Collection: Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking
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Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking
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This discussion seeks to critically explore the white, colonial narrative of gender-based and sexual violence that has justified and facilitated increased carceral power in responding to the social issue. In particular, I aim to emphasise the ways in which carcerality obscures the complex histories and dynamics of gender-based and sexual violence in order to individualise and privatise the problem. To demonstrate these dynamics, I will analyse: (1) the characterisation of perpetrators of gender-based and sexual violence as violent ‘Others’; (2) the centring of white women’s narratives in justifying increases to carceral power and implementing criminalising policies; (3) the extension of the carceral gaze through social work service provision; and (4) the fallacies of postfeminism facilitated by carceral logics. This discussion will conclude with exploring the possibilities of abolitionist social work and anti-carceral feminism in challenging the white narrative and creating space for partial histories to emerge.
A key challenge of this book project has been to weave in and bring to the fore victims/survivors’ voice in trying to respond to the necessity for greater and better collaborative knowledge production and service design in critical modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT) studies. In this respect, the co-authorship of the introduction with an international (J. Julia) and a domestic (Emily) survivor serves a few ends. Firstly, it constitutes a tangible effort to participatory knowledge production. Secondly, this experiment tends towards overcoming survivors’ voice as tokenism. A third purpose of having a co-created storytelling at the onset of the collection is of standing as a more classic introduction, and of gluing the three sections and the chapters of the volume together. Finally, the first-person storytelling aims to point to the current dearth of survivors’ participation in both knowledge- and practice-production in MSHT studies and systems. Accordingly, this introduction first travels through our collaborative victim journey, which will serve to present the three sections and 13 chapters of the volume. After, we offer a quick overview of the state-of-the-art of survivors’ participation in MSHT studies, accompanied by some self-reflective considerations on how to contribute to de-Westernise/decolonise the discourse of MSHT.
Sex trafficking is a current, severe and intense global phenomenon. Many studies have made substantial efforts to map the routes and relations between countries of origin, transit, destination, and the methods of recruitment and retention. With a focus on the role of social relationships, for this article, we conducted a literature review using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) to provide further scientific evidence of the elements and processes that push victims – primarily women and girls – into sex trafficking. The findings show that family, intimate relationships, friendships and acquaintances play a critical role in the pre-entry period before sex trafficking. Among these, family violence, abandonment and abuse emerge as severe risk factors, as well as the role of fraudulent intimate relationships. We also include additional social and individual risk factors that, together with the role of family and social relationships, have impacts on potential victims, increasing the likelihood of sex trafficking.
This reflective article was drafted in November 2020. Since this time, the authors have worked with the counter-slavery sector to co-develop a refined public health framework to address modern slavery (). Significant knowledge mobilisation has also occurred with a range of stakeholders, and the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner has encouraged the UK Home Office and the Home Secretary to embed a public health approach within the UK’s response to modern slavery (). Key references and insights from research in 2021 are available as a collection.
This article highlights the role states have in creating the conditions under which labour exploitation can occur. Specifically, it identifies several immigration policy decisions related to the UK’s exit from the European Union that will likely result in an increase in the number of irregular migrants in the United Kingdom and how this increase, when combined with measures that have progressively restricted the rights and entitlements of various immigration categories, creates an environment conducive to labour exploitation. It presents measures that could help address this problem, including changes to immigration policies and the strengthening of the labour market enforcement system.
Despite its stated protective purpose, the Modern Slavery Act has often fallen short when it comes to ensuring support, facilitating effective remedy, and safeguarding victims of modern slavery. Support services have been repeatedly flagged as insufficient to meet the needs of those recovering from modern slavery. Survivors have faced a ‘cliff-edge’ of support exiting the national referral mechanism, depriving them of access to essential services and leaving them vulnerable to re-trafficking. Decision-making timeframes have far exceeded stated benchmarks, leaving many survivors in limbo for extended periods of time. In addition, victims of modern slavery continue to be detained by immigration authorities and criminalised for actions committed while they were being exploited. Yet, at the same time, increasing numbers of survivors have been identified and supported as a result of the Act and associated care systems. This article explores developments in support for victims of modern slavery in the five years since the passage of the 2015 Act, assessing strengths, shortcomings, attempts to fill the gaps in provision, and where we go from here.
I start with these stories from the Trafficking in Persons Report. They are merely two accounts from a global estimate of millions of victims. The total number of human trafficking victims worldwide range from 24.9 million (Trafficking in Persons Report, 2019) to 40.3 million (International Labour Organization and Walk Free Foundation, 2017). The transnational and hidden nature of human trafficking makes accurate figures difficult to estimate. Nevertheless, human trafficking is considered by some to be the largest systematic abuse of human rights in the world today, and it continues to grow. For the purposes of this book, human trafficking is defined as: [T]he 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. (United Nations, 2000: 2)
While the world’s attention has shifted to the COVID-19 crisis, many who are experiencing or who are at risk of experiencing human trafficking have lost access to resources that can provide them with protection and assistance. Human trafficking, defined by the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion … 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,” can take many forms. These include domestic servitude, the exploitation of migrant workers (for example, those working in the seafood processing, agriculture, and tobacco industries), forced labor in establishments such as restaurants and sweatshops, sexual exploitation, mail order brides, trafficking for adoptions, and peddling/begging rings. Trafficking was pervasive in society globally, domestically, and locally even before the pandemic began. Now, the problem has been exacerbated further.
While the exact number of trafficked individuals is not known, in 2018 the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 10,494 human trafficking cases and 23,078 survivors. According to the human trafficking prevention organization Safe Horizon, women and girls are disproportionately affected by human trafficking, accounting for 71 percent of all survivors.
This chapter addresses human trafficking in four sections: the nature and extent of the harm; the structure of human trafficking (considered in terms of source, transit and market); regulation and control; and finally a discussion about human trafficking as illicit business. The definitions and common types of human trafficking are reviewed, along with observations on how human trafficking occurs, including drivers, structures and routines. Interview studies with human traffickers are considered in the final section. The first-hand testimonies of traffickers are used to further develop the overall theoretical premise of the book: that when thinking and talking about trafficking, including human trafficking, participants use a framework of illicit business enterprise that has rationalising, neutralising and compartmentalising effects for them.
The relationship between prostitution, modern slavery and human trafficking is much debated in the academic literature. By contrast, discussion of children’s involvement in prostitution as a form of modern slavery and human trafficking constitutes a silent consensus. Drawing on the findings of a participatory study with girls and young women in Malawi, we prize open that consensus, illuminating the poverty of contemporary discourses that link children’s involvement in prostitution with modern slavery and human trafficking, and identifying a series of tensions that confound the development of conceptual clarity. We develop our argument by exploring the potential of the capability approach, rooted in principles of social justice and human rights, to offer an alternative understanding of children’s engagement and ongoing involvement in prostitution, and a critical lens through which to reframe the relationship between children, prostitution, modern slavery and human trafficking.