Intuiting illegality in sex work

Authored by: Julie Ham

The Routledge Handbook on Crime and International Migration

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415823944
eBook ISBN: 9780203385562
Adobe ISBN: 9781135924331

10.4324/9780203385562.ch13

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Abstract

In the sex work sector, the link between migration and crime is most pronounced in discourses around human trafficking. Human trafficking – that is, the recruitment or transportation of persons through deceptive or coercive means for the purposes of exploitation (UNODC 2004) – is still strongly associated with sex work, despite empirical evidence that trafficking in the sex work sector is not as prevalent as suggested by media or anti-prostitution organizations (e.g. Agustin 2007; GAATW 2007; Jeffreys 2009; Mai 2009; 2012; Segrave, Milivojevic and Pickering 2009; Weitzer 2011). The strong public association between human trafficking and sex work contributes to the aura of illegality that surrounds immigrant or migrant 1 women in sex work. Immigrant or migrant sex workers (or those assumed to be) may often find themselves relegated to one of two simplistic categories in anti-trafficking discourses, representing either the passivity and weakness of racialized sex workers (as trafficking victims) and/or the foreign threat of criminality (as ‘illegal’ migrants engaging in oft-criminalized work).

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