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  • Trafficking in Slavery’s Wake: Law and Experience of Women and Children in Africa edited by Benjamin N. Lawrence and Richard L. Roberts
  • Silvia Scarpa
Benjamin N. Lawrence and Richard L. Roberts, eds. Trafficking in Slavery’s Wake: Law and Experience of Women and Children in Africa. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2012. 280 pp. ISBN 978-0-8214-2002-7, $32.95 (paper).

The book aims at building a much-needed bridge between slavery of the past and contemporary exploitative practices, thus contesting the belief that they are unconnected phenomena and contributing to the interdisciplinary debate on trafficking in human beings. However, to be effective, such debate has to be framed on a commonly agreed terminology. In this respect, unfortunately, the book makes at times a failed attempt in using the international legal terminology. The result is an ahistorical “marketing operation” of the term trafficking, generally used in some chapters of the book to refer to every form of sale, kidnapping, abuse, and exploitation that persisted or developed after the legal abolition of slavery in Africa in the nineteenth century. Especially in Part I of the book, this operation inevitably collides with the fact that, in international treaty law, the term trafficking is defined for the first time in 2000 by the Palermo Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The previous international conventions used instead the term traffic, and they only aimed at fighting against the so-called white slave traffic phenomenon. Therefore, in making reference to the Palermo definition (5), while using the term trafficking to refer to various forms of exploitation of the past, the book inevitably stretches the term beyond its historical limits and generates confusion. In this [End Page 866] respect, see, for instance, Richard L. Roberts’s reference to the League of Nations’s “inquiry into slavery and trafficking” (78). Such confusion is also nurtured by the coexistence of the terms traffic and trafficking; for instance, the authors introduce the book claiming that it “examines the changing modalities of the traffic in women and children in the aftermath of the ʻend of slaveryʼ in Africa, from the late nineteenth century to the present” (emphasis added; 2).

Misleading is also, inter alia, Jean Allain’s statement that “the slave trade is about the trafficking of slaves” (149). The definitions of the slave trade and the one of trafficking in human beings are very different under international treaty law. The former, included in Article of 1.1 of the 1926 Slavery Convention, comprises “all acts involved in the capture, acquisition or disposal of a person with intent to reduce him to slavery; all acts involved in the acquisition of a slave with a view to selling or exchanging him; all acts of disposal by sale or exchange of a slave acquired with a view to being sold or exchanged, and, in general, every act of trade or transport in slaves.” As regards the latter, a necessary distinction has to be made between trafficking in adults and child trafficking (which, unfortunately is not included in this book; see, for instance, pp. 5–6; pp. 150–51). The definition of trafficking in adult persons, contained in Article 3 of the Palermo Protocol, is composed by three elements: (1) an action—namely “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons”; (2) the use of improper means by traffickers—including “the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person”—to achieve the consent of the victims; and (3) for the purpose of exploitation, including inter alia “the exploitation of the prostitution of others and other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery and practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” On the other hand, the definition of child trafficking only comprises elements 1 and 3, namely the action and the purpose. In this respect, the definition of trafficking in persons is to be intended...


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