Social justice within transitional justice: the case of human trafficking and sex-work in Cambodia and Myanmar

Document Type

Book chapter

Publication details

Szablewska, N & Bradley, C 2014, 'Social justice within transitional justice: the case of human trafficking and sex-work in Cambodia and Myanmar', in N Szablewska & SD Bachmann (eds), Current issues in transitional justice: towards a more holistic approach, Springer International Publishing, Switzerland, Springer Series in Transitional Justice vol. 4, pp. 261-287. ISBN: 9783319093895

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Most post-conflict societies are defined by poverty, unemployment, social injustice and gender inequality, making them an ideal environment for trafficking in human beings (THB) to flourish. Against this backdrop, the necessity for transitional justice processes to address THB and its underlying causes has been recognised. Trafficking for sexual exploitation in particular has received global attention and has triggered heated debates, and while it has been met by significant policy reform at the global, regional and national levels such initiatives have often proven to have dangerous consequences for women’s rights. At the forefront of THB initiatives are the women who work in the sex industry. Using Cambodia and Myanmar as case studies, we demonstrate in this chapter how transitional justice mechanisms and processes can facilitate women’s empowerment by engaging better with counter-trafficking efforts. We call for the field of transitional justice to expand its mandate beyond formal mechanisms to encompass efforts that aim to achieve durable peace by addressing deep-rooted gender inequalities leading to widespread human rights abuses. Bringing THB within the transitional justice discourse can facilitate creating policy initiatives that do not occur at the expense of undermining the already fragile status and position of women in transitional societies.