Category Archives: Human trafficking

Royal Wedding?

Ok guys, this topic really irritates me. I have seen so many news channels and media coverage for the royal wedding that leaves me feeling like, “Am I suppose to care?”. In my theories class this past fall we had to present a current event of our interest to the class, which would start a conversation amongst the whole class. Me being me, I choose to cover the topic of sex trafficking and slavery that was happening in Libya currently. Once I finished my spiel on how migrants were leaving parts of Africa headed towards Europe just to get captured crossing the Mediterranean Sea and sold into modern day slavery, I expected the class to be willing to engage in dialogue. Wishful thinking. Instead, the person after me switched the topic to the royal engagement, and wanted to talk about how Megan was a biracial. Considering that topic was apart of pop culture, almost the whole classroom was engaged. Get a grip guys! The royal family does not care about! We need to be more concerned about the innocent people who are being forced into slavery than a royal racist family!

Substantive Blog Post #5

How do policies on immigration create an environment in which migrants can be targeted for human trafficking?

Italy is at the forefront for facing and combating human trafficking. They are impacted more heavily than other Member States of the European Union because of their proximity to the most frequently migrating countries. In addition to adopting the UN protocols. The Italian government has been more active than its fellow Member States in its enactment of the protocol and setting up legislation which is considered to be more advanced within the field of protecting victims. This legislation introduced a special program to assist victims of human trafficking as well as a residence program for social protection. This special program receives funding in order to provide adequate accommodation, board and healthcare for a limited time. A major benefit from this is to provide a temporary escape and protection from the dangerous situation.

Through this study in particular, the aim was to use Italian policies as a case study to gain a better knowledge on how effective their policies are for protection and assistance for victims. In order to know how to work towards preventing and helping victims with recovery, it is important to have detailed studies on human trafficking, which unfortunately, is lacking. There are significant gaps in data on the scale of the phenomenon, characteristics of victims, trafficking trajectories, and effectiveness of the policies implemented. This research aims to alleviate those gaps. The most recent legislation observes protection and assistance to victims as a priority and Italy is above the other European countries in terms of them working the hardest to implements those types of policies. Within their conclusions they see encouraging results but offer critiques as well which would only benefit from obtaining additional and continuous knowledge.

Caneppele, S., & Mancuso, M. (2013). Are Protection Policies for Human Trafficking Victims Effective? An Analysis of the Italian Case. European Journal On Criminal Policy & Research, 19(3), 259-273. doi:10.1007/s10610-012-9188-9

Exploitation or Empowerment? Prostitution and the Commoditization of Human Bodies

Kari Carr 

She was 14 years old and running away from abuse. Within 24 hours a man approached her and asked if she was hungry and needed a place to stay. She hadn’t eaten in days and it had just begun to rain. He seemed nice. He was well dressed. It seemed a better alternative to staying on the streets. The first few weeks were amazing. He seemed to love her, and she loved him. She had never known so much kindness—food, trips out to the mall, even to the movies. Then one day he tells her that he needs help with the rent. She’d only have to do it one time and she knows the guy—it’s a friend. Just this once, if you love me. But it wasn’t just once and it was with dozens of different men, hundreds over the years. Four years go by. She’s 18, a legal adult. What is she supposed to do now? She has no job experience. No education beyond 9th grade and the mindset that she’s only good for one thing and that no one wants her anyway.

Some people argue that sex work can be liberating and that not all prostitutes are victims of human trafficking—some prostitutes are instead willing participants. I argue, however, that the system of prostitution requires objectification of humans and the commoditization of these “human objects.” This modern system of slavery commoditizes human beings while humans who maintain autonomy consume the commoditized bodies. With exploitation at its core, “sex work” cannot serve as a means of empowerment or liberation. And for those in favor of “sex work” as a means of false liberation I stand by the statement that personal empowerment does not take precedence over another person’s exploitation.

Human trafficking involves the objectification and subsequent commoditization of a subset of the population — the rest of the population that maintains agency, has the power to purchase/receive bodies that are an economic hybrid of a gift and a commodity. Furthermore, individuals with less autonomy (i.e. children, homeless individuals, adults with a history of childhood abuse, financially vulnerable individuals, etc.) are more likely to be victimized in systems of sexual exploitation. Commodity is defined as “a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee.” Commoditization refers to something, such as a person, being devalued and objectified into an everyday object such as coffee.

