Hwang, Maria Cecilia. “Offloaded: Women’s Sex Work Migration across the South China Sea and the Gendered Antitrafficking Emigration Policy of the Philippines.” WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 45, no. 1 (April 9, 2017): 131–47.
Adelle had just arrived from the Philippines for a short visit in Hong Kong when I met her in the summer of 2011. I soon learned that since 2006 Adelle has been making regular visits to Hong Kong, where she travels as a tourist and works as an independent sex worker in nightclubs frequented by male expatriates and business travelers from western countries. A single mother in her late thirties, Adelle’s primary source of income is prostitution. For her, the ability to migrate across the South China Sea affords her an economic mobility otherwise denied in the Philippines; and expanding her markets to include Macao and Singapore—extending her time in multiple Asian countries—enables her to further maximize the rewards of her sexual labor. Typically Adelle traverses the South China Sea between Hong Kong, Singapore, and Macao for about three to four and a half months before returning to the Philippines. While she finds migrating [End Page 131] as a tourist stressful, she also relishes that she is her own boss and is able to control certain elements of her migration and labor, including going home to her son regularly. Despite such control over her migration, in recent years Adelle has faced increasing restrictions on her ability to work overseas because the Philippine government considers migrant women workers like her vulnerable to human trafficking.
In this article, I describe the migration of freelance or independent sex workers like Adelle and examine the impacts of the Philippine government’s efforts to control their ability to cross borders. I analyze the effects of the antitrafficking policy of “offloading” which prevents suspected victims of human trafficking, illegal recruitment, and undocumented workers from leaving the country. I argue that a “masculinist logic of protection” (Young 2003), coupled with gendered and classed assumptions about migrant vulnerability, undergirds this policy. I illustrate how the antitrafficking policy of offloading evinces the state’s logic of “benevolent paternalism,” which is defined by Rhacel Parreñas (2008) as the culture of restricting migrant women’s freedom purportedly for their own best interest. My discussion establishes that even though the campaign against human trafficking is considered a critical global feminist project (Doezema 2010), gendered antitrafficking emigration policies may have the contradictory effects of limiting women’s freedom of movement. ….
This article examines the vicissitudes that affect the migration trajectories of many Nigerian women who experienced trafficking before arriving in Italy, and end up in Centers for Identification and Expulsion (CIE) for undocumented migrants. Their life stories, collected within the CIE of Ponte Galeria (Rome), revealed violence as “a rule of action” with which these women are obliged to cope with at different levels. Moreover, they highlighted the failure of traditional security approaches to human trafficking, and the necessity to rethink the measures adopted to ensure survivors’ protection and rights. As it is conceived, the system of immigration control prevents the full guarantee of survivors’ rights, often labelling them as “illegal migrants”. Finally, there is the need to extend protection to all survivors of human trafficking even if the crime against them has not happened in Italy.
This article examines the migration of women for prostitution around the Mediterranean Sea, particularly to and within the Middle East and North Africa, in the interwar period. Reading League of Nations’ reports on traffic in women and children along with other published and archival sources, it situates women’s mobility within three significant waves of migration at the time: of south European men and women to Europe’s colonies in North Africa; of east European Jews westwards and southwards; and of Syrians outside of Mt. Lebanon. It shows how women’s migration can be explained and traced by following such temporary travelers as tourists, sailors, and soldiers and such more permanent migrants as settlers, refugees, and labor migrants. By using the category of migration, this article argues that “traffic in women” is insufficient as an analytical category in accounting for the geography of prostitution and prostitutes’ international mobility in the interwar Mediterranean.
This essay critically examines the historical and contemporary discursive practices of anti-trafficking campaigns. I argue that such campaigns within the global North, often led by feminists, constitute the moral reform arm of contemporary anti-immigrant politics that targets negatively racialized migrants. As in the past, current campaigns collude with a state-backed international security agenda aimed at criminalizing self-determined migrations of people who have ever-less access to legal channels of migration. I argue that only by recognizing the agency, however constrained, of illegalized migrants can we come to understand how processes of capitalist globalization and the consequent effects of dislocation and dispersal shape the mobility of illegalized migrants. Within the current global circuits of capital, goods, and people, I argue that along with a call to end practices of displacement, a demand to eliminate immigration controls is necessary if feminists are to act in solidarity with the dispossessed in their search for new livelihoods and homes.