Free Human Trafficking Essays On Poverty

1. Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to discuss human trafficking within the broader framework of inequality. Inequality and inequity between and among societies has always been part of human civilization. In the earliest of civilizations, the wealthy engaged in oppressive acts, such as the ownership of slaves, due to the powers that their wealth allotted them. As Sibley and Liu [1] stated, social inequality stems from an ever-present set of beliefs created by the political elites in order to maintain their own power and control over the poor and powerless. Political elites and wealthy members of society initially crafted social inequality in order to maintain their own power and wealth, while simultaneously creating social structures that eliminated the possibility of upward mobility for lower classes. This view is corroborated by social dominance theorists who suggest that social inequality exists due to the set of beliefs developed and maintained by social hierarchical class [2]. In other words, the aspiration of the wealthy and powerful to maintain their control offers a simple and clear cause to the perpetual existence of social inequality.

As such, social inequality greatly impacts economic, social, and political domains and the relationships of those domains at the individual, local, and global levels. The effects of social inequality on an individual may lead to negative outcomes, such as violence, victimization, mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, and disease [3]. Individuals who experience social inequality also tend to lack in social capital. Rivello and Weaver [4] found that there is a strong relationship between low social capital and high mortality rates. In neighborhoods and localities where social inequality presides, mortality rates rise due to the presence of violence. In the United States, Wright and Fagan [5] found a strong relationship between disadvantaged neighborhoods and youth violence and child abuse. They suggested that disadvantaged neighborhoods produce a cycle of violence. The cycle of violence may lead to substance abuse, mental illness, crime, school dropout, poor health outcomes, and higher mortality rates [5]. As social inequality increases on a global level, poverty and inequity also increase. For example, as Fosu [6] found in a sample of World Bank data from 1980 to 2004, increases in measurements of inequality by Gini coefficients corresponded to high rates of poverty. For example, Sub-Saharan Africa has, by headcount, a high concentration of persons living at the one-dollar-per-day level, 42.80. Similarly the measure of inequality, by Gini coefficient, in Sub-Saharan Africa is comparable, at 45.82 [6] (p. 1438). While average poverty levels are low (i.e., mean headcount ratio, 10.81) in Latin America and the Caribbean, the upper end of the poverty level by headcount ratio (52.90) is consonant with high income inequality in the region (mean Gini coefficient, 51.84) [6] (p. 1438).

Thus, Fosu [6] concluded, “the evidence involves the tendency of rising inequality to increase poverty.” Globally, these inequities result in the increasing socio-economic gap between developing and industrialized nations in this era of globalization. The increased global disparity can be found throughout economic, social, and political domains; it manifests as inadequate healthcare, poor standards of living, and the maintenance of a stratified class system [7]. Apart from poverty, perhaps one of the most serious contemporary effects of inequalities between and within nations is the phenomena of global sex trade or human trafficking for the purposes of sex [8]. From this formative linkage between inequality and human trafficking, the current paper provides an extensive discussion of inequality and concludes with ways of combating trafficking through the reduction of social and economic inequality.

2. Understanding Social Inequality

Social inequality is a multi-faceted reality present within every region and nation in the world. The more known forms of inequality are those between richer and poorer countries, developing and developed nations, or the global south and the global north. To better understand social inequality, a comprehensive approach that utilizes the fields of political science, social science, and the humanities is required [9]. These disciplines, along with an understanding of structural functionalism provide a framework for understanding the power struggles so inherent to social inequality [10]. Flowing from conflict theories, social inequality is defined as the social, financial, and political power struggle between those who hold power and those who do not. Collier [11] refers to this power struggle within the global south as “the conflict trap” where rebellion, political strife, military regimes, civil war, and short-lived governments are indicative of social inequality.

The United Nations [12] further operationalized social inequality into six explicit categories: (1) inequalities in the distribution of income, (2) inequalities in the distribution of assets, (3) inequalities in the distribution of employment, (4) inequalities in access to knowledge, (5) political inequalities, and (6) inequalities in access to medical services, social security, and safety. In sum, lack of income for individuals and governments indicates social inequality and motivates other aspects of social inequality. These types of inequalities have debilitating consequences at household as well as individual levels. Clearly, these dimensions of inequality are better understood as integrated and overlapping and not as independent entities.

