All Resources > Rethinking Red Flags

Rethinking Red Flags

Many mainstream anti-trafficking campaigns give a list of ‘red flags’ — signs of trafficking that you should watch out for in day-to-day life. Unfortunately, these red flags cause more problems than they solve.   

Anti-trafficking campaigns tell us that being vigilant and reporting suspected red flags to law enforcement will prevent trafficking. However, most ‘red flags’ are just dressed-up stereotypes, are not evidence-based and actually cause harm to vulnerable groups such as im/migrant sex workers.

How can anti-trafficking ‘red flags’ promote harm?

Encouraging people to watch for “red flags of trafficking” can lead to:

  • Hypervigilance — seeing trafficking around every corner
  • Excessive surveillance, especially of marginalized groups
  • Reinforcement of stereotypes
  • Racial profiling of suspected victims and offenders
  • Denial of agency

See our full resource for examples of anti-trafficking red flags alongside more nuanced explanations for the behaviour in question.

Check out SWAN’s summary of the harms of anti-trafficking for sex workers.

See here for resources on Canada’s sex work laws and Canada’s immigration prohibition on sex work — and how both increase the risk of trafficking for im/migrant women in sex work. 

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