Unearthing Melodrama: Moral Panic Theory and the Enduring Characterisation of Child Trafficking

Westwood, Joanne Louise orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7560-1391 (2016) Unearthing Melodrama: Moral Panic Theory and the Enduring Characterisation of Child Trafficking. In: Revisiting Moral Panics. Moral panics in theory and practice . Policy Press, Bristol, pp. 83-92. ISBN 978-1447321866

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The issue of child trafficking came to prominence in the early part of the twentieth century as international migrations of children became more visible attracting the attention of Non-Governmental Organisations, politicians, and the national news media. The trafficking of children however is not a new phenomenon, indeed in the late nineteenth century campaigners were successful in lobbying for an increase in the age of consent partially as a result of the media exposé of the ‘white slave trade trade’ orchestrated by the newspaper editor William Stead and the prominent social reformer Josephine Butler (Bristow 1978). The phenomenon of child trafficking has been previously characterised as a moral panic (Goode and Ben-Yehuda 1994: Cree, Clapton and Smith 2012). Moral panic theory goes some way towards explaining the conditions which provide fertile ground for the amplification of risk embedded in media representations, and policy discourses associated with child trafficking. This chapter will illustrate how the issue of child trafficking has been continues to be defined drawing on a model developed from the literary genre of melodrama. The chapter discusses the features of moral panic theory which are relevant to understanding the construction of child trafficking as a moral issue. In the concluding section of this chapter the implications of the construction of child trafficking are discussed.

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