Although the exploitation of people for profit is not a new phenomenon, in the late 1990s and early 2000s international leaders, advocates, and the public became increasingly concerned about the risks of exploitation inherent in labor migration and commercial sex work. In 2000, the U.S. government passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA), which defined a new crime of human trafficking and directed law enforcement agencies to begin identifying and responding to this form of victimization. Following passage of the TVPA, U.S. media interest in human trafficking as a crime increased steadily, though the framing of the problem, its causes, and its solutions has changed over time. Media coverage of human trafficking spiked around 2005 and has risen steadily since that time. Human trafficking has become a “hot topic”—the subject of investigative journalism and a sexy plot line for films and television shows. Yet, the media often misrepresent human trafficking or focus exclusively on certain aspects of the problem. Research on human trafficking frames in print media revealed that portrayals of human trafficking were for the most part oversimplified and inaccurate in terms of human trafficking being portrayed as innocent white female victims needing to be rescued from nefarious traffickers. Depictions of human trafficking in movies, documentaries, and television episodes in the United States have followed a rescue narrative, where innocent victims are saved from harmful predators. Additionally, traffickers are commonly portrayed in the media as part of larger organized crime rings, despite empirical evidence to the contrary. Incorrect framing of human trafficking in the popular media may lead policymakers and legislators to adopt less helpful antitrafficking responses, particularly responses focused on criminal justice system solutions.
Rachel Austin and Amy Farrell
The positioning of Southeast Asia (comprising Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar or Burma, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) as an anti-trafficking hub belies the global relevance of regional patterns. The configurations of anti-trafficking vary across countries; however, the specific trends and patterns hold relevance to the region as a whole. For instance, the research on anti-trafficking in Thailand examines the co-constitutive interactions between the illegibility of human trafficking and the growth of the anti-trafficking industry, particularly in relation to market-based interventions. Critical research on Vietnam offers an instructive analysis of the fusion between humanitarianism and punishment that characterizes “rehabilitation” efforts in anti-trafficking. Research on Singapore and Indonesia considers the function of co-constitutive interactions between the hyper-visibility of sex trafficking and the relative invisibility of labor trafficking. In Indonesia—as a country of origin, transit, and destination—the fractured contours of anti-trafficking responses have produced unexpected or unpredictable interactions, marked by competing understandings of what trafficking is and the accountability of differing governmental bodies. Recent research on the Philippines illustrates the use of gendered surveillance in barring the departure of Filipino nationals as a means of “preventing” human trafficking. These patterns demonstrate the uneasy fusions and alliances among humanitarianism, market economies, law enforcement, and border control that mark responses to human trafficking in Southeast Asia.
Aimee Wodda and Meghna Bhat
Commercial sex continues to be an object of debate in the realm of criminological and criminal justice. The regulation of commercial sex in a global context varies due to local law, culture, and custom. Global criminolegal responses to selling sex include criminalization, decriminalization, abolition, neo-abolition, and legalization. In recent decades, global public policymakers have become increasingly concerned with the public health aspects associated with negative outcomes related to the criminalization of the purchase, facilitation, and/or sale of sex. These concerns include violence against those who sell sex, stigma when attempting to access healthcare and social services, increased risk of sexually transmitted infections or diseases (STIs or STDs) including HIV/AIDS, and economic vulnerability that leaves many who sell sex unable to negotiate the use of condoms and at risk of police arrest for carrying condoms. Those most at risk of harm tend to be young people, LGBTQ populations, and people who are racial or ethnic minorities within their communities—these are often intersecting identities. Organizations such as Amnesty International, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, Human Rights Watch, UN AIDS, and the World Health Organization recommend decriminalization of commercial sex in order to reduce stigma and increase positive health outcomes. Scholars have also examined the challenges faced by migrant sex workers and the problematic effects of being labeled a victim of trafficking. Contemporary strategies geared toward reducing harm for those who sell sex tend to focus on rights issues and how they affect the well-being of those who sell sex.
Alexis A. Aronowitz and Mounia Chmaitilly
Human trafficking involves exploitation in prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor, domestic service, and for the purpose of organ removal. The dominant narrative in human trafficking discourse on victims is that of “a young woman and naïve innocent lured or deceived into a life of lurid horror from which escape is nearly impossible,” according to Jo Doezema. This conflicts with the reality of victims who may have exercised agency and been voluntarily involved in the initial stages of the process or those agreeing to work in prostitution. Identifying victims of human trafficking is complex when their very existence in a country as undocumented migrants or their forced participation in activities deemed illegal (prostitution, participation in armed conflict or child soldiering, or criminal offenses) results in their being criminalized rather than protected. The existence of prior victims becoming traffickers, particularly in the sexual exploitation of other women, has been documented by numerous researchers. Here, and in other situations where victims are forced to participate in criminal activities, the victim-offender overlap becomes blurred. This presents a number of ethical and operational problems, in terms of how we recognize victims of human trafficking and how we discern them from offenders. Based upon a number of case studies involving women and children forced into prostitution, participation in armed conflict and terrorism, and criminal activities, the reader begins to understand the complexities of the victim-offender overlap and what measures are available to identify and protect victims of human trafficking from criminal prosecution.
Julie Anne Laser-Maira, Charles E. Hounmenou, and Donna Peach
The term commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) refers to the for-profit sexual exploitation of children and youth through buying, trading, or selling sexual acts. CSEC is a subset of children and youth who are victims of human trafficking or trafficking in persons (TIP). The Stockholm Declaration defines CSEC as a form of coercion and violence against children that amounts to forced labor and a contemporary form of slavery; there are many forms of CSEC, including child prostitution, child marriage, early marriage, forced marriage, temporary marriage, mail-order brides, child labor, child servitude, domestic servitude, begging, massage, sex tourism, child pornography, online streaming of sexual abuse, sexual extortion of children, and sexual solicitation of children. Not all experiences of sexual servitude are globally recognized. It is critical to explore the concepts of race, inequality, power, culture, and globalization and how they impact the commercial sexual exploitation of children.