All value is created, not intrinsic, and when humans are devalued to mere objects, this is creation not human nature. Trafficking victims belong to their primary traffickers, and whether a “gift” to a friend or a “business transaction” the trafficked seem to be an economic hybrid of gift and commodity. Igor Kopytoff writes, “Commoditization, then, is best looked upon as a process of becoming, rather than as an all-or-none state of being.” This combined with the role of culture in decommoditization and commoditization explains how human trafficking allows some people to be commodities and others to be autonomous humans in society. Actual behavior often outweighs laws or otherwise expected behaviors in society. Although prostitution is illegal in most U.S. states, for example, the culture allows the purchase of humans for sex to continue. Kopytoff also proposes that the career of slaves involve successive phases of original commoditization, followed by decommoditization, and then there is a possibility of recommoditization. This means that once a human becomes a commodity they then begin to garner a social identity in the society they have been sold into (i.e. prostitute, whore, etc.). These individuals, however, are part human and part object at this stage, and this step then allows for easier consumption from people with full autonomy (purchasers). There is enough humanization present to rationalize that they “want” to be there, but enough dehumanization present to rationalize that the trafficked objects cannot say “no” to their traffickers. Therefore, people in the sex industry do not have agency. Buyers can choose to pay less than the agreed upon price, not pay the prostitute at all, and/or force the human trafficking victim to do things he/she does not want — in a sense, decommoditizing the human body by ignoring the agreed upon value or price. Additionally, traffickers can provide prostitutes as gifts to others with whom they desire to have a familial or business relationship. At the same time, pimps often have no ties with purchasers beyond the transaction and the exchange of the commodities (money for a human body). The trafficker’s “private property” is temporarily transferred to the possession of the purchaser. At the end of the “contract” the possession returns to the pimp. This relationship is understood, meaning that the pimp “gifts” prostitutes to purchasers even though money is exchanged.

Part of the disagreement regarding “sex workers” as autonomous individuals as opposed to sex trafficking victims revolves around economic income. Marissa Fuentes eloquently states, “But focusing on economic prosperity alone obscures the coercive nature of the enterprise of enslaved prostitution.” Furthermore, “economic freedom” and “personal rights” defined by Richard Pipes as “the right freely to use and dispose of one’s assets,” and “the claim of the individual to his life and liberty…in other words, absence of coercion.” Prostitutes, as described, do not have agency over their own bodies, and systems of prostitution do not allow human trafficking victims to practice economic freedom or experience personal rights, preventing these individuals from liberation or empowerment.

In summary, prostitution or “sex work” cannot be liberating as objects cannot be liberated. As a hybrid between a commodity and a gift, the objectified person in question cannot achieve personal or economic freedom. Furthermore, as the opening anecdote shows, many people do not wind up “in the life” on their own ambition but through force, fraud, or coercion. Next time someone says that prostitution is liberation, remember 14 year old Jane Doe and how her life was taken from her, along with her choices.

 Kari Carr will graduate with her MA in Anthropology in May of 2018. She has been an intern with ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now and volunteers to promote community awareness of trafficking and to promote anti-trafficking policies and initiatives (








Substantive Blog #: Palermo Protocol

The question guiding my paper asks how policies contribute to/help prevent migrants being targeted for human trafficking. The Palermo protocols were created in order to supplement the “Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.” While there are three protocols, I focus on the following protocol:

“Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against transnational organized crime.”

This protocol was created in an attempt to further combat human trafficking, especially that of women and children. It acknowledges that there are other “instruments” that have been created to combat human trafficking but a universal, international instrument has not been created. By creating a universal code to follow, the goal of this protocol is to help victims to be sufficiently protected. Additionally, this protocol is meant to promote the cooperation of the member states to meet the aforementioned goals. The protocol goes on to detail out the definition of terms, the scope of the application, the criminalization of perpetrators, the protection of the victims of trafficking, prevention protocol, information exchange/training, and border control requirements.


As I mentioned before, there needed to be a more universal document that laid out the details of what trafficking is, how to prevent and punish those who traffic people, as well as a plan to help those who fall victim to trafficking. While it certainly hasn’t ended human trafficking, it is a step towards at least helping other countries to have a basis for their own legislation. Before, it could have been easier for countries to contribute a more minimal effort towards combating human trafficking but now they at least have a standard which to base their efforts on. I especially appreciate the inclusion of an article that addresses the assistance and protection of the victims, however much of it seems to be suggested rather than required.

The Wrong Debate: Substantive Blog Post #3

How do policies on immigration create an environment in which migrants can be targeted for human trafficking?


