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Lobasz, Jennifer Kathleen. (2012). Victims, villains, and the virtuous: constructing the problems of “human trafficking”. University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2012

Abstract:

Over the past two decades, human trafficking has come to be seen as a growing threat, and transnational advocacy networks opposed to human trafficking have succeeded in establishing trafficking as a pressing political problem. The meaning of human trafficking, however, remains an object of significant–and heated–contestation among transnational actors with opposing perspectives on prostitution, the appropriate balance between law enforcement and human rights protection, and migration. The outcomes of disputes over meaning are highly significant. Anti-trafficking discourses establish regimes of knowledge that set boundaries for how scholars, activists, legislators, and citizens conceive of human trafficking–they establish what trafficking is and who counts as trafficked, and create narratives that explain how trafficking has become a problem and what should be done to fix it. In this dissertation I conduct a genealogical discourse analysis of anti-trafficking advocacy, policy, and scholarship in the United States from the late 1970s to 2000, looking in particular at feminist and religious abolitionist advocacy networks, and the role they play in the creation of the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. I argue that “human trafficking” is better understood as a contested concept rather than as an objectively given problem. The meaning of trafficking is constructed rather than inherent, and inseparable from the political context through which it is produced.

Full text available here.

Lin Lean Lim (International Institute for Labour Studies, International Labour Organization), “Trafficking, Demand and the Sex Market” Paper presented at the International Symposium on Gender at the Heart of Globalization, Paris, March 2007.

Introduction:

Trafficking in persons has emerged high on international, regional and national agendas as a forced labour issue involving particular supply-demand factors in imperfect labour markets at origin and destination. The ILO defines forced labour as all work or service that is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered herself or himself voluntarily. Forced labour involves violation of human rights and restriction on human freedom, slavery and slavery-like practices, debt bondage and servitude. Women and men, girls are boys are trafficked, but gender, socio-cultural and market biases determine the type and severity of forced labour in different sectors. The ILO estimated in 2004 that 2.45 million people in forced labour had been trafficked across international boundaries. Of these about 43 per cent had been destined for sexual exploitation, and a third for economic exploitation. Of those trafficked for prostitution, 98 per cent were women and girls.

Until recently, efforts to tackle trafficking tended to focus on the supply side with measures aimed at addressing the conditions, in particular poverty and unemployment, that drive people to leave their home in the first place. Attention has now shifted to the demand side of trafficking, in particular the demand for trafficked persons’ services in the sex market.

The presentation emphasizes that trafficking should not be conflated with prostitution and that a “prohibitionist” or “abolitionist” approach to end demand in the sex market is not an effective solution to tackle trafficking. It examines demand and the demand side of trafficking and the particular characteristics of the market for commercial sexual services, including the economic and social bases of the market. The challenge we face is to address the real root causes of trafficking – the reasons why people migrate and are trafficked and the reasons why other people are able to traffic them. It is not enough merely to regulate the sex market; we need to address the areas of vulnerability. At the same time, the related – and perhaps more difficult – challenge is to place the respect for and protection of human rights at the centre of all measures to combat trafficking and to disentangle human rights concerns from morality biases concerning prostitution.

Full text available here.

Adrienne D. Davis, Regulating Sex Work: Erotic Assimilationism, Erotic Exceptionalism, and the Challenge of Intimate Labor, 103 Cal. L. Rev. 1195 (2015). Available at: http://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/californialawreview/vol103/iss5/3

Abstract

Most commentators on sex markets focus on the debate between abolitionists and those who defend and support professional sex work. This Article, instead, looks at debates within the pro-sex-work camp, uncovering some unattended tensions and contradictions. Some within this camp stress the labor aspect, urging that sex markets perpetuate a “vulnerable population” of workers and should be regulated like other forms of risky and/or exploited labor. In this view, sex work would be assimilated into existing labor regulatory frameworks. Others, though, take a more antiregulatory stance. They exceptionalize this form of labor, arguing that because it is sexual it should be exempt from state scrutiny and interference, claims that can quickly sound libertarian. While both camps agree that professional sex work should be decriminalized, when turning from the criminal to the regulatory perspective, erotic assimilationists and erotic exceptionalists could not be more opposed. The Article contends that neither of these views is satisfactory. Sex work could very well be legalized and regulated—if we have the political and moral will to do so. Ultimately, this Article breaks hard with erotic exceptionalism and slightly less so with erotic assimilationism to explore a regulatory structure that might govern sex markets. While many sex work regulations could fit into the current legal frameworks that govern workplaces, I contend that there are unique characteristics of sex work that make it much harder to assimilate into current regulatory regimes, especially in the controversial realm of antidiscrimination law.

