Women's Fightback Briefing: sex trafficking

Submitted by AWL on 24 February, 2008 - 8:25

Trafficking, in contrast to “voluntary” migration, is defined as non-consensual migration geared towards exploitation of migrants’ labour whether in sex or other industries. NGOs’ and states’ interventions on this issue have taken place along two lines: establishing protective schemes for victims of trafficking and the tightening of borders and visa regimes.

Victim protection schemes offer temporary residence permits to migrants. On the other hand because women are labelled as “victim”, they downplay women’s struggle to transform their lives. Victim protection schemes also lead to anti-prostitution laws.

More restrictive immigration regulations aimed at preventing trafficking do not protect women from abuse but, on the contrary, increase migrant women’s vulnerability to violence during their travel. They increase the level of control third parties have over migrants, during the journey and upon arrival. Current migration controls help to produce “irregular” migration, channel women into trafficking and consequently into prostitution.


The Victim of Trafficking Directive — introduces a residence permit for victims of trafficking. Yet, contrary to what it might seem, the Directive’s primary aim is not victims’ protection but the prosecution of traffickers. Residence permits are only issued to those victims of trafficking who cooperate with the police.

• europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l33187.htm

The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings – a treaty focusing on the protection of victims and also covering the prosecution of traffickers, preventive measures and establishment of independent monitoring mechanisms. EU countries are slow to ratify the Convention, due to the perception that it undermines immigration policies, due to its emphasis on protecting victims. • www.coe.int/t/DG2/TRAFFICKING/campaign/default_en.asp

Ongoing Struggles

Los Angeles: In Los Angeles, the Garment Worker Centre (GWC) is organising migrant workers to fight exploitation and unsafe working conditions. The majority of workers are women and the GWC focuses on developing them as organisers with training and offers political education. Workers fight against sexual harassment in the home and workplace. GWC are also organising Chinese and Latino workers together across racial divisions that exist in the factories.

• www.garmentworkercenter.org

Holland: The campaign “Cleaners for a better future” aims to improve the working conditions of 150,000 cleaners in the Netherlands, of whom 80% are women. They are struggling for lasting changes in the industry, respect and the right to organise without repression, creating community alliances and taking the street to demand a better life. Workers are considering strike action and request international solidarity against Dutch multi-national corporations like Fortis, ABN Amro and ING. • www.beteretoekomst.org/.

The International Committee for the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe brings sex workers and their allies together on an European and international level.

• www.sexworkeurope.org

Great Britain

An increasing number of combative women in London, working with trade unions, self-organised migrant communities and Kalayaan – a charity that works with migrant domestic workers – continue to campaign against the government law. The legislation forces women into illegality, making them dependent on one employer to renew their visa and increasing the power of the employers who can take advantage of their irregular status. Kalayaan is creating a network of support among migrants and migrant domestic workers to share women’s experience at work, to access public services and exit their status of invisibility.

• kalayaan.org.uk/

NextGENDERation is a transnational European network of students, researchers and activists with an interest in feminist theory and politics, and their intersections with anti-racist, migrant, lesbian, queer and anti-capitalist struggles. • nextgenderation.net/

The Agencia Precaria (Agency of Precarious Affairs) is a space of self-organisation of precarious women, born from “precarias a la deriva”, an initiative of militant investigation. We are now, among other things, working hand in hands with a group of migrant women who earn their living as domestic workers, in order to include domestic work in the statute of workers and to fight all the forms of exploitation, racism and violence which are to be found inside the homes. We also establish connections between migrant women and other women working as care workers, whether paid or not.

• www.sindominio.net/karakola/precarias.htm

The International Union of Sex Workers is a branch of the GMB, one of the UK’s biggest trade unions. The IUSW campaign for sex workers’ rights at a local, national and international level — to decrease stigma and violence against sex workers, improve working conditions and create a clear and fair sex industry.

• www.iusw.org/

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.