Call for papers: Trafficking in Minors


Guest Editor: Brenda Oude Breuil

Deadline for Submissions: 1 June 2020

The Anti-Trafficking Review calls for papers for a special issue themed ‘Trafficking in Minors’.   

Public and political debate on the phenomenon of child trafficking is generally deplete with emotional reactions, unverifiable statistics, and sensational ‘high profile’ cases repeated over and over again in the media. Despite an intense focus placed on children and minors in human trafficking representations, policies and measures, academic work on the issue is scattered across disciplines, and disproportionally focused on trafficking for sexual exploitation. Less work is done on other forms such as forced labour, forced begging and, in particular, exploitation of criminal activities. Moreover both concepts of ‘child trafficking’ and ‘exploitation’ are coloured by moral, emotional and/or ideological notions and dominant cultural constructions of childhood, (im)maturity, (un)acceptable labour, and choice and consent.

Contemporary forms of independent migration of minors further complicate matters, with mainstream representations of child trafficking problematising this mobility and victimising the children involved. Underlying structural conditions of global inequality, a neoliberal need for competitive labour and the social and cultural embeddedness of organised criminal networks do not always receive the attention they deserve in (mediatised) public discourse on the phenomenon. Furthermore, recent developments, such as those in the global reproductive market, stretch definitional boundaries, as illustrated in the appearance of the label of child trafficking in cases involving parents transporting their new-borns, conceived through surrogacy in a foreign country, across national borders. Current patterns of global mobility, the situated agency (and dependency) of children and minors on the move, and its relation to the phenomenon of trafficking of minors need further conceptualisation and in-depth understanding.

This, evidently, calls for sound, empirical study. In-depth, ethnographic and participatory research on trafficking in minors, however, is complicated because of methodological difficulties, while ever-stricter ethical demands concerning minors as respondents and participants in academic research narrows the possibilities to study the issue. There remains, in sum, work to be done to achieve a broad coverage of different forms of trafficking in minors; a more extensive amount of sound, in-depth, qualitative empirical data; conceptual clarity; and further theoretical elaboration enabling a deeper understanding of the issues at hand, now and in the nearby future.

This themed issue of the Anti-Trafficking Review will aim to contribute to addressing these needs. It will explore how the phenomenon of trafficking in minors empirically manifests itself, how it is discursively constructed in different countries, and how it is reacted to – both in an ideological sense and in terms of law enforcement and child welfare considerations. We invite empirical papers describing local conditions of trafficking in minors, as well as its transnational character, and thereby particularly encourage authors to write on less represented forms of trafficking in minors, such as trafficking for labour exploitation, forced begging, and the exploitation of criminal activities. We further welcome conceptual papers, for example on definitional issues such as those described above; on the supposed relationship between child migration and child trafficking; or on new developments labelled as ‘child trafficking’ and the sense or non-sense of such labelling. Submissions focusing on the methodological and ethical difficulties of conducting research on child trafficking will enable reflection on the state of the art of academic scholarship in this field. Finally, this issue welcomes contributions that project the issue of trafficking of minors into the nearby future: what are the questions we need to ask (next)?

To help develop work on these themes, contributors are invited to reflect on, but need not limit themselves to, one or more of the following (sets of) questions:

  • How does trafficking in minors concretely manifest in different countries, particularly considering other (than sexual) forms of exploitation? What are the underlying causes, actors involved, their modus operandi, and their roles and relationships with trafficked minors? What levels of criminal (networked) organisation are involved – or not? How is the phenomenon socially and culturally embedded?
  • How are concepts like ‘childhood’, ‘(im)maturity’, ‘exploitation’, ‘consent’ etcetera politically and culturally constructed and what are the consequences of such constructs vis-à-vis what is termed ‘child trafficking’?
  • How is trafficking related to (independent) migration of minors? How does mainstream child trafficking discourse influence the framing, understanding and (governmental, societal and media) reaction to minors independently migrating and the circumstances of exploitation they may experience? What are the consequences of such framing?
  • How do trafficked minors exert agency in dealing with different types of coercion/ seduction, both by the people trafficking them and when dealing with law enforcement agents or actors in the child welfare system?
  • How are trafficked minors treated by actors in the criminal justice system and/or the child welfare system depending on their gender, ethnicity, age, nationality and/or type of exploitation? How are trafficked minors identified and by whom? To what extent and how is the principle of non-punishment applied (particularly in the case of trafficking for exploitation of criminal activities), and what factors influence the (non)application of this principle?
  • How and to what sorts of cases is the label of ‘trafficking in minors’ applied, particularly with an eye to new developments such as those in the global reproductive market, and what are the consequences of such labelling?
  • What methodological and ethical aspects complicate academic research on trafficking in minors and (how) can they be overcome?

Deadline for submissions: 1 June 2020

Word count for full article submissions: 4,000-6,000 words, including footnotes, author bio and abstract.

In addition to full-length conceptual, research-based, or case study focused thematic papers, we invite shorter, blog-style pieces of 1,000-1,200 words connected to the issue theme that focus on practical issues arising from survice provision and advocacy.

We advise those interested in submitting to follow the Review’s style guide and submission procedures, available at Manuscripts should be submitted in line with the issue’s theme. Email the editorial team at with any queries.

Special Issue to be published in April 2021.