Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The extend of sexual slavery....

My second post about trafficking. In my first post about this topic I blogged about forgotten male victims and that trafficking is merely seen as sex-trafficking, where victims are almost always women or girls. It is always interesting to hear contrary voices.

The profits generated worldwide by all forms of slavery in 2007 was 91.2 billion American dollars. That is second only to drug trafficking in terms of global, criminal, illicit enterprises. 40 percent of this money is produced by the 4 percent of slaves that work in the sex industry. [Kara, Siddharth (October 2008). Sex Trafficking - Inside the Business of Modern Slavery. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0231139601.]

4%?!? Quite contrary to that:

Due to the illegal nature of trafficking and differences in methodology, the exact extent is unknown. According to United States State Department data, an "estimated 600,000 to 820,000 men, women, and children [are] trafficked across international borders each year, approximately 70 percent are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. The data also illustrates that the majority of transnational victims are trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation." However, they go on to say that "the alarming enslavement of people for purposes of labor exploitation, often in their own countries, is a form of human trafficking that can be hard to track from afar." Thus the figures for persons trafficked for labor exploitation are likely to be greatly underestimated.
From Wiki

Greatly underestimated...there seems to be a mixing of terms as well. As victims of sexual-trafficking doesn´t necessarily mean being exploited, but can also mean to choose working as a prostitude:

There is no universally accepted definition of trafficking for sexual exploitation. The term encompasses the organized movement of people, usually women, between countries and within countries for sex work with the use of physical coercion, deception and bondage through forced debt. However, the issue becomes contentious when the element of coercion is removed from the definition to incorporate facilitating the willing involvement in prostitution. For example, In the United Kingdom, The Sexual Offences Act, 2003 incorporated trafficking for sexual exploitation but did not require those committing the offence to use coercion, deception or force, so that it also includes any person who enters the UK to carry out sex work with consent as having being trafficked.

Save the Children stated "The issue gets mired in controversy and confusion when prostitution itself is considered as a violation of the basic human rights of both adult women and minors, and equal to sexual exploitation per se..... trafficking and prostitution become conflated with each other.... On account of the historical conflation of trafficking and prostitution both legally and in popular understanding, an overwhelming degree of effort and interventions of anti-trafficking groups are concentrated on trafficking into prostitution"


In Japan the prosperous entertainment market had created huge demand for commercial sexual workers, and such demand is being met by trafficking women and children from the Philippines, Colombia and Thailand. Women are forced into street prostitution, based stripping and live sex acts. However, from information obtained from detainees or deportees from Japan, about 80 percent of the women went there with the intention of working as prostitutes
From Wiki

We can now assume that the huge number of 70% also include a lot of women who willingly enter prostitution. And it gets more bizarre, now women get rescued by anti-trafficking groups, against their will, an example from Thailand:

Over the past three years there has been an increased international and national focus on the situation of women who have been trafficked.

However, the focus on trafficking in persons has meant many groups with little or no experience on the issues of migration, labor, sex work or women's rights have been created to take advantage of the large sums of money available to support anti-trafficking activities. Their inexperience and lack of contact with the sex worker community has meant they are unable or unwilling to differentiate between women who have been trafficked and migrant workers. They also show a great deal of trouble differentiating between women and girls, often applying identical standards and solutions for both. It is obviously inappropriate to treat a girl as an adult and just as obviously inappropriate to treat an adult as a child.


Prior to the 2nd of May women from a brothel called Baan Rom Yen had been studying Thai daily with Empower, joining our outside activities e.g. attending a workshop on migrant's rights, going to swimming lessons, going to a local water fall. Women also had access to the public health weekly and were provided with safe sex equipment and skills by Empower. None of these women had talked about being trafficked and when they discussed their work, plans and dreams none showed any need or wish for outside rescue.

On the 1st of May three of the women collected their savings from the owner and contacted a van in order to take them home to Burma on Friday 2nd of May. One of these three went with a customer on the 1st of May and didn't come back. Her friends and employer were worried for her. The other women postponed their trip home in order to wait for her.

At 11 pm May 2nd women heard people yelling "police". Those that could get away did and the others were "caught". Everyone, including the brothel owner saw the missing woman in the police car, saw her name on the arrest warrant and assumed that she had gone to the police.


Journalists and photographers also accompanied the police and "rescue team". Photos of the women were taken without their consent and appeared in the local papers and TV the next day.


Women who were "rescued" understood they had been arrested. They had their belongings taken from them.


In all 28 women were "rescued". Some of the women were not employees of that brothel but were simply visiting friends when they were "rescued". Women were transported by Trafcord and the police against their will to a Public Welfare Boys Home. Nineteen women were locked inside and have remained there for the past 31 days. We have no information on the whereabouts or situation of the other ten women.