This article observes the complexities behind feminism and the distinction of women that are trafficked. The author argues that the word “force” is currently the primary factor in determining trafficking and the loose term benefits traffickers because many are often only prosecuted in extreme examples of human trafficking. While there are extreme and violent cases of human trafficking that deserve real attention, many are less “exciting” and involve more “routine power and control relationships.” Trying to create a divide between human smuggling and human trafficking leads to the ignorance of the often similar fates of both. Just as it occurs with human trafficking, the lives of the individuals being illegally smuggled into countries are at the mercy of their smugglers, who are often also traffickers. Many try to make the distinction between smuggling and trafficking by assuming that the women that are smuggled and end up prostituting, do so purposefully as their initial intention for moving to the country. The counterargument would be that it is unlikely that these women are moving to far away nations from often high poverty, simply to be a sex worker. Additionally, because these women are coming from poverty, it is unlikely that they are able to pay the smugglers outright, forcing them into whatever forced labour the smugglers/traffickers desire; often prostitution. The point of this argument is to say that each individual circumstance is hard to determine.


It is also important to note that the concept of “choice,” in terms of women choosing to migrate illegally is arguable due to the living circumstances of women in their countries of origin. This includes high female unemployment, sexual harassment and discrimination. While trafficking and exploitation is a huge problem for women coming from outside borders, the author points out that is also becoming an increasing problem within the borders of the EU. While many may view the definition of trafficking as a debate within politics and academia, a more inclusive definition serves to protect the victims that are marginalized by the current definitions that are limited to the use of “force” as a determining factor of trafficking.


An underlying question that contributes to this debate between those smuggled and becoming sex workers and those that are sex trafficked, is whether or not the sex industry exploits women. More so, under what conditions is it considered exploitation. One theory contributes any willful sex worker to be linked to previous abuse and the sex as a coping mechanism. Another looks to the deep gender inequalities and lack of opportunity as an additional reason for women to get involved in prostitution.


A solution proposed is to focus on gender equality as a primary concern in hopes that in turn, feminists will fight to create more equality and ultimately, create environments in which this exploitation would not be allowed to occur. Additionally, creating a more gender equality society would reduce the need for the disadvantaged women to migrate in the first place. If a common ground was met amongst feminist to focus on developing a more feasible framework in which women and girls are assisted in their integration or return to their country of origin, they could be left less vulnerable to traffickers.


This piece brings up a good point about the way that policies are worded and developed. Wording can limit or expand the way that a policy is enforced. By using the word “force” as a precursor for determining if a person is sex trafficked, the author argues that cases that are prosecuted are often those of extreme cases where “force” can be easily observed. This word neglects to really encompass other forms of abuse and confinement. This article takes a feminist’s standpoint which gives more of a perspective of the reason why women and girls are trapped by traffickers. By trying to have a better understanding of why this is, law makers will have a better understanding of how to combat the problem and who should be included as victims.



Kelly, L. (2003). The wrong debate: Reflections on why force is not the key issue with respect to trafficking in women for sexual exploitation. Feminist Review, (73), 139-144. Retrieved from

Human Trafficking and the UK Modern Slavery Bill: Substantive Blog Post #2

With my paper being on human trafficking and the influence that policies can have in the Europe, I have found a piece that specifically looks at a bill proposed by the United Kingdom, a self-proclaimed leader in the fight against modern slavery. Based on notions that assumed that slavery could not be possible in our more modern era, the UK government was reluctant to support the United Nations “Palermo Protocol,” which targeted the prevention, suppression and punishment of trafficking people, especially women and children. It was revealed that there was significant ignorance in the British Parliament about their knowledge of the trafficking. As evidence grew, the United Kingdom began their first real attempt at combating trafficking by creating the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) in order to collect and monitor data to report to the government about the extent of human trafficking. The UKHTC received 3000 referrals that year from First Responders at the location to which victims seek rescue and rehabilitation. Additional organizations contributed to the growing knowledge of human trafficking and enslavement, revealing new forms of slavery within the UK including “the imprisonment of young (often Vietnamese) men by Chinese gangs to manage cannabis “farms”, the severe physical and sometimes sexual exploitation of domestic workers by wealthy businessmen/women and diplomats, forced begging and theft by young children trafficked or smuggled into the UK for this purpose and the suggestion, although as yet unsubstantiated, that some people had been trafficked into the UK for the purposes of organ harvesting.” 


