Mapping the Ratification Status of the 1950 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others

Carlie Chisolm, Malcolm Ginn & Joseph Holzman

In this post, we examine the ratification status of the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (CSTPEP). The instrument was adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on  December 2, 1949, and it entered into force on July 25, 1951, in accordance with the rules set in the convention’s Article 24.  

The convection’s preamble states that the prostitution and/or trafficking of persons is a violation of human dignity and worth and that doing so endangers the welfare of individuals, families, and communities. To combat the trafficking of women and children, four international instruments have been established: the 1904 and 1910 International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic, the 1947 International Agreement for the Suppression of the Traffic on Women and Children, and the 1947 International Agreement for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women of Full Age. The CSTPEP entered into force to correct these conventions’ limitations and update them accordingly. The CSTPEP compels state parties to punish any person who exploits the prostitution of another person or procures another person for the purposes of prostitution. It also requires these states to close and punish individuals who administer or finance brothels. 

To better understand which states have currently ratified this instrument, we created a choropleth map, using the ggplot2 package for R. We extrapolated the data from the UN Treaty Collection’s website and we classified UN member states into three distinct groups. We designate states that have not ratified or signed this instrument as having taken “no action”.  A “state party” is classified as a state that has ratified the treaty or acceded to its rules. A “signatory state” is a state which has signed but has not ratified the instrument. 

As the map demonstrates, there are 25 signatories and 83 state parties. The remaining 85 UN member states have decided not to join this regime. The majority of European countries have signed the treaty. It is also interesting to see the divide between the African states. 

One reason some states have not ratified this convention is due to their opposition to Article 22, which requires states to refer disputes with other states to the International Court of Justice. For many states, another source of concern is Article 1, which calls for the criminalization of prostitution even if the person knowingly and willingly wants to pursue this profession. In Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Greece, and Turkey, voluntary prostitution is legal as an occupation.

It is important to note that this convention targeted prostitution as a way of curbing the involuntary traffic of women and girls. Today, questions regarding the trafficking of individuals, including women and girls, are covered by the 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which has been ratified by 178 UN member states. 

Want to learn more about this legal instrument?

Data on this convention’s ratification status is available on the World Politics Data Lab’s GitHub page. The most recent dataset was uploaded to the repository on October 25, 2022.

For more information on the convention’s history and for its current application, please refer to the following academic writings:

Demleitner, Nora. (1994) “Forced Prostitution: Naming an International Offense,” Fordham International Law Journal, 18(1): 164-197.

Wharton, Rebecca. (2010) ”A New Paradigm for Human Trafficking: Shifting the Focus from Prostitution to Exploitation in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act,” William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender and Social Justice 16(3): 753-780.

About the authors:

Carlie Chisolm is a junior majoring in International Relations with minors in Middle East Studies and Psychology at Drew University.

Malcolm Ginn is a senior majoring in Political Science at Drew University. 
Joseph Holzman is a senior at Drew University where he is pursuing majors in Computer Science and International Relations.

Editor’s note: This post is part of a long-term project. Students enrolled in Drew University’s Semester on the United Nations, Principles in International Law and International Human Rights have been and will be collecting data on the ratification status of treaties deposited in the United Nations Treaty Collection. For more information on this project and its learning goals, click here.

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