European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 269–281 | Cite as

The ‘Groundhog Day’ of the Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation Debate: New Directions in Criminological Understanding

  • Jon Spencer
  • Rose BroadEmail author


This paper considers the intellectual framework that is used to understand human trafficking and the limitations that it imposes on the criminological study of this phenomenon. First, there is a brief historical perspective which allows for comparisons between current debates and the moral crusades of the Victorian/Edwardian social purists. The contemporary focus on trafficking for sexual exploitation, rooted in Victorian/Edwardian construction has, the authors argue, narrowed the policy remit and the criminological investigation into human trafficking. The paper then proceeds to address the interaction between these enduring (historical) myths, the role of trans-national organised crime and the constraining effects of the contemporary intellectual framework. It is argued that in order to challenge the cyclical nature of the debates, it is necessary to make redundant the use of the term human trafficking and to widen the criminological lens through which we consider the problem. In doing so, we hope to highlight those groups whose experiences are missing or marginalised in the current construction of the problem and urge a reconsideration of the way in which criminology approaches this issue.


Human trafficking Migrant experiences Trafficking policy 



We wish to express our thanks to the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful and helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Law, Williamson BuildingThe University of ManchesterManchesterUK

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