This research provides an insight into trafficked women’s experiences and their responses in navigating the harms experienced throughout their migration period. It provides a nuanced understanding of agency and victimhood and explores women’s experiences of being trafficked.
This research also provides an analysis on how silence has been used as a tool to control trafficked women. It demonstrates how traffickers and state institutions control women by dismissing their voice, or by depriving them from exercising their agency. In this respect, women who are vocal and verbalise their opinions are categorised as defiant and need to be controlled. Such beliefs stem from patriarchal influences that have been normalised and are deeply embedded in social structures, cultures, religions and social practices.
In view of understanding the nuances of harms experienced by trafficked women, this research builds upon the agency theory which discusses how silencing is used by male-dominated structures to deny women’s agency and marginalise women. It aims to understand the harms of trafficking and the methods used by traffickers to control women.
Based on these objectives, semi-structured interviews were conducted in a government-run shelter home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, over a period of four weeks (mid-April to mid-May 2016). Throughout this period, 29 trafficked female migrants comprising seven different nationalities were interviewed. The study also interviewed 12 professionals that mainly consist of government officials to understand the implementation of the victim-protection policies.
By providing an insight into women’s trafficking experiences, this research discovers the nuances and commonalities of women’s migration and trafficking experiences and exposes how the notion of ‘protection’ is used as a euphemism for state control. The findings of the study demonstrate how silencing is used as a strategy to minimise harm and how women are silenced through language barriers.