They are only permitted to use their phones for a short time each evening and must hide in the bathroom to take calls outside that time. They report that they have been subjected to continual interrogation and coercion by Trafcord. Women understand that if they continue to maintain that they want to remain in Thailand and return to work that they will be held in the Public Welfare Boys Home or similar institution until they recant. Similarly they understand that refusing to be witnesses against their "traffickers" will further delay their release.


They were shocked to hear that the raid had not been about arresting women but rather in order to 'rescue" those women who were victims of trafficking.

Each of the women were emphatic that all the workers were well informed before coming, had made satisfactory salary arrangements with the employer, had the freedom to leave and all were 19 years and over.

One woman who has a 50,000 baht advance from the owner had traveled home twice in the past two months to visit family etc. Although she had borrowed the money as an advance against her wages she felt no fear or threat. She and the others were all supported by the management to refuse customers, attend to health care, access safe working equipment, education and training. They were receiving an average of 600 Baht a day (the minimum wage in Chiang Mai Thailand is 133 Baht a day) They now find themselves unable to work.


They had fled the brothel leaving their possessions and savings behind. The brothel was now locked and they were unable to regain their goods.


These women have nowhere to stay, no money and therefore are unable to access basic needs including medical care and education.


All the women being held plan to return to work as soon as possible after their inevitable deportation. This will of course result in them paying yet another transport fee and facing more risks, including the risk of being "rescued" again.

Traffickers and many anti-trafficking groups employ very similar methods to achieve their goals. Both groups deceive women, transport them against their will, detain them, and put them in dangerous situations.
From here

Unbelieveable. Those women above willingly earned 4.5 times the average and life has been made far worse by the rescue. One blogger hit the nail on the head:

It’s the season when the United States issues its annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP). Having named sexual slavery as a particular evil to be eradicated, the United States grades other countries on how they are doing.

On the one hand, it sounds like an obvious way to do good: Describe the ghastly conditions you as a rich outsider observe in poor countries. Focus on places where sex is sold. Say all women found were kidnapped virgins and are now enslaved; announce to the world that you will liberate them. Organize raids. Denounce anyone who objects - even if their objection is that you are intervening in their country’s internal affairs. Ignore victims who resist rescue. Use lurid language and talk continuously about the most sensational and terrible cases. Justify your actions as a manifestation of faith, as though it exists only for you. Mutter about “organized crime.”


For crusading politicians and religious leaders, a rhetoric of moral indignation is effective in uniting constituents and diverting the collective gaze away from familiar problems at home. So the culprits, those who get bad grades in the TIP, live far away from U.S. culture, which is assumed to be better. Intransigent local troubles - prisons overflowing with African Americans, millions of children malnourished - are swept aside in the call to clean up other people’s countries.

This moral indignation emanates from people who live comfortably, who are not wondering where their next meal will come from or how to pay doctors’ bills. These moral entrepreneurs do not have to choose between being a live-in maid, with no privacy or free time and unable to save money because the pay is so bad, and selling sex, which pays so well that you have time to spend with your children or read a book, money to buy education or a phone.

It is easy to haul out sensationalistic language (sex slavery, child prostitution), but it is much harder to sort out the real victims from the more routinely disadvantaged and trying-to-get-ahead. Those who know intimately the problems of the poor in their own cultures rarely deny that they can decide to leave home and pay others to help them travel and find work, in sex or in any other trade.

“But sex for money is disgusting and degrading; no one should have to do it.” And should anyone have to clean toilets all day? Risk being maimed in unsafe fireworks factories? Should children have to spend their lives in lightless tunnels of mines, or women have to remain married to men who are cruel to them? The world is full of things we wish we could eradicate - but isn’t starvation the first of them? Why is there no equivalent moral furor over hideous poverty? Are we meant to believe that sex without love is worse than military violence? All over the world, selling sex pays better than most jobs readily available to women, and many do not believe it is the worst possible experience they can have.

What’s questionable about the TIP is not the defense of children or anyone else against true violence - it’s one government’s assumption that it has the right to judge everyone else and apply a draconian definition of exploitation that does not ask people whether and how they would like to change their lives. Questionable is the focus on the photogenic, cowboy moment of rushing in to rescue slaves, with no interest in what will follow.


From the standpoint of social science, the TIP is gravely faulty. It never explains how data were gathered and compared across so many languages and cultures, or who did it exactly under what circumstances. A raft of other research shows enormous diversity among people who sell sex, and a wide variety of experiences in the sex industry among both migrants and people who stay at home. Studies show that the worst kind of trafficking can happen to people doing other kinds of jobs - and to men. Women all over the world, including the poorest, repudiate being characterized as above all sexually vulnerable.
From here

It turns out the war against trafficking is nothing more than a crusade against prostitution, which leaves a bitter aftertaste in my mouth when thinking about forgotten labour slaves.

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