Hmm. Interesting synchronicity...

Max (female!)
Posted July 29, 2008 from United States

I singed up for this group earlier today and later decided to check out On the Issues, an old feminist mag which is now publishing online. Turns out their current issue is on Feminism and Prostitution, with some articles on trafficking.

Mostly critical of anti-trafficking efforts, some from a Global South perspective, others not, and some of the latter outright romanticizing what prostitution looks like for most women (thinking here of the British historian who gives an airbrushed account of Greco-Roman brothels, where in reality the majority of women were slaves, often war captives, under brutal conditions). Anyhow, i thought people might be interested in taking a look and perhaps commenting.

There was one link i hadn't seen before, maybe people are famiiiar with it:http://www.catwinternational.org/

Max Dashu Suppressed Histories Archiveshttp://www.suppressedhistories.net

New: Women's Power DVDhttp://www.suppressedhistories.net/womenspowerdvd.html

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John Berger
Jul 30, 2008
Jul 30, 2008

Thanks for the reference to http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com. I keep a close eye on this debate but I had not seen that publication before. Most of the articles there were pretty good and less one sided than I am used to seeing.

KatrinMcGauran
Aug 11, 2008
Aug 11, 2008

Yes thanks for the link, there are interesting articles there.

I only see one common mistake made in the trafficking article which I believe is dangerous, which is the conflation of sex work carried out voluntarily by sex workers with sex work carried out involuntarily by trafficked women. Whereas the voluntary nature of any work, when faced with economic destitution, restrictions and gender discrimination in the labour market, is surely subject to debate, there is nonetheless a fundamental difference between slavery and non-slavery in sex work, I believe. Some feminist discourses, namely abolitionists, would disagree.

In this article: http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com/july08/july2008_8.php, for example, which contains also good and interesting information, sex work is suddenly conflated with trafficking under the heading 'demand'. Firstly, there is no evidence to suggest that trafficking is triggered or increased by 'demand', ie the fact that there are men who buy sexual services. No empirical research has been done in the area, which abolitionists also admit.

Personally I would reason that there is a demand for cheap labour and exploited (submissive, etc) and specific types of labour (women, men, from particular ethnic backgrounds) and of course