Trafficking in Women:. The Costs of State Pressure
F FOREIGN ASSISTANCE combined with local and transnational feminist activism made the process of blaming and shaming more effective, perhaps more powerful intervention could be even more helpful in promoting global feminist change. In addition to the positive incentives of grants from large charitable foundations and international development agencies, strong states can employ more traditional diplomacy, directly pressing other states to change their policies and practices. Instead of simply training law enforcement and other state personnel, strong states can lobby parliaments and threaten economic sanctions or even military intervention, using the justification of global norms. Do these higher stakes interventions into local gender politics enhance the chances of domestic activism, increased public awareness, and meaningful reform? If so, why and how? Does reform reflect the hopes of global feminists?
The analysis of the politics of intervention into the issue of trafficking in women suggests that these negative incentives can be quite potent, fostering some reform. After years of diplomatic pressure from Western states and the passage of a U. N. protocol on trafficking, U. S. threats of economic sanctions finally induced Russia to adopt legislation criminalizing trafficking. This new legislation led to a limited number of high-profile prosecutions, but regrettably not any national initiatives to protect victims or prevent future trafficking. Activism and intervention fostered increased awareness of the problem among Russians, but mostly as a
nationalist reaction to foreign intervention. Perhaps helping a few women whose traffickers might be prosecuted, the intervention drew upon and reinforced sex/ gender hierarchies, leaving the larger problem of gender injustice untouched. These heavy-handed interventions were never imagined by global feminists and were made without substantial global feminist involvement.
As with the terminology for domestic violence, there is no unproblematic way to discuss trafficking in women. In this case, such terms as “trafficking in persons,” “sex trafficking,” “sex slavery,” and the like are laden with ideology. As I elaborate below, even the choice of terms to refer to those most likely to be trafficked, “prostitutes” or “sex workers,” is contested. To be as neutral as possible, but to highlight the gender-specificity of the inquiry, I alternate terms and refer to the issue as “trafficking in/of women” or simply “trafficking.” When discussing different groups’ or institutional perspectives, I use their terminology.
global controversies and state preemption