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The law, understood here as both the text of the law and judicial practice, is therefore faced with major obstacles in terms of the role it can and/or could play in the fight against human trafficking.
It is difficult to find solid and reliable figures for sex trafficking, whether on a national, continental or worldwide level, and this has led to two extreme positions which, as such, can effectively do little to help trafficked women.
Each international organisation presents us with figures that may vary by thousands or even millions.
Human trafficking in general and the trafficking of women in particular have been attracting increasing interest from states, international bodies, non-governmental organisations, the media and academia.
The greater visibility conferred on this phenomenon has translated, on a national and international level, into policies designed to combat and prevent it, whose efficiency is debateable.
When we consider human trafficking and the way in which this phenomenon has gained importance, we also find transnational flows which follow the logic of economic gain without any respect for the self-determination of individuals.
Although it is true that this illegal, informal phenomenon run by criminal organisations has a completely different role from that of slavery, which was central to the formation of the world system, it is still inextricably related to it.Whilst, for some, this is the most appropriate direction to follow, others feel that other aspects should be taken into consideration in order to make these measures and protection truly effective.Firstly, the initiatives and political strategies designed to combat trafficking, in particular sex trafficking, have not met with any consensus on a definition of this specific type of trafficking.However, these forms of over-exploitation are not only confined to one phase of capitalism.Capitalist societies worldwide always need these and other forms of over-exploitation in order to maintain capital in the form that we know it.This is the result not only of a lack of understanding of the specific features of the trafficking of women, but also of the fact that other objectives underlying the construction of these policies hardly meet the subjective needs and expectations of trafficked women.This article discusses some of the issues both emerging and absent from the legal framework for the sexual trafficking of women, with reference to the empirical situation of sexual trafficking in Portugal as analysed in the study Thus, on the other side of the line we find a space which is a non-territory in legal and political terms, a space unthinkable in terms of the rule of law, human rights and democracy (Santos, 2007).Essentially, we find people who do not exist, either in social or legal terms.These spaces are constructed on the basis of new forms of slavery, the illegal trafficking of human organs, child labour and the exploitation of prostitution.Some refer to very high numbers, whilst others contest this and believe that sex trafficking is a minor phenomenon. The first runs the risk of denying women’s self-determination, assuming that trafficking exists in situations of aid to illegal immigration or voluntary prostitution.The second runs the risk of not helping women who really are in danger.