13. From anti-prostitution to anti-trafficking struggles

From the late nineteenth century onwards, the sale of sexual services has been seen as a form of patriarchal male violence against women, but also increasingly as a legitimate form of labour, thus mobilizing activists from feminist and religious organizations. In the 1970s, the foundation of the COYOTE organization in the US and the legendary occupation of the Church of Saint-Nizier by sex workers on strike in Lyon marked the birth of the sex workers’ rights movement. With the relatively more recent entry of the fight against trafficking into the international political agenda, struggles started to encompass a greater variety of actors, including international and national governmental organizations, academics and the media, as well as non-governmental organizations.

Bearing all this in mind, we aim to gather papers on topics related to both pro-sex work and abolitionist movements, as well as counter-trafficking mobilizations within and outside Europe. We aim to focus on protagonists, allies, their interactions in national and international contexts, conceptualizations of sex work and trafficking, roles played in the elaboration of policies and their actions in these fields; what they actually do and don’t do.
This panel is timely in view of ongoing debates, especially at EU level, calling for the abolition of prostitution as means of combatting trafficking, and the revision of prostitution policies (see, for example, the Maiorino law proposal in Italy or the law for the regulation of prostitution under discussion in Portugal).
For this purpose, we are calling for contributions from scholars (sociology, anthropology, political science, social services, etc.) who have carried out ethnographic research on these issues. Work that engages with gender and sexuality studies, and critical trafficking, migration and border studies, is particularly welcome, especially in relation the following issues:

– The challenges that sex workers’ and pro-sex work organizations face in relation to organizational, relational and resource mobilization issues, gaining access to public debates and influencing political debates;

  • The experience of anti-trafficking organizations in engaging with their target groups/beneficiaries, assuming (or not taking) pro-sex work positions and intervening on labour and migration issues;
  • The relationship between scholars and sex workers’ organizations, and counter-trafficking organizations, in particular,  the potentialities and limitations in (co)producing knowledge and achieving common goals.

Keywords: Sex work; Trafficking; Anti-prostitution movement; Sex work movement; Counter-trafficking mobilization.

Mara Clemente
ISCTE – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia, Lisboa, Portugal 
Email: mara.clemente@iscte-iul.pt

Short bio
Mara Clemente is a sociologist in the fields of migration, gender and sexuality. Her fields of expertise cover human trafficking, refugees, sex work and sex tourism.
Mara holds a PhD in Theory and Social Research from the Sapienza University of Rome (2010). In 2014, Mara joined the Center for Research and Studies of Sociology (CIES-IUL) of ISCTE – University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE-IUL), where she is currently an integrated researcher. She is associate researcher of the Emigration Observatory (OEm) and, since 2016, she has been an invited professor in this institute.

Michela Semprebon
Università di Parma, Dipartimento di Giurisprudenza, Studi Politici e Internazionali
Email: michela.semprebon@unipr.it

Short Bio
Michela Semprebon is an urban sociologist who has been working on migration and local inclusion policy and more recently on trafficking and exploitation, particularly focus on women and unaccompanied minors. Part of her work has concerned political participation and social movement, particularly as far as migrants’ engagement is involved. Michela holds a PhD in Urban Sociology. She is currently Research Fellow and Lecturer in Sociology at the Department of Law, Political and International Studies of the University of Parma.

Selected references
Clemente, M. (2022) The counter-trafficking apparatus in action: who benefits from it?, Dialectical Anthropology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10624-022-09655-8

Clemente, M. (2022) Opportunities and limitations in the counter-trafficking field: the experience of participating in Portuguese counter-trafficking networks, Etnográfica, 26: 2, 467-487. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/etnografica.11864

Clemente, M. (2021) The long arm of the neoliberal leviathan in the counter-trafficking field: the case of Portuguese NGOs, International Review of Sociology, 31:1, 182-203. DOI: 10.1080/03906701.2021.1899366

Doezema, J. (2010). Sex slaves and discourse masters: The construction of trafficking. Zed Books. 

Foot, K. (2019) “Multisector collaboration against human trafficking”, in J. Winterdyk and J. Jones (eds.), The Palgrave International Handbook of Human Trafficking. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 659-672.

Geymonat, G. G., Selmi, G. (2019) Feminist engagements with sex work: imported polarisations and a ‘feminist alliance’ model in jeopardy, Rassegna italiana di sociologia. 4, 783-803. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1423/96116

Johansson I. and Semprebon M. (2020) “Strengths and Weaknesses of the Swedish Anti-trafficking System”, UNESCO Chair SSIIM, University of Venice.

Limoncelli, S. A. (2016). What in the world are anti-trafficking NGOs doing? Findings from a global study. Journal of Human Trafficking, 2:4, “316–328. https://doi.org/10.1080/23322705.2015.1135605”

Quirk, J., Kenway, E., Thibos, C. (Eds.) (2021) It’s time to get off the fence on sex workers’ rights. London: Beyond Trafficking and Slavery/openDemocracy.

Semprebon M., Caroselli S., Scarabello S. (2021) “Coping with the evolving trends of trafficking before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Insight from the N.A.Ve Anti-trafficking Network”, SSIIM UNESCO Chair, University Iuav of Venice.

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