White Slavery, a supposed “international traffic in European and North American women, in which women were moved into lives of sexual exploitation” is found recurrently as a topic around the beginning of the century. Legislation like the Mann Act was passed 1910 when the US banned the interstate transport of women for “immoral purposes" and it was evoked recently in the Spitzer scandal.
White slavery was the theme of b-literature and yellow journalism even if investigations could never prove its existence like it was typically related. But the story had sex appeal, it helped keep women afraid (in a time were the advancement of the feminist cause was gaining importance) and it vehicled an anti-Semitic and a conservative anticapitalist critique full of conspiracies and powerful multinational corporations. The fact white slavery was never really discovered anywhere seemed to sustain this thesis of a secret prostitution ring that would steal “our” women. In her book Personal Property, Margit Stange demonstrates that the issues surrounding white slavery included the commoditization of women and their body and their full insertion in the bustling capitalist market.
Reports of the existence of these rumors persisted well into the 60s as Edgar Morin describes in the Rumeur d’Orleans. After the appearance in the town of Orleans of a rumor relating Jewish clothes shops with a case of white slavery, a group of sociologists went there to do an inquiry. Morin relates white slavery to the angst of Orléans, a little incoherent city near Paris, of the emancipation and migration of women. He finds the origin of the myth in a "feminile fantasma". What Morin really sets out to understand is how it could have become such an anti-Semitic medieval rumor.
In White Slavery Trade. Biography of a Social Problem, Jazbinsek describes how after this last breakout in the 60s the theme of white slavery disappeared. Some of its main characteristics were transferred to the concept of “human traffic”.
Journalists write similar accounts to the ones Jazbinsek analyzed of the beginning of the century and associations all over the world have opened to cater for the victims while concerned VIPs like Emma Gordon Thompson have done provocative commercials where she lays naked in fear with blues and marks of a beating. Human traffic was very quickly considered in a UN protocol against organized (arms and drugs) as a crime. It is now prosecuted all over the world and it is a notably used instrument to bust brothels and control borders.