Human trafficking, and especially sex trafficking, is not only susceptible to alluring and sensational narratives, it also plays into the celebrity-as-rescuer ideal that receives considerable attention from the media, the public, and policy-makers. While some celebrities develop enough expertise to speak with authority on the topic, many others are neither knowledgeable nor accurate in their efforts to champion antitrafficking causes. Prominent policy-makers allow celebrity activists to influence their opinions and even consult with them for advice regarding public policies. Emblematic of larger, fundamental problems with the dominant discourse, funding allocations, and legislation in current antitrafficking initiatives in the United States and elsewhere, celebrity activism is not significantly advancing the eradication of human trafficking and may even be doing harm by diverting attention from aspects of the problem and solution that sorely require attention.
The present paper deals with Chinese transnational sex labour migration in the city of Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon and the country’s major city. Based on ethnographic research conducted in the prostitution milieu of Douala between 2008 and 2012, and on information collected from both scholarly and popular literature, this contribution shows how the development in this African city of what can be called Chinese sexoscapes has induced the reconfiguration of the local geography of commercialised sex work, which for so long was dominated by native sex workers. The paper also demonstrates how many disgruntled Duala sex workers dealt with the so-called Chinese sex invasion of their city by relocating their business to popular entertainment areas commonly characterised in Cameroon as rue de la joie (street of enjoyment). The research argues that this local geography of sexualities has become a site for asserting ethnic, racial or national identity, and especially a space of both inclusion of people profiled as autochthon populations and the exclusion of those branded foreigners.
This article explores the discursive and practical entanglements of women’s work and sex trafficking, in Britain and internationally, in the early twentieth century. It examines discussions about trafficking and women’s work during a period that was instrumental in codifying modern, international conceptions of ‘trafficking’ and argues that porous and faulty borders were drawn between sex work, women’s licit work, and their sexual exploitation and their exploitation as workers. These borders were at their thinnest in discussions about two very important sectors of female-dominated migrant labour: domestic and care work, and work in the entertainment industry. The anti-trafficking movement, the international labour movement, and the makers of national laws and policies, attempted to separate sexual labour from other forms of labour. In doing so, they wilfully ignored or suppressed moments when they obviously intersected, and downplayed the role of other exploited and badly-paid licit work that sustained the global economy. But these attempts were rarely successful: despite the careful navigations of international and British officials, work continued to find its way back into discussions of sex trafficking, and sex trafficking remained entangled with the realities of women’s work.