Some would argue that the social inequality gap has increased due to the globalization of the world. For example, Oatley [13] suggested that globalization has increased the inequality gap by simultaneously enhancing wealth for the rich and increasing poverty for the poor. It has transformed social inequality from the nation state realm into an international problem. Globalization is seen to create a class structure amongst nations that perpetuates and enhances social inequality for those nation states that are currently classified as developing [9]. “Developing nations” depend on “developed nations” for trade, financial assistance, political stability, and protections which perpetuate inequality and inequity [9]. The global south suffers from violence, political strife, and high mortality rates due to this uneven distribution of wealth [11] and is basically seen as a producer of raw materials that are cheaply sold to the global north where they are processed and re-sold at higher profit margins. As Immanuel Wallerstein [14] has theorized, “developed” or “core” nations rely upon “developing” or “peripheral” nations to maintain a financially advantageous, if inequitable, interrelationship.

Economic globalization and trade relations amongst the nations have therefore enhanced the disparity of wealth. Savoia and colleagues [15] attributed the disparity of wealth to a lack of market economy institutions amongst the nations in the global south. They noted that countries possessing stable market economy institutions experience prosperity, while those that do not experience this stability had increased poverty [15]. As economic imbalance between developed countries and developing countries continue, a significant disparity throughout all regions of the world persists because developing countries have not been allowed to catch up. For example, Mexico, considered a developing country, continues to struggle economically even though it maintains membership in the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). However, Ferrier [16] found only slight economic growth for Mexico since it joined NAFTA. Moreover, this disparity often drives “peripheral” nations to seek out opportunities for wealth creation outside the established inequitable or exploitative interrelationship with “core” nations [14,17]. These may involve the evolution of profitable, but illegal activities that exploit “black market” economies both between “core” and “peripheral” nations, and within the “peripheral” nations themselves, including phenomena such as illegal trade, war profiteering, and human trafficking. As Rahman [17] suggested, “as we continue to enjoy the global economic system, human traffickers have been practically ignored culminating in [an] enormous chunk of wealth accrued through illegal business practices” leading to devastating consequences on individuals and families.

3. The Global Slave Trade and Human Trafficking Around the World

“Trafficking in persons” and “human trafficking” have been used interchangeably and described as the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion [18]. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 (Pub. L. 106-386) and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children or the Palermo Protocol describes trafficking using a number of different terms, including involuntary servitude, slavery or practices similar to slavery, debt bondage, and forced labor. Essential to the definition of human trafficking is that it can include but does not require movement [18]. People may be considered victims of trafficking regardless of whether they were born into a state of servitude, transported to the exploitative situation, previously consented to work for a trafficker, or participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked. The United Nations, under the PalermoProtocol, adopted the following global definition for human trafficking:

Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, or deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal or organs.


Based on its established relationship to poverty and violence, and its exploitative, profiteering nature, human trafficking has become the most prevalent manifestation of contemporary slavery in the world today. Slavery has been defined as the permanent, violent domination of discrimination against persons [20]. There is agreement among scholars and legislators that violence or the threat of violence for the control of another person is the central element of slavery. This broadens the definition to include both historical and contemporary slavery where people are forced to work through violence for no compensation. As Androff [20] noted, a significant difference between contemporary and historical slavery is that “only recently has the problem of contemporary slavery received attention from social scientists, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and in the [scholarly] literature”.

Contemporary slavery violates universal human rights according to Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 8 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These articles prohibit slavery, forced labor, servitude and the slave trade. Article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights articulates the right to just and favorable work conditions, including fair remuneration, and safe and healthy working conditions [20]. The proliferation of contemporary slavery, despite legal sanctions against it, points to a greater need for global awareness, prevention, intervention, and advocacy [17,20,21]

Modern slavery can be overt in many instances but accurate and reliable data are difficult to come by [22]. Tactics to keep the industry hidden are vast, and victims may not even identify that they are such due to the nature of their entrapment [23]. For example, families in developing countries who are economically disadvantaged are lured by the promise of income to better the whole if they sacrifice a part of the family with a child [22]. In many West African countries, young women from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are lured under the same premise of making enough money to support their families [24]. They are entrapped by being told that they are supposedly going to another geographical location to work a job as a waitress, hotel maid, or other comparable job [22,24]. Family, friends, and colleagues accept the offers unquestionably in earnest, hoping for funds that are desperately needed [23].

