Countries: Japan, North Korea, South Korea

Year: 2003

Mass Rape: The War Against Women in Bosnia-Herzegovina


Stiglmayer, Alexandra. 1994. Mass Rape: The War Against Women in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Author: Alexandra Stiglmayer


Alexandra Stiglmayer interviewed survivors of the continuing war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in order to reveal, to a seemingly deaf world, the horrors of the ongoing war in the former Yugoslavia. The women—primarily of Muslim but also of Croatian and Serbian origin—have endured the atrocities of rape and the loss of loved ones. Their testimony, published in the 1993 German edition, is bare, direct, and its cumulative effect overwhelming.

The first English edition contains Stiglmayer's updates to her own two essays, one detailing the historical context of the current conflict and the other presenting the core of the book, interviews with some twenty victims of rape as well as interviews with three Serbian perpetrators. Essays investigating mass rape and war from ethnopsychological, sociological, cultural, and medical perspectives are included.

New essays by Catharine A. MacKinnon, Rhonda Copelon, and Susan Brownmiller address the crucial issues of recognizing the human rights of women and children. A foreword by Roy Gutman describes war crimes within the context of the UN Tribunal, and an afterword by Cynthia Enloe relates the mass rapes of this war to developments and reactions in the international women's movement.

Accounts of torture, murder, mutilation, abduction, sexual enslavement, and systematic attempts to impregnate—all in the name of "ethnic cleansing"—make for the grimmest of reading. However brutal and appalling the information conveyed here, this book cannot and should not be ignored. (Amazon)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Ethnic/Communal Wars, Ethnicity, Gender, Women, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, Rights, Human Rights, Sexual Violence, Male Perpetrators, Rape, Sexual Slavery, SV against women, Torture Regions: Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Yugoslavia (former)

Year: 1994

The Rape of Slave Boys in Sudan


Sliwa, Maria. 2004. “The Rape of Slave Boys in Sudan.” Contemporary Review 284 (1661): 343–45.

Author: Maria Sliwa



“Although many villagers are aware that young male slaves are raped while in captivity, it is not discussed because of the cultural prohibitions on all forms of homosexuality including rape.” (344)

"In southern Sudan, if two men are found to have consensually engaged in homosexual sex, they are killed by a firing squad." (343)

“Male rape victims, who are able to escape slavery in the North and return to their villages, often consign themselves to a life filled with guild and suffering and do this silently and alone.” (345)

“I interviewed a total of fifteen male slaves, for one to two hours each. Six of the boys interviewed said they were raped and the majority of these six said they were eyewitness to other boys being raped. Most of these six boys said they were raped numerous times, by more than one perpetrator.” (345)

“Though five in this group of fifteen boys said they were not raped, they did say they were either sexually harassed or were eyewitness to other slave boys being raped.” (345)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Boys, International Law, Justice, Crimes against Humanity, Sexual Violence, Rape, Sexual Slavery, SV against men Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Sudan

Year: 2004

Variation in Sexual Violence during War


Wood, Elisabeth Jean. 2006. “Variation in Sexual Violence during War.” Politics & Society 34 (3): 307–42. doi:10.1177/0032329206290426.

Author: Elisabeth Jean Wood


Sexual violence during war varies in extent and takes distinct forms. In some conflicts, sexual violence is widespread, yet in other conflicts—including some cases of ethnic conflict—it is quite limited. In some conflicts, sexual violence takes the form of sexual slavery; in others, torture in detention. I document this variation, particularly its absence in some conflicts and on the part of some groups. In the conclusion, I explore the relationship between strategic choices on the part of armed group leadership, the norms of combatants, dynamics within small units, and the effectiveness of military discipline.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Ethnic/Communal Wars, Combatants, Gender, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Sexual Violence, Sexual Slavery

Year: 2006

Trafficking in Women's Bodies, Then and Now: The Issue of Military "Comfort Women"


Watanabe, Kazuko. 1995. "Trafficking in Women's Bodies, Then and Now: The Issue of Military 'Comfort Women'." Peace & Change 20 (4): 501-14.

Author: Kazuko Watanabe

Keywords: military sexual assault, comfort women, sex trafficking, militaries


This essay “recounts the World Human Rights Conference held in Vienna in 1993 and other national and international conventions as well as activists' reports that exposed the long-suppressed story of the comfort women of World War II.” The author concludes that in order for the problem of trafficking of women in Asia (in particular Japan) to be fixed, women must take control by speaking out “to abolish the male-centered sexuality and culture that celebrates masculinity and the commodification of women’s bodies,” and that women need more opportunities for legitimate jobs and economic independence. 

Topics: Gender, Women, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Sexual Violence, Rape, Sexual Slavery, Trafficking, Sex Trafficking Regions: Asia, East Asia Countries: Japan

Year: 1995

Hopes Betrayed: Trafficking of Women and Girls to Post-Conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina for Forced Prostitution


Vandenberg, Martina. 2002. Bosnia and Herzegovina: Hopes Betrayed: Trafficking of Women and Girls to Post-Conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina for Forced Prostitution. 14 (9). New York: Human Rights Watch.

