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Sex trafficking and sexual exploitation in settings affected by armed conflicts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East: systematic review

Mcalpine, Alys, Hossain, Mazeda and Zimmerman, Cathy (2016) Sex trafficking and sexual exploitation in settings affected by armed conflicts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East: systematic review. BMC International Health and Human Rights, 16 (1). ISSN 1472-698X

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Identification Number: 10.1186/s12914-016-0107-x

Abstract

Background Sex trafficking and sexual exploitation has been widely reported, especially in conflict-affected settings, which appear to increase women’s and children’s vulnerabilities to these extreme abuses. Methods We conducted a systematic search of ten databases and extensive grey literature to gather evidence of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation in conflict-affected settings. International definitions of “sexual exploitation” and “sex trafficking” set the indicator parameters. We focused on sexual exploitation in forms of early or forced marriage, forced combatant sexual exploitation and sexual slavery. We extracted prevalence measures, health outcomes and sexual exploitation terminology definitions. The review adhered to PRISMA guidelines and includes quality appraisal. Results The search identified 29 eligible papers with evidence of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation in armed conflict settings in twelve countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The evidence was limited and not generalizable, due to few prevalence estimates and inconsistent definitions of “sexual exploitation”. The prevalence estimates available indicate that females were more likely than males to be victims of sexual exploitation in conflict settings. In some settings, as many as one in four forced marriages took place before the girls reached 18 years old. Findings suggest that the vast majority of former female combatants were sexually exploited during the conflict. These studies provided various indicators of sexual exploitation compatible to the United Nation’s definition of sex trafficking, but only 2 studies identified the exploitation as trafficking. None of the studies solely aimed to measure the prevalence of sex trafficking or sexual exploitation. Similar descriptions of types of sexual exploitation and trafficking were found, but the inconsistent terminology or measurements inhibited a meta-analysis. Conclusions Findings indicate there are various forms of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in conflict-affected settings, primarily occurring as early or forced marriage, forced combatant sexual exploitation, and sexual slavery. The studies highlight the extraordinary vulnerability of women and girls to these extreme abuses. Simultaneously, this review suggests the need to clarify terminology around sex trafficking in conflict to foster a more cohesive future evidence-base, and in particular, robust prevalence figures from conflict-affected and displaced populations.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/
Additional Information: © 2016 The Authors
Divisions: IGA: Centre for Women Peace and Security
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 15 Jul 2021 14:36
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 03:00
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/111036

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