‘What happened to sex trafficking?

October 3, 2016

The University of Melbourne is hosting a symposium on Gender, Mobility Regimes and Social Transformation in Asia, 3-4 November, 2016. Further details can be found here.


I will be presenting the second day (abstract below):


‘What happened to sex trafficking? The new moral panic of men, boys and fish in the Mekong region’


Activists, non-governmental organisations and the international media have repeatedly singled out the Mekong region as a hotspot for "sex trafficking". Yet, in recent years anti-trafficking campaigns that focus on prostitution have lost considerable momentum, witnessed by a decline in project activity and media attention. This paper suggests that a moral panic relating to prostitution has partly been replaced by a broader focus on the Thai labour sector, particularly the fishing industry. At the same time, this shift coincides with a discursive move away from "trafficking" towards "modern slavery". This paper explores the gendered dimensions of this shifting regime of migration governance which in effect replaces women and girls for men and boys. Although this change must be understood in light of structural changes within the Thai economy as well as a broader compassion and programme-fatigue, this paper points to the similar moral registers which both "sex trafficking" and "slavery at sea" invoke.

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