Poverty makes women across a variety of countries vulnerable to the modern-day sex slave trade. For example, in Albania, young women are enticed with seemingly promising offers of employment as nannies or in restaurants and are trafficked to Italy or Greece to be sold into prostitution and domestic servitude [25]. Bulgarian women reported being emotionally manipulated by being groomed by a man who courts them until they are willing to follow him anywhere [26]. A recent and disturbing trend in the United Kingdom is for traffickers to prey on underage runaway women who are consequently enslaved in the sex trade [27]. Runaways are offered luxuries in material and emotional support never experienced in their homes [28]. A person pretending to be a significant other exploits them later to their “friends” and the runaway girl becomes entrapped in slavery [28]. A case study in the United States revealed that a resident Mexican-American family led a trafficking operation using illegal Mexican natives as their victims [29]. Victims were told they would make money through working at a family-owned restaurant and working on farms in the United States, only to be told they had to work off the transportation fee after arriving at their destination [29]. Yet another disturbing trend in trafficking industry is the training of victims as future perpetrators. Nigerian women who were trafficked into Netherlands as domestic servants are trained to recruit girls from back in Nigeria to be victimized as sex slaves [30].

Trafficking is a global issue not concentrated to a particular region or continent [18], as indicated by the range of countries discussed above. Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, and Moldova are the main sources of trafficking victims within the European Union [25,26]. According to Hughes [31], evidence gathered from reports compiled by non-governmental organizations in the former Soviet Union showed that Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus had the highest number of women recruited to so-called marriage agencies that sell out women for exploitation [31]. Those countries were followed by Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Uzbekistan [30]. Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal are source, transit, and destination countries for trafficked women and children in West Africa [32]. The trafficking of young children from rural areas to small cities has risen especially in Mali, Benin, Burkina Faso, Togo, and Ghana to the Ivory Coast’s commercial farms [32]. Ugandan girls are lured to the Gulf States with the promise of a job only to be sold into prostitution [32]. South Africa is a regional hub for international trafficking, serving as a source and destination for trafficking; typically receiving women from Thailand, China and Eastern Europe in addition to African nations [32]. Periods of political instability and conflict in countries like Cambodia and Burma provided trafficking perpetrators an opportunity to expand the crime and their profits [33]. The networks that traffic and smuggle people through the Golden Triangle (Burma, Thailand, and Laos) are also linked to trafficking in weapons and illicit drugs [33].

Human trafficking operations are not limited to peripheral or developing parts of the world, but also form a large part of the black market in developed or “core” nations. Trafficking and other criminal activities in Japan are often hidden from scrutiny by officials due to legally obtained “entertainment visas” [34]. Destination and source countries for victims in Asia are Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Myanmar, and Vietnam. Pakistan and North Korea also source a large number of victims in Asia [34]. In the United States, victims are trafficked from other countries as a destination location; with large numbers of victims from Vietnam, Russia, Romania, and Mexico [18]. It is also important to note that there are a large number of victims from the United States that are trafficked domestically [30]. The United Kingdom, France, and Spain are also destination locations for trafficking victims, particularly in the sex and domestic servitude industries [26,31,32]. As these examples show, efforts at raising public awareness, policing, and service provision quickly take on global proportions, and necessitate both international and intra-national efforts.

4. Combating Trafficking through Capacity Building

Within the last decade, ending human trafficking has been a new political initiative for governments worldwide [35]. The United Nations enacted the Palermo Protocol in 2003 with 117 signatory countries [21,36]. The treaty explicitly defines human trafficking, outlines that the perpetrators should be punishable by law, and states that victims should be protected from prosecution for any crimes committed while enslaved [21]. Inspired by the United Nations convention, the 28 countries belonging to the European Union recognized the need for new and explicit policy dealing with human trafficking in 2003 [36]. Similarly, the United States introduced legislation to create a new office dedicated solely to trafficking in persons in 2001, complete with new policies criminalizing modern slavery and providing resources for victims [20]. Thus far, other continental unions have not passed policies specifically noting how the signatory countries would deal with cross-border human trafficking issues [35]. However, if a country is a signatory to the United Nations treaty, it is bound by the laws set in the treaty [36,37].

