Agency by proxy: women and the human trafficking discourse in the Philippines
Human trafficking is constructed both by states and experts as a problem involving ‘a disproportionate number of women’, the majority of whom are trafficked for ‘sexual exploitation’ (Laczko 2005: 9; UNODC 2009: 6) – a view that persists despite the absence of reliable, evidence-based research (Gozdziak and Bump 2008). This focus is understandable in the context of one of the key intentions of the UN Trafficking Protocol, which pays ‘particular attention to women and children’ (UN 2000: Article 2(a)).1 When combined with its emphasis on fighting transnational organized crime and illegal migration, the Protocol is able to position human trafficking simultaneously as both a threat to state security and a serious gender issue (Aradau 2004). As a consequence of the incorporation of the gender dimension, the global anti-trafficking discourse as well as the counter-trafficking interventions that emanate from it have become preoccupied with accounts of the vulnerabilities of women and children (Gallagher 2001; Miko 2003; Wong 2005; Anderson and Andrijasevic 2008). For example, the US Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report conveys the extent of the human tragedy of trafficking in the form of compelling photographs and anecdotes in which trafficking is depicted as ‘a highly gendered phenomenon’ that greatly and terribly affects women and children (Dauvergne 2008: 72).