Tag Archives: European Union

Clemente, Mara. 2021. The long arm of the neoliberal leviathan in the counter-trafficking field: the case of Portuguese NGOs. International Review of Sociology, DOI: 10.1080/03906701.2021.1899366


In recent decades, in many countries including Portugal, human trafficking has become an important issue on political agendas, attracting increased investment of financial and human resources, and the growing involvement of civil society organizations. Employing a historical perspective, this article analyses the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the counter-trafficking field, in particular, in the conceptualization of human trafficking, the elaboration of counter-trafficking policies and practices, and NGOs’ potentials and limitations in challenging them. Using data obtained through prolonged empirical research, the article argues that in contexts characterized by a high level of institutionalization and structural weakness in organized civil society, NGOs have little chance to assume a role beyond serving as a long arm of the neoliberal state apparatus. Both the outsourcing of certain counter-trafficking services to NGOs and the controversial yet undisputed national security-focused approach to trafficking represent integral parts of the practical logics of the counter-trafficking field, which remains largely unquestioned by counter-trafficking NGOs. These logics include the silencing of any debate about prostitution, at least within the Portuguese counter-trafficking apparatus.

Brunovskis, Anette, und May-Len Skilbrei. „Individual or Structural Inequality? Access and Barriers in Welfare Services for Women Who Sell Sex“. Social Inclusion 6, Nr. 3 (28. September 2018): 310–18.
It is often taken for granted that women who sell sex are vulnerable, that welfare services can and should alleviate this vulnerability, and as such, being defined as ‘vulnerable’ can be beneficial and associated with special rights that would otherwise be inaccessible. At the same time, ongoing debates have demonstrated that establishing individuals and groups as vulnerable tends to mask structural factors in inequality and has negative consequences, among them an idea that the path to ‘non-vulnerability’ lies in changing the ‘afflicted’ individuals or groups, not in structures or in addressing unequal access to resources. In this article, we take this as a starting point and discuss challenges for the welfare state in meeting the varied and often complex needs of sex sellers. Based on qualitative research with service providers in specialised social and health services in Norway, we examine access and barriers to services among female sex sellers as well as how vulnerability is understood and shapes what services are available. An important feature of modern prostitution in Norway, as in the rest of Western Europe, is that sex sellers are predominantly migrants with varying migration status and corresponding rights to services. This has influenced the options available to address prostitution as a phenomenon within the welfare state and measures that have previously been helpful for domestic women in prostitution are not easily replicated for the current target population. A starting point in a theoretical understanding that considers vulnerability to be a human predicament (rather than the exception to the rule or a deficit in individuals or groups) allows for a discussion that highlights the centrality of structural conditions rather than a need for change in the individual. In order to understand the limitations of the welfare state in addressing modern prostitution as such, it is highly relevant to look at the structural origin of vulnerabilities that may look individual.

Elfriede Steffan, Barbara Kavemann, Tzvetina Arsova Netzelmann, Cornelia Helfferich: Final Report from the study of the federal model project “Support for Leaving Prostitution”, September 2015. 

Abridged report available here in English and German.

Original title of the report in German: Unterstützung des Ausstiegs aus der Prostitution – Kurzfassung des Abschlussberichtes der wissenschaftlichen Begleitung zum Bundesmodellprojekt

Adriaenssens, Stef, and Jef Hendrickx. “Sex, Price and Preferences: Accounting for Unsafe Sexual Practices in Prostitution Markets.” Sociology of Health & Illness 34, no. 5 (June 1, 2012): 665–80. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9566.2011.01400.x.
Unsafe sexual practices are persistent in prostitution interactions: one in four contacts can be called unsafe. The determinants of this are still matter for debate. We account for the roles played by clients’ preferences and the hypothetical price premium of unsafe sexual practices with the help of a large dataset of clients’ self-reported commercial sexual transactions in Belgium and The Netherlands. Almost 25,000 reports were collected, representing the whole gamut of prostitution market segments. The first set of explanations consists of an analysis of the price-fixing elements of paid sex. With the help of the so-called hedonic pricing method we test for the existence of a price incentive for unsafe sex. In accordance with the results from studies in some prostitution markets in the developing world, the study replicates a significant wage penalty for condom use of an estimated 7.2 per cent, confirmed in both multilevel and fixed-effects regressions. The second part of the analysis reconstructs the demand side basis of this wage penalty: the consistent preference of clients of prostitution for unsafe sex. This study is the first to document empirically clients’ preference for intercourse without a condom, with the help of a multilevel ordinal regression.

Don Kulick, “Sex in the New Europe: The Criminalization of Clients and Swedish Fear of Penetration”. Anthropological Theory June 2003 vol. 3 no. 2, 199-218.


