The Politics of Trafficking: The First International Movement to Combat the Sexual Exploitation of Women

By Stephanie A. Limoncelli | Go to book overview

8
The Politics of Trafficking

WITH ITS FEMINIST ORIGINS, the international movement to combat the traffic in women for Prostitution began as a means of arguing for women's universal right to be free from state control and sexual exploitation in state-regulated Prostitution markets. The women and men affiliated with the International Abolitionist Federation were attempting to develop a universal liberal feminist agenda to help women and girls, one that challenged state regulation around the world. There were a few early successes: the movements in Great Britain, the home of the International Abolitionist Federation, and the Netherlands were heavily influenced by and involved with abolitionists. In the end, however, the International Abolitionist Federation's agenda lost out to the explicitly nationalist calls made by the men and women of the International Bureau. It was purity reformers and affiliated state officials who had much more success in influencing Prostitution reform efforts on the continent, in France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and to a lesser extent, Italy and Hungary. In all countries where they were active, international purity reformers helped to organize morally conservative local reformers and the state officials who funded them and in some cases gave them quasi-governmental status.

Purity reformers could have opposed state officials' authorization of prostitution through regulation, but they did not. State regulation created a moral dilemma for them, because they acknowledged Prostitution as an “evil” yet were also opposed to any efforts to reduce governmental control over Prostitution. Internationally and nationally, they chose to sidestep the issue of regulation in favor of working with state officials to nationalize and suppress prostitutes themselves. State officials, who had strongly opposed abolitionist efforts in

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