Abstract: Human trafficking for sexual exploitation is a major concern for many international actors. In anti-trafficking campaigns sex trafficking is often defined as a form of gender-based violence. In general, anti-trafficking narratives rest on stories of abused, innocent female victims, violent, foreign male traffickers and Western saviours (O’Brien, Challenging the Human Trafficking Narrative: Victims, Villains and Heroes. Abingdon: Routledge, 2019). By using key concepts from Peace Studies of direct, structural and cultural violence this chapter argues that such representations are violent in themselves. They reinforce orientalist stereotypes, silencing the agency of those (across genders) who experience exploitation in migration. Moreover, they mask the structural violence underpinning global exploitation. More complex representations are necessary to capture these narratives and advocate for policy changes that tackle the root causes of exploitation in the globalized world.
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