Migration, sex work and exploitative labor conditions: Experiences of Nigerian women in the sex industry in Turin, Italy, and counter-trafficking measures

Eneze Modupe Oluwa Baye*, Silke Heumann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

Abstract

This article undertakes a critical analysis of counter-trafficking measures in Italy, particularly the Social Protection Program introduced under the 1998 Migration Law for victims experiencing violence and “extreme exploitation”, in relation to the experiences of Nigerian sex workers in the city of Turin. The experiences of Nigerian sex workers in Turin are diverse and complex, as most of the women are undocumented, making them highly vulnerable to exploitative debt and labor contracts, as well as abuse and violence from employers, clients and government authorities. This research found that while the protection program has been fortunate for some beneficiaries, it fails to address the vulnerabilities faced by migrant sex workers. One of the shortcomings of the program is that it protects victims only if they suffer severe forms of violence, provide information that helps in the arrest of traffickers, and tell a “convincing story” that underscores their role as “innocent victims.” It ignores the complexity of the experiences of undocumented migrants who engage in commercial sex work and the multiple challenges they face. It overemphasizes a particular and narrowly defined form of victimization while rendering other forms of victimization invisible. Counter-trafficking measures may offer a modicum of protection for a specific and small group of undocumented migrants in the sex industry. However, when combined with increasing restrictions on migration and sex work, the counter-trafficking measures actually increase the vulnerability of the majority of migrant sex workers, and strengthen the networks of traffickers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGender, Sexuality and Social Justice
Subtitle of host publicationUnpacking dominant development and policy discourses
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter12
Pages228-248
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780429439483
ISBN (Print)9781138342965
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2023

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