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Human trafficking was first viewed as a problem of forced prostitution in the early twentieth century. However, it did not garner a lot of attention until the late 1980s. At that time, feminists from around the world began to critique violence against women. This chapter traces the history of how sex trafficking became categorized as a problem of “violence against women.” It also highlights the political gains and losses resulting from the politicization of sex trafficking as primarily a problem of sexual violence, and thus a juridical offense.

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With the end of state socialism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union there was increased attention to the issue of human trafficking. In particular, there was a rise in political concern for postsocialist women who were trafficked to Europe and the United States. This chapter analyzes how these new victims of trafficking were viewed and how these views shaped the revising of antitrafficking policy after the Cold War. It is argued that government understandings of postsocialist trafficking facilitated an emphasis on anticrime legislation. The anticrime approach worked in conjunction with how feminists had politicized trafficking as “violence against women.” The main antitrafficking laws developed by the un, the eu, and the United States focus on anticrime and not addressing the underlying economic and social vulnerabilities that sustain trafficking.

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