9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN33 Women's and Gender Studies

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Trafficking and Gender Building II, C4.02

Responses to Trafficking: law enforcement and women's state agencies in two port-cities

The trafficking of women for the purpose of sexual exploitation is a central social problem facing most societies. As a complex phenomenon, women's trafficking has been researched in several ways: victimization; legal and policy frameworks (national, European, and international law); baseline statistics; recruitment and migration patterns (countries that are mostly importers, exporters, and both); and responses to trafficking by various agencies (NGO's, police forces, women's state agencies). Our paper focuses on current legislative and law enforcement responses to the traffic of women in two major cities: Lisbon and Los Angeles. While the traffic in women is anchored in global migration and global economies, it is national, state, and local agencies that are responsible for responding to trafficking. Based on interviews with key actors in local policing agencies as well as content analysis of legislative documents, we draw a comparison between how the police force in two major port-cities deals with victims and perpetrators of trafficking including how they construct meanings regarding victimization and criminalization and how they attend to the human and citizenship rights of those involved in trafficking. In addition to police forces, our research also focuses on women's state agencies and their responses to trafficking, since these agencies have a mediating role in dealing with state and local governments, law enforcement agencies, women's movements, and women's NGO's. Examples of these agencies are the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality (Portugal) and Interagency Council of Women (United States). In this paper we argue that law enforcement and women's state agencies are two essential components for understanding how issues of racial and gender inequality are embedded in the perception and treatment of those involved in trafficking.