The current state of international law and human rights provide a rich context for a critique of the discourse of human trafficking: how the discourse is framed, how it is used and what the effects of this use are. This research suggests that the discourse of human trafficking is often employed in a binary, dualistic manner in its framing, conceptualization and common manifestations. The binary determination of human trafficking as a human right violation or a crime was particularly evident in the negotiating process for the definition of human trafficking contained in the UN Trafficking Protocol, which represented an opportunity to re-visit several controversial questions â including prostitution, consent and slavery â which have continued to influence the discourse. Looking at the human trafficking discourse through two of the predominate dialogues of human trafficking â a human right perspective or a criminal law perspective â is perhaps helpful in representing the issue to a wider academic or policy-making audience, but it may ultimately yield policy options that are pre-determined, ineffective or contradictory; at the very least, potentially useful alternative understandings are often side-lined. Further, the human trafficking discourse has itself become a medium in which larger, more socially-fundamental vocabularies of freedom, exploitation, power, restriction and morality are negotiated and confirmed. The research concludes by suggesting that a sustainable analysis of the issue is possible - an analysis that is viable and relevant in spite of the heavy normative dualisms inherent in the debates, and one that offers a plurality of policy options.


School of Global Affairs and Public Policy

Degree Name

MA in International and Comparative Law

First Advisor

Sayed, Hani

Document Type



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