Research on Sex Trafficking

As there are problems with understanding prostitution, there are also challenges to intervention programs, policy making, research and funding to alleviate sex trafficking.


Sanghera focuses on the trafficking paradigm and interventions that have developed over the past decade in Asia. This anti-trafficking discourse is not founded on evidence, as there is unreliable statistics, but in fact, mythology, which has created ineffective interventions and programs. They are having an adverse effect: the energy and money deployed to curb trafficking is actually leading to an increase of it. Anti-trafficking intervention efforts are also geared toward the supply of trafficking or the victims and don’t take into account that the trafficking of persons is a demand-driven phenomenon. Trafficking and Prostitution Reconsidered: Unpacking the Trafficking Discourse by Jyoti Sanghera PROJECT ROSE

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There are many loopholes in the law that, for example, only offers such benefits to innocent, not guilty prostitutes and victims of “severe forms of trafficking.” It also makes a clear distinction between “violated innocents” (trafficking victims, described as vulnerable women and children forced from the safety of their home or home- lands into gross sexual exploitation) and “illegal immigrants” (economic migrants who are understood to be men who have willfully violated national borders for individual gain), providing support only to violated innocents. I find these definitions problematic in that they are gender-specific; it assumes that violated innocents are always female and illegal immigrants are always men. I think it also difficult to draw the line between the two; for example, is an individual who flees his/her country to seek better opportunities in America through means of sex work and gets paid considered a violated innocent or illegal immigrant? The law has many loopholes that do not account for very specific cases and excludes many people. Again, ever-evolving definitions and specific circumstances, for example migration, create vexed discussions for policy makers. (CHAPKIS)

In analyzing the debate at the international level, Ron Weitzer affirms the attention to the root causes of migration is missing from the social movement and crusade. There are gaps in research on push factors’, such as poverty and barriers to women’s employment in the Third World and Eastern Europe. Inadequate attention, according to Doezema, is paid to “a critical examination of the power involved in producing knowledge about trafficking in women’ and the ways in which dominant constructions of the issue emerge and are incorporated into policy” (page 11). Sex Slaves and Discourse Masters: The Construction of Trafficking by Dr. Jo Doezema Introduction: Positioning Trafficking in Women

The final consideration Weitzer takes into account is what a solution to understanding and mitigating sex trafficking might look like by maintaining that “an alternative model would (1) pay more attention to the socioeconomic conditions that promote sex work, (2) focus on unfree labor rather than prostitution per se, (3) faithfully represent women’s varied experiences in prostitution, and (4) identify concrete ways of enhancing workers’ health, safety, and control over working conditions” (page 467). Because this model takes into account many factors, it could not be universal to curbing sex trafficking, but instead policies should be sector-specific.

Finally, “The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which strengthens law enforcement and increases penalties against those defined as traffickers, will likely increase the risk and cost of doing business for smugglers. This is a cost that undoubtedly will be passed on to the victims the law is designed to protect” (p. 56). (Regulating Sex: The Politics of Intimacy and Identity – Chapter 5: Soft Glove, Punishing Fist – CHAPKIS)

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