Sex Work and Trafficking Are Different

Last night, Melissa Ditmore published an article that provided a dose of sanity on RH Reality Check. Yet again, the difference between sex work and trafficking needed to be explained. While the site in question has featured some good writing on the topic, in the past few weeks, two articles appeared that begged clarification. Dr. Ditmore answered that call.

The tendency to treat trafficking and prostitution as if they were the same thing has a long and problematic history. Legislation and social discussion have often blurred or denied any difference, but that has always made things worse rather than better for those involved.

The trafficking of women and children into sexual slavery is undeniably a gross abuse of human rights. Like all trafficking, it involves coercion or trickery or both. Sex trafficking is an odious forms of trafficking, but it is far from the only one. Men, women and children are also — and more commonly — trafficked routinely for purposes of household and farm labor as well as sweatshop manufacturing. Their lives may be less media-genic than those of sex trafficking victims, but they are no less brutal, dangerous and degraded.

Sex Work, Trafficking: Understanding the Difference

Sanity, via comments following the story, is greatly appreciated!

3 Responses

  1. Thank you!

  2. She seems to imply that anything that is coerced is “trafficking,” which isn’t how I understood the term. I thought trafficking involved transporting people. Is all non-consensual prostitution or other sex work now trafficking?

  3. Trafficking, according to UN definitions (Palermo Protocol) involves coercion, fraud or deception. The transportation element is really secodnary to the exploitation and the means of recruitment. In this sense, yes, non-consensual prostitution really is trafficking. and hopefully will one day be taken seriously be governments and law enforcement.

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