Transnational Crime and Human Rights: Responses to Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

Author:Berg, Laurie
Position:Book review
 
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Susan Kneebone and Julie Debeljak, Transnational Crime and Human Rights: Responses to Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Subregion (Routledge, 2012), ISBN 978-0415594257, 296 pages

Feminist legal scholar Ratna Kapur has written recently that in many discussions of human trafficking in human rights circles, '[t]he complex processes of migration and constitution of subjectivity, including sexual subjectivity, are flattened and replaced with simplistic, linear narratives about "sex trafficking"'. (1) Such flattening also frequently occurs within legal scholarship on trafficking when it focuses exhaustively on the tensions between the criminal justice framework (which can treat trafficked people primarily as a means of achieving prosecutions) and a victim-centred approach (which prioritises victims as bearers of rights), including in relation to South East Asia.

Transnational Crime and Human Rights: Responses to Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Subregion, (2) by contrast, presents an intricate analysis of the intersecting political, legal and institutional drivers of counter-trafficking measures in the Greater Mekong Subregion ('GMS'). Susan Kneebone and Julie Debeljak's three-year empirical study conducted in the region (which comprises Cambodia, the Yunnan Province of the People's Republic of China, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam) involved interviews with more than 60 individuals from relevant agencies in Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as Sydney and Melbourne, between 2006 and 2010. Their access to expertise at national, regional and international levels is extremely impressive, and it is in light of their methodological approach that the nuances of this study can be best appreciated.

Kneebone and Debeljak are committed to viewing human trafficking and policy responses as the product of complex political and economic realities in the region. They explore, therefore, some of the social, political and historical factors which contribute to human trafficking in the relevant national contexts, including gender and age, labour exploitation and migration. This presents a significant challenge to some within criminal justice systems who believe that policing strategies alone can prevent human trafficking.

This discussion acts as background for their wider-ranging study of legal frameworks (international, regional and domestic), regional governance processes and the role of local and international non-governmental...

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