Academic journal article Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies

Midwest Stops Traffick: DePauw University's Controversial Conference

Academic journal article Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies

Midwest Stops Traffick: DePauw University's Controversial Conference

Article excerpt

"Stopping Traffick!", was a two-day event that took place on September 10 - 11, 2010 and was of interest to sex worker rights activists as its organizers, Michelina Ferrara and Margarita Villa, took a rare and admirable position by offering nearly half of the featured speaker slots to activists and academics who advance sex workers' rights positions and critique anti-trafficking campaigns that harm sex workers. The event began with a panel entitled "The Ethics of Modern Day Slavery" featuring the four sex worker rights' speakers (Carol Leigh, Tiantian Zheng, Thaddeus Blanchette, Gregory Mitchell) and Dr. Daniel Bercu of Doctors at War, an anti-trafficking organization. Roughly two hundred students attended and many were taken aback by this panel, which questioned the "human trafficking" framework. Members of the first panel described how trafficking discourse often harms sex workers, both intentionally and unintentionally, in various contexts around the world. This controversial opening session was followed by dinner and additional dialogue between the students and panel members.

The next day's events began with a presentation by Maria Suarez, a human trafficking survivor and representative of The Los Angeles-based Coalition against Trafficking. Suarez's story was followed by a lecture by lawyer Laura J Lederer of the anti-trafficking group Global Centurion, who was the founder of The Protection Project at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Lederer, a former advisor to the Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, described the efficacy of Swedish "end demand" initiatives and claimed that the legalization or decriminalization of sex work contributes to sex trafficking. Following her presentation, Lederer was rebutted by sex workers' rights activists Carol Leigh from the Sex Workers Outreach Project and Bay Area Sex Workers' Action Network , who firmly critiqued "end demand" policies as harmful to sex workers. Academic researchers Tiantian Zheng (SUNY Cortland), Thaddeus Blanchette (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), and Gregory Mitchell (Northwestern University) then took the stage, with each successively presenting material from their scholarly fieldwork. …

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