Trafficking Policy
Research Project:

Examining the Effects of
U.S. Trafficking Laws and Policies

Labor Migration - Sex Work - Trafficking Laws and Policies - Forced Labor & Slavery

This site collects and presents research and commentary regarding the effects of United States Trafficking Laws and Policies in the US and internationally. The Trafficking Policy Research Project provides an outline of alternative analyses and strategies for the global problems of trafficking and forced labor, prioritizing welfare of sex workers in the context of migrant labor. Trafficking in the sex industry is examined within the range of abuses within the sex industries with goals of decriminalization and sex industry reform. Links are primarily from Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, Network of Sexwork Projects , the International Human Rights Law Group, and Human Rights Watch.

Archives Revisited
These essays were timely when written and are particularly relevant today as the trafficking discourse shifts.

"The Human Rights Quagmire of “Human Trafficking” by James C. Hathaway (2008)
Although not a recent text, this paper articulates a topic that is currently receiving much attention. This is an insightful essay by eminent Canadian/American legal scholar in the field of international refugee law, Professor Hathway, regarding the relationship of the new anti-trafficking framworks to the United Nation's commitment to combat slavery.

Sex Worker Rights, Abolitionism, and the Possibilities for a Rights-based Approach to Trafficking by Jo Doezema (2004)
"What does a sex worker rights perspective say about the future of a rights-based approach to trafficking? Can a better appreciation of sex worker rights help defeat abolitionism in the global arena? Or does trafficking need to be abandoned as a framework for positive change?"

Unpacking the Trafficking Discourse by Joyoti Sanghera (2005)
From the book "Trafficking and Prostitution Reconsidered: New Perspectives on Migration, Sex Work, and Human Rights," edited by Kamala Kempadoo, Jyoti Sanghera, Bandana Pattanaik

Current Issues and Reports: Trafficking Laws and Policies

From Repression to Empowerment: Is there a way back? by Marjan Wijers February 2, 2013.
Key note speech Conference "From Prosecution to Empowerment, Fighting Trafficking and Promoting the Rights of Migrants", University of Southern California, February 2, 2013.

Anti-Prostituton Pledge- Updated Timeline Updated February 2012, this timeline includes reports on the latest developments in the AOSI Vs. USAID suit and the path of the Pledge towards a possible Supreme Court Challenge. (February 2012) Sign A Call to Change U.S. Policy on Sex Work and HIV" to protest the Anti Prostitution Pledge.

From Prosecution to Empowerment University of Southern California- "Opening panel will examine the definitions of human trafficking that have been proposed by government agencies, various documentaries and news specials, critically engaging discourses of human trafficking and calling attention to the different stakeholders. At the same time it will ask what laws offer the best hope for success. How can reframing the problem as one of labor and migration offer more productive solutions that could empower workers?" (February 2, 2013)

From Bleeding Hearts to Critical Thinking Groundbreaking collection of essays deconstructing anti-trafficking frameworks, from a public forum at York University. (November 2012).

The Rights Work Initiative - a project of the Program on Human Trafficking and Forced Labor at the American University Washington College of Law’s Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.

Human trafficking: a misunderstood global scourge by Stephanie Hanes, Christian Science Monitor (September 9, 2012)

Immigration Policies, Not Trafficking is Major Cause of Exploitation of Sex Workers "By gathering the life histories of migrant women, men and transgendered people working in the UK sex industry the research provides an evidence-based analysis which can contribute to the elaboration of more effective policies and socialinterventions on migration, prostitution, trafficking and social exclusion. (November 2011)

About Human Trafficking "As recently as fifteen years ago, the term "human trafficking" was virtually absent from public discourse. Today, it is all the rage, and a huge amount of taxpayer money has been spent fighting it. " (August 24, 2011)