With all of this overwhelming evidence and pressure from prominent organizations, the government finally published a draft Modern Slavery Bill, appearing in December of 2013. The Bill faced intense criticism because of how weak it had been considering the United Kingdoms intent to be the world leader on the issue. After a grueling process of examination from multiple parties, scrutiny and critiques, the final Bill was published and sent on for the process in which it becomes an Act of parliament.


While the awareness of modern slavery continues to grow, the Bill’s primary focus is on human trafficking despite the early debates that made an attempt to create wording that would include all possible offenses. Another key focus of the Bill is on the protection for the children that are impacted and while the focus on trafficking remains the center of the Bill, the main focus has been on sexual exploitation. The biggest concern of the author is the lack of attention paid to the issue of trafficking as a means to use victims for labor exploitation or forced labor. Although forced labor is in itself a criminal offense, the cases of forced labor brought to the courts are low. A case made notable by the author is one that was dismissed by a judge because they argued that if the victims were able to move around freely, they could not be considered slaves. This completely negated the emotional or psychological impacts of victims in the case.


Fortunately, the government has taken steps towards combating forced labor by requiring companies to take responsibility for exploring slavery within their supply chains although the Committee did not take interest in protecting the domestic workers to the same extent. The government has also been pressured to widen the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to extend its focus on just three industrial sectors to more, if not the whole of the labor market.


It is important to observe the ways in which different countries in Europe attempt to combat  human trafficking within their own country and throughout the rest of the world in order to get a better understanding of unforeseen impacts of their methods. While the United Kingdom hopes to be the leader in combating against modern day slavery, it easy to gage from this article how difficult it is for their government to produce legislation that can encompass the broad spectrum of human slavery.


Craig, Gary. 2015. “Human Trafficking and the UK Modern Slavery Bill.” Social


Using Fashion To Keep Women From Sex Trafficking

After traveling to India and meeting women who were forced to sell their bodies in order to provide for their families, Shannon Keith decided to invest $25,000 of her own money to make a change. Embracing the beautiful patterns of the culture in India, she created a business model that would employ these impoverished women and give them an opportunity to live a different life. While the original intent was to provide sewing jobs, the company has developed into so much more. Through partnerships, the company, Sudara, has been able to provide training for careers in nursing, IT, cosmetology, custom tailoring, and others. These opportunities has allowed the women to move up in the company and even become entrepreneurs themselves.


Without any prior experience in the fashion industry, Shannon Keith created a platform to give women in India an chance to escape the brothels and a second chance to live life. She is an inspiration as a female entrepreneur with a business model aimed at uplifting women in a country ridden with sex trafficking and slavery.


Taylor Hilliard

I Am Jane Doe PSA to Amend the CDA


January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and this short video briefly describes the issue of websites that knowingly profit from sex trafficking advertisements of children. It calls viewers to action by asking you to contact you senator to ask that SESTA be passed to close the loophole that allows this heinous criminal activity to continue.

Congress passed the Communications Decency Act (Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996) to protect children from exposure to Internet pornography.  The act included a defense, Section 230, for Internet providers, protecting them from liability for material posted to their sites by third parties. Thus, if pornography or other illicit material is posted to a site by someone not associated with the site operator, the site was to be held harmless.

In Volume 17, Issue 1 of the Berkley Technology Law Journal, Paul Ehrlich discusses the Communications Decency Act in depth and describes the results of Section 230:

“Congress passed the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”)’ in 1996 to address the myriad problems surrounding the regulation of obscene, illegal, or otherwise tortious content found on the Internet. Many of the CDA’s provisions regulating decency have been struck down by the courts as violations of the First Amendment. One of the surviving elements is a congressional grant of immunity from suit to ISPs [Internet service providers] and other interactive computer services for content originating with third parties. The text of the statute relies on terms of art from the law of defamation, formally protecting interactive computer services from treatment as “publisher[s] or speaker[s].’ However, while defamation law recognizes a distinction between liability as a publisher and liability as a distributor, courts have unanimously read Section 230(c)’s grant of ISP immunity as covering both publishing and distribution liabilities. In doing so, courts took Congress’ desired balance between the competing interests of decency and efficiency and tipped the scales decisively towards efficiency. The effect of these rulings has been the emergence of a comprehensive immunity from suit for ISPs so long as the suits are based on content not authored by the ISP. Whether or not Congress intended this result, ISPs and other interactive computer services have used Section 230 as a complete defense against recent suits…”

Ehrlich continues in footnote 5 of this section, “Publishers are presumed to have more control over material disseminated and are therefore subject to strict liability. Distributors are subject to liability under a knowledge or negligence standard.” This interpretation would make it seem that once a distributor of third party information is made aware that there is a problem of defamation or otherwise illegal activity that then the distributor could be held responsible. Conversely, this is not the case.

