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Open AccessArticle

Community-Based Responses to Negative Health Impacts of Sexual Humanitarian Anti-Trafficking Policies and the Criminalization of Sex Work and Migration in the US

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Department of Criminology and Sociology, Kingston University, London KT1 1LQ, UK
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Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, New York, NY 10019, USA
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Department of Science, Berkeley College, New York, NY 10017, USA
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Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA 02481, USA
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Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney, New South Wales, Sydney, Ultimo NSW 2007, Australia
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Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
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Department of Sociology, LAMES, Aix-Marseille University, 13007 Marseille, France
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9010001
Received: 1 October 2019 / Revised: 4 December 2019 / Accepted: 12 December 2019 / Published: 23 December 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sex Work, Gender Justice, and the Law)
System-involvement resulting from anti-trafficking interventions and the criminalization of sex work and migration results in negative health impacts on sex workers, migrants, and people with trafficking experiences. Due to their stigmatized status, sex workers and people with trafficking experiences often struggle to access affordable, unbiased, and supportive health care. This paper will use thematic analysis of qualitative data from in-depth interviews and ethnographic fieldwork with 50 migrant sex workers and trafficked persons, as well as 20 key informants from legal and social services, in New York and Los Angeles. It will highlight the work of trans-specific and sex worker–led initiatives that are internally addressing gaps in health care and the negative health consequences that result from sexual humanitarian anti-trafficking interventions that include policing, arrest, court-involvement, court-mandated social services, incarceration, and immigration detention. Our analysis focuses on the impact of criminalization on sex workers and their experiences with sexual humanitarian efforts intended to protect and control them. We argue that these grassroots community-based efforts are a survival-oriented reaction to the harms of criminalization and a response to vulnerabilities left unattended by mainstream sexual humanitarian approaches to protection and service provision that frame sex work itself as the problem. Peer-to-peer interventions such as these create solidarity and resiliency within marginalized communities, which act as protective buffers against institutionalized systemic violence and the resulting negative health outcomes. Our results suggest that broader public health support and funding for community-led health initiatives are needed to reduce barriers to health care resulting from stigma, criminalization, and ineffective anti-trafficking and humanitarian efforts. We conclude that the decriminalization of sex work and the reform of institutional practices in the US are urgently needed to reduce the overall negative health outcomes of system-involvement. View Full-Text
Keywords: sex work; anti-trafficking; health; stigma; community responses; sexual humanitarianism; migration; transgender sex work; anti-trafficking; health; stigma; community responses; sexual humanitarianism; migration; transgender
MDPI and ACS Style

Hoefinger, H.; Musto, J.; Macioti, P.G.; Fehrenbacher, A.E.; Mai, N.; Bennachie, C.; Giametta, C. Community-Based Responses to Negative Health Impacts of Sexual Humanitarian Anti-Trafficking Policies and the Criminalization of Sex Work and Migration in the US. Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 1.

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