Special Issue: The Sexual Politics of Border Control

Migration, sex work and trafficking: the racialized bordering politics of sexual humanitarianism

The article presents the findings of the SEXHUM project studying the impact of the different policies targeting migrant sex workers in Australia, France, New Zealand, and the United States. It draws on the concept of sexual humanitarianism, referring to how neoliberal constructions of vulnerability associated with sexual behaviour are implicated in humanitarian forms of support and control of migrant populations. Based on over three years of fieldwork we examine the differential ways in which Asian cis women and Latina trans women are constructed and targeted as vulnerable to exploitation, violence and abuse, or not, in relation to racialized and cis-centric sexual humanitarian canons of victimhood. Through our comparative analysis we expose how the implication of sexual humanitarian rhetoric in increasingly extreme bordering policies and interventions on migrant sex workers impacts on their lives and rights, arguing for the urgent need for social reform informed by the experiences of these groups.