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Sex Trafficking

Sex Trafficking

It would seem self evident that people who have been trafficked to work in another country are victims that should be saved.  However, with closer inspection the situation is far more varied than the polemic argument that the media and governments worldwide would have us think.

According to a recent UK Government study only 6% of foreign sex workers in the UK are truly trafficked in the common sense of the word, with the remainder 94% having experienced a variety of differing levels of consent and experience, all of which compare to a more everyday experience of holding down a job.  For instance, how many people can say the love their job or wouldn't choose another more reliable/better paid/easier one given the choice? Here the term 'sex work' comes into it's fore, sex work is much like most work, workers have good days and bad days, good customers and bad customers, sometimes they love the freedom their job gives them, sometimes they want out.

What WeConsent say is, let the police and governments focus on those who do not consent to work in the sex industry and stop making laws that affect all foreign sex workers, in the process making their jobs more dangerous. Such bodies need to start believing sex workers when they say they consent, rather than seeing them as hood-winked or suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

Sex work and the rescue industry

Dr Laura Agustin, The Naked Anthropologist has been researching trafficking since the early 1990's.  Her book Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry cites 65 studies showing that migrants were ok about selling sex worldwide. She has written numerous articles about her research on sex trafficking including The shadowy world of sex across borders, The sex in sex trafficking, and What's wrong with the trafficking crusade. Her work covers both the current situation with migrational sex workers as well as the history of the anti-sex work crusades.

To read more about Dr Laura Agustin's biography, please click here

Agustin: In chapter four of Sex at the Margins, I lookat the history, at the period when the bourgeoisie started to define what society should look like and how everybody should live (whilst nobility and monarchy were fading from power). I did this historical research to try to understand what saving prostitutes was about, how it began and why. The result of that research was really revealing, showing how the role of Rescuer depends on the existence of Victims who need Rescue because their ways of life appear to be wrong. If you want the full-strength theoretical version, read Helping Women Who Sell Sex. The Rescuer gains a positive sense of identity, of Doing Good.

I do not mean to sneer at anyone’s feelings about life’s meaning or the desire to diminish injustice. But it is important not to take at face value claims to be Helping, Saving or Rescuing just because people say that is what they are doing. I take note of how the Rescue Industry sustains itself and grows, how the cultural meaning of helping and saving changes over time, and I am interested in who gets involved and what they say about their actions.

In the midst of economic crisis, intransigent armed conflicts, increasing socio-economic inequality and general anomie, anti-trafficking and anti-slavery campaigns flourish, with more people and more money involved all the time. Presumably it just feels good, being able to be part of something Big and also something apparently Simple, in which everyone can agree: Slavery is bad. Look at images of Rescue Operations, with people rushing in to save others they don’t know from fires and earthquakes: some people find these actions to be the height of nobility.

Celebrities jump on bandwagons for the sake of publicity, which we may giggle over (consider Ashton Kutcher, Emma Thompson and Mira Sorvino.) But the following comments, which come from a serious person, struck me. Kristen Lindsey expresses a sense of thrill at getting to be part of the anti-slavery crusade, at having arrived on time to Do Something about a social scourge. Her words actually make me slightly queasy: the presence of suffering makes her glad because it gives her Important Work to do. The construction of her own identity is the point.

None of us are free, Kristen Lindsey, 26 October 2011, The Huffington Post

… Growing up, just after the 1960s, I feared that I had missed my chance to take part in the most important movement in our country. I now know that I have found my place — and that all of us can step up and join a movement that matters. This year, I became CEO of The Global Fund for Children…

The torch has been passed to us. Putting an end to modern day slavery is our civil rights movement. Now it’s our time to make a difference, and we must continue to work together to ensure that people everywhere are free.

Anyone who still thinks this movement is about women who sell sex: Wake up. It’s gone way, way past that.

For the complete article please see here.

English Collective of Prostitutes' Facts on Sex Trafficking

This information comes from the English Prostitute Collective website, see here for the original article.

1.      The UK charge of trafficking for prostitution, unlike trafficking for any other industry, does not require force or coercion.  This enables every woman with a foreign accent to be falsely labelled a victim of trafficking! 

2.      Figures which claim that “80% of women working in the sex industry in the UK have been trafficked” have been thoroughly discredited, most recently by an extensive investigation in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/20/trafficking-numbers-women-exaggerated.

3.      In response to questions by John McDonnell MP, the Home Office claims that 4,000 women are trafficked into the UK a year. But this research is based on incredulous claims such as: “every single foreign woman in the ‘walk-up’ flats in Soho had been smuggled into the country and forced to work as a prostitute.”[1] This would come as a surprise to the over 60 women who work in walk-up flats in Soho who regularly attend our meetings, do interviews with the press, meet parliamentarians and who describe their situation as mothers supporting families or working to send money back home.

4.      Information that the phones at the UK Trafficking Centre are answered by immigration officers indicates that far from providing protection anti-trafficking initiatives are primary aimed at the targeting and deportation of immigrant women.

5.      Victims of trafficking are not being helped.  Despite government claims about prioritising trafficking, most victims get no protection.  In the last few weeks the Guardian exposed that 77 suspected child victims of trafficking went missing from a local authority care home over a period of two years.  Only four children have been found and there have been no prosecutions.  A surveillance operation at the home was cancelled, and despite it being known that children were disappearing more young people kept on being sent there.  What does this say about the priority given to cases of trafficking where harm may be occurring that resources couldn’t be found to place two officers outside the home to stop the children disappearing?  What does it say about the immigration authorities which worked hand in hand with the police and kept sending children there?  These children would not be better protected with the measures in the Bill.