Within the space of only a dozen years, the problem of human trafficking has assumed a prominent place on government and advocacy agendas worldwide. Increasingly referred to as “modern slavery,” the phenomenon has spawned rapid proliferation of international, regional, and national laws, and a veritable industry of non-profits that have elevated its “abolition” into a pressing moral crusade. The U.S. government alone has spent nearly $1 billion funding anti-trafficking interventions worldwide,1while at the grassroots level, any individual can become a “modern-day abolitionist” with the click of a mouse. Scholars have offered a broad range of solutions to the problem, calling upon governments to marshal human rights law, tax law, trade law, [tort law], public health approaches, labor law, and even military might8 in the service of combating trafficking.
But exactly what is everyone trying to fight? Notwithstanding the apparent global moral consensus that trafficking is something to be rid of, the concept of “human trafficking” is a strikingly rigor-free zone when it comes to defining its legal parameters. When, in 2000, the international community developed the first modern anti-trafficking treaty, elements of the legal definition of trafficking were left intentionally vague for the sake of achieving global consensus on an international anti-trafficking treaty. Reduced to its core elements, trafficking is roughly comprised of: (1) an actof recruitment, movement, harbouring, or receipt of a person, (2) by meansof force, fraud, or coercion, (3) for the purpose of placing that person in “exploitation.” This expansive formulation has placed the meaning of “trafficking” [in?] the eye of the beholder, providing a banner under which advocates have sought to eradicate diverse (and sometimes deeply contested) phenomena.
Read more here.