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The Migrant Sex Workers Justice Forum in Toronto: Important Framework Shifts

Our colleagues from Toronto developed some necessary framework shifts in talking about exploitation of migrant sex workers, based on the document from the USA about Reconceptualizing Approaches to Human Trafficking. Through the outreach work with migrant workers in Toronto, and decade of dedication to sex worker organizing in Hong Kong - here are some necessary framework shifts in talking about exploitation of migrant sex workers, that can be used when working with media.

1. Migrant sex work is not the same as human trafficking. Not all migrants are trafficked. Not all who have been trafficked are sex workers. There are many farm workers, domestic workers, restaurant workers, nail salon workers, day laborers, sex workers, and other immigrants who face exploitation in their jobs. Criminalization only increases exploitation and risk of violence.

2. Labor rights are a better framework for organizing against exploitation of migrants than policing and law enforcement. The current framework of understanding human trafficking as organized crime, and using anti-trafficking funding to fund police and immigration enforcement is harmful to migrants, and creates the conditions by which workers become harder to reach and traffickers become necessary agents in facilitating and enforcing business transactions, when police can not be trusted to guarantee the right to work and trade safely.

3. Community organizing is happening now to amplify the silenced voice of migrant sex workers whose stories have been appropriated to perform to the motives of state power to regulate and survey migrants, and religious power to control sexuality. You can support this organizing towards a shift in the mainstream narrative of human trafficking through helping to debunk myths, campaigning against harmful policies, joining in our skills-sharing and capacity-building for migrant sex worker outreach.

Amazed by Elene's Lam of Butterfly (an Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network) dedication in her outreach work with migrant sex workers - facilitating a space for self-representation, and bringing together two movements with different vocabularies.

From the Document about Reconceptualizing Approaches to Human Trafficking:

"There is a growing consensus among advocates that current U.S. anti-trafficking policies and practices that focus on law enforcement and anti-prostitution efforts detrimentally impact the rights of trafficked persons. Advocates increasingly witness a prosecutorial approach to trafficking narrowly focused on criminalizing prostitution as a purported means to stop trafficking. Meanwhile, enforcement agencies largely neglect the broader phenomenon of trafficking into agriculture, domestic service, restaurants, hotels, manufacturing, and construction. This article discusses the local and global consequences of the United States government approach toward human trafficking. This article also evaluates U.S. policies and practices across multiple sectors that relate to human trafficking including prostitution, labor migration, and sexual and reproductive health rights. By providing an overview of current issues, problems, and concerns within the anti-trafficking movement and within related rights-based movements, this article seeks to facilitate the development of a new anti-trafficking paradigm. This paradigm evaluates trafficking within a broader framework and provides the foundation for a cross-sectoral alliance to challenge mainstream approaches to human trafficking and to create new strategies to protect the rights of trafficked persons, migrant workers, and women against the negative impact of United States policies and practices."

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