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The Jammed

2 September, 2007

The Jammed, an “independent thriller” about the trafficking of women into sex work in Australia, is having unexpected box-office success. It opened this week in Sydney’s Palace Cinemas. The film’s success highlights a curious phenomenon: combatting “human trafficking,” dubbed the world’s largest business, is an issue that everyone from left-wing feminists to the Christian Right agrees on. Yet is it really as organised an evil as it is described to be?

Research by Sverre Molland at Macquarie University’s anthropology on Lao sex workers in Thailand suggests that while there is undoubtedly coercion and deceit in the migration of sex workers, much of the migration is voluntary, many “traffickers” are sex workers who recruit their friends, and the business is very rarely connected to “transnational organised crime.” My own previous research on illegal Chinese migrants to Europe has suggested that migration brokers work more like the airline industry – everyone specializing in a particular service and in loose touch with those at other stages of the migration process – than as a crime syndicate. I suspect that the hype about “human trafficking” is connected to the general criminalization of migration in today’s “securitized” world.

Sverre found an interesting comment on the film’s website:

I’m a sex worker in Kings Cross, close friends with thai sex workers
happily on contract (ie “trafficked”). I am insulted by the ridiculous
mythologies so easily believed by those who want to paint us all as
victims. Margaret and David, you’ve dealt a cruel blow to asian sex
workers in Australia by getting sucked into this discriminatory and
racist narrative. The “help the trafficked” sector is an industry in
itself, and is much more harmful and dangerous to sex workers than sex
work itself. They only want to hear stories of woe, and to make money
by stereotyping us.

See the rest of the comments here.

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