This article is a critical discussion of the 1998 Swedish law that made it a crime to purchase or attempt to purchase `a temporary sexual relationship’. It discusses the cultural context in which the law was proposed and passed, and it reviews newspaper articles and government commissioned reports that assess the effects of the law. The point of the article is to argue that the law is about much more than its overt referent `prostitution’. Instead, the argument is made that the law is a response to Sweden’s entry into the EU. For a variety of reasons, anxiety about Sweden’s position in the EU is articulated through anxiety about prostitution. The Swedish case is one where we can see that sexuality is one site where boundaries and roles in the new Europe are being imagined and negotiated.

Full text available here.


The concept of ‘human dignity’ sits at the heart of international human rights law and a growing number of national constitutions and yet its meaning is heavily contested and contingent. I aim to supplement the theoretical literature on dignity by providing an empirical study of how the concept is used in the specific context of legal discourse on sex work. I will analyse jurisprudence in which commercial sex was declared as incompatible with human dignity, focussing on the South African Constitutional Court case of S v Jordan and the Indian Supreme Court case of Budhadev Karmaskar v State of West Bengal. I will consider how these courts conceptualise dignity and argue that their conclusions on the undignified nature of sex work are predicated on particular sexual norms that privilege emotional and relational intimacy. In light of the stigma faced by sex workers I will explore how a discourse, proclaiming sex work as beneath human dignity, may impact on the way that sex workers are perceived and represented culturally, arguing that it reinforces stigma. I will go on to examine how sex workers subvert the notion that commercial sex is undignified, and resist stigma, by campaigning for the right to sell sex with dignity. I will demonstrate that an alternative legal approach to dignity and sex work is possible, where the two are not considered as inherently incompatible, concluding with thoughts on the risks and benefits of using ‘dignity talk’ in activism and campaigns for sex work law reform.


Dorothea Czarnecki, Henny Engels, Barbara Kavemann, Wiltrud Schenk, Elfriede Steffan, Dorothee Türnau (2015): Prostitution in Germany – A Comprehensive Analysis of Complex Challenges.

This analysis of prostitution and female sex workers in Germany presents only the knowledge gained from many years of professional experience and the facts derived from scientific studies, including their complexities and discrepancies. Presented are the results of different surveys helping to provide a more objective and nuanced basis for discussion about prostitution. Women must be able and allowed to decide themselves how to live their lives in compliance with the law. This also has to apply to decisions that others cannot or barely understand, such as when women decide to work in prostitution. Women are entitled to expect their decisions to be accepted and respected. To claim or imply that these decisions are never made freely is to oppose the call by all women for the right to autonomy.

Full report available here

Sullivan, Barbara, “Rape, Prostitution and Consent”, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology August 2007 vol. 40 no. 2, pp. 127-142.


Sex workers are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault. However, until recently, there were significant barriers to the prosecution of those who raped sex workers. Prostitutes were seen as ‘commonly’ available to men, as always consenting to sex and thus as incapable of being raped. This article examines 51 judgments — from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand — where evidence of prostitution was presented between 1829 and 2004. It demonstrates an important change in the 1980s and 1990s when, for the first time, men began to be prosecuted and convicted for raping sex workers.This change was partly due to rape law reform, but also to feminist activism and broader changes in social attitudes to rape. The article argues that sex workers have recently been ‘re-made’ in law as women vulnerable to rape, as individuals able to give and withhold sexual consent. This development needs to be taken seriously so that law and policy addressed to the sex industry works to enlarge (not reduce or constrain) the making of prostitutes as subjects with consensual capacity. This necessarily involves attention to more legal rights for prostitutes, as workers, and calls into question the conceptualisation of prostitution as always involving rape.

Full article available here. 

Human trafficking inspires strong responses from feminists and other interested parties. This article takes the UK anti-trafficking measures as a case study to explore the interaction between discourses of trafficked women’s vulnerability to sexual harm, and national vulnerability to external threats such as organized crime. Drawing on feminist engagements with human trafficking and commercial sex, my aim is to contribute to these debates. I explore how the government’s moralistic response to trafficking reflects a particular form of regulation that animates new systems of governmentality and biopower. Against this backdrop I attempt to advance feminist perspectives on trafficking by demonstrating the relationality between UK anti-trafficking measures, and its plans to reorganize its regulatory capacity overseas. I suggest an interpretation of UK overseas anti-trafficking measures that foregrounds respatialized border and immigration controls. I show how this kind of regulation works on and through the bodies and behaviours of government actors. I conclude that while aspects of these overseas interventions do go some way to protect trafficked women, they do not operate in isolation of other geopolitical agendas.

Quote from the conclusion:

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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.