This report summarizes the findings of a human rights documentation project conducted by the Sex Workers Project in 2007 and 2008 to explore the impacts and effectiveness of current anti-trafficking approaches in the US from a variety of perspectives. It is among the first efforts since the passage of the TVPA to give voice to the perspectives of trafficked persons and sex workers who have experienced anti-trafficking raids. A total of 46 people were interviewed for this report, including immigrant sex workers and trafficked persons who have experienced raids or otherwise had contact with law enforcement, along with service providers, attorneys, and law enforcement personnel.
The data collected from this small to medium-sized sample is extremely rich, and suggests that vice raids conducted by local law enforcement agencies are an ineffective means of locating and identifying trafficked persons. Our research also reveals that vice raids and federal anti-trafficking raids are all too frequently accompanied by violations of the human rights of trafficked persons and sex workers alike, and can therefore be counterproductive to the underlying goals of anti-trafficking initiatives. Our findings suggest that a rights-based and “victim-centered” approach to trafficking in persons requires the development and promotion of alternate methods of identifying and protecting the rights of trafficked persons which prioritize the needs, agency, and self-determination of trafficking survivors. They also indicate that preventative approaches, which address the circumstances that facilitate trafficking in persons, should be pursued over law enforcement based responses.
This article examines the development, framing, and implementation of Proposition 35, the ‘Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act.’ The 2012 ballot initiative, described variously as a measure against human slavery, human trafficking, and sex trafficking secured more votes than any other initiative or candidate in a single statewide election in California history. We argue that the measure exemplifies a disjuncture in the articulation of feminist politics against sexual violence, labor exploitation, and criticisms of the carceral state. The rise of the sex trafficker as a ‘spectral’ subject of contemporary political discourse shapes a broader ideological framework that permits a distinct set of political actors and interests to widen their institutional and political authority and to marginalize competing claims about the roots of sexual violence and labor exploitation. Proposition 35, which targets a ‘spectral’ figure abstracted from institutional context and relations of power, expands the carceral state in the name of protecting vulnerable women while also excluding long-standing feminist solutions to sex and gender-based violence.
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.
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.
In the early 1990s, the debate on human trafficking was restricted to a handful of feminists and revolved around establishing “the trafficking of women” as a case of labor migration or one of “female sexual slavery.” Two decades later, the debate is more complicated and widespread, yet within the proliferation of attention, a convergence among some of the most vocal and visible campaigns is discernible. This article takes up three prominent campaigns that dominate contemporary debates internationally—modern anti-slavery, abolitionist feminism, and celebrity humanitarianism—and considers the politics that emerge at the points of their convergence. It is argued that rather than getting to “the bottom of things,” as Emma Goldman urged over a century ago in relation to the “traffic of women,” a 21st-century version of the “white man’s burden” is apparent, supported by contemporary western, neoliberal interests that maintain boundaries between the haves and the have-nots, while bolstering an image of a compassionate, benevolent West. The article points toward an alternate framework, one that is lodged in a commitment to social and economic justice, decolonization, a redistribution of wealth, and respect for subaltern experience and knowledge.
Sex work and its relationship to trafficking is one of the more divisive policy issues of our times, as seen in the ongoing debate in Canada over a bill that views prostitution as inherently dangerous, affecting vulnerable women and offending their dignity.At the risk of over-simplification, the two perspectives on sex work are: i) it is seen as a cause or consequence of, or akin to, trafficking, exploitation, and violence: ii) it is seen as consensual sex between adults for money or other valuable consideration, distinct from trafficking. Although there has been an impasse resulting from the divergence of these views, there is increasing recognition that the reality is complex and individualized; people experience sex work across a spectrum between compulsion, constrained decisions, and choice.
Full text available here.
Lisa Maher, Thomas Crewe Dixon, Pisith Phlong, Julie Mooney-Somers, Ellen S. Stein, Kimberly Page: “Conflicting Rights: How the Prohibition of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Infringes the Right to Health of Female Sex Workers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.” Health and Human Rights Journal. Accessed June 12, 2015.
While repressive laws and policies in relation to sex work have the potential to undermine HIV prevention efforts, empirical research on their interface has been lacking. In 2008, Cambodia introduced anti-trafficking legislation ostensibly designed to suppress human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Based on empirical research with female sex workers, this article examines the impact of the new law on vulnerability to HIV and other adverse health outcomes. Following the introduction of the law, sex workers reported being displaced to streets and guesthouses, impacting their ability to negotiate safe sex and increasing exposure to violence. Disruption of peer networks and associated mobility also reduced access to outreach, condoms, and health care. Our results are consistent with a growing body of research which associates the violation of sex workers’ human rights with adverse public health outcomes. Despite the successes of the last decade, Cambodia’s AIDS epidemic remains volatile and the current legal environment has the potential to undermine prevention efforts by promoting stigma and discrimination, impeding prevention uptake and coverage, and increasing infections. Legal and policy responses which seek to protect the rights of the sexually exploited should not infringe the right to health of sex workers.
Full article available here.
This article examines the issue of trafficking from the perspective of some sex worker organisations in India and Bangladesh. It argues that inequality between classes, genders, and nations is the root cause of trafficking, and that the solution to the problem lies in a political struggle for the rights of marginalised people. To substantiate these arguments, this article draws on the life stories of trafficked people, and on the preventative anti-trafficking initiatives of sex workers’ organisations. In order to understand the ways in which trafficking violates people’s rights and restricts their control over their lives we need to focus on the outcomes of trafficking rather than debating the processes through which trafficking takes place. Those who have been trafficked should not be perceived as passive victims of their circumstances, manipulated by others, but as human agents, who can – and often do – fight to gain control over their lives. The article offers a brief introduction and some guidance to some of the challenges that NGOs will face in their advocacy work on trafficking issues.
Full article available here.
The accompanying Article provides the first critical analysis of safe harbor laws, which rely on custodial arrests to prosecute or divert youth arrested for or charged with prostitution related offenses under criminal or juvenile codes to court supervision under state child welfare, foster care, or dependency statutes. This subject is a matter of intense debate nationwide, and on January 27, 2015 the House of Representatives passed legislation that would give preferential consideration for federal grants to states that have enacted a law that “discourages the charging or prosecution” of a trafficked minor and encourages court-ordered treatment and institutionalization. Nearly universally lauded, the sound bite of safe harbor’s proponents has obscured the truth of its potential impact: increasing arrests, extending the length of involuntary commitment, and ratifying a pattern of endemic law enforcement harassment and brutality. This Article offers new perspectives on the debate and examines challenges presented to legislators considering adoption of safe harbor laws.
Uhl, Bärbel, et. al: Data Protection Challenges in Anti-Trafficking Policies – A Practical Guide, 2015.
The European NGO initiative datACT – data protection in anti-trafficking action published the practical guide “Data Protection Challenges in Anti-Trafficking Policies”.
The publication offers an overview of the relevant European data protection provisions, a methodology to conduct privacy impact assessments for anti-trafficking NGO service providers, an analysis for the privacy rights claims for trafficked persons, and data protection standards for NGO service providers. Moreover, the study contains an elaboration of legal arguments that lead in 2013 to the failure of mandatory registration of sex workers in the Netherlands.