Sexual slavery, or sex slavery, is a form of slavery that includes forced sexual activity. Some sex slaves are kept in bondage specifically for sexual use, while in other cases sexual slavery accompanies other forms of slavery. Sex slaves are subjected to both sexual assault and rape by their captors, as well as other people. Like other forms of slavery, sexual slavery is illegal and it is considered a significant human rights violation.
This type of slavery can take many forms. Members of the public are increasingly aware of forced prostitution, a form of sexual slavery that is often combined with human trafficking, in which people are moved across international borders illegally. Forced prostitution is a problem in many nations, including those with legalized prostitution and includes people trafficked from many different areas of the world.
People held in domestic servitude and forced labor can also be used as sexual slaves. Attitudes about slaves from the ancient world to the modern era have included the assumption that slaves are available for sex at any time. In some cases, rape and sexual assault are even used as methods of disciplining slaves.
There is also a history of enslaving people to provide sexual services to one person. Historically, sex slaves were sometimes kept in large numbers for the benefit of powerful members of society. Today, sexual slavery can occur when people are trafficked from their home nations and sold, sometimes as “brides,” to private individuals. These individuals may later sell their sex slaves to other parties or to brothels that use sex slaves in forced prostitution.
People subjected to sexual slavery include men, women, and children. Sex slaves may have difficulty escaping, both because they are physically restrained, as seen in facilities that lock sex slaves inside, and because they face psychological and language barriers. A common problem for victims of sexual slavery is that they are often arrested for prostitution or other crimes by the authorities, when really law enforcement should be arresting the people who held them in slavery.
Addressing all forms of slavery has been an ongoing concern among many members of the global community. Ending enslavement requires a multi-pronged approach that incorporates the skills of social workers, law enforcement, legislators, and human rights organizations. A number of nations have enacted measures that are designed to help slaves report their enslavement without risking legal penalties for being in a country without papers, being forced into prostitution, or violating other laws. This is designed to make slaves feel more comfortable about asking for help, thereby increasing the chances of identifying and addressing slavery.