The latest global panic over sex trafficking has animated a mode of global governmentality that has fused together otherwise contradictory registers of care and punishment in the disciplining of women who sell sex. This mode of governmentality, which Walters terms moral security, foregrounds feminine sexuality as the site of greatest social risk and needful intervention. By conflating sex work with sex trafficking, moral security enables the humanitarian state to categorize all women who sell sex as victims requiring rescue, even if only from themselves. The urgency and fervor of the trafficking panic allows moral security to fuse together apparent contradictions into unwieldy amalgams: criminal-victim, forced rescue, and caring punishment. A patchwork of highly variable and often arbitrarily administered trafficking initiatives—whose largest sponsors are tech giants, Christian non-profits, and nation-states in the global north—taken in aggregate produce a state effect in which India as a whole is assessed, ranked, deplored, or petted by transnational philanthrocapitalists and other more powerful states. The state violence experienced by sex workers targeted by anti-traffickers becomes the basis for India’s claim to good governance within the framework of moral security. Action “against trafficking” is translated into numbers of shelters built, victims rescued, and families reunited, which provide easily legible metrics that add evidentiary flesh to the bones of India’s place in a global moral hierarchy of states. 

 

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