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W

orry and alarm about human trafficking is everywhere. As is usually the case with trends we jump on, it involves sex, compulsion and a whiff of xenophobia. If you know history you will see many similarities between today’s breathless trafficking concerns and the panic about white slavery about a century ago.

The last time I was in Bangladesh a female lawyer deeply involved in social work among women in Dhaka told me bluntly: “Trafficking is your obsession not ours. It’s your problem… ours is domestic violence but that’s not sexy enough for you.”