Butterfly: Resisting the harms of anti-trafficking policies and fostering peer-based organising in Canada


  • Elene Lam
  • Annalee Lepp




migrant sex work, racial profiling, human trafficking, peer-based organising, Canada


Drawing on knowledge gleaned from over four years of community organising and from the ongoing compilation of the experiences of Asian and migrant sex workers in Canada, this article presents a case study of the work of Butterfly, a migrant sex worker-led and sex worker-focused organisation. It explores how Butterfly, through various mediums, has sought to challenge the discourses, laws, and policies that negatively impact Asian and migrant sex workers. It also highlights how the organisation, through its peer-based model and activities and its radical centring of the voices and experiences of Asian and migrant sex workers, is able to more effectively address their everyday realities and struggles. In this way, Butterfly offers a grassroots alternative to the often detrimental prohibitionist and anti-trafficking interventions undertaken by governments, law enforcement, and social service organisations.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Elene Lam

Elene Lam is the founder and executive director of Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network) and a co-founder of the Migrant Sex Workers Project. She has been involved in movements that focus on sex work, migration, gender, labour, and human rights for more than fifteen years in Asia and Canada. She advocates for the human rights of sex workers, the decriminalisation of sex work, and for reducing the harms of anti-trafficking interventions. Email: elenelam2020@gmail.com

Annalee Lepp

Annalee Lepp is Associate Professor in the Department of Gender Studies at the University of Victoria, Canada. She is a founding member of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) Canada, which was established in 1996, and is a member of GAATW’s Board of Directors. Since 1997, she has been involved in various collaborative research projects that examine Canadian state policies and practices as they relate to trafficking in persons and irregular cross-border movements as well as the impact of anti-trafficking policies on sex workers’ rights in Canada. Email: alepp@uvic.ca




How to Cite

Lam, E., & Lepp, A. (2019). Butterfly: Resisting the harms of anti-trafficking policies and fostering peer-based organising in Canada. Anti-Trafficking Review, (12), 91–107. https://doi.org/10.14197/atr.201219126