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Palgrave Macmillan

The Politics of Sex Trafficking

A Moral Geography

ISBN 9781137003386
Publication Date September 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (PDF) Ebook (EPUB) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Critical Criminological Perspectives

This book offers a unique insight into the moral politics behind the making of human trafficking policy in Australia and the United States of America. As governments around the world rush to meet their international obligations to combat human trafficking, a heated debate has emerged over the rights, wrongs, and harms of prostitution, and its relationship to sex trafficking.

The Politics of Sex Trafficking identifies and challenges intrinsic notions of moral harm that have pervaded trafficking discourse and resulted in a distinctly anti-prostitution agenda in trafficking policy in recent decades. Including rare interviews with key political actors, this book charts the competing perspectives of feminist, faith-based, and sex-worker activists, and their efforts to influence policy-makers. This critical account of the creation of anti-trafficking policy challenges the sex trafficking narrative dominant in US Congressional and Australian Parliamentary hearings, and demonstrates the power of a moral politics in shaping policy.

This book will appeal to academics across the fields of criminology, criminal justice, law, human rights and gender studies, as well as policy-makers.

Erin O'Brien is Lecturer in the School of Justice at the Queensland University of Technology, Australia. Her research focuses on political activism and policy-making in relation to issues of sex, gender and justice. She also researches the tactics of special interest groups, specifically politically motivated law-breaking and acts of civil disobedience. Erin is co-editor of Crime, Justice and Social Democracy: International Perspectives (Palgrave, 2013).

Sharon Hayes is Senior Lecturer in the School of Justice at the Queensland University of Technology, Australia. Her research revolves around gender, sex and crime. She has recently co-authored Sex, Crime and Morality (2012) and is currently completing another monograph on the impact of discourses of romantic love on abuse in relationships entitled Sex, Love and Abuse (Palgrave, forthcoming).

Belinda Carpenter is Professor in the School of Justice and Director of the Crime and Justice Research Centre at the Queensland University of Technology, Australia. She teaches, supervises and researches at the intersection of social and criminal justice in areas as diverse as death investigation, sex crimes and violent offending women. Belinda has recently co-authored two monographs Sex, Crime and Morality (2012), and Justice in Society (2012).

List of abbreviations
1. The Politics of Sex Trafficking
2. Perspectives and Players
3. Stories of Trafficking
4. Measuring Trafficking
5. Defining Trafficking
6. Causes of Trafficking
7. Silencing Dissent
8. A Moral Geography


"This book is refreshing in its attempt to think through issues of harm, morality, prostitution and trafficking but to do so with a firm focus on politics and policies and in a way that is grounded in a range of different empirical data. For this reader, the two stand out strengths of the book are the skilful handling of what is now a very large literature on the politics of prostitution and the way this is integrated within the actual analysis. The book raises some important questions about how 'the harms' of prostitution and sex trafficking are constituted by the way it links narrative analysis of sex trafficking with the politics of measuring 'the problem' and the political solution enacted. Accessible and thought-provoking, this book has something in it for everyone."- Jo Phoenix, University of Durham, UK
"By critically evaluating the dominant anti-trafficking paradigm and prevailing policies based on it, The Politics of Sex Trafficking shows how ideological interests and unproven claims about the 'intrinsic' harms of prostitution have been fused with sex trafficking and have shaped public policies. O'Brien, Hayes and Carpenter present an alternative perspective—one that centers on coercion and deception in the migration process and labor arena instead of the practice of sexual commerce itself—as a superior framework for policy makers interested in combating genuine cases of abuse. The book is a major contribution to our understanding of the debate surrounding human trafficking."- Ronald Weitzer, George Washington University, USA
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