Determining what level of exploitation is enough to qualify as “trafficked” leaves most migrants out of assistance


A post I wrote for the London School of Economics blog on American Politics and Policy:

To warn women about the potential dangers of migration for work, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in the Dominican Republic adopted the slogan “Don’t Believe the Stories.” It was a tough sell. Maria Cristina who had been trafficked into sex work in Argentina planned to leave her small town once again. She worked part-time in a hair salon but her earnings did not come close to paying her bills. When I asked her how she thought she could save money working overseas, especially working low-wage jobs, she smiled and threw up her arms, “Who knows? I’ll do whatever, washing, cleaning, restaurant work.” 

Read Full Post Here

Ending Everyday Forms of Exploitation in Our Fields Prevents Trafficking

Here's a post I wrote for Human Trafficking Search -- A Global Resource and Database:

Exploitation in our nation’s fields is rampant. Employers steal wages and impose extra fees (for transportation to and from the fields or for buckets and ladders necessary to work). Workers labor without protective gear from pesticides. Women routinely experience sexual harassment and assault. Workers without documentation are threatened with deportation if they complain. Those with work visas risk not getting them renewed if they blow the whistle. All this is everyday business in the agricultural sector in the United States. It is little surprise that in this environment of chronic exploitation and intimidation that more egregious abuse can unfold: trafficking into forced labor. 

Read Full Post Here

AIDS 2014 Conference: Sex Workers' Voices


This week a small but feisty contingent of sex worker rights activists from the United States travel to Melbourne, Australia for the International AIDS Conference (AIDS2014). They will be joining sex workers converging at the conference at the Sex Worker Networking Zone in the Global Village and numerous other events to ensure that sex workers voices are heard. Jules Kim, the manager of Scarlet Alliance’s Migration Project who has been central in coordinating actions in Australia, has described the zone as a, “vibrant hub for everything by and for sex workers at the conference… if you are coming to the conference look for the red umbrellas- the symbol of our fight against stigma and discrimination and towards sex worker rights.” A schedule of events is available onlineBest Practices Policy Project and A Kiss for Gabrielawill be covering events on Twitter.

To the best of our knowledge, no sex worker representative from the United States received a complete scholarship to attend. A number of the key presenters from the United States addressing the concerns of women of color, sex worker health initiatives and youth were not given space to present at all. In order to address the shortfall, US sex workers have come together to fundraise and have pooled resources. The team has also worked with the local host committee to have space at the Sex Worker Networking Zone for presentations that were not accepted, organizing that the presenters will show videos of their work and be available online to respond to the audience. One of the United States most eloquent representatives on the issue of sex work and HIV/AIDS, Sharmus Outlaw a co-coordinator of the Desiree Alliance, who was unable to travel to the conference will be posting her comments online and via video presentations.

Some key events showcasing US Sex Worker rights organizing include the Not Your Rescue Project Sex Worker Mini Film Fest (July 21, 12.40 pm to 2.10, Global Village Film Screening, Clarendon Room C), the Sex Workers Rights and HIV Global Village Scavenger Hunt(Wednesday 23 July from 12noon – 2:30 in the Global Village); Pretty Woman REdux: REmixing, REviving and REclaiming Mainstream Perceptions of Sex Work! (Live Performance in the Community Dialogue Space, Tuesday 22 July 2014, 1:30pm – 2:15pm); “In My Skin” (short documentary), Thursday 24 July 2014, 4:45pm – 5:05pm (Level 2, Clarendon Room 2). The Best Practices Policy Project, Desiree Alliance and SWOP-USA  together will be hosting a booth in the Global Village, US Sex Workers United! (booth number 608, quite far from the Sex Worker Networking Zone… but see if you can find the team there or in the zone).

Our colleagues in Brazil at Davida and A Kiss for Gabriela were not granted an official spot to screen “A Kiss For Gabriela” and to host a “minute of noise” to honor Gabriela Leite (a sex worker rights leader who died in 2013). BUT, the film will now be shown in the sex worker networking zone, followed by discussion and twitter presence, Friday 25th July, 10-11am. Tweet #akissforGabi and #umbeijoparaGabi on the day of the screening to add to the online “noise” honoring all of her works and how they have inspired real change. Similarly WHORE LOGIC with Incredible, Edible, Akynos will screen Wednesday 23rd of July, 12.30-1pm. In order to ensure that sex workers unable to attend AIDS2014 can see Akynos video-taped performance, filmmaker PJ Starr will stream the video for the day.

Most conference events and activities will be held at the International AIDS Conference at theMelbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, 1 Convention Center place, South Wharf, Melbourne, VIC.

Anti-Trafficking and Comparative Perspectives of Migrant Abuse

 From the London School of Economics blog on American Politics and Policy:  my new post on migrant protections and a comparative perspective on anti-trafficking policies.  In it I argue that antitrafficking measures should address the entire spectrum of how migrants can be abused and offer protections to a range of migrant workers who are exploited — not just the most extreme cases.  Click here for the full article

Support Worker Justice

Follow the good work of Amnesty International and support your local sex worker rights organizations.


7 February 2014

Amnesty International is currently consulting on a draft policy proposing the decriminalisation of sex work. 

We initiated the policy consultation process because we have seen evidence to suggest that the criminalisation of sex work leads to social marginalisation and an increased risk of human rights abuses against sex workers. The evidence also suggests that decriminalisation could be the best means to protect the rights of sex workers and ensure that these individuals receive adequate medical care, legal assistance and police protection. 

Groups which support or are calling for the decriminalisation of sex work include the World Health Organization, UN Women, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Human Rights Watch, the Kenya National Human Rights Commission, the Open Society Foundations, and the South African Commission on Gender Equality.

No decisions about Amnesty International's position have been made yet.

If you are a member of Amnesty International, please engage with the consultation process through the national office in your country. 

If you are not a member of Amnesty International, we welcome input through:

The final decision on the policy will be made by the movement's International Board informed by the consultation undertaken by Amnesty offices around the world. 

Amnesty International will continue to call for the prosecution of human traffickers, including trafficking for sex work, the prosecution of adults involved in child prostitution or any form of child abuse, and prosecution for anyone who commits a crime against a sex worker, including rape or any other form of violence. The consultation does not change our position on these human rights violations.


Migrants at Risk: How U.S. Policies Facilitate Human Trafficking

New article I wrote for Dissent....

"Human trafficking is in the news nearly every day. The most recent high-profile case unfolded when a federal grand jury indicted Indian consular officer Devyani Khobragade for presenting false information to U.S. authorities to obtain a visa for her child care provider, Sangeeta Richard. The diplomatic firestorm set off by Khobragade’s arrest shed a bright light on how easily migrant labor exploitation, in the United States and elsewhere, can tip into the realm of trafficking.

"One might expect that all this media attention reflects a wider effort to crack down on trafficking. But a limited legal definition of “trafficking” means that a scarce few cases have been prosecuted. In fact, fewer than 4,000 men and women have been formally designated as trafficked to the United States. This number obscures not only the tens of thousands of forced labor victims whose cases go unreported, but the millions of migrants who face comparable abuse—just not enough to fit the legal definition of trafficking. It’s impossible to tell the story of trafficking without telling their story, too.

Click here to read the full piece