Based on research work among cross-border migrant women who sell sex in South Africa, this paper examines the ways in which the label ‘victim’ of human trafficking ignores the complex realities of human mobility. We argue here that as state legislative and policy measures, in relation to human trafficking, justify the securitisation of borders and the curtailment of migrant rights, an accompanying hegemonic discourse serves to deny the agency of migrant women sex workers. As a result, the linkages between human trafficking and migration are experienced by migrant women sex workers through new layers of vulnerability and insecurity.
The modern‐slavery paradigm promotes analogies between contemporary trafficking and the transatlantic, white, and indigenous slave trade. The analogy some scholars use to address debt bondage in past and present Southeast Asia prompted me to consider the hypothesis that the debts incurred by Vietnamese sex workers with moneylenders, procurers, and migration brokers are a remnant of indigenous slavery. However, the ethnographic and legalistic study of debt in the Vietnamese sex sector across Southeast Asia in relation to debt‐bondage traditions provides limited support to the transhistorical thesis. Nonetheless, it throws light on the creditor–debtor relationship and shows that sex workers need credit to finance production and social reproduction in a region undergoing rapid capitalist development, and that because of their exclusion from financial, labor, and labor migration markets, they access it through personalized arrangements that generate strong obligations and dependencies with the potential for restrictions of freedom, in a social structure that promotes patronage, vertical bonding, and dependency.
Knowledge about trafficking in human beings has several implications for various social service and justice professionals. The aim of this study was to examine the knowledge of social service and justice professionals regarding the characterization of this phenomenon and anti-trafficking policies in Portugal. Four hundred and forty-six social service and justice professionals completed an online Human Trafficking Knowledge survey. The results revealed that Portuguese professionals have, in general, a good level of knowledge about trafficking in human beings, revealing higher-level scores for issues, such as trafficking in human beings’ idiosyncrasies and purposes in Portugal, trafficker profiles, criminal behaviour, victim profiles and victimization dynamics. On the other hand, participants scored lower in trafficking in human being’s trajectories and specificities within Portugal. This knowledge appeared to be influenced by variables, such as professional experience, previous contact with trafficking and training in trafficking in human beings. National policies must promote professional formal training about trafficking in human beings in different areas.
Qualitative research grounded in a social constructionist epistemology troubles the assumption, integral in positivist research, that a researcher can be neutral and apolitical. In fact, many scholars are drawn to constructionist epistemologies because they situate the research process as a site of ontological resistance and social change. This essay explores the politics of voice and representation in anti-oppressive qualitative research. Using an example from one author’s research on stigma management among formerly incarcerated women, and the particularly pernicious stigma women faced if they had engaged in sex work, we detail the benefits and pitfalls of either re-presenting research participants in their exact words or changing participants’ words, a process we refer to as re-languaging. Drawing upon philosophical and social scientific scholarship on the “crisis of representation” in qualitative research and recent scholarship and news articles about human sex trafficking, we underscore the powerful political effects of language. We argue that researchers’ choices about language are neither inherently liberatory nor oppressive, but they are always political. We call for a more reflexive scholarly dialog on voice in qualitative social work research and press scholars to explicitly engage the question of whom and what we represent when we claim to represent marginalized others.
The article, based on policy analysis, institutional interviews and community fieldwork, looks at why children in prostitution and victims of trafficking remain practically without state support and institutional assistance. It also explores to what extent the decriminalisation of the system assisting child victims of prostitution and trafficking, or the shift from the ‘punishment’ to the ‘welfare model’, has taken place. The ethnic aspect of the problem is addressed as well given that the majority of victims are of Roma origin. While Hungary has ratified all important international conventions that oblige the country to protect child victims, neither its policies and legislation nor its institutions including child protection, law enforcement and the judiciary, seem to have adequate structural frameworks and institutional practices to attend to these children and prosecute offenders. Policy gaps, institutional procedures and practices are identified and it is concluded that the country is still much closer to the ‘punishment model’.