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Gloria Steinem, Catharine MacKinnon To Participate in Human Trafficking Symposium

November 05, 2009

The University of Pennsylvania Law Review will hold a symposium on Trafficking in Sex and Labor: Domestic and International Responses on Nov. 13 and 14.

Human trafficking – already a major international concern – is expected to increase as the global economic crisis boosts demand for cheap labor and growing poverty makes people more vulnerable. At the same time, limited funding frustrates efforts at prevention, prosecution and remediation. Trafficking has been under active debate in Congress and is likely to receive renewed focus under the Obama administration.
The Penn Law Review symposium will provide a forum for scholars and practitioners to share and debate a range of viewpoints on how best to combat human trafficking. “Everyone agrees that trafficking is a major human rights problem,” observed Meena Sharma, the Law Review’s managing editor. “The question of what we can do about it is more complicated and controversial.”
The Law Review intends the symposium as an academic and practical event. “Due to the nature of the issue, our audience is especially broad,” said Sharma. “It includes law students, practitioners, and scholars, as well as grassroots organizations that work in trafficking and think tanks that debate the issue.”
Feminist and anti-trafficking activist Gloria Steinem will kick off the symposium with opening remarks and participation in a panel discussion. Renowned legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon, who specializes in gender equality issues under international and constitutional law, will deliver the keynote address.
Penn Law Professor Tobias Barrington Wolff proposed the topic of human trafficking to the Law Review articles editors, whose responsibilities include spearheading the symposium. The topic resonated with the Law Review. “The problem of human trafficking is so timely, and it touches on a broad array of legal issues and academic disciplines – everything from sociology and anthropology to economics,” said Sharma. “Plus, trafficking is an issue where academic theory and on-the-ground practice really intersect.”
The Penn Law Review traditionally sponsors one symposium each academic year and publishes articles from that symposium in the corresponding volume’s final issue. Recent topics have included intellectual property reform (2008-2009), the Class Action Fairness Act (2007-2008), and global warming (2006-2007). This year, in addition to hosting the on-campus symposium Trafficking in Sex and Labor: Domestic and International Responses, the Law Review will sponsor and publish articles from an off-site spring symposium examining financial regulations in the wake of the global financial crisis.