The authors sought to identify or make contact with organizations and programs currently conducting anti-slavery and trafficking prevention and intervention efforts that addressed issues of poverty and social inequality. Table 1 presents the results of that research, listing reputable international and domestic agencies committed to ending modern slavery through attention to issues of social inequality and financial insecurity. For the purposes of this paper, reputation of the organization is operationalized to indicate active service provision, charitable or not-for-profit status, participation in both intra- and international coalitions or collaborative efforts, and an active connection with other NGO or governmental bodies with a mandate to enforce anti-trafficking laws and policies.

Table 1. International anti-slavery and human trafficking programs, alphabetical by country or geographic region.

Country or RegionOrganizationServicesWebsite
Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific IslandsProject RespectOutreach services, emergency accommodation, support groups, prevention services, intensive case management[38]
BelgiumSamila FoundationPrevention services, outreach services[39]
CambodiaRapha HouseSafe house, rehabilitation and reintegration programs

1. Introduction

Human trafficking is a social phenomenon that has existed for centuries, but it has only recently come to the forefront of social, political and media attention. “Trafficking” may be defined as an illegal method of recruitment and/or transportation of people through the use of force and/or coercion, which will lead to their exploitation [1]. This definition encapsulates a broad spectrum of experience ranging from, for example, women being forced to sell sex when they were told they would be given work as waitresses, to men working as agricultural labourers who are paid less than their daily living expenses, to children forced to work as domestic servants. These are just three examples of the meaning of human trafficking, and it is important to note that they do not exist in isolation, as abuse usually takes place in multiple forms. Individuals initially hired for domestic work explain that later, their traffickers sometimes decided to sell them for sexual services to make more money or to sexually abuse them within their own homes [2].

The visibility of trafficking has come about because of the feminisation of the image of the “victims” of trafficking and the media focus on sexual exploitation. To date, non-governmental organisation (NGO)-based research into trafficking for sexual exploitation of adult women has focused on three main objectives: awareness raising [3,4,5,6,7,8], highlighting individual governments’ neglect of the issue [9,10,11,12] or quantifying the routes and experiences of women [13,14,15,16]. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has contributed international figures and data analysis (e.g., [17]), which provide evidence about this global social problem.

Greater awareness throughout the world about human trafficking has, subsequently, awakened global political concern about this serious crime. In the United States, the Department of State created the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), in order to penalise those countries who they felt did not respond to the crime of human trafficking appropriately [18]. Critics of the TIP report suggest that it is an exercise that the United States has undergone in order to list its political “friends” and to alienate those who will not co-operate with its political agenda beyond the issue of human trafficking [19,20,21,22]. However, when Israel was defined as a Tier 3 country (in 2001), NGOs used this to demonstrate to the Israeli government that there was a global perception that the State of Israel was not concerned about women’s rights [23]. The Israeli government has resolved that, in order to better recognise women’s rights, in terms of trafficking for sexual exploitation, it would take the necessary steps to improve Israel’s reputation, so that it would be recognised in the “American TIP Report for 2005 among the group of states that act to eradicate the trafficking in women, and the rehabilitation of its victims” [24]. Note the use of the term “victims” in this statement. However, Chaikin argues for a more practical explanation of the Israeli change in policy [25]. She suggests it was only when the U.S. government suggested that, “no support payments would be paid to Israel, unless Israel takes concrete steps to address the problem” that Israel began to make changes [25]. The TIP report explains that through financial penalisation, these countries will be penalised until the “correct” response to trafficking should be made. Those nations who do not comply with the American model are then implicitly cast as corrupt, ineffectual or complicit with organised crime in their respective states.

Although trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is clearly a form of gender-based violence, it has not been theoretically analysed to the same extent that other forms of gender-based violence, such as rape during warfare, have been [26,27,28,29,30]. Attempts have rarely been made by scholars to conceptualise the context in which trafficking emerges beyond a supply and demand model or to interrogate the inherent social inequalities that create the social conditions that create the foundation of human trafficking. As Richardson et al. [31] have noted, “many aspects of sexual trafficking remain poorly understood, even though it is now a priority issue for many governments”. Similarly, Kelly [32] has argued that research “needs to move beyond simply establishing that there is a problem, and more attention needs to be paid to more nuanced studies of the organization of trafficking, its impacts on individuals, gender relations and communities”.

