By Charlie Smith, November 24, 2011
An author and scholar who likes to refer to herself as the “Naked Anthropologist” has compared the current climate against human trafficking to the panic over white slavery in the late 19th century. Laura Agustin, author of Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry (Zed Books, 2007), told the Georgia Straight by phone that in the earlier case, there was an uproar over whether Caucasian and Jewish women moving to New York or Buenos Aires, Argentina, were being traded as slaves.
While she won’t use the word “panic” to describe the current situation (“I try to avoid these labels,” she said), Agustin suggested that there is a widespread “rescue movement”, led by governments and the United Nations, which is trying to characterize a range of issues—migrant sex workers, child labourers overseas, and people who pay huge fees to immigrate—as “slavery”. Using this terminology gives a growing “antislavery” movement, largely based in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, the moral justification to launch interdiction programs as part of an international justice movement.