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The transformation of socialist economies into capitalist economies was a crucial context for the rise of post–Cold War human trafficking. This chapter analyzes the economic transformations that created high social vulnerabilities in the region but were normalized by political elites east and west. In the 1990s, there was everyday violence for almost everyone, but it was not recognized as such. Instead, only some forms of violence—human trafficking—were recognized by states and international organizations. Women experienced the transition as an economic hardship, but this was not easily recognized by global women’s rights categories such as “violence against women.” The chapter examines how the economic dimensions of trafficking were depoliticized by the process known as “transition” as well as the dominant women’s rights agenda against gender violence. The depoliticization of economic violence is illustrated with an analysis of how sexual harassment and sex trafficking are treated in the Russian context.

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