Historical Evolution of the International Legal Responses to the Trafficking of Children: A Critique

Reference work entry


The trafficking of children has received extensive attention from both academic and political arenas in recent years, yet this growing phenomenon remains a relatively new area of international law (Gallagher, The international law of human trafficking, Cambridge University Press, 2010). Human trafficking has both a long legal and political history, distinguishing it from many contemporary international legal issues (Gallagher, The international law of human trafficking, Cambridge University Press, 2010). Despite this history the term “trafficking” was not defined by international law until the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children in 2000.

This chapter will illustrate the origins of child trafficking within international law and identify an evolution in understanding of the phenomenon over the course of the last century. Through research in the League of Nations archives, Geneva, this chapter illustrates how a historical perspective enhances understanding of contemporary legal responses to child trafficking. The chapter undertakes a critical analysis of child trafficking within the context of international law, demonstrating the parallels with the White Slavery Conventions of the early twentieth century and the contemporary legal framework.


Child trafficking League of Nations Exploitation United Nations Prostitution “White Slave Traffic” 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer International Publishing AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and EmancipationUniversity of HullHullUK

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