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The Rome Statute (1998) (which defines the crimes over which the International Criminal Court may have jurisdiction) encompasses crimes against humanity (Article 7) which include "enslavement" (Article 7.1.c) and "sexual enslavement" (Article 7.1.g) "when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population".
It also defines sexual enslavement as a war crime and a breach of the Geneva Conventions when committed during an international armed conflict (Article 8.b.xxii) and indirectly in an internal armed conflict under Article(8.c.ii), but the courts jurisdiction over war crimes is explicitly excluded from including crimes committed during "situations of internal disturbances and tensions, such as riots, isolated and sporadic acts of violence or other acts of a similar nature" (Article 8.d).
Sexual slavery may also involve single-owner sexual slavery; ritual slavery, sometimes associated with certain religious practices, such as ritual servitude in Ghana, Togo and Benin; slavery for primarily non-sexual purposes but where non-consensual sexual activity is common; or forced prostitution.
A declaration of the World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, held in Stockholm in 1996, defined CSEC as, "sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in cash or in kind to the child or to a third person or persons.
The child is treated as a sexual object and as a commercial object".
Opinion in places such as Europe has been divided over the question of whether prostitution should be considered as a free choice or as inherently exploitative of women.
The law in Sweden, Norway and Iceland – where it is illegal to pay for sex, but not to sell sexual services – is based on the notion that all forms of prostitution are inherently exploitative, opposing the notion that prostitution can be voluntary.
In contrast, prostitution is a recognized profession in countries such as the Netherlands and Germany.