Trafficking and the “Victim Industry” Complex

Bouklis, Paraskevi S. (2016). Trafficking and the “Victim Industry” Complex. In: Antonopoulos, Georgios A. ed. Illegal Entrepreneurship, Organized Crime and Social Control Essays in Honor of Professor Dick Hobbs. Studies of Organized Crime (14). Springer, pp. 237–263.




The antithesis between a criminalization and a human rights approach in the context of transnational trafficking in women has been a highly contested issue. On the one hand, it is argued that a criminalization approach would be better because security and border control measures will be fortified. On the other hand, it is maintained that a human rights approach would bring more effective results, as this will mobilize a more holistic solution, bringing together prevention, prosecution, protection of victims, and partnerships for delivering gendered victims’ services. In the field of victims’ services, galloping US-influenced developments have mobilized victim-specific strategies and institutionalized a “victim industry” vocabulary: “reflection period,” “screening process,” “cooperation in exchange for protection,” “happy trafficking,” “renew boutique,” etc. Underlying the construction of this vocabulary is the evolving notion of a phantom threat posed by organized crime. This chapter reanimates Hobbs’ suggestion that, in postindustrial societies, market forces overwhelmingly shape agency. Extending this to “sex trafficking,” mediated through market engagement, this emerging victim industry is an exemplary case of domain expansion. Revisiting the claims made under the initial antithesis between criminalization and human rights, the recent metamorphosis of gendered victims’ services due to financialization, neoliberalization, and debt governance is explored.

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