Dr Ramona Vijeyarasa joined the UTS Faculty of Law as a Chancellor’s Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in 2017. She is a graduate in law of the University of New South Wales and holds an LL.M specialising in international law from New York University School of Law.
Ramona is author of Sex, Slavery and the Trafficked Woman: Myths and misconceptions about Trafficking and its Victims. Her book is a pioneering study, drawing from Ramona’s fieldwork in Ukraine, Vietnam and Ghana. In her book, Ramona contests the coerced, female victim archetype as stereotypical and challenges her readers to understand trafficking in an alternative manner, coining the counterintuitive concept of the ’voluntary victim’.
Ramona is currently working on the development of a legislative gender index, a set of tools to classify legislation on a scale from gender-responsive to gender-blind. Beyond the areas typically assessed when it comes to women's rights, such as sexual and reproductive health and violence against women, this index will also include less-often considered areas such as trade, financial regulation and the extractives industries. Ramona plans to pilot her index in Asia – Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines – with a particular focus on women leaders and their legal legacy. The pilot will help us to better understand what impact women leaders have on the women they lead.
Ramona has won a number of academic awards and scholarships. This includes the United Association of Women Prize in the School of History and an NYU International Law and Human Rights Fellowship.
Ramona is admitted as a legal practitioner in New South Wales and the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Prior to joining UTS, Ramona worked as an international women’s rights lawyer for ActionAid International (in Nicaragua, Ghana and Belgium), the International Organisation for Migration (in Vietnam and Ukraine), the Centre for Reproductive Rights and the International Centre for Transitional Justice (both in New York).
In the Media
“The Modern Slavery Act: Did Australia get it right?” Australian Outlook, Australian Institute of International Affairs, 10 December 2018 https://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/australianoutlook/modern-slavery-act-did-australia-get-it-right/
“The internet and radicalised misogyny," Think: Digital future 2SER Radio 107.3, 29 May 2018 https://2ser.com/shows/thinkdigitalfutures
"When hero worship turns sour," New Matilda, 3 June 2009 https://newmatilda.com/2009/06/03/when-hero-worship-turns-sour/
Can supervise: YES
- International Law
- International women’s rights law
- Feminist Legal Theory
- Migration and human trafficking
Overall, this text provides readers of migration and development, gender studies, women's rights and international law a comprehensive and multidisciplinary analysis of the concept of trafficking.
Vijeyarasa, R 2019, 'A move in the right direction? The Model Law against Trafficking in Persons and the ILO Operational Indicators', International Migration, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 177-191.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Women make the world a better place for other women. Or do they? Some maintain that a woman in the top job will mean a brighter future for fellow women. However, we cannot even accept at face value the assumption that women leaders are good for women. This two-part series explores the case of Julia Gillard, Australia's first and thus far only female Prime Minister (from 2010-2013), regarding the issue of women's rights in her domestic and foreign policy agenda. Vijeyarasa discusses.
Bello Villarino, J-M & Vijeyarasa, R 2018, 'The indicator fad: How quantifiable measurement can work hand-in-hand with human rights - A response to Sally Engle Merry's The Seductions of Quantification', New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, vol. 50, no. 3, pp. 985-1020.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Vijeyarasa, R 2013, 'Stigma, stereotypes and Brazilian soap operas: road-blocks to ending human trafficking in Vietnam, Ghana and Ukraine', Gender, Place and Culture, vol. 20, no. 8, pp. 1015-1032.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
During the last 15 years, we have witnessed a significant and increasing focus on human trafficking in the work and research of international organisations, local and international non-governmental organisations, governments, researchers and academics from a range of disciplines. However, the focus remains on presumed structural causes of trafficking, including assumptions regarding victims' levels of education and sex. Other socio-cultural factors are frequently ignored in trafficking discourse. Based on fieldwork carried out in Vietnam, Ghana and Ukraine from July 2009 to November 2010, including 50 interviews with key informants, this article directs attention to some of these oft-ignored factors that continue to act as a barrier to ending human trafficking. Attention is paid to three socio-cultural factors that act as road-blocks to efforts to counter trafficking in all three countries: first, the stigmatisation of both sex work and trafficking; second, a narrow understanding of who constitutes a victim of trafficking and third, lack of attention by researchers and activists to the role of images of successful migration abroad as an influential pull factor. These research findings indicate the importance of understanding the intersections between race, culture, gender, sexuality and class to relation to women's and men's involvement in unsafe and/or exploitative migration abroad. © 2013 Taylor & Francis.