Sex Work, Migration, HIV and Trafficking: Chinese and other Migrant Sex Workers in Australia "This paper compares data on the experiences of 43 migrant sex workers of Chinese language background and 29 sex workers of English language background who migrated for sex work, gathered as part of a broader research project on Chinese sex-worker transnational migration." (August 2011)

Human Rights, Sex Work and The Challenge of Trafficking: Human Rights Impact Assessment of Anti-trafficking Policy in the UK "Anti-trafficking policy fails to address the needs of trafficked people and prevents sex workers from asserting fundamental rights." (November 2010)

Race and Labor: Slavery and the Trafficking Framework

White Slave Crusades: Race, Gender, and Anti-vice Activism, 1887-1917 by Brian Donovan. This book discusses the importance of race in the "white slave trade" discourse in the late 19th-early 20th century. (2005).

Unpacking the Crisis Women of Color, Globalization, and the Prison-Industrial Complex by Julia Sudbury discusses multiple aspects of the war on the poor and prison abolitionism. This work is the basis for a critique of the anti-trafficking framework that emphasizes issues not included in many critiques and provides a broad structural view.

The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class Background material on race, labor and terminology that informs current discourse on trafficking and slavery."Use of the term white sl avery and avoidance of master grew together. The labor movement it self adopted both the embrace of blunt, indeed overdrawn, comparisons with sl avery, and euphemistic usages of a newly pop ul ar word: boss."

Youth Policy

Lost Boys: New research demolishes the stereotype by Kristen Hinman 11/3/2011, Riverfront Times

Tackling Child Commercial Sexual Exploitation by Cheryl Overs, Paulo Longo Research Initiative

Audio Links from Soros, Open Society Foundation

Sex Trafficking Myths Reconsidered Open Society Fellow Noy Thrupkaew offers an assessment of the successes and failures of U.S. trafficking policy over that period.

Ending Demand to End Sex Trafficking: Does it Work? Are prohibition policies on sex work effective, and what is the impact on marginalized populations.

"Just Sign on The Dotted Line: The Anti Prostitution Loyalty Oath," a video by Carol Leigh, narrated by Cosi Fabian, presents a history of a policy regulating provision of foreign aid for health and safety. The policy requires that recipients of USAID funds sign an oath that they will not support sex workers' rights.

"This policy is a telling example of how the U.S. exports repressive ideologies through conditions set for foreign aid recipients."

Videos made by sex workers from around the world!Sex workers give their perspectives on laws, and policies, share their views and tell their stories. Network of Sex Work Projects
Asian Pacific Network of Sex Workers Karaoke -Sing along to the new song about raid, rescue and the anti-trafficking fraudster Somaly Mam.
"Empower uses art and cultural performances as expression; to inspire a process of reflectionand questioning, where people challenge the traditional beliefs they hold, and explore creating new traditions where recognition and acceptance of differences gives value to the inclusion of each individual as an important part of the whole."
Last Rescue in Siam
This is the first film ever made by sex workers in Thailand. It is a short black and white movie inspired by the tradition of the old silent movies.

Migrants in the UK Sex Industry (October 2009)
The main aim of the project was to improve the understanding of the links between the sex industry and migration in the UK, by drawing on the ways in which migrants themselves described their experiences and analysed their histories. The links between the sex industry and migration in the UK are predominantly addressed in current public debates in terms of trafficking and exploitation. Interviews with 100 migrant women, men and transgender people working in all of the main jobs available within the sex industry, and from the most relevant areas of origin (South America, Eastern Europe, EU and South East Asia), suggest that although some migrants are subject to coercion and exploitation, a majority are not. Link to video of seminar!

Prostitution and Trafficking: The Anatomy of a Moral Panic refers to the above research.

Nordic Prostitution Policy Reform A comparative study of prostitution policy reform in the Nordic countries. This website links to research and discussion.