Author: Martina Vandenberg


Traffickers who have forced thousands of women and girls into prostitution in Bosnia and Herzegovina are not being apprehended for their crimes. Local corruption and the complicity of international officials in Bosnia have allowed a trafficking network to flourish, in which women are tricked, threatened, physically assaulted and sold as chattel, the report said. The 75-page report, "Hopes Betrayed: Trafficking of Women and Girls to Post-Conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina for Forced Prostitution," documents how local Bosnian police officers facilitate the trafficking by creating false documents; visiting brothels to partake of free sexual services; and sometimes engaging in trafficking directly. Human Rights Watch also obtained documents from the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) that revealed cases of International Police Task Force (IPTF) officers visiting nightclubs as clients of trafficked women and girls, arranging to have trafficked women delivered to their residences, and in one case, tampering with witnesses to conceal an IPTF officer's complicity. 

Keywords: political corruption, local government, United Nations, sex trafficking, prostitution, corruption, International Police Task Force

Topics: Corruption, Displacement & Migration, Gender, Women, Girls, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, International Organizations, Justice, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Sexual Slavery, SV against women, Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Sex Trafficking Regions: Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year: 2002

Human Trafficking in Russia and Other Post-Soviet States


Tverdova, Yuliya V. 2011. "Human Trafficking in Russia and Other Post-Soviet States." Human Rights Review 12 (3): 329-44.

Author: Yuliya V. Tverdova


Since the collapse of the Soviet regime, post-communist states have rapidly learned the modern face of slavery. Slavic women have been trafficked to the sex markets of Western Europe, Asia, and North America. The surge in human trafficking is the result of numerous factors, including the dramatic fall of the economic system and complete deterioration of the social safety net. This paper explores the causes and conditions of the growth of the trade in persons in the region, the profile and typical behavior of the victims, and the public perception of the trafficking problem. It identifies the inefficiencies behind the national and international responses to trafficking and the complications for policymaking associated with the stigma attached to sex workers.

Keywords: human trafficking, russia, sex work, slavic women

Topics: Corruption, Economies, Gender, Sexual Violence, Sexual Slavery, Sexuality, Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Sex Trafficking Regions: Americas, North America, Asia, Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe, Western Europe Countries: Russian Federation

Year: 2011

Running from the Rescuers: New US Crusades Against Sex Trafficking and the Rhetoric of Abolition


Soderlund, Gretchen. 2005. "Running from the Rescuers: New US Crusades Against Sex Trafficking and the Rhetoric of Abolition." NWSA Journal 17 (3): 64-87.

Author: Gretchen Soderlund


This article analyzes recent developments in U.S. anti-sex trafficking rhetoric and practices. In particular, it traces how pre-9/11 abolitionist legal frameworks have been redeployed in the context of regime change from the Clinton to Bush administrations. In the current political context, combating the traffic in women has become a common denominator political issue, uniting people across the political and religious spectrum against a seemingly indisputable act of oppression and exploitation. However, this essay argues that feminists should be the first to interrogate and critique the premises underlying many claims about global sex trafficking, as well as recent U.S. -based efforts to rescue prostitutes. It places the current raid-and-rehabilitation method of curbing sex trafficking within the broader context of Bush administration and conservative religious approaches to dealing with gender and sexuality on the international scene. 

Keywords: accountability, feminist perspectives, national interest, sex trafficking, prostitution, Bush administration

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Women, Justice, Sexual Violence, Sexual Slavery, Sexuality, Trafficking, Sex Trafficking Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2005

South Korean Movements Against Militarized Sexual Labor


Moon, Katharine H. S. 1999. "South Korean Movements Against Militarized Sexual Labor." Asian Survey 39 (2): 310-27.

Author: Katherine H. S. Moon


The suffering that many South Korean women experienced under the Japanese military's sexual slavery (chongsindae) practices has been properly noted not only in South Korea but in other nations as well. The chongsindae movement (CM), however, was preceded by a similar group, the kijich'on movement (KM). KM was formed in the mid-1980s to recognize and publicize the plight of Korean prostitutes servicing American soldiers in the US military camptown, or kijich'on. A comparison of the two movements' ideology, leadership, and organization is presented to provide a rationale for CM's success in making the 'military comfort women' a universal women's rights concern, even as KM has remained localized and less recognized as a group.

Keywords: prostitution, Japanese military, US military, chongsindae movement, sex trafficking, kijich'on movement


  • The chongsindae movement (CM) addresses the problem of the military “comfort system” in South Korea which resulted in women being trafficked to military bases and forced to work as sex workers, beginning with the Japanese colonial rule. Since the mid-1980s, the kijich’on (KM) movement has also been formed, protesting the issue of U.S. military camptown prostitutes who became “victims of debt bondage and objects of foreign domination” (311). Moon discusses these two movements in connection with each other, comparing the ideology, leadership, and organization of each in the context of the changing civil in South Korea since the late 1980s. The author’s goal is to account for the relatively localized and less recognized status of the KM movement as opposed to the overall success and publicity gained by the CM movement. She ultimately concludes that the CM movement has overshadowed rather than supported the kijich’on problem.

Topics: Gender, Women, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Militarization, Rights, Women's Rights, Sexual Violence, Sexual Slavery, SV against women, Trafficking, Sex Trafficking Regions: Asia, East Asia Countries: South Korea

Year: 1999


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