With these concerns in mind, this article aims to serve a dual purpose. First, it will examine the social inequalities that contribute to human trafficking. Second, it will discuss the feminisation of poverty and migration and how these social variables contribute to the pervasive narrative of the “victim” of trafficking. This article will argue that a simplistic reading of trafficking as the forced movement of women against their consent is incomplete, and it ignores the complex reasons why many women seek to begin the process of obtaining employment that eventually ends up becoming a form of human trafficking. While the data presented here act as a snap-shot in time, the narratives weave a story that link the past, present and future, and it constructs an image of each woman as a complex figure, whose life has been systematically impacted by her experience of poverty.

2. Methods and Context

The primary data for this article is comprised of 12 letters, which were written as part of a visa application for the Right to Remain for one year in Israel, by women who had been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation from several post-Soviet countries to Israel. 1 At the time this research was conducted, the Right to Remain visa was the only option available to women who had been working illegally in Israel, who wanted to remain in the country and who did not want to “return” to their country of origin. The Right to Remain visa applications contain a section that is open ended, inviting the individual to tell her story and to write about her life experience. These “letters” were written without the aid of support workers in order to ensure that the letters were not biased, as previous applications had been denied, because they sounded like they had been influenced by support workers. [23]. The women who wrote these letters gave their permission to the NGO that they were working with to use these letters as research data. The NGO collaborated with the author to complete this research when the individual women who wrote the letters were not available for consultation. The 12 letters were written by the 12 women that the NGO was supporting at that time and who had consented to having their letters analysed. The letters vary in length from between 300 and 2000 words, and the majority of the letters are around 1000 words. The remainder of the application form, which includes demographic information about each woman, was not supplied in order to protect the identities of each woman.

The translation of the letters from Russian and Ukrainian to English was conducted by two translators, 2 who worked separately, though 3 of the letters were translated by both of them. Both of the translators worked closely with the author, who entered into discussions with the translators at various points, where clarification about some material or a more detailed interpretation of the letter needed to be made. A thematic analysis of these applications was carried out highlighting the themes and issues that were used to critically evaluate the debates that surround the problem of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. In addition, several interviews were conducted with 3 NGO employees, who worked for 3 different NGOs (one Israeli, 2 based in the United Kingdom), who support women who had been trafficked. In order to contest the silencing of women’s voices when they are deemed “victims”, this article focuses on the words of the women who wrote the Right to Remain letters and represents them not only as “women who have been trafficked”, but in their multiple interpellations as migrant workers, family members, individuals who have hopes and aspirations, women who have acted with agency, as well as women who are survivors of sexual violence, commodification and exploitation. The Right to Remain letters form part of the analysis, as it questions the way the authors of the letters portray their lives and their experiences, while keeping their goal, which is the Right to Remain in Israel, in mind.

The Law of Return (established in 1950) allows Jewish immigrants to settle in Israel, thus, “during the 1980s, the overwhelming majority of immigrants to Israel (101,000 between 1979 and 1983) arrived from Eastern European countries, predominantly from the Soviet Union” [33]. This first major wave of migration from the former Soviet Union (fSU) set a pattern of chain migration from the fSU to Israel [33,34]. After 1989, more Soviet Jews immigrated to Israel, “resulting in 800,000 new immigrants to Israel” [35]. According to Hughes and Denisova, “Russian and Ukrainian traffickers used this cover to bring 10,000 women into Israel for the sex industry”, which “has since the 1980s, grown into a US$450 million a year industry, which is dependent on trafficked women from Eastern Europe” [35]. Israel, like the United Kingdom, is primarily a destination country for human trafficking [36]. The UNODC [37] rates the incidence of trafficking to Israel as “very high”, whereas the United Kingdom is in the next category, classified as “high”, although these definitions are not quantified.

The focus of the Israeli Parliament [24] report into the extent of trafficking in Israel makes it clear that most of the women trafficked to Israel in the 1990s and 2000s are from the fSU [25]. A great deal of the provision of care for these women is recommended to be in Russian in order to aid their comprehension of the services that are available to them [24]. However, this acknowledgement of trafficking from the fSU has been detrimental to women from other countries who have also been trafficked, but not recognised as such, and who are then denied the right to apply for the Right to Remain, which is a temporary one-year visa in the first instance [38]. This means that the image, however accurate, of who gets trafficked into Israel has already been shaped by the services that have been provided.

