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Re-evaluating Palermo: The case of Burmese women as Chinese brides

  • Laura K Hackney Standford University


The definition of human trafficking as set in the Trafficking Protocol (also known as the Palermo Protocol) functionally centres most of the response to the phenomenon in the criminal justice system. This occludes many of the sociopolitical determinants of vulnerability that leads to trafficking.  It also discourages any real debate about the various forms of oppression and even structural violence that act as catalysts to the human trafficking market.  The Trafficking Protocol, and a vast number of international organisations, non-governmental organisations and governments, focuses on statistics of prosecution rates, arrests, victim typology and organised crime. I use the example of bride trafficking along the Sino-Burmese border to illustrate the complications and, in certain instances, harm that befall an anti-trafficking regime that does not use a wider lens of migration, agency, development and gender equality to address the factors leading to exploitation.

Author Biography

Laura K Hackney, Standford University

Laura K Hackney is currently a Program Associate for the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, United States of America. She worked as the Research Associate for Stanford’s Anti-Trafficking Project in the Mekong Sub-Region and holds a Master’s degree from Stanford's Department of East Asian Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Hackney's work focuses on examining the connections between regional and cross-border irregular migration practices, gender dynamics and changing immigration policies in Burma, China and Thailand. Domestically, she works with the Human Trafficking Task Force within the San Francisco Police Department's Special Victims Unit, and she is the co-founder of Annie Cannons, an organisation working to train human trafficking survivors in computer literacy and programming.

How to Cite
HACKNEY, Laura K. Re-evaluating Palermo: The case of Burmese women as Chinese brides. Anti-Trafficking Review, [S.l.], n. 4, apr. 2015. ISSN 2287-0113. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 17 jan. 2018. doi:


Burma, China, bride trafficking, trafficking for marriage, borders, Palermo, migrant rights, Trafficking Protocol