Migrant sex workers and trafficking: a research by migrant sex workers

Jules Kim, Elena Jeffreys
Download this resource

This paper uses an example from Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers' Association and argues for more insider research on migrant sex work and trafficking. The paper is detailed and takes the reader through all the ethical considerations, processes and outcomes of a large scale multilingual migrant sex worker research project

Much of the current research on migrant sex work is conducted by outsiders. Migrant sex workers are a marginalised group due to their position as a sex worker and their migrant status. When outsiders carry out research with marginalised groups, there is potential for their personal beliefs and moral views around migration, sex work, race, gender and sexuality to influence research methodology, analysis, interpretation and outcomes. This has led to migrant sex workers often being portrayed as victims in need of help rather than as active, self-determining agents.

Much of this type of outsider research relating to migrant sex workers and trafficking is done in institutionalised settings such as detention centres or refuges. In such settings there are good reasons for migrants to identify as coerced victims in need of help rather than as willing migrants who have had bad work place experiences and/or who may have engaged in alternate migration pathways. More worryingly, in some cases when researchers have difficulties reaching migrant sex workers, they will only interview service providers and make conclusions about migrant sex workers without ever speaking to migrant sex workers who their research makes claims about.

The paper presents methods to conduct insider research and discusses how insider-led migrant sex work research can lead to credible research outcomes and have many broader benefits for our community.

You can download this 35 page PDF resource above. This resource is in English.