Trafficking and Human Rights

Trafficking and Human Rights

European and Asia-Pacific Perspectives

Edited by Leslie Holmes

Human trafficking is widely considered to be the fastest growing branch of trafficking. It has moved rapidly up the agenda of states and international organisations since the early-1990s, not only because of this growth, but also as its implications for security and human rights have become clearer. This fascinating study by European and Australian specialists provides original research findings on human trafficking, with particular reference to Europe, South-East Asia and Australia. A major focus is on how many states and organisations act in ways that undermine trafficking victims’ rights.

Chapter 9: Exit, Rehabilitation and Returning to Prostitution: Experiences of Domestic Trafficking Victims in the Philippines

Sallie Yea

Subjects: asian studies, asian law, development studies, migration, law - academic, asian law, human rights, politics and public policy, human rights, international relations, social policy and sociology, migration


Sallie Yea INTRODUCTION One of the main debates helping to construct discursively the issue of sex trafficking, and responses to it, is ‘the prostitution debate’.1 The lines of this debate are drawn between those who see prostitution as legitimate work (the sex work perspective) or as harm to women (the abolitionist and gendered violence perspective). In this chapter I explore the contours and implications of this debate for understanding the lives of victims of domestic sex trafficking victims in Cebu City, the Philippines and argue that, taken collectively, this debate can restrict how experiences and circumstances of victims are understood and framed. In particular, I suggest that the preoccupation of this debate with the notion of ‘choice’ draws attention away from another, more significant question, namely how and why victims of sex trafficking with no prior experience or wish to work in the sex industry often return to it after their trafficking ends and, in many cases, after they have availed themselves of support programmes for their rehabilitation. These patterns indicate that the trajectories of the victims might shift over time and within the context of having been trafficked (see Yea forthcoming). The chapter takes its cue from some recent literature addressing the intersecting issues of migration, trafficking and prostitution. A third perspective has emerged in this literature more recently that steps outside the opposing forced–voluntary dichotomy on prostitution. For example, in her examination of the Cambodian context, Sandy (2006: 449) shows how ‘elements of individual choice and coercion...

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