Anti-Trafficking Industrial Complex Awareness Day-1st edition 2015

The Sex Worker Media Library presents a round-up of issues of the last few years that brought attention to the human rights impact of the anti-trafficking regime.


  1. 1st edition (2015) below

  2. Although there have been benefits to specific policies and practices within the context of anti-trafficking, it is incumbent upon activists who support real economic justice for workers around the world– as well as the safety and well-being of migrants, youth, LGBT, all workers including sex workers and all vulnerable populations– to find solutions that do not cause the harms of current anti-trafficking policy.
  3. Over the last decade scholars, sex workers, activists and cultural critics have identified various systems and institutions within the anti-trafficking regime including the Rescue Industry (Laura Agustín) and the White Savior Industrial Complex (Teju Cole) and Militarized Humanism/Carceral Feminism (Elizabeth Bernstein). Today we bring awareness to the double-edged sword of ‘anti-trafficking,’ with it’s efforts to assist and empower victims on one side, and the sharp edge of human rights violations on the other.
  4. The Sex Worker Media Library revisits this occasion to bring awareness to organizations and individuals–activists, artists, and academics– who have carefully researched, responded to and otherwise documented the broad impact of the anti-trafficking regime around the world.

  5. Sex Worker Research: Hit and Run

  6. “Hit and Run” developed by Empower Foundation in Thailand provides a valuable point of departure, a perspective from those at the eye of the anti-trafficking storm. This project, along with their video “Last Rescue in Siam” (2012) offers extensive research and commentary on the travails of those who are suffering from the cruel side of the anti-trafficking policies and projects.
  7. “We have been spied on, arrested, cut off from our families, had our savings confiscated, interrogated, imprisoned and placed into the hands of the men with guns, in order for them to send us home… all in the name of “protection against trafficking”. It’s rubbing salt into the wound that this is called helping us. We are grateful for those who are genuinely concerned with our welfare … but we ask you to listen to us and think in new ways... “
  8. “We travel for days up the mountains, across rivers, through dense forest. We follow the paths that others have taken...I simply put my foot where thousands of other women have stepped before me. My step is excited, weary, hopeful, fearful and defiant. Behind me lies the world I know. It’s the world of my grandmothers and their grandmothers. Ahead is the world of my sisters who have gone before me, to build the dreams that keep our families alive. This step is Burma. This step is Thailand. That is the border. If this was a story of man setting out on an adventure to find a treasure and slay a dragon to make his family rich and safe, he would be the hero. But I am not a man. I am a woman and so the story changes. I cannot be the family provider. I cannot be setting out on an adventure. I am not brave and daring. I am not resourceful and strong. Instead I am called illegal, disease spreader, prostitute, criminal or trafficking victim.”
  9. Click to return to 2nd edition 2016 Anti-Trafficking Industrial Complex Awareness Month or continue reading 1st edition 2015 below.
  10. Human Rights Impact Research

  11. 2014 has seen growing attention in the media to the ways in which anti-trafficking strategies have worked against human rights, most particularly within vulnerable populations including those who would be considered trafficked persons. Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women published the original compiled research on this issue as part of “Collateral Damage- The Impact of Anti-Trafficking Measures on Human Rights around the World” in 2006, followed by the AIM for Human Rights' human rights impact tool and video, The RighT Guide, in 2010.
  12. On 'Raising Awareness' from Laura Agustín

  13. In “Becoming aware of Awareness-Raising as anti-trafficking tactic” Laura Agustín resists the reductive and misleading information that is shared in the name of increasing awareness.
  14. “Awareness is by definition superficial and can only become deeper if followed up by curious investigation: wondering, reading, critique, talking with those more experienced, cogitating over ambiguities. But with awareness-raising as goal, previously uninformed audiences tend to accept whatever messages claim to be the truth, so that when campaigners are unprincipled (as many anti-traffickers are), audiences are misinformed. Misinformation – or deliberate disinformation – usually comes in the form of over-simplified categories that reduce human complexities to a couple of black-and-white labels, accompanied by unfounded statistics."

  15. In fact this year has seen a fair degree of work documenting the adverse impact of the Anti-Trafficking Industrial Complex on various individuals and communities. Critical Modern Slavery Studies posts ongoing reports for discussion:
  16. "...the concept of ‘modern slavery’ remains ill-defined and under-theorized, leading to policy responses that often have unintended and negative consequences for those who are vulnerable to rights violations. This group is for academics, students and activists who are concerned to research, theorise and challenge forms of rightlessness, exploitation and oppression and the systems of political and economic domination that underpin them, but who are at the same time critical of dominant discourse on 'modern slavery'"
  17. A recent addition is Open Democracy's ongoing coverage and Introduction: moving beyond popular representations of trafficking and slavery from Joel Quirk and Julia O'Connell Davidson. Their first themed issue "... explores how slavery and trafficking have been represented—by public officials, activists, and numerous others—together with the frequently troubling consequences that these popular representations have had upon policy and practice."
  18. Another resource in this arena is HumanTraffickingNews@TraffikNews for ongoing news.