Tourism and sexual violence and exploitation in Jamaica: contesting the ‘trafficking and modern slavery’ frame

The US TIP Report frames Jamaica as having a problem with ‘human trafficking’ and ‘child sex tourism’. This paper presents preliminary findings from our mixed methods research on Jamaicans’ experience of working in the sex trade and in the formal and informal tourism economy. In brief, though our sex worker research participants routinely face violence in the course of their work, they were not driven into sex work and are not prevented from exiting it by ‘human traffickers’, but rather by economic need and, in the case of male and trans sex workers, by anti-gay prejudice. Our participants view the criminalisation of sex work and of homosexuality as far more urgent and significant threats to their safety and well-being than ‘human trafficking’. Criminalisation and marginalisation were also pressing concerns for our non-sex-worker interviewees, and the paper uses these data to critically interrogate the lines that are drawn between work, slavery, and freedom in this dominant, Global North discourse.