The escalation of violence in Gaza and Israel is leaving people in Gaza in urgent need of humanitarian support. Please donate now.

Available documents

No available documents

Oxfam Policy & Practice provides free access to Gender & Development and Development in Practice journal articles.

Download from publisher


This article explores the difficulties around using the notion of consent to define ‘trafficking in women’. It does this through an examination of the recent negotiations around the UN Trafficking Protocol. ‘Consent’ was a highly contentious topic at the negotiations. One feminist lobby group argued that all prostitution, regardless of consent, should be considered trafficking. Another feminist lobby group insisted that coercion was a necessary element to any definition of trafficking. Government delegations tended to one or other of these positions. The final document attempts to compromise between these positions, with both lobby groups claiming victory for their position. This article looks at the arguments behind the interpretation of ‘consent’ in the negotiations, placing them in the historical context of early 20th century campaigns against white slavery. It suggests that views of female sexuality that see women as both more virtuous and more dangerous than men influence both historical and contemporary campaigns. It argues that current notions of ‘consent’, reflected in the ambiguity of the Protocol, are inadequate to serve as the basis for political strategies to protect the rights of sex workers and migrants.

This article is hosted by our co-publisher Taylor & Francis. For the full table of contents for this and previous issues of this journal, please visit the Gender and Development website.

Additional details





How to cite this resource

Citation styles vary so we recommend you check what is appropriate for your context.  You may choose to cite Oxfam resources as follows:

Author(s)/Editor(s). (Year of publication). Title and sub-title. Place of publication: name of publisher. DOI (where available). URL

Our FAQs page has some examples of this approach.

Related resources

Here are similar items you might be interested in.

Browse all resources