Proscrim - Institutionalizing Trafficking in Human Beings. A French-German Comparison.

1. Stakes and objectives – Labelling the prostitution of migrant women: An Institutional issue and a research object

The research project ProsCrim, conducted at the Center for sociological research on law and criminal justice (CESDIP, Guyancourt Paris) and the Institute for political sciences at the University of Leipzig, is coordinated by Mathilde Darley (CNRS - CESDIP - Centre Marc Bloch) and Rebecca Pates (University of Leipzig). It relies on a team of French (Gilles Favarel-Garrigues, Alban Jacquemart, Milena Jaksic, Gwénaëlle Mainsant, Lilian Mathieu, Muriel Mille, Nadege Ragaru) and German researchers in political science, sociology and political philosophy. In a context characterized by growing political debates and the multiplication of instruments targeting the regulation of prostitution and the fight against trafficking in women for sexual exploitation at the national, European and international levels, the project aims to analyse the institutional practices associated with the characterization and the administration of prostitution amongst migrant women in France and Germany.


2. Methods and Approaches: An analysis of the legislative framework and an ethnography of the professional arenas where human trafficking is defined

The research project comprises two keys components. The first component consists in the French and German legislative frameworks and of the debates they have fostered. The second component builds upon an ethnography of interactions between foreign prostitutes and/or pimps on one side, between the State and the Non State institutions in charge of controlling and/or supporting the prostitutes, on the other. Interviews and observations are currently being conducted in France and Germany with members of non governmental organizations specialized in the provision of assistance to migrant prostitutes and with representatives of general and specialized police units. In addition, the team members are interviewing law professionals in the criminal where trials for aggravated pimping and/or trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation are being held. Several trials have been systematically observed. Comparing two different regimes of prostitution regulation (regulatory in Germany and abolitionist in France) enables us to contextualize the data collected and to question the impact of legal frameworks on local administrative practices.


3. Main results

The process leading to the identification of a migrant prostitute as "a victim of trafficking" (and a pimp as "trafficker") lies at the heart of the analysis. More specifically, the project aims to question the role of the victim in the process of establishing proof in the arenas under consideration. The project is built on the assumption that examining cases of trafficking and the ways in which most institutions tend to filter these cases through a “victim/perpetrator” binary can allow us to deepen our understanding of the mechanisms through which proof is being established/ascertained. Such an approach reveals the often contradictory character of the criteria/norms/rules street-level bureaucrats rely on to sort out, to classify and to qualify the reported facts.


4. Future prospects

Beyond the specific case of trafficking, the analyses developed within the project will enhance our understanding of changes in public policies in France and in Germany, chiefly in the fields of migration and security policies. Doing so, it will also contribute to the growing literature on ethnography of the state and its agents.