Beyond Victimhood and Beyond Employment? Exploring Avenues for Labour Law to Empower Women Trafficked into the Sex Industry

Thiemann, Inga K. o. J. „Beyond Victimhood and Beyond Employment? Exploring Avenues for Labour Law to Empower Women Trafficked into the Sex Industry“. Industrial Law Journal 2018. https://doi.org/10.1093/indlaw/dwy015.
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Abstract
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This article explores under which circumstances a labour law approach could make a meaningful contribution to combatting human trafficking into the sex industry. In this, I critique the existing criminal law approach to human trafficking and its policies, which focus on trafficked persons as idealised victims in need of protection, rather than on their rights as workers, migrants and women. Furthermore, I also challenge the exclusion of sex workers from arguments for a labour law response to human trafficking, as they maintain the construction of trafficking for sexual exploitation and trafficking for labour exploitation as separate phenomena. Instead, this article advocates an alternative labour law approach to human trafficking, which incorporates wider interdisciplinary issues of gender equality and societal exclusions for women and migrants, and particularly female migrant sex workers, within a labour response. My focus is therefore on exclusions maintained by existing labour legislation, which are based on the standard employment contract and amplified by barriers to labour protections faced by workers in female-dominated service jobs in general and by sex workers in particular. As sex workers’ embodied feminised labour is deemed not to be ‘real work’, they seem to be unworthy of labour protections. My proposed labour response to human trafficking into the sex industry therefore combines some of the strengths of the existing labour rights-focussed anti-trafficking and exploitation discourse with arguments from feminist labour law theory in order to tackle the intersectional dimension of human trafficking into the sex industry.

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