Amending Section 230 is not an issue of free speech. This is an issue of illegal activity occurring in a public forum. Section 230 was well intentioned, but it has been used by companies as a place to advertise illegal conduct such as sex trafficking of women and children.  Congress likely never intended this result, yet some courts have ruled that the 230 defense provides, in effect, blanket website immunity for all material posted by third parties on the sites.

In The Children’s Legal Right Journal, Abigail Kuzma eloquently explains these issues in her “A Letter to Congress: The Communications Decency Act Promotes Human Trafficking.” Kuzma describes the issue in great detail, provides substantial evidence for the need to amend the CDA, and also proposes possible amendments. She writes, “…it is critical that legislative action be taken to require all hosts of adult services sections to take preventive action against the posting of abusive ads. Such a bill could be drafted as an amendment to the CDA itself, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), or as a state law amendment that could be called the Internet Protection Against Child Trafficking Act (IPACT).” Please refer to her letter to learn more about the issues of human trafficking as a crime and human trafficking via the internet.

Business owners claim that illegal activity on their websites is not their responsibility because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Businesses that profit from these types of advertisements are using ignorance as an excuse so that they can claim they have no role in either prostitution or human trafficking. In order to stop human trafficking, we must take action to make access to this crime more difficult. The ISPs will do nothing to help modern day slaves as long as they believe that they are not an accessory to the crime because they have no liability or legal responsibility. However, if they knowingly profit from crimes such as human trafficking they are in fact aiding and abetting those crimes. Section 230 needs to be amended—not so that free speech is tarnished or diminished in any way, but so that people who are being used and sold can have a voice separate from their abusers.

-Kari C.


Ehrlich, Paul. “Communications Decency Act 230.” Berkeley Technology Law Journal 17.1 (2002). web. 11 Jan. 2016.

Kumez, Abigail L. “A Letter to Congress: The Communications Decency Act Promotes Human Trafficking.” Children’s Legal Right Journal 34.1: 23-58. Web. 2 Feb. 2016.


We have been discussing human trafficking in our anthropology class. Students wanted to know more about what they could do to help. Savannah Bynum found this video produced by the Michigan State Police on how workers can watch for signs of trafficking. Here is a link to it:

Kari Carr shared this video from the ENC Stop Human Trafficking newsletter on the signs of sex trafficking.

Below is an info graphic on the warning signs of trafficking. We can all keep our eyes open and report problems.    Holly Mathews

Is Speaking Out Enough?

In her book, The Road of Lost Innocence, Somaly Mam writes that she knows the clients who pay for child prostitutes and they are mostly ordinary, Cambodian men. She asks the question about why, in Cambodia, men feel justified in treating women and children this way? She also points out that most programs to deal with sex trafficking target the women—by rescuing and helping the victims. While this is important, Mam notes that these initiatives do not do anything to stop the problem. She designed a program to reach out to men and get them talking. She had young girls who had been trafficked talk to the men about the rapes and violence they had endured. She reported that many of the men in the audiences would break down and cry. Many of them had used child prostitutes like these girls, but somehow it never occurred to them or they avoided thinking about, how the girls were being treated. Mam taught the men about what life in the brothels was like for the girls and asked if they would want their daughters to be treated that way by other men.

I was thinking about this approach in light of the current sentencing hearing occurring now for Larry Nasser, the man convicted of abusing hundreds of young female gymnasts. The judge in the case, Rosemarie Aquilina, is allowing the victims plenty of time to speak about and describe the abuses and the effects on their lives, and the perpetrator has to sit and list to them. The judge, taking an unusual role, is also offering supportive comments and advice to the victims, reaffirming that they are strong and can rebuild their lives. So here is my question to all of you: while the act of speaking up and sharing abusive experiences can be therapeutic for those who have been affected, does this process affect the seemingly “ordinary” people who engage in the abusive behaviors? Or does it require more than just speaking up?

Larry Nasser’s abuse went on for years and was enabled by a host of men and women who worked around him and in some cases, by the parents of the victims. These people did report allegations against him, even when required to do so by law, shamed or intimidated some of the victims into silence, or ignored the issues altogether. I am thinking about this in light of the #MeToo movement as well. We are already beginning to see a backlash against it with women being accused of “going too far.” How do we change the hearts and minds of those who engage in sexual harassment and abusive behaviors as well as those who enable such behaviors being complicit or remaining silent?


–Holly Mathews


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