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Case studies and critique

Beyond Trafficking and Slavery offers up dozens of empirically- and theoretically-derived critical reflections on forced labour, prostitution, child labour, trafficking, and other conditions discursively constructed as modern forms of slavery. Our agenda has not simply been to produce or elicit counter-hegemonic narratives, but to do so constructively. Wary of the ‘ivory tower’ critique so often slung against academic interventions of this kind, many authors have sought to highlight the practical lessons of their research. They have done so with the hope of providing practitioners, politicians, and activists with ‘actionable’ alternatives to their current strategies, ones that are more sensitive to the rights and wishes of the ‘victims’.

The well, thankfully, has not yet run dry. Over the next months this section will publish a steady stream of articles that suggest ‘better’ responses than those currently dominating the ‘modern slavery’ landscape. We need to stress that none of what follows should be read as BTS’ idea of ‘the way forward’. We don’t believe in silver bullets. What we propose, therefore, is a set of case studies drawn from research evidence, advocacy campaigns, and policy implementation that offer situated insights into ‘better practice’. Read on...



Mandatory transparency, discretionary disclosure

New transparency regulations in some places theoretically require companies to report on forced labour in their supply chains, but a new review finds that's not what's happening.

Is the UK a world leader in the fight against modern slavery?

The UK’s Modern Slavery Act was meant to put Britain at the forefront of the fight against modern slavery, but its focus on prosecution does little to help the vulnerable.

World Bank investment on Assam’s tea plantations: hearing the voices of workers?

The forthcoming release of a World Bank investigation into rights violations of tea plantation workers in Assam represents an incredible achievement for communities who have raised their voice against formidable odds.

The United Nations should promote the rule of law

International agencies and United Nations bodies are increasingly admitting their failings in the international arena. But when will the World Bank do likewise when it comes to Uzbek labour abuses?

Open essay: a better approach to child work

As the UN considers its position on child labour, a global group of experts lay out the case against a universal minimum age. Blanket bans cannot prevent exploitation, only more nuanced approaches do that.

Sophie's journey: three countries, three stories, same abuse

Female migrant labourers face discrimination and marginalisation all over the world. Sophie’s stories from Dubai, Turkey and Saudi Arabia can tell us a lot about their experiences.

Sex workers fight against compulsory registration and identification in Germany

Germany's parliament will likely pass new legislation today that severely infringes on sex worker rights and increases their vulnerability.

Empty gestures: a critique of India’s new trafficking bill

The 2016 Global Slavery Index finds that 40% of ‘modern slaves’ live in India. A new trafficking bill seeks to lower that number, but it will fail in its current form.

What’s wrong with the World Day Against Child Labour?

Working children everywhere reject the mainstream anti-child labour paradigm. A major new video campaign tells us why.

Response to Human Rights Watch's letter on minimum-age standards with respect to child labour

As the UN considers its position on child labour, a group of academics and practitioners have engaged in open debate with Human Rights Watch over the utility of minimum age rules. This is the third letter in a series.

Organizaciones de trabajadores infantiles y adolescentes reclaman su derecho a ser reconocidos

El trabajo infantil en América Latina es una realidad cotidiana. Con motivo del primero de Mayo, organizaciones de niños y niñas y adolescentes trabajadores (NATs) reclaman que se reconozca esta realidad, y se regulen sus derechos en vez de combatirlos.

Three years after Rana Plaza: why Bangladeshi workers need trade unions

Huge numbers of Bangladeshis receive poverty wages to produce the garments worn in the west, yet organising remains strangely absent in this industry.

Little tolerance for zero tolerance: prostitution reform in Scotland

A new bill seeks to shift Scotland from zero tolerance of prostitution to full decriminalisation. Can it successfully make the transition to the New Zealand model?

Phone a friend? Exploring a new helpline for trafficked persons in the UK

The UK home secretary’s announcement of a new anti-trafficking helpline distracts from that government policies that prevent the effective identification and support of ‘trafficked’ persons.

Open letter: on the lives of street children

As a UN committee continues to draft a 'general comment on the rights of adolescents', academics working with street children weigh in on what it should (and should not) include.

Supporting working children as social, political, and economic agents

Peru’s movement of working children offers a visionary model for collaborative, caring, and egalitarian communities where children are valued as full participants in economic, social, and political life.

Can campaigns to stop child labour be stopped?

Working children’s organisations have had limited success in challenging dominant abolitionist perspectives on child labour. Working children’s realities and conceptions of rights need to be taken more seriously in international debates.

Dhaka's 'victims of trafficking': locked up for their "own good"

The paradoxes built into the ‘rescue and rehabilitation’ model effectively trap many women and girls after they have been ‘saved’.

Trabajadores Migrantes y Reclutamiento en México

La Coalición de Trabajadores Temporales, que está luchando contra prácticas abusivas de reclutamiento en Sinaloa, México, destaca que son los propios migrantes los que tienen un papel importante para prevenir la explotación. English

The women strike back: the protest of Pembillai Orumai tea workers

Underclass women plantation workers in Kerala, India went on strike against both their union and their company, scoring symbolic and material gains as well as local political representation.

When services allow organising, trafficked workers win

Migrant workers need rights and safety nets, yet sob stories of abuse will not bring about such change. Organising, on the other hand, will.

Migrant workers and labour recruitment in Mexico

The Coalition of Temporary Workers is fighting back against abusive recruitment practices in Sinaloa, Mexico, illustrating that migrants themselves have an important role to play in preventing exploitation. Español.

Open letter: a better approach to child work

As the UN considers its position on child labour, 59 experts lay out the case against a universal minimum age. Blanket bans cannot prevent exploitation, only more nuanced approaches do that.

Trafficking and slavery interventions under the microscope

BTS editors introduce the ‘case studies and critique’ strand of our new project ‘possible futures’, which will open a window onto the ‘better practices’ found in the field today.

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