Silence and Silencing: The case of trafficked women

Ms Haezreena Begum Abdul Hamid1

1Victoria University Of Wellington, Kelburn, New Zealand

This paper provides an analysis on silencing and how silence has been used as a tool to control trafficked women. It is based on a qualitative study conducted on 29 trafficked female migrants who were detained in a shelter in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This paper argues that in many instances, 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 in need of control. Such beliefs have been normalised through day-to-day practices and are deeply embedded in social structures, cultures, religions and social practices. By providing an insight into women’s experiences of sex-trafficking and state ‘protection’, the paper discusses how women who have been ‘rescued’, are expected to remain silent and conform to the government’s repressive regulations in the name of protection. The findings of the study will demonstrate how women remain silent to navigate through harms and how silence is used as a tool of oppression against women.


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