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Modern slavery
Modern slavery

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1.2 Wartime slavery in the twentieth century

Slavery was a common feature and a consequence of many historical armed conflicts. However, wartime slavery also took place in the twentieth century. During World War II, many prisoners of war as well as civilians were sent to labour camps, where they were forced to work for no remuneration. During the Holocaust, hundreds of thousands of victims of the Nazi regime were also forced to carry out work in concentration camps. On the Far East front, the Japanese military forced between 50,000 and 200,000 women and girls, primarily of Korean, Chinese or Philippine origin, into sexual slavery and forced prostitution (Sarah Soh, 2001). They were often referred to as ‘comfort women’.

Sexual slavery was also a feature of conflicts in the late twentieth century (former Yugoslavia) and in the early twenty-first century (Sierra Leone). The Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court 1998 (ICC Statute) codifies enslavement and sexual slavery as crimes against humanity.