Obama Administration Policies on Trafficking (June 2009)
Dr. Melissa Ditmore, in The Guardian states that "The new TIP report suggests that the Obama administration is taking a more effective approach. Instead of adopting the Bush administration's myopic focus on sex trafficking, the Obama administration has expanded the definition of trafficking to include a wider variety of examples of labour abuses than ever before."

December 2008- The Passage and History of of HR7311: William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act
Human rights activist object to the house version of the TVPRA (HR3887), in concert with the US Department of Justice. The final TVPRA, passed in December 2008, addressed some concerns of human rights activists, however some issues remain. The earlier House version of HR 3887 had placed all commercial sex under the jurisdiction of the Federal government.

Urgent Item: Department of Justice, ICE, Targets Trafficking Victims for Exposing Their Plight also see New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice

"...When defense subcontractor Signal trafficked them to labor camps in the Gulf Coast and held them in forced labor, these workers fought back. They escaped indentured servitude, triggering a major DOJ investigation into criminal trafficking. They walked from New Orleans to Washington, DC in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, to show Congress the brutal realities of the US guestworker program. And they launched a 29 day-long hunger strike, to pressure the DOJ to prosecute Signal on charges of criminal trafficking. As a result of speaking out publically, a group of these men were targeted in an ICE raid. On October 28, 2008 - days before the presidential election - ICE arrested over 20 of these workers in a terrifying immigration raid in Fargo, North Dakota.(more...)"

Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women Issues Report on Collateral Damage of Anti-Trafficking Policies

This report reviews the impact of anti-trafficking measures on human rights in 8 countries: Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, India, Nigeria, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Each country chapter provides an overview of human trafficking, the current legal framework concerning all aspects of anti-trafficking efforts, specific laws and policies and their implications on key groups of people, and a critical analysis of the human rights impact of these measures specifically on women. This anthology emphasises the critical need for a re-assessment of anti-trafficking initiatives around the globe in order that human rights do not get written off as ‘collateral damage’ in combating human trafficking.


DMSC, Indian Sex Workers' Organization and Self-Regulatory Model to Combat Trafficking (Launched Dec 2007)
"Ever since 1997, when DMSC activists articulated the issue at the First National Conference of Sex Workers, the Organisation has grappled with the problem of underage girls trafficked into sex work sites and of unwilling women duped/coerced/forced into sex work. DMSC is active in addressing and challenging the structural issues that frame the everyday reality of sexworkers lives as they relate to their material deprivation and social exclusion. From this standpoint, it stands against any form of exploitation and infringement of rights of human beings that includes sexworkers and their children. DMSC is explicit, too, about its stand vis-a-vis forced or coerced labour in any form- if sexwork is work like any other, then it must be subject to certain norms and conditions- decided upon and enforced by the workers in the trade- that must be fulfilled before anyone can start as a sexworkers..."

Summary Report:Human Rights Impact of Anti-trafficking Interventions: Developing an Assessment Tool (July-07):
"In recent years, non-governmental organisations, specialists and advocates in the field of trafficking in human beings, migrants’ rights and sex workers’ rights and related fields have observed with growing concern various negative consequences of anti-trafficking interventions." Published by HOM, Aim for Human Rights

Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry by Laura María Agustín

This groundbreaking book sets out to explode several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work; that migrants who sell sex are passive victims; and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' disempowers them. Based on extensive research amongst migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustín, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry. Although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.


Taking the Pledge is a 13-minute film featuring sex workers from Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Mali, Thailand and more! They describe the problems created by the 'anti-prostitution pledge' required to receive USAID and PEPFAR funds.
Produced by the Network of Sex Work Projects.
In English, Khmer, Thai, French, Portuguese and Bengali, with English subtitles. Watch in full-screen mode to read the subtitles.

Anti-Prostitution Advocate, Sigma Huda, UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking Found Guilty in Corruption Case, Sentenced to 3 Years (8-28-07) Former Board member of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women recently convicted and sentenced in Bangladesh.

Media Reports: Trafficking and Moral Panic