Professor Corey Shdaimah and colleagues presented at the opening plenary for at the Beyond Discourse: Critical and Empirical Approaches to Human Trafficking conference. The conference was hosted by University of Kansas Departments of Political Science, Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Political Science, Humanities, and the The Institute for Social and Policy Research.
Their plenary roundtable, which included scholars, researchers, and activists, examined how criminal justice actors understand the decision to sell sex. They reflected on how researchers and advocates navigate a trafficking discourse that simultaneously may create openings for empathy that mitigate some of the effects of criminalization while also leading to programs with enhanced surveillance and harms created by a savior mentality. For this reason, Professor Shdaimah and fellow panelists Chrysanthi Leon (University of Delaware), Kate D’Adamo (Sex Workers Outreach Project), Jennifer Musto (Wellesley College), Claudia Cojocaru (University of Delaware) and Menaka Ragupuran (Carleton University) argued the importance of including voices of those affected by trafficking policies and programs. These voices are best equipped to alert us to (un)intended harms created by well-intentioned anti-trafficking policy, which may include diversion of funding streams into the criminal justice system and overly focusing on individual behaviors while ignoring structural forces that may inform decisions to engage in sex work.