JCU Logo


COURSE NAME: "Human Trafficking and Contemporary Slavery"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2021

INSTRUCTOR: Silvia Scarpa
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 11:30 AM 12:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Junior Standing
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment

The course introduces students to the hidden phenomena of contemporary forms of slavery and human trafficking, relying on international legal definitions - including among others those of slavery, practices similar to slavery, forced labour, the worst forms of child labour and human trafficking - to better understand and assess the international action against these forms of exploitation. A brief comparison between slavery of the past and its contemporary manifestations, as well as an analysis of relevant contemporary forms of exploitation - including chattel slavery and religious slavery, debt bondage, the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism and exploitation in some global supply chains - follows. The differences between human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants emerging from the imperfect international legal architecture founded on the two Protocols on Trafficking in Persons, in particular Women and Children and the Smuggling of Migrants annexed to the 2000 Convention against Transnational Organized Crime are also spelled out. Finally, the course focuses on understanding what ought to be done to fight against contemporary forms of slavery and human trafficking.
The course compares slavery of the past with contemporary exploitative practices and it analyzes various forms of exploitation, focusing in particular on chattel slavery, religious slavery, servitude, the bonded labor/debt bondage practice, forced prostitution and sexual exploitation, including their link with sex tourism, early and forced marriages, the exploitation of child soldiers, child labour and forced labor. Every form of exploitation is defined and differences and overlaps existing among them are analysed. The course subsequently examines trafficking in human beings, focusing on its spreading in the world, the unreliability of estimates and the lack of data, its causes and consequences and the most common forms of exploitation related to it, including sexual and labor exploitation, the involvement of children in armed conflicts, illegal adoptions and trafficking for the removal of human organs. The lack of an internationally agreed definition of human trafficking until the adoption in 2000 of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children will be discussed and the differences between this phenomenon and the smuggling of migrants will be studied. Specific attention will be dedicated to understanding what could be done to fight against contemporary slavery and human trafficking.
Upon completion of the course, students will be able to define the various contemporary practices and processes studied, being aware of their spreading in the world, of their main causes and consequences, of the international action aimed at abolishing them and of short and long-term strategies that need to be adopted to eradicate them. They also will be able to assess the major successes and failures in establishing a framework in which these phenomena could be eradicated and they will have conducted research and research on a specific topic of their choice, for the purpose of drafting an advocacy project.
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberCommentsFormatLocal BookstoreOnline Purchase
Contemporary Forms of SlaverySilvia ScarpaEuropean Union9789284644346 Available online   
Disposable People: New Slavery in The Global EconomyKevin BalesUniversity of California Press9780520272910     

Mid-term examEssay questions. Sample exam available online.30%
Advocay planProject work: research+development of project presentation+ oral presentation.30%
Final examEssay questions. Non-cumulative.30%
Forum participationOnline forums available on Moodle for discussion on selected issues.10%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the cours
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

In class or virtual attendance is compulsory. Students are expected to attend class regularly, to read assigned materials before classes and to contribute to class discussions.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.






Week 1

Introduction to the Course

What is contemporary slavery?

Scarpa-ContSlavery, p. 9-22; Bales, p. 281-285.

Week 2

What is human trafficking?


Scarpa-ContSlavery, p. 25-30; Scarpa-Article-Groningen J.

Week 3

Is slavery of the past different from the one of today?

Vestiges of past slavery: chattel slavery.

Bales, Ch. 1; Quirk, Ch. 3.

Bales, Ch. 3; US Dept. of State-Trafficking Report, p. 318-321.

Week 4

Vestiges of past slavery: religious slavery.

Forced labor. Forms of forced labour imposed by States.

Black, p. 1-26; 35-38; Asomah.

Scarpa-ContSlavery, 22-25; Kang Muico, p. 1-19 and 27; Zenz.

Week 5


Child labor and the worst forms of child labour: definitions. Child labor in cocoa plantations.

Scarpa-ContSlavery, p. 30-31; Scarpa_CocoaPlantations.

Week 6


The sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism and Covid-19

ECPAT Report, p. 13-17 and 48-74; ECPAT Article.

Week 7

Review Session

Mid-term exam

Week 8


Week 9

Contemporary forms of slavery and trafficking in persons: lack of data and estimates and stereotypes.


Scarpa-ContSlavery, p. 38-42; Weitzer.

Week 10

Trafficking in persons for the removal of organs. Ethical issues associated with the removal of organs.

REVIEW SESSION: Submission of abstracts and bibliographies and class discussion on group work.

Pearson; Scheper-Hughes.

Week 11

Peacekeeping and human trafficking.


Allred; Neudorfer.

Week 12

The smuggling of migrants: definition. Trafficking in personsv. the smuggling of migrants.


Bhabha and Zard; Gallagher

Week 13

What can be done to fight against contemporary slavery and human trafficking?

Submission of PowerPoint/Prezi Presentations

Students’ presentations.

Bales, Ch. 7.

Week 14

Students’ presentations.

Students’ presentations.

Week 15

Students’ presentations.

Final review.

Week 16

Final Exam

(Date TBA)