Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Globalization as a Racial Project: Implications for Human Trafficking

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Globalization as a Racial Project: Implications for Human Trafficking

Article excerpt

Introduction

Global estimates of the total number of human trafficking victims range from 20.9 million (ILO, 2012) to 27 million (TIP Report, 2013). Human trafficking is considered by some to be the largest systematic abuse of human rights in the world today, and it is increasingly growing in "scope, sophistication, and invisibility" (Stone, 2005, p. 32). Although criminologists have paid insufficient attention to human trafficking, it is important to understand the socio-political, structural, and cultural contexts that foster views of human beings as commodities to be bought and sold around the world. Prior studies have importantly centered on documenting migration routes; estimates of the scope of the problem; classifications of countries as source, transit, or destination; and the legal responses and policies. However, these studies have "glossed over or completely ignored the broader socio-cultural and economic contexts in which migration, in general, and more strictly trafficking in human beings, takes place" (Adepoju, 2005, p. 84). A broader explication of the contemporary situation facing individuals in these countries can shed insight into the role of political, structural and cultural contexts in perpetuating trafficking, which ultimately speaks to ways of identifying and reducing vulnerability to this international human rights violation. This paper aims to examine the ways in which globalization influences this contemporary situation of human trafficking, and more specifically how race intersects with the processes of globalization to create populations vulnerable to trafficking.

Globalization, defined here as a "a transplanetary process or set of processes involving increasing liquidity and the growing multidirectional flows of people, objects, places and information, as well as the structures they encounter and create that are barriers to, or expedite, those flows," is often discussed in relation to the economic harms it has had on societies (Ritzer, 2010, p. 2). This includes increasing poverty and inequality, a shift toward more neoliberal social welfare policies which cut social safety nets, and a decreasing ability of both the state and other institutions to regulate the economy and its associated processes (Messner, Thome, & Rosenfeld, 2008). All of these developments are noted as being potentially criminogenic to their societies, which has important implications for the study of human trafficking.

With globalization, the industries of local economies are transformed as migration and trading across borders increases and a wide gap of global inequalities between and within countries is created. Globally, women are disproportionately affected by the feminization of poverty and other limited economic options (Kligman & Limoncelli, 2005), which can further exacerbate the vulnerability of women to trafficking due to discriminatory practices in trying to attain education or employment (Cameron & Newman, 2008; Chuang, 2006; Corrin, 2005; Kligman & Limoncelli, 2005). These economic and gender-based inequalities may then push women to seek migration, inadvertently leading women to be disproportionately victimized by trafficking.

More recently, research has examined the role of race in human trafficking. Butler (2015) traced the racial roots of human trafficking in the United States and concluded that an intersectional process of "othering" occurs that leaves people of color vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. Othering, or viewing and treating individuals as different on some basis, can create vulnerable populations for human trafficking because they are prevented from gaining access to the same resources (jobs, education, etc.) as others. The act of othering in this context is intersectional because race, gender, class and age converge as intersecting vulnerabilities. This process of othering has also been noted in regard to the role of racialized sexual stereotypes and the trafficking of Asian women (Farr, 2005). …

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