“…[T]he [US Trafficking Victims Protection Act] defines human trafficking as “a form of modern-day slavery,” yet no other forms are identified; it defines “severe forms of trafficking” but does not specifically define nonsevere forms; “trafficking” is not synonymous with “movement,” as it is in common usage; and the term “abolition” has been co-opted such that it now refers to the eradication of prostitution, not the eradication of slavery.” (Miriam Potocky, PhD. The Travesty of Human Trafficking: A Decade of Failed U.S. Policy, in Social Work 55:4. 2010. p. 373).
The passage above perfectly describes the vague definitions of and vague boundaries between sex slavery and human trafficking previously alluded to in earlier posts. Dr. Potocky argues that as a result of these inconstant, vague definitions in public policy, researchers, social service providers, and the public at-large must often draw conclusions about forced sex work by piecing together information from disparate sources with still more variation in definitions. Nowhere is this truer than in the US. Because of the difficulty finding information on forced sex slavery in particular, my research on forced sex work in the US is based primarily on information from two categories of sources: secondary sources that document forced sex slavery specifically, and primary sources with empirical data about general trends in sex trafficking. This latter category includes data on forced sex work, voluntary sex work, and varying degrees in between.
For the purposes of my research, human trafficking (or just trafficking) refers to the movement of people across or within international borders. This includes people who migrate voluntary and involuntarily. Sex trafficking is a subset of this category; some individuals are knowingly trafficked into prostitution, while others are deceived.
Slavery/slaves refers to forced labor exchanged for little more than the meeting of basic human needs (rather than monetary compensation). A slave does not have freedom of movement or control the terms of her labor. My research examines sex slave retailers in particular, those who exploit saves for profit. The work conditions imposed upon the person being exploited, as well as the conditions for compensation, are factors which determines whether a laborer is being enslaved. Agency of laborers is a key concept in the definition of slavery. Are laborers performing work voluntarily or under threat of physical violence? Are they free to stop working or will this result in physical violence?