Anti-trafficking and the hyper-criminalization of sex workers
McGibbon, Jennifer Kathleen
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The anti-trafficking movement is experiencing a crisis of legitimacy, unable to produce arrests of traffickers in the numbers promised for the past decade. In this historical moment, a troubling phenomenon has emerged: anti-trafficking organizations have begun endorsing legislation so broad in scope that it enables the prosecution of consenting adult workers. The November 2014 expansion of Oakland’s Nuisance Eviction Ordinance to require landlords to evict suspected prostitutes and the 2013 formation of New York’s Human Trafficking Intervention Courts are symptomatic of this hyper-criminalization of adult workers in the sex industry. Both legal apparatuses: target poor women, trans women, women of color, and survival sex workers; conflate prostitution and trafficking with little to no regard for consent; and undermine sex workers’ agency. The objective of this research is to understand how the anti-trafficking movement has shaped this atmosphere of hyper-criminalization and what forms of resistance are most effective in fighting criminalization.