Debate: The Challenges and Perils of Reframing Trafficking as ‘Modern-Day Slavery’


  • Janie Chuang American University Washington College of Law



In the last five years, we have seen a rebranding of global anti-trafficking efforts as ‘modern-day slavery’ abolitionism. The United States of America (US) Department of State and powerful philanthropists are key proponents of the slavery makeover, prompting other governments, international organisations, and non-governmental organisations alike to adopt the ‘modern-day slavery’ frame. The slavery frame has helped ignite outrage and galvanise political support for modern anti-slavery campaigns. It has also helped expand the anti-trafficking spotlight beyond the sex sector to expose the extreme exploitation that men, women, and children suffer in the non-sexual labour sectors of our global economy. These benefits come at a cost, however, both with respect to legal doctrine and practice, and, perhaps more significantly, to how we understand and respond to the problem of extreme exploitation for profit.


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Author Biography

Janie Chuang, American University Washington College of Law

Janie Chuang is a Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law, specialising in international law and policy relating to labour migration and human trafficking. Drawing on this expertise, Chuang has advised on trafficking issues for the United Nation Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Labour Organization. Chuang has also served as the United States Member of the International Law Association’s Feminism and International Law Committee, as a Member of Executive Council of the American Society of International Law, and as an Open Society Fellow for the Open Society Foundations.




How to Cite

Chuang, J. (2015). Debate: The Challenges and Perils of Reframing Trafficking as ‘Modern-Day Slavery’. Anti-Trafficking Review, (5).