Contemplating “Rescue”

Our February 2nd, 2012 event Beyond Rescue: Critical Approaches to Human Trafficking in Asian and Migrant Communities was an incisive investigation into the complexities of the human trafficking framework.

For those who were unable to attend, here are a few of the points of discussion.

Panelists put human trafficking into the larger context of global movements of people through immigration and emigration. There are many push factors, which include the conflicts and wars in which US militarization has played a key part. Family reunification is also often a key factor. Emigration for economic reasons is another factor in global movement, and these economic factors are also closely connected to the conflicts in which the US military is implicated. The structural economic inequalities inherent in international trade agreements, such as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), also cause some of the push and pull factors.

Panelists also deconstructed the stereotypes of human trafficking involving young women in the sex industry. Human trafficking in fact does not have a typical ‘face.’ It crosses different industries involving agricultural workers, food industry workers and domestic workers. It also crosses genders, nationalities and age groups.

The discussion around human trafficking also often assumes an Asian ‘victim.’ Panelists discussed significant historical traits in the continuation of this trope. The history of US military engagement in the Asia Pacific in which comfort women served the sexual ‘needs’ of US troops still color the discussion today. Orientalist stereotypes, with Asian women associated with a forbidden sexuality, also inform the trope. Patterns of immigration history and legislation also come to bear on today’s narratives. The US barred the entrance of women from particular Asian countries in the 1800s and 1900s, and human trafficking stereotypes are bolstered by these old fears of Asian women coming into the country.

To find out more, visit these websites:

Further Reading:

Trafficking and Prostitution Reconsidered: New Perspectives on Migration, Sex Work and Human Rights, ed. Kamala Kempadoo

Trafficking Women’s Human Rights by Julietta Hua (Assistant Professor, Women & Gender Studies, San Francisco State University)

Orientalism by Edward Said

A huge thanks to all our panelists:

Hediana Utarti, Asian Women’s Shelter

Ivy Lee, Esq. Former Lead Trafficking Attorney, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach

Hyun-mi Kim, Legal Caseworker, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach

Charlene Khoo, M.A. Candidate in Ethnic Studies, SFSU


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