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Author Archives: Sonja Dolinsek

Since the declaration by the United Nations that awareness raising should be a key part of efforts to combat human trafficking, government and non-government organizations have produced numerous public awareness campaigns designed to capture the public’s attention and sympathy. These campaigns represent the ‘problem’ of trafficking in specific ways, creating heroes and villains by placing the blame for trafficking on some, whilst obscuring the responsibility of others. This article adopts Bacchi’s ‘what is the problem represented to be?’ framework for examining the politicization of problem representation in 18 anti-trafficking awareness campaigns. It is argued that these campaigns construct a narrow understanding of the problem through the depiction of ‘ideal offenders’. In particular, a strong focus on the demand for commercial sex as causative of human trafficking serves to obscure the problematic role of consumerism in a wide range of industries, and perpetuates an understanding of trafficking that fails to draw a necessary distinction between the demand for labour, and the demand for ‘exploitable’ labour. This problem representation also obscures the role governments in destination countries may play in causing trafficking through imposing restrictive migration regimes that render migrants vulnerable to traffickers.

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Antonio Carvelli and Alexander di Nicotera came to London via Liverpool in April 1910, travelling first class on the steamer SS Frisia from Buenos Aires, and accompanied by five young women. The pair took flats in north Soho, and showed the women the route they were to walk to solicit sex. After installing these women on the West End streets, they travelled to Paris, where they found three more young women and returned with them to London, sending them out to Piccadilly as well. Dressed in nice suits and collars, with pistols tucked into their coats, they followed the women at a distance, and regularly took money from them. They frequented the cafes and pubs of Soho and dined late into the night at popular West End restaurants. The pair were finally arrested three months later, in July 1910, after a month-long police observation, and were charged with ‘procuring or attempting to procure’ four women to become ‘common prostitutes’.1 It was a stereotypical case of what was known as white slavery.  Read more here…

Benoit, Cecilia, S. Mikael Jansson, Michaela Smith, and Jackson Flagg. “Prostitution Stigma and Its Effect on the Working Conditions, Personal Lives, and Health of Sex Workers.” The Journal of Sex Research, November 17, 2017, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2017.1393652.
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Researchers have shown that stigma is a fundamental determinant of behavior, well-being, and health for many marginalized groups, but sex workers are notably absent from their analyses. This article aims to fill the empirical research gap on sex workers by reviewing the mounting evidence of stigmatization attached to sex workers’ occupation, often referred to as “prostitution” or “whore” stigma. We give special attention to its negative effect on the working conditions, personal lives, and health of sex workers. The article first draws attention to the problem of terminology related to the subject area and makes the case for consideration of prostitution stigmatization as a fundamental cause of social inequality. We then examined the sources of prostitution stigma at macro, meso, and micro levels. The third section focuses on tactics sex workers employ to manage, reframe, or resist occupational stigma. We conclude with a call for more comparative studies of stigma related to sex work to contribute to the general stigma literature, as well as social policy and law reform.

Megan Lowthers, “On Institutionalized Sexual Economies: Employment Sex, Transactional Sex, and Sex Work in Kenya’s Cut Flower Industry,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 43, no. 2 (Winter 2018): 449-472.

Abstract

Today Kenya boasts the longest standing, largest, and most lucrative cut flower industry across Africa, concentrated around Lake Naivasha. Naivasha’s flower farms depend on a female migrant labor market that operates within a system of intense gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual-economic exchange. Female labor migrants sometimes participate in types of sexual commerce that are so entrenched within the cut flower industry that they can be termed an “institutionalized sexual economy.” Drawing on feminist ethnography and migration stories, this article documents the gendered and unequal labor continuum of sexual commerce that exists at Naivasha’s flower farms. This includes how female labor migrants exchange sex for employment at the flower farms—what I call “employment sex”—and how they engage in transactional sex with flower farm managers, supplement their incomes with part-time sex work, and move in and out of full-time, street-level sex work as their temporary flower farm contracts turn over. Examining this labor continuum of sexual commerce provides insight into the broader context of local employment options and conditions, work practices and policies, migration patterns, gender relations and unpaid labor, and the sex workers’ rights movement. This article is the first to use critical feminist theories to examine sexual commerce at flower farms and to place the sex-work-as-work debate squarely in the context of the cut flower industry. The absence of this subject from scholarship to date has contributed to a lack of sex worker perspectives, experiences, and sociocultural understandings of institutionalized sexual economies in Africa.

Lammasniemi Laura, ‘Anti-White Slavery Legislation and its Legacies in England’ (2017) 9 Anti-trafficking Review.
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This paper argues that the foundation of modern anti-trafficking laws in England and Wales was created at the turn of the twentieth century, during the peak of white slavery hysteria. It shows that a series of interrelated legal interventions formed that foundation. While white slavery as a myth has been analysed, this paper turns the focus on legal regulation and shows why it is important to analyse its history in order to understand modern responses to trafficking. It focuses, in particular, on the first legal definition of victims of trafficking, involvement of vigilance associations in law reform, and on restrictions put in place on women’s immigration. Finally, it reflects on how laws enacted at the turn of the twentieth century still resonate with those of today.

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One fifth of the Bruges prostitutes in the eighteenth century was prosecuted by the bench of aldermen because their family had requested this. Families called in the help of the court firstly because they were worried about their daughters, wives and sisters and secondly because the sexual reputation of their deviant relatives affected their own lives as well. Families lost their honour because sexual debauchery was a sign of mal education and because it revealed that the family was not able to control the behaviour of its womenfolk. Therefore, prostitutes were, as the eighteenth century synonym seems to indicate, ‘dishonest’ towards their parents. In general, families only went to court when their daughters proved unruly, which is when the families did not succeed in adjusting the dishonest behaviour themselves. When they did go to court, they put great effort in proving ‘good parenthood’ because they had to counterbalance the stigma of dishonesty already affecting them. The bench of aldermen was willing to help honest families with controlling their unruly daughters, partly because the city had a fatherly responsibility over its own citizens. Hence, the Bruges dishonest daughters were imprisoned in the spinning or correction house.
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Full article available here.

Van Meir, Jessica. 2017. “Sex Work and the Politics of Space: Case Studies of Sex Workers in Argentina and Ecuador.” Soc. Sci. 6, no. 2: 42.
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While many studies examine how different legal approaches to prostitution affect sex workers’ living and working conditions, few studies analyze how sex workers’ physical workspaces and the policies regulating these spaces influence sex work conditions. Based on interviews with 109 current or former sex workers, 13 civil society representatives, 12 government officials, and 5 other actors in Ecuador and Argentina, this study describes sex workers’ uses of urban space in the two countries and compares how they experience and respond to government regulation of locations of prostitution. Argentina and Ecuador took different approaches to regulating sex work space, which appear to reflect different political ideologies towards prostitution. Sex workers expressed different individual preferences for spaces, and government limitation of these spaces represented one of their major concerns. The results illuminate how sex workers’ workspaces influence their working conditions and suggest that governments should consider sex worker preferences in establishing policies that affect their workspaces.

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Jessica Van Meir’s Blog with reflections and notes on her research.