Presentation Title: Human Rights Epidemic: Sexual Enslavement

Abstract: Violence against women is a global human rights epidemic. This presentation will examine one particular form of violence against women and girls: sexual slavery. Rape and sexual enslavement date back far into history, however, today, the unwanted, coerced sexual enslavement of women and girls worldwide not only continues, but is flourishing. The challenges in obtaining accurate figures of those involved in sexual slavery are multidimensional: different definitions of what constitute sexual slavery, survivors fearful of disclosing their experiences afraid they will further jeopardize their family or their self, war zones preclude accurate data gathering, cultural obstacles, and the very clandestine nature of some of the sexual slavery, sex trafficking. Nonetheless, estimates are staggering, suggesting millions of girls and women are affected each year globally. Five identifiable forms of sexual enslavement exist today: trafficking, war-induced sexual slavery, ritual sexual slavery, forced marriage, and sexual servitude. The effects on sexually enslaved girls and women are tremendous. The devastating consequences include lifelong physical and psychological trauma, exposure to diseases including HIV, malnutrition, and unsanitary and inhumane living conditions, along with rejection and alienation from their families, country, and culture. Sexual slavery in its varying manifestations is driven by social, cultural, political, and economic factors. Education, cultural values, religion, socioeconomic status, family structure, traditional beliefs, myths, geography, economics, discrimination, employment status, patriarchal government policies, political unrest, criminal status, and natural disasters have an impact on sexual slavery and trafficking of girls and women. The sexual exploitation of women’s enslavement is a result of ongoing patriarchal systems that institutionalize women’s diminished worth in the world and the root cause of all abuse of women is the inequitable power relations between genders. This presentation will offer insights into the conditions that create and maintain modern day slavery.

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