Vijeyarasa, R 2013, 'Women at the Margins of International Law: Reconceptualizing Dominant Discourses on Gender and Transitional Justice', International Journal of Transitional Justice, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 358-369.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Vijeyarasa, R & Bello Y Villarino, JM 2013, 'Modern day slavery? A Judicial Catchall for Trafficking, Slavery and Labour Exploitation: A Critique of Tang and Rantsev', Journal of International Law and International Relations, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 36-61.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Slavery and trafficking in persons continue to draw global attention,
fostering debates in sociological, political, academic and legal circles.
Governments, in particular, value being seen on the global stage as working
to combat the trafficking of human beings to and from their territories. With
prosecution of traffickers difficult in many jurisdictions, civil society
organizations and others always welcome efforts by regional courts to hold
governments accountable for their failure to fulfil their counter-trafficking
international obligations, or those by domestic courts to find traffickers
Vijeyarasa, R 2012, 'The Cinderella syndrome: Economic expectations, false hopes and the exploitation of trafficked Ukrainian women', Women's Studies International Forum, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 53-62.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Human trafficking is a multi-causal and multi-dimensional issue. The case of Ukraine evidences this complexity, with relevant factors spanning Ukraine's political history, its relations with the EU and the current state of socio-economic development. This paper focuses on the role of barriers to full and equal participation in the labour market for Ukrainian women as a driver of human trafficking. The purpose is to use qualitative data and secondary sources to assess the extent to which a causal relationship can be identified between labour market barriers and vulnerability to trafficking and trafficking-like conditions that result from the search for economic betterment abroad by irregular or undocumented means. Attention is also paid to the pull factor of images of migrant success abroad, an element which is often neglected in trafficking discussions. Consequently, labour market barriers are intimately connected to the lure of migration success in destination countries, whether true, exaggerated or entirely false. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
Vijeyarasa, R 2011, 'Trafficking and human rights: European and Asia-Pacific Perspectives by Leslie Holmes and The international law of human trafficking by Anne T. Gallagher', Australian Journal of Human Rights, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 139-143.
Vijeyarasa, R 2010, 'The impossible victim: Judicial treatment of trafficked migrants and their unmet expectations', Alternative Law Journal, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 217-222.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Vijeyarasa, R 2010, 'The State, the family and language of 'social evils': re-stigmatising victims of trafficking in Vietnam', CULTURE HEALTH & SEXUALITY, vol. 12, pp. S89-S102.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Ramona Vijeyarasa explores the issue of gender equality in Vietnam and argues that the picture is far more complex than one of rapid advancement towards attainment of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3. She shows that when data is disaggregated and progress is measured against other international standards - including those set out in the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and global commitments made at the United Nations (UN) Conference on population and development in Cairo and women in Beijing - greater investment, both financial and human resources, and increased political will, are needed well beyond 2015. Vijeyarasa examines Vietnams achievements and shortfalls as measured against the MDGs with an eye to the potential for institutional reform of gender machinery at the national and international levels in order to create stronger accountability for the rights of Vietnamese women and progress towards womens empowerment.
Vijeyarasa, R & Stein, RA 2010, 'HIV and Human Trafficking-Related Stigma Health Interventions for Trafficked Populations', JAMA-JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, vol. 304, no. 3, pp. 344-345.View/Download from: Publisher's site
vijeyarasa 2010, 'Exploitation or expectations? Moving beyond consent in prostitution, trafficking and migration discourse', Women's Policy Journal of Harvard, vol. 7, pp. 11-22.
Vijeyarasa, R 2009, 'Putting Reproductive Rights on the Transitional Justice Agenda: The Need to Redress Violations and Incorporate Reproductive Health Reforms in Post Conflict Development', New England Journal of International and Comparative Law, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 41-62.
Bello y Villarino, JM & Vijeyarasa, R 2008, 'The international implications of the European consensus against the death penalty: The obligation of the EU to protect European citizens abroad from execution', Journal of European Studies, Universitas Indonesia,, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 58-73.
Vijeyarasa, R 2007, 'Facing Australia's history: Truth and reconciliation for the stolen generations', Sur International Journal on Human Rights (Special Issue on Transitional Justice),, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 127-150.
