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Article

Framing the Mother Tac: The Racialised, Sexualised and Gendered Politics of Modern Slavery in Australia

1
Department of Criminology and Sociology, Kingston University, London KT1 2EE, UK
2
Department of Journalism, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, NSW 2007, Australia
3
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA
4
Department of Sociology, LAMES, Aix-Marseille University, 13007 Marseille, France
5
Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, New York, NY 10019, USA
6
Department of Science, Berkeley College, New York, NY 10017, USA
7
Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA 02481, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(11), 192; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9110192
Received: 1 September 2020 / Revised: 19 October 2020 / Accepted: 23 October 2020 / Published: 28 October 2020
Centred on the slavery trial “Crown vs. Rungnapha Kanbut” heard in Sydney, New South Wales, between 10 April and 15 May 2019, this article seeks to frame the figure of the “Mother Tac” or the “mother of contract”, also called “mama tac” or “mae tac”—a term used amongst Thai migrants to describe a woman who hosts, collects debts from, and organises work for Thai migrant sex workers in their destination country. It proposes that this largely unexplored figure has come to assume a disproportionate role in the “modern slavery” approach to human trafficking, with its emphasis on absolute victims and individual offenders. The harms suffered by Kanbut’s victims are put into context by referring to existing literature on women accused of trafficking; interviews with Thai migrant sex workers, including Kanbut’s primary victim, and with members from the Australian Federal Police Human Trafficking Unit; and ethnographic field notes. The article unveils how constructions of both victim and offender, as well as definitions of slavery, are racialised, gendered, and sexualised and rely on the victims’ subjective accounts of bounded exploitation. By documenting these and other limitations involved in a criminal justice approach, the authors reveal its shortfalls. For instance, while harsh sentences are meant as a deterrence to others, the complex and structural roots of migrant labour exploitation remain unaffected. This research finds that improved legal migration pathways, the decriminalisation of the sex industry, and improved access to information and support for migrant sex workers are key to reducing heavier forms of labour exploitation, including human trafficking, in the Australian sex industry. View Full-Text
Keywords: modern slavery; antitrafficking; sexual humanitarianism; Mother Tac; debt bondage; Australia; migrant sex work; bounded exploitation; sex work; sex work decriminalisation modern slavery; antitrafficking; sexual humanitarianism; Mother Tac; debt bondage; Australia; migrant sex work; bounded exploitation; sex work; sex work decriminalisation
MDPI and ACS Style

Macioti, P.G.; Aroney, E.; Bennachie, C.; Fehrenbacher, A.E.; Giametta, C.; Hoefinger, H.; Mai, N.; Musto, J. Framing the Mother Tac: The Racialised, Sexualised and Gendered Politics of Modern Slavery in Australia. Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 192. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9110192

AMA Style

Macioti PG, Aroney E, Bennachie C, Fehrenbacher AE, Giametta C, Hoefinger H, Mai N, Musto J. Framing the Mother Tac: The Racialised, Sexualised and Gendered Politics of Modern Slavery in Australia. Social Sciences. 2020; 9(11):192. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9110192

Chicago/Turabian Style

Macioti, P. G.; Aroney, Eurydice; Bennachie, Calum; Fehrenbacher, Anne E.; Giametta, Calogero; Hoefinger, Heidi; Mai, Nicola; Musto, Jennifer. 2020. "Framing the Mother Tac: The Racialised, Sexualised and Gendered Politics of Modern Slavery in Australia" Soc. Sci. 9, no. 11: 192. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9110192

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