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Stuck in Traffic: Sexual Politics and Criminal Injustice in Social Movements Against Human Trafficking


Stuck in Traffic: Sexual Politics and Criminal Injustice in Social Movements Against Human Trafficking

This dissertation analyzes the sexual politics of transnational movements against human trafficking. I track the periodic securitization of women's migration and commercial sexual exploitation in international affairs from the Victorian-era movement against "White Slavery" to the contemporary campaign against "modern day slavery" and sex trafficking, using the case of Thailand to investigate the role of women's advocates in the transformation of governance strategies to address the issue.

Drawing on a year of field research in Thailand, I analyze the development of collaborative, inter-agency organizations that partner non-governmental organization ("NGO") advocates with criminal justice and social welfare officials to implement "rights-based" measures to prevent trafficking, protect victims, and prosecute offenders. I examine the rise of the anti-trafficking movement in Thailand to explore the complex interplay between the state, civil society organizations, and transnational advocacy networks, as well as movement organizations' strategic mobilization of domestic and international law to pressure states for policy reform.

The following chapters demonstrate the complex ways different social movement organizations and state agents engage women's rights to frame interventions, attract media and financial resources, and secure political influence to advance diverse goals in both local and international forums. I explore the tension between rights-based and crime control approaches to trafficking and labor exploitation by analyzing the divergent incentives of different actors in the processing of trafficking cases. The dissertation reveals how efforts to advance women's rights through criminal justice interventions often operate to create collateral consequences for the very groups they intend to assist and empower.

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