Trafficking in Women (1924-1926)

The Paul Kinsie Reports for the League of Nations - Vol. 2

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This book provides a transcription of the reports written by undercover agent Paul Kinsie for the League of Nations Special Body of Experts on Traffic in Women and Children in the mid-1920s. Between 1924 and 1926, a team travelled to more than a hundred cities in Europe, the Americas and the Mediterranean area to interview individuals involved in the regulation, repression, medical control, organization and practice of the sex trade. American undercover agents were included on the team to infiltrate the so-called ‘underworld’ and obtain ‘facts’ about the traffic. Among these, Kinsie was the most prolific. He visited more than forty cities and produced hundreds of reports in which his contacts with prostitutes, brothel owners, madams, pimps and procurers are described in detail. For a proper contextualization of the reports, scholars from around the world were asked to provide short introductions to the situation with regard to prostitution in each city that was visited. The book offers a unique source of information which is of great ethnographic value for people interested in the history of human trafficking and prostitution.



Havana’s sex trade

Owing in part to the strategic location of Cuba during the rise of Spanish colonialism in the Americas, the sex trade was established by the time the King of Spain declared it a city in 1592. Ships carrying cargo, sailors, clergy, colonial administrators and soldiers docked in Havana bay on the way to and from Seville, Spain. In Havana a service economy catering to travellers who were docked in the city by the bay developed early. Mujeres de mal vivir or “women of ill repute”, in the Iberian peninsula emigrated to Havana to work in taverns and gambling dens, offering entertainment and sexual and domestic services to the explorers, pirates and merchants who had immigrated or who were passing through Havana. Mujeres de mal vivir came from diverse backgrounds: Jewish and Moorish women fleeing the Spanish Inquisition; socially marginal women without dowries; widowers; and social outcasts, such as alcoholics, who found a means to forge a living through the sale of sex. What distinguished those women was their marginality and their challenge to social mores and gender norms.


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