The Global Prohibition Regime Against Trafficking in Persons: Understanding the Limited Results

  • William F. McDonald
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Victims and Victimology book series (PSVV)


Campaigns to suppress human trafficking began in the nineteenth century with Josephine Butler’s effort to stop “white slavery” and the traffic in women and girls for prostitution. Today’s campaign was launched in the 1990s by the UN and heavily supported by the US Department of State. The target of the campaign has broadened to include males and victims of labor exploitation. This campaign is an example of an attempt to establish a global prohibition regime. Such regimes have successfully prohibited certain international crimes but they are notably ineffective at suppressing activities with the characteristics that mark human trafficking. Thus the modest numbers of convictions for trafficking are not surprising. Suppressing the trafficking for prostitution is the most problematic aspect of the campaign. Many states permit prostitution and refuse to try to abolish it. The existence of legal prostitution is believed by some to encourage trafficking for prostitution. Others disagree. The matter is hotly debated. The success of the anti-human trafficking campaign is likely to continue to be modest for the foreseeable future.


Human trafficking Prostitution White slavery Modern slavery TVPA Global prohibition regime Josephine Butler CATW Human Rights Caucus UN Protocol 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • William F. McDonald
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyGeorgetown UniversityWashington, DCUSA

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