McCabe Embarks on Legislative Career to Combat Sex Trafficking

By schwartzsa | April 4, 2012

Emily McCabe ’12, a double major in Sociology and Spanish, is busy tweaking and polishing her Senior Capstone Project in preparation for Arcadia’s annual Capstone Presentations, April 25 – May 16. Her paper, “The Influence of Gender Norms on Sex Trafficking in Latin America,” is the culmination of two areas of research based on a six-week field study in Chile where she worked with at-risk, neglected and abused children at an art therapy intensive daycare. It was all made possible by the Vira I. Heinz Scholarship for Women in Global Leadership.

McCabe’s interest in her Capstone topic began in high school when she read an article featuring child soldiers. Through her own research she quickly realized that the problem of child soldiers is just one part of an enormous global issue: human trafficking. Inspired to learn more, she used class papers throughout her academic studies as a platform by which to research different aspects of the topic. McCabe quickly realized her goal of creating sustainable legislation against sex trafficking, especially of women and children. She’ll attend law school in fall 2012 and plans to continue her research in the hope of working towards abolishing slavery for good.

“I chose Latin America partly because I have been studying Spanish for several years but also because of my experience in Chile thanks to the Vira Heinz Scholarship,” says McCabe. “As I became closer with the women I worked with (the tias) I started to learn each child’s story. When I asked them about human trafficking, however, they became very defensive and told me it does not happen in Chile.”

McCabe notes that she was struck by the fact that the daycare where she worked is located near Valparaiso, one of the cities in South America that is most notorious for human trafficking. “I was not about to tell Chileans that they had the wrong information about their own country, but I could not stop thinking about how if these women who run this daycare for abused and neglected children do not understand the issue and the fact that it is literally happening next door, who would?”

In addition to informal interviews, McCabe’s research is based on data from the United Nations and the U.S. State Department. The following is McCabe’s abstract:

Most people think slavery ended over a century ago. On the contrary, there are more slaves in the world today than at any other time in human history (Awareness PSA 2008). This modern-day slavery is more complicated and intricate than ever before. There are several universal themes relating to trafficking but certain regions bring other factors into the mix, such as societal norms.

The gender stereotypes of machismo and marianismo found in Latin America are strict and unyielding. The integration of gender inequality dates back hundreds of years to the colonization of Latin America and has been reinforced time and time again in national histories of sexual violence against women by men.

Several sex trafficking trends in Latin America directly link gender norms and the sex trade. Other global risk factors such as corruption and lack of awareness combine to make Latin America a human trafficking hub. However, the relation between sexual slavery and a region with hundreds of years developing its gender roles is difficult to ignore.

Read more about Arcadia’s Senior Capstone Projects and view the 2012 Capstone Presentation Schedule.