Research-to-Action

GSHI publishes editorial in Lancet Global Health: conflation of sex work and trafficking is harmful for sex workers, migrants

Dr. Shira Goldenberg of the GSHI recently published an editorial in the March issue of the Lancet Global Health journal.  In her commentary, Dr. Goldenberg highlighted the problematic practice of conflating trafficking and sex work, and how this approach does a serious disservice to both sex workers, and people who have been trafficked, and results in legal and policy approaches that worsen dangerous conditions for these groups. Her editorial also highlighted the need for policies and programs to better support migrant workers’ labour and human rights, including occupational standards and healthcare.

A great deal of research relating to health and trafficking to date has focused on people who have been trafficked for sexual labour.  Further, much of the public dialogue surrounding trafficking has equated sex work with trafficking – this idea has frequently led to legal, social and health policy that actually creates more dangerous and repressive conditions for sex workers, rather than supporting their access to health, safety and justice.  Dr. Goldenberg emphasized that the conflation of sex work and trafficking for sexual labour is a disservice to both sex workers and people who have been trafficked.  There are many reasons why people may be trafficked into various industries, including fishing, factory work, and  sexual labour - by limiting the conversation about trafficking to those trafficked for sexual labour, we are also limiting our knowledge about the impacts and nuances of trafficking in other sectors.

Locally and globally, it is crucial that emerging research and programming focussing on trafficking, migration and labour consider the diversity of this population.  Equating trafficking with sex work or migration has negative impacts on the safety and working conditions of sex workers, and silences the public conversation with respect to the health impacts that arise from trafficking and the precarious status migrant workers often face.

Click here to link to the full commentary.

Related GSHI publications:

Goldenberg SM, Chettiar J, Nguyen P, Dobrer S, Montaner J, Shannon K. (2014). Complexities of Short-Term Mobility for Sex Work and Migration among Sex Workers: Violence and Sexual Risks, Barriers to Care, and Enhanced Social and Economic Opportunities. J Urban Health 91(4): 736-751.

Goldenberg SM, Liu V, Nguyen P, Chettiar J, Shannon K.  (2015). International migration from non-endemic settings as a protective factor for HIV/STI risk among female sex workers in Vancouver, Canada. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health 17(1): 21-28.