The conversation surrounding the issue of human trafficking has long been misdirected and sensationalized in the United States, with government-backed anti-trafficking campaigns hyperfocused on the relationship between sex work and human trafficking rather than on the significantly more common phenomenon of labor trafficking, significantly amongst migrant laborers. The definition of human trafficking has become nearly synonymous with that of sex trafficking, both officially and colloquially — the result of legislation and public campaigning that claim to address trafficking as a whole, yet zero in exclusively on sex trafficking. This hyperfocus on sex work functions to both endanger the livelihoods of consenting sex workers and to neglect addressing the more pressing issue of labor trafficking in other industries, a deliberate misdirection noted by writer Jo Doezema in “What is Human Trafficking?” In her essay, Doezema and her fellow authors push for a reformed image of trafficking as a labor and migration issue, one that must be addressed by implementing specific measures to protect migrants and other marginalized people susceptible to being trafficked. The continued public ignorance about labor trafficking is a direct result of governmental protection and sanctioning of exploitative commercial practices. In this project, I explore the simultaneous prevalence and invisibility of the phenomenon of labor trafficking as the product of years of anti-sex work and anti-market regulation legislation, including the UN’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Girls and Congress’s Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2018.
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Lin, Crystal, "Misdirected: The Real Enemy Behind the United States' War Against Human Trafficking" (2021). Research Days Posters 2021. 25.