Prior to 2000, the UN Human Rights Committee reported “women brought to Israel for the purposes of prostitution…are not protected as victims of trafficking but are likely to bear the penalties of their illegal presence in Israel by deportation” [10]. They follow this with the announcement that “in March 2000, the Knesset Committee passed the Equality of Women Law, which states that every woman is entitled to protection from violence, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and trafficking in her person” [10]. However, their conclusion is that “both the government and the traffickers are treating these women as if they do not have human rights” [10]. Media appeals have focused on the slavery aspects of trafficking with a reminder to the Jewish majority that “once we were slaves”, too [39]. However, the issue is often understood as an immigration issue with the focus on the trafficked women’s and traffickers’ nationalities, ignoring the question of who is buying sexual services [40]. The Knesset Committee [24] commissioned its own report on trafficking, which that reported public knowledge of trafficking was gleaned “primarily from reports in the media that were frequently accompanied by photographs of half-naked women and girls”, and it was perceived that the “issue concerned foreign, Russian women, who had arrived in Israel with the purpose of engaging in prostitution, and it was therefore justifiable to ignore the phenomenon”. The report surveyed public attitudes on trafficking, “especially among men… [there was] a forgiving attitude towards the customers of the trafficked women” [24]. This contrasts with the U.K.’s new legislation placing the focus of blame on the men who buy sex (Crime and Policing Bill, 2008). Israel’s first specifically anti-trafficking law was passed in 2006 to outlaw human trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation.

3. The Feminisation of Migration and Poverty

We are living in the “age of migration” according to Castles and Miller [41]. Certainly, transport links are ever increasing, and human movement is documented through ever more rigorous systems, making it all the more visible. However, we are also living in the age of “securitization of migration” with “strong” states increasing security, surveillance and increasingly militarising borders [42]. In recent years, the term “feminization of migration” has been asserted (also used by Castles and Miller [41]). The term is misleading insofar as it suggests an absolute increase in the proportion of women migrants, when, in fact, it is argued that by 1960, women already made up nearly 47% of all international migrants, a percentage that increased by only two points during the next four decades, to about 49% in 2002 [43]. Although a net feminisation of flows has occurred in certain regions, what has really changed in the last few decades is the fact that more women are migrating independently in search of jobs, rather than as “family dependants” travelling with their husbands/partners or joining them abroad [44]. Certain pathways are being travelled nearly exclusively by women who are migrating alone for work.

In addition to this change in the pattern of female migration, the other significant change taking place concerns the level of awareness on the part of migration scholars and policy-makers as to the significance of female migration and the role of gender in shaping migratory processes and, most importantly, the increasingly important role of women as remittance senders [45]. The feminisation of poverty is closely aligned with the feminisation of migration. Women’s increasing presence in the workforce and the increasing diversity of family units in which females are the main or only financial provider in a family have meant that women’s responsibility to generate an income is increasingly visible. It was the increase of income poverty in female-headed households that Pearce [46] described as “the feminization of poverty”, coining a phrase that became popular in development studies in the 1980s and later being utilised in the United Nations’ Beijing Platform for Action [47]. The term has been instrumental in providing a language with which to explore the gender-based division of paid and unpaid labour and the existence of dual labour markets. It is not without its critics, however, and even those who use the term recognise that it can lack the detail and specificity needed to make it useful to achieve change [47]. Sassen [45] links the feminisation of poverty and the feminisation of migration through her theory of the “feminization of survival”; where inter-country and cross border migration activities are “revenue-making circuits developed on the backs of the truly disadvantaged” and “households and whole communities are increasingly dependent on women for their survival” [45]. It appears that, while there has been an increase in state and family reliance upon remittances, it has often not been coupled with increased support for female migrant workers. Despite data indicating the increase of female migration in some areas, for example to and from Southern Europe [48], Agustín [49] argues that the idea of the feminisation of migration is itself the product of a 20th-century gender stereotyping that consisted of ignoring women’s movements, while reinforcing the myth of the tough, lone male migrant. When female migration is visible, it is often in sexualised or exploited scenarios, like trafficking, which reinforce messages about the vulnerability of female migrants. The construction of “migration” in itself is a distinction based upon class, “race” and ethnicity. Even the terminology of the debate misrepresents the actual movement of people when “the word ‘migrant’ tends to be used to signify non-European” [50]. To avoid misrepresentations of the individual’s experiences, any study of migration “must also pay attention to the ‘difference’ of social positioning in terms of migration, racialization and class subordination…the use of the gender category must avoid homogenizing women’s experiences and practices and must be undertaken in relation to how gender intersects with other social divisions, such as ethnicity, ‘race’ and class” [48].

