Chapter 9

Discourses of Danger and Dreams of Prosperity: Confounding US Government Positions on “Trafficking” from the Former Soviet Union

By Alexia Bloch

In this chapter, Alexia Bloch contends that U.S. initiatives to stem international sex trafficking are hampered by simplistic, moralistic assertions of victimhood, which leave advocates and law enforcers less capable of differentiating international migrant sex workers from trafficked people. According to Bloch, an effective and humane policy toward trafficking must take account of the experiences of a broad range of the women who enter into these flows, including those who are informed and willing as well as those who are duped or coerced. In also bringing into consideration the social and economic constraints under which women “decide” to leave Russia for sex work abroad, her study reveals conditions that have been worsened appreciably by the application of structural adjustment policies favored by major international financial institutions.

Study Questions

  1. What structural features of contemporary society in the Russian Far East might define the choices people make about migration?
  2. Do you think agencies recruiting women to work internationally as exotic dancers should be made illegal? If so, how do you see these agencies in comparison to other employment agencies?
  3. What role should international organizations such as USAID play in influencing migration?

Critical Thinking

  1. Do you know any people who came to North America as labor migrants? Do they describe their experience in terms of being “trafficked”? What impediments did they face?
  2. How do you think the media influences your views on contemporary migration issues?
  3. Do you think freedom of international movement should be a human right?

Further Research

  1. Is the global upsurge in human smuggling and trafficking a product of porous borders and mainly a law enforcement matter? Or is it a side-effect of the contradiction between efforts to restrict immigration versus growing pressures and opportunities for work abroad generated by economic globalization?
  2. Search the last few months of your local newspaper’s electronic archive for notice of recent awareness-raising events and convictions on trafficking where you live. How active are advocates and law enforcers in combating trafficking in your own “backyard”? How effective do these efforts seem to be?