Westwood, Joanne L
The social construction of risk in child trafficking discourses:
A study of melodramatic tactics in child trafficking narratives.
Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.
Child trafficking is a term used to define situations where children are forced, coerced or tricked to migrate for the purpose of their future exploitation. The issue of child trafficking is a well established UK policy concern initially emerging in the seventeenth century. The issue re-appeared in the late nineteenth century influenced by the social purity movement. This generated an infamous media exposé which led to parliamentary debates and legislative changes. Child trafficking resurfaced as a UK policy concern periodically in the twentieth century as children were once again forced to migrate. At the start of the twenty-first century child trafficking is back on the UK national policy agenda following pressure exerted by international anti-trafficking networks and Non Government Organisations.
This study examines the social construction of risk in current and historical child trafficking UK policy discourses. Interviews with key informants in the ports safeguarding sector are discussed, together with an analysis of policy documents and primary historical sources. The construction of risk in these child trafficking discourses appear in a specific format which is explained by drawing on the conceptual lens of melodramatic tactics. This analysis reveals how narratives of child trafficking tend to have a stereotypical tragic child victim, who is forcibly separated from their family, and in need of protection from dangerous criminals who aim to deceive and exploit them. The employment of these melodramatic tactics is a central feature of current UK child trafficking policy discourses. Research studies which situate migrant children as competent social actors illuminate accounts of triumph, and these contrast with the outrage-driven protest drama which has current and enduring appeal in UK child trafficking policy discourses. The implications of these findings are discussed in the context of current UK child trafficking policy and recommendations about future research with children on the move are also proposed.