As Yuval-Davis [42] argues, globalisation has had a two-fold effect on the lives of women. For some, it has meant new opportunities, roles and access to alternative spaces not previously permitted to them, yet, in turn, it has also created “new kinds of conservatism”, where claims to “authentic culture” restrict women into certain “traditional roles”. The disproportionate effect of economic restructuring on women, combined with increased demand in receiving countries for domestic workers, care workers, sex workers or semi-skilled jobs that require “nimble fingers” and a willingness to work informally or for proportionally low wages, has meant that there has been an increase in the opportunities for female economic migrants, albeit often in specifically gendered and often low paid roles [44,51,52,53].

Migration can also be understood as resistance and transgression, if women are utilising it to “escape from oppressive or violent environments, to transcend traditional sex-role constraints and to create a ‘better life’ for themselves” [44]. Conversely, women may leave their natal homes to migrate to work only to send remittances home and live as part of social networks that continue to regulate their behaviour [54]. However, there are those in the “kinetic elite” [55] for whom mobility is relatively easy, routine and potentially mundane, where national borders are crossed without difficulty [56]. For others, especially undocumented migrant workers, their experiences of migration can be “profoundly marked” by their journeys, their “trajectories fraught with dislocation and the traversing of borders” [57]. Thus, within the feminisation of migration, there is a “plurality of migrants” passages [57]. Often, the term “mobility” reflects the movement of people and goods in a clearer way than migration, which suggests a simple movement from Region A to Region B without indicating the complexity of flows and exchanges that take place.

4. Undocumented Migration

The relationship between undocumented migrants and borders is always precarious, “resulting from the constant conflict between state efforts to control mobility and people’s desire to inhabit the possibilities opened up by globalization” [58]. For many, globalisation has meant an increased awareness of capitalism and consumption, but this has not been combined with the means to attain the economic ability to consume, and often, in this situation, borders are felt ever more acutely. Massey et al. [59] argue that the imbalance created by the number of people wishing to migrate in comparison to the limited visas and permits available creates “a lucrative economic niche for entrepreneurs and institutions dedicated to promoting international movement for profit, yielding a black market in migration”.

McNevin [60] argues for a reconstruction of the notion of “belonging” to create an alternative conception of migration and illegality, one that moves away from territorial boundaries and reflects the movement of people throughout history. One of the great ironies of “illegal migration” is that many people migrate along pre-existing pathways where others from their country have gone before. These pathways can be created historically by colonial influence and the moving of people to provide services to those European countries who chose to exert influence over other countries. Yet, now, when individuals try to migrate along these historical pathways, they are deemed criminal, and the same countries attempt to keep them out.

Anthias [61] emphasises how the feminisation of poverty and migration is not the final answer to the complexity of women’s experience of transnational movement. The networks and flows of trafficking pathways to the U.K. demonstrate this. The 1990s saw women coming from the former Yugoslavia to Western Europe; the early 2000s were characterised by women from post-Soviet countries being trafficked to Western Europe. Yet, the late 2000s and early 2010s have seen a change in trafficking flows. In-country grooming and the movement of young women has been highlighted in the U.K., though it may be argued that this issue was always present, but rarely discussed. Women are being brought regularly to Western Europe from West Africa and South East Asia.

Countries that were once “sending” countries, in that the individuals who were being trafficked were leaving those countries, have now become “receiving” countries, with Thailand now experiencing trafficking of women from Burma into Thailand. Historically, Thailand was a “sending” country; however, it has now become a “receiving” country, because its economic status has changed in contrast to those countries surrounding it. Social and economic structures of a society may expedite and create barriers to the flows of people [62]. Thus, the demand for cheap labour and cheap sex workers creates a demand and a profit margin that become worth investigating in the eyes of the traffickers.

5. Return and the “Victims” of Trafficking

The idea of a female “victim” of trafficking who is in need of “rescue” and “return” is a pervasive image that is often conjured up and negates scholarly attempts to establish a more nuanced understanding of the complexities of trafficking [21,63,64

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