I’ve read several things recently that have me contemplating the roles of agency and force in migration and sex work.

Agency and force are important topics in thinking about migration and sex work because many anti-human trafficking definitions take these into account. For example, the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children defines trafficking in persons as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

Author Rutvica Andrijasevic discusses the problem with definitions like this in Migration, Agency and Citizenship in Sex Trafficking, particularly regarding the deception facet: “It is obvious that those women who were promised jobs as waitresses or domestic workers and were then inserted in the sex industry had not been informed about the terms of their sex-work contract. However, neither have they negotiated the terms of the contract for work in a restaurant or a private home. This situation is not that much different    to the one in which women agreed to sex work but knew very little about the concrete working conditions…If, according to the UN Protocol, a case of ‘trafficking’ takes place when, by means of deception, a person has been recruited and transported by a third-party into exploitative working conditions so as to profit from her labour, then the ambiguity lies with the notion of deception itself. The fact that the definition of trafficking presupposes an interrelation between deception and subsequent exploitation of migrants on the part of ‘traffickers’ conflates the range of interests third parties might have in supplying vague information concerning the working contract. Third parties might profit from migrants’ recruitment or travel rather than from their labor. The vagueness of the notion of deception, together with force, coercion and exploitation as distinctive components of trafficking then establish an oversimplified and ultimately erroneous demarcation between voluntary and involuntary processes of migration.This is particularly important since violence, coercion, deception and exploitation may also occur in voluntary and legally regulated systems of migration and employment.” (2011. p. 36-38).

A separate topic but one related to agency and sex trafficking comes from the 2002-2003 Report on Trafficking in Women and Children by the Indian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). As part of the report, researchers interviewed 412 brothel owners about how they run their businesses. When asked about their motivations for choosing their line of work, more than half of respondents reported that they had no other income options. About 30% attributed their motivations to a desire to earn easy money, and presumably had other income options. What I found interesting was that a considerable 7.5% reported being forced by others into managing the brothel. How can one be forced into managing a brothel? The logistics are hard to fathom, but if people are being forced into sex work as well as brothel management, these could be indicators of a larger organized crime regime.

This is what I have been considering as I continue to carry out my own research.

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Comments
  1. sounds as though you’d be interested in my work.

    • Craig says:

      Thanks for your comment, Laura. Your work definitely relates to the research that I’m currently conducting. I’d love to speak with you about your work and get any thoughts you may have on what I’m working on, if you’re open to it. I’ll send you an email this weekend. Thanks again!

  2. As a young girl with an Asian background, working in a big city in Europe makes me realise this world is so small yet so big :-), your blog “Girls undergo systematic rape and torture in brothels …” is pretty interesting and I will keep checking more additions.
    Well written, thank you 🙂

    http://www.eatcity.co.uk

  3. stellamarr says:

    Re: Girls undergo systematic rape and torture in brothels

    Yeah, that was my experience working in an NYC brothel too.

    http://secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/an-ex-hookers-letter-to-her-younger-self/

  4. Ariel H. Tyler says:

    Sexual trafficking includes coercing a migrant into a sexual act as a condition of allowing or arranging the migration. Sexual trafficking uses physical or sexual coercion, deception, abuse of power and bondage incurred through forced debt. Trafficked women and children, for instance, are often promised work in the domestic or service industry, but instead are sometimes taken to brothels where they are used in Sex worker , with their passports and other identification papers confiscated. They may be beaten or locked up and promised their freedom only after earning – through prostitution – their purchase price, as well as their travel and visa costs.

  5. November 2002 Human trafficking involves controlling and exploiting people after transporting them to a new location, often beyond the borders of their homeland. In this modern form of slavery, traffickers use threats, intimidation, and violence to break their victims’ will and resistance. This trafficking in humans has become a global business, reaping huge profits for traffickers and organized crime syndicates, generating massive human rights violations, and causing serious problems for governments. Despite the magnitude of the problem, however, it has only recently seized policy makers’ attention. As recently as 10 years ago, the expression “human trafficking” rarely appeared in migration policy debates. Today, however, trafficking is one of the major concerns of both governments and organizations active in the migration field, and has become a priority for those working in many other policy areas such as human rights, health, law enforcement, and social services.

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