Statement on Trafficking, Stigmatisation and Strategies for Alliances

Prepared for The Transnational Trafficking Seminar on Trafficking in Women

June 20-24, Budapest, Hungary 1998


This document attempts to address the concerns of those who may be adversely affected by government measures to combat trafficking, in an effort to encourage the development of strategies supporting all women's rights.


Sex workers share the concern about the abuses in labour migration. However, the term trafficking is a problematic term to describe these abuses. The term 'trafficking' has a history of being used against migrant prostitutes/sex workers. 'Trafficking' has many definitions and is often equated with (illegal) migration for sex work or with prostitution per se. Rather than protect women from violence and abuse, anti-trafficking measures are often used to police and punish female migrants and sex workers, and to restrict their freedom of movement.


Historically there is a gap between the anti-trafficking movement and the sex workers' right movement.  While sharing concerns about abuse, sex worker organisations internationally object to the term 'trafficking' because of stigmatisation and because it is used to restrict sex workers mobility and rights.


As activists for women's rights, we think it is essential in the fight against abuse and for women's rights to bridge the gap between anti-violence and pro-rights strategies.


Since the definitions of trafficking are contradictory and the use of the term is confusing and misleading, and potentially harmful to women, an effort is required to find alternatives to the term trafficking, and to develop new language to describe abuses in labour migration and abusive conditions in the sex industry separate and apart from national interests in protecting borders.


This strategy for alliance is put forth in the spirit that pro-rights and anti violence are one strategy. More rights for women in the sex industry means less force and less abuse.



Signed: Carol Leigh, Marjan Wijers, Jo Doezema