Conflict Zones and Militarization
last updated September 1, 2005

Internal conflict destabilizes a country's economy and disrupts social patterns. During conflict situations women may be forced into prostitution or may be forced to choose to prostitute themselves in order to support their families. Conflict and the resulting instability weaken border controls and facilitate the movement of women from country to country. High levels of corruption are also found in conflict zones where separatist regimes may be funded by such activities as kidnapping, trade in narcotics or trafficking in people. The U.S. Department of State 2003 Trafficking in Person Report states: "Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children have been exploited in armed conflict zones, where government militaries and rebel commanders profit from the services of child soldiers, porters, and sex slaves, and in post-conflict and trasitioning states where organized criminal groups often fill power vacuums created by war, political change, and economic upheaval."

Combat results in an increased military presence. The stationing of troops in both conflict and post-conflict areas is often followed by the development of the sex industry there. This phenomenon has been recognized around the world during every war. Victims of trafficking are sometimes delivered to brothels that serve military bases. Military involvement in trafficking and prostitution ranges from ignoring the problem and failing to discipline troops to actual regulation of the sex trade. As Isabelle Talleyrand explains, the military's involvement in trafficking includes "regulation of the prostitution industry in 'officially approved brothels,' ensuring a steady supply of available military prostitutes, acting as procurers, keeping track of the prostitutes that had contracted sexually transmitted diseases (with the intention of protecting the servicemen and not for the purpose of informing the prostitutes), and in some instances, government to government agreements that keep track of prostitutes through identification." From Isabelle Talleyrand, Military Prostitution: How the Authorities Worldwide Aid and Abet International Trafficking in Women, Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce, Vol. 27, 151 (2000).

In December 2001, the international media reported on a United Nations investigation into whether members of the U.N. International Police Task Force (IPTF) in Bosnia directly participated in trafficking in women for forced prostitution. The Washington Post reported that among the various charges under investigation, two policemen with the peacekeeping forces were accused of recruiting Romanian women, purchasing false documents for them and selling the women to Bosnian brothel owners. Ultimately, the United Nations halted the investigation, and the U.N. Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina issued a statement that "no U.N. international police officers had been found to be involved in the trafficking of women in Bosnia and Herzegovina."

For more information on peacekeeper codes of conduct and accountability as it concerns trafficking in women, see the UN Peacekeeping Mission Personnel and the NATO Policy Relating to Military Personnel and Trafficking sections of this website.