Feb. 2: Human Trafficking Conference at USC

Conference provides rigorous new research, situating the war on trafficking in the broader struggle for migrant rights.

WHAT: At the end of Modern Slavery Awareness Month, a one-day USC conference, “From Prosecution to Empowerment,” provides an important, research-based look at how many assumptions about human trafficking and victimhood may actually work against the best interests of those being exploited.

Organizers Rhacel Parrenas, chair and professor of sociology at USC, who herself worked in a hostess club in Tokyo, and Alice Echols, chair and professor of gender studies at USC, deliberately sought out panelists who have direct experience working with trafficked persons, including sex workers, child laborers, domestic servants and undocumented migrants.

The conference also includes a staged reading of the musical “Survive,” about a girl caught up in raid on a brothel in Thailand and the American NGO caseworker assigned to prepare her to testify against her trafficker. Based on field research including more than 50 interviews, “Survive” is written by USC Annenberg doctoral student Erin Kamler and directed by Ted Braun, assistant professor of screenwriting at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

WHY: The U.S. Government Accountability Office has noted the lack of empirical evidence in the war on human trafficking — which can lead to well-meaning but harmful policies such as denying services to sex workers who are vulnerable but do not see themselves as victims. “From Prosecution to Empowerment” grounds the conversation in research rather than speculation. The panelists present critical new perspectives that lend nuance to the overbroad definition of human trafficking, including studies of child labor in family economic survival and whether anyone who works a child is a criminal, investigative work about human trafficking in the United States, demographic andeconomic analyses of street sex workers, and the complicated relationship between undocumented migration and human trafficking.

Bringing together legal scholars, direct-service providers, community leaders, policymakers and scholars, the one-day conference is a critical reassessment of the war on human trafficking and its place in the broader struggle for migrant human rights.

WHEN: Saturday, February 2, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

WHO: Panelists include:

  • Marjan Wijers, Former President, Expert Group on Trafficking in Human Beings, European Commission
  • Anne Gallagher, Technical Director, Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons Project; Adviser on Trafficking to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right
  • P. David Lopez, Attorney General, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • Ann Jordan, Director, Program on Human Trafficking & Forced Labor, American University
  • Janie Chuang, Former Trafficking Consultant, U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Orlando Patterson, Department of Sociology, Harvard University
  • Martina Vandenberg, Founder, The Human Trafficking Pro Legal Center
  • Aquilina Soriano-Versoza, Director, Pilipino Worker’s Center of Los AngelesL
  • Kay Buck, Director, Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking
  • Leyla Strotkamp, International Relations Officer, Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor and Human Trafficking, U.S. Department of Labor
  • Kate Francis, Associate Director, Women’s Empowerment Program, The Asia Foundation
  • Mark Taylor, Senior Coordinator of Reports and Political Affairs, U.S. Department of State

For a full list of panelists and sessions, including full panelist biographies, clickhere.

WHERE: Davidson Conference Center, University of Southern California

FOR MEDIA: To request media parking for the conference or an interview with a conference organizer, contact Suzanne Wu at suzanne.wu@usc.edu.

Reservations are required for “Survive,” which will be staged at the USC School of Cinematic arts on Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. To RSVP, click here.

MORE: “From Prosecution to Empowerment” is organized, hosted and sponsored by the USC Center for Feminist Research, the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at USC, and the USC department of sociology.

Additional support and funding comes from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the USC Center for International Studies, and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.


Contact: Suzanne Wu at suzanne.wu@usc.edu or (213) 740-0252

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2 thoughts on “Feb. 2: Human Trafficking Conference at USC

  1. just curious why you left off the only sex worker/ international sex worker rights activist panelist at the conference?

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