Vijeyarasa, R 2014, 'Hidden Data, Hidden Victims: Trafficking in the context of globalisation and labour exploitation-the case of Vietnam' in Rawlinson, MC, Commers, RMS & Johnston, T (eds), Labour and global justice: Essays on ethics of labour practices under globalisation, Lexington Books, USA, pp. 141-164.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Vijeyarasa, R 2014, 'Roadblocks to counter-trafficking: A comparative analysis of Vietnam, Ghana and Ukraine' in Zina, M & Abreu, GD (eds), Women Past and Present: Biographic and Interdisciplinary Studies, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK, pp. 266-282.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
The exploitation of migrant women abroad through trafficking and
trafficking-like conditions is a global phenomenon. The purpose of this
chapter is to highlight similarities and differences in the main barriers that
exist to counter the traffic of women through a comparative study of
Vietnam, Ghana and Ukraine. This chapter is based on fieldwork carried
out in the three countries from July 2009 to November 2010, including 52
interviews with key informants and first-hand data collected from 109
returned victims of trafficking. This research identifies the political, legal,
socio-cultural and economic road-blocks that continue to hinder efforts to
counter trafficking using a human rights and migration-centred framework
in all three research countries.
Governments, NGOs and other stakeholders have been engaging in
counter-trafficking activities for years, particularly since the enactment in
2000 of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in
Persons, Especially Women and Children (Trafficking Protocol). The
Protocol specifically calls for a 'comprehensive international approach' to
'prevent and combat trafficking in persons' (Preamble). Nonetheless, an
array of barriers to combating trafficking exists, ranging from
shortcomings with national trafficking laws and access to justice for
victims, to the reality that some governments fail to play an active and
positive role in the countering of trafficking. In other instances, negative
perceptions held about individual victims or their own unwillingness to self-identify as a trafficked person, present obstacles. An on-going
emphasis on a criminal justice rather than human-rights centred approach
is an overarching challenge.
In this chapter, I focus on three key issues:
(a) The impact of criminalisation of sex work and stigma associated with
both sex work and trafficking;
(b) Stereotypes concerning who constitutes a victim of trafficking; and
(c) The role of cultural attitudes and myths concerning the '...
Vijeyarasa, R 2019, 'Sex workers, sweatshops and seasonal pickers: How women's experiences and voices feature in Australia's modern slavery regulatory regime', UNSW Innovate Rights: New Thinking on Business and Human Rights, UNSW Sydney.
Vijeyarasa, R 2018, 'Political personas of Asia's women leaders and their failure to represent the women they led', https://sydney.edu.au/content/dam/corporate/documents/sydney-southeast-…, Biennial Asian Studies Association of Australia, Sydney, Australia.
As of August 2015, only 18 women leaders worldwide had reached the highest level of elected office. Contrary to expectations that women leaders will promote the interests of fellow women, it is a misconception and arguably an unreasonable expectation that a woman leader will necessarily want to promote the rights and interests of women. Moreover, many such leaders are plagued by an embedded culture of 'institutional masculinity' in most parliaments, making it difficult to introduce a women's rights friendly agenda, resulting in claims of 'western feminism' at play. Yet, despite the limited positive roles that they individually played in the lives of the women they led, all three women leaders – like many in Asia – have been framed as Asia's tigers. Analyzing the image of the tiger, this paper examines the question 'For whom and what did they fight?'
Vijeyarasa, R 2018, 'Australia's Modern Day Slavery Acts: How legal language can reinforce misconceptions about trafficking, sex work and labour exploitation', Law and Society Association of Australian and New Zealand: Inclusion, Exclusion, Democracy, University of Wollongong.
Vijeyarasa, R 2017, 'The legal legacy of women leaders in Asia: Ending violence against women in Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka', http://www.arts.uwa.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/3046620/WIA-prog…, Women in Asia Conference, University of Western Australia.
Vijeyarasa, R 2015, 'Trafficked and Silenced: How Mainstream Trafficking Discourse Stifles the Voices and Shapes the Stories of Victims', https://gvrnconference.arts.unsw.edu.au/conference-materials#concurrent, Inaugural Asia-Pacific Conference on Gendered Violence and Violations, University of New South Wales.
Vijeyarasa, R 2011, 'Roadblocks to counter-trafficking: A comparative analysis of Vietnam, Ghana and Ukraine', International Colloquium: Debating Women: Past and Present, Funchal, Portugal.
Vijeyarasa, R 2010, 'Vietnam's MDG report card: An assessment of progress on reproductive heath', Asian Conference on Social Sciences: East Meets West in Pursuit of a Sustainable World, Osaka, Japan.