What do discourses about prisons, trafficking and “prostitution” have in common? This paper analyses the ideological framework of social movements with respect to the rhetorical deployment of abolitionism. Critical to all of these movements is the concept of abolishing slavery. After tracing “the new abolitionism” of trafficking and prostitution back to the 19th Century Anglo American temperance movement, this paper will address the following: How are these social movements impacted by considerations of (social) class, religious fervor, gender, sexuality, citizenship, race, and ethnicity? Who is speaking for whom and why does it matter, politically and ethically? In what ways are today’s opponents of “prostitution” reproducing yesterday’s slogans of “white slavery”? It is argued that there are some fundamental differences between contemporary anti-prison movements and the anti-sex industry movement. Prisoners’ rights activists focus on the causes of mass incarceration and explore which demands best lead to overall decarceration; penal critics demand excarceration and a complete transformation of the penal system. Those who condemn “prostitution” rely heavily on the prosecution of “pimps” and “johns” with the goal of freeing the girls and women from “sexual slavery.” Finally, the paper will explain in detail why it is misplaced to label the movement against the sex industry as abolitionist rather than, say, prohibitionist.
Sharma, Nadita (2003): Travel Agency: A Critique of Anti-Trafficking Campaigns, in: Refuge. Vol 21, No 3 (2003).
Full article available here.
This paper offers a critical evaluation of anti-trafficking campaigns spearheaded by some in the feminist movement in an attempt to deal with the issues of unsafe migrations and labour exploitation. I discuss how calls to “end trafficking, especially in women and children” are influenced by – and go on to legitimate – governmental practices to criminalize the self-willed migration of people moving without official permission. I discuss how the ideological frame of anti-trafficking works to reinforce restrictive immigration practices, shore up a nationalized consciousness of space and home, and criminalize those rendered illegal within national territories. Anti-trafficking campaigns also fail to take into account migrants’ limited agency in the migration process. I provide alternative routes to anti-trafficking campaigns by arguing for an analytical framework in which the related worldwide crises of displacement and migration are foregrounded. I argue that by centering the standpoint of undocumented migrants a more transformative politics emerges, one that demands that people be able to “stay” and to “move” in a self-determined manner.
Andrijasevic, Rutvica and Anderson, Bridget (2009). Anti-traﬃcking campaigns: decent? honest? truthful?, in: Feminist Review, 92(1), pp. 151–156
Full article available here
A passenger arriving at London airports and passing the immigration check is greeted by anti-trafficking posters that tell the story of deceit and forced prostitution and call on
passengers to seek help from the immigration officers in case they have been brought into
the UK against their will. Once in the UK, one is confronted with similar campaigns but
this time of a slightly different message; a campaign such as Blue Blindfolds calls on the
general public across the UK to share any suspicions or information on cases of
trafficking with the police or the Home Office.
During the last decade, anti-trafficking information campaigns have played a prominent part in anti-trafficking policies throughout Europe. They have for the most part been launched in migrants’ counties of origin with the idea of warning migrants about the dangers of irregular migration.
Scholars have taken interest in those campaigns and argued that despite the best
intentions, those campaigns aim at reducing irregular migration, encourage women to
stay at home, promote stereotypes about ‘eastern’ European societies as patriarchal and
crime-ridden and of women as naïve victims (Nieuwenhuys and Pécoud, 2007; Sharma,
2003). Feminist scholars have moreover put into question the category of a ‘victim’,
critiqued a slippage between ‘illegal immigration’, ‘forced prostitution’, and ‘trafficking’,
and argued that these conflations divert attention from the role of the state (O’Connell