Human trafficking heroes and villains: Representing the problem in anti-trafficking awareness campaigns

O'Brien, Erin (2016) Human trafficking heroes and villains: Representing the problem in anti-trafficking awareness campaigns. Social and Legal Studies, 25(2), pp. 205-224.

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Abstract

Since the declaration by the United Nations that awareness raising should be a key part of efforts to combat human trafficking, government and non-government organisations have produced numerous public awareness campaigns designed to capture the public’s attention and sympathy. These campaigns represent the ‘problem’ of trafficking in specific ways, creating heroes and villains by placing the blame for trafficking on some, while obscuring the responsibility of others.

This paper adopts Carol Bacchi’s ‘What is the problem represented to be?’ framework for examining the politicisation of problem representation in 18 anti-trafficking awareness campaigns. It is argued that these campaigns construct a narrow understanding of the problem through the depiction of ‘ideal offenders’. In particular, a strong focus on the demand for commercial sex as causative of human trafficking serves to obscure the problematic role of consumerism in a wide range of industries, and perpetuates an understanding of trafficking that fails to draw a necessary distinction between the demand for labour, and the demand for ‘exploitable’ labour. This problem representation also obscures the role governments in destination countries may play in causing trafficking through imposing restrictive migration regimes that render migrants vulnerable to traffickers.

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ID Code: 93611
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: human trafficking, heroes, villains, awareness, campaigns, trafficking, slavery, sex work, prostitution, demand, consumer
DOI: 10.1177/0964663915593410
ISSN: 1461-7390
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > CRIMINOLOGY (160200)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLITICAL SCIENCE (160600)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Crime & Justice Research Centre
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Justice
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 SAGE Publications
Deposited On: 11 Mar 2016 00:09
Last Modified: 20 May 2016 08:19

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