The position of sex workers in society ranges across a wide spectrum. At one end of the spectrum there are slaves and the victims of inhumane traffickers. On the other end sex workers can enjoy a high position in society and are celebrated in the highest art forms such as in paintings or like in the opera la Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi. However, Eduard Manet’s painting of Olympia of 1863 brought some realism into this glamorous stereotypical portrayal by painting an image of a woman with a black cat—symbolizing promiscuity.1 This image of glamor lived on into the 20th century in films like Pretty Woman with its totally unrealistic Cinderella ending.

While the sex industry is present in every country, the reality for many sex workers is far from glamorous. A sex worker is defined by the World Health Organization as a “person who engages in sex work, or exchanges sex for money, which includes many practices and occurs in a variety of settings.” These may include workers who work full time in registered premises, to part time and casual workers working in informal locations.2

Full text available her for free. 

Shen, Anqi. “Motivations of Women Who Organized Others for Prostitution: Evidence from a Female Prison in China.” Criminology and Criminal Justice, October 12, 2015, 1748895815610177. doi:10.1177/1748895815610177.

Abstract

This article discusses women’s involvement in sex work management – an offence defined under section 358 of the 1997 Chinese Criminal Law and one of the re-emerged areas of illegality following the economic reforms since 1978. It first provides the historical context, legislative background and relevant sections of the Chinese vice laws so as to help make sense of the data obtained. Then it discusses the methodological issues before presenting the empirical findings to explore the socio-demographic profile of the incarcerated female sex work organizers who participated in this study and their motivations for organizing others for prostitution. Based on empirical data, this article explores the impact of social conditions on female offenders in China’s reform era and also the effects of the anti-prostitution policy in the country. Moreover, through a Chinese case study, it makes contributions to broader scholarship on the sex trade regulation. It concludes with a couple of implications for policy and practice.

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Abstract
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This study examines whether working with a broker increases or reduces the payment received for the last client among female sex workers. Building on research on the informal economy and sex work, we formulate a positive embeddedness hypothesis, expecting a positive association, and an exploitation hypothesis, expecting a negative association. We analyze a large survey combined with intensive interview data on female sex workers in Andhra Pradesh, India. These data uniquely distinguish between the amount the sex worker actually received and the amount the client paid. The analyses show that brokers are associated with significantly lower last payment received. Although brokers are associated with a greater number of clients in the past week, this does not result in significantly higher total earnings in the past week. Further analyses suggest that much of the negative relationship with earnings is due to the fact that brokers lead to a lack of control over the amount clients are charged. At the same time, the results fail to show that brokers actually provide services of value. Ultimately, the results support the exploitation hypothesis. We conclude by encouraging the refinement of theories of embeddedness and exploitation and calling for greater research on workers in the informal economy of developing countries.

Jacobsen CM, Stenvoll D: “Muslim women and foreign prostitutes: victim discourse, subjectivity, and governance”. Soc Polit. 2010;17(3):270-94

Abstract:

In this article, we juxtapose the ways “Muslim women” and “foreign prostitutes” are commonly constituted as victims in media and politics. We analyze the functions of these two prototypical female victims in terms of the role they play in epitomizing “the problems of globalization” and in reinforcing the existing social and political structures. Victim discourse, when tied to the transnational proliferation of the sex industry and of (radical) Islam, has depoliticizing effects because it places nonindividual causes of victimization outside of “our” polity and society and casts the state as protector and neutral arbiter of national and global inequalities, marginalization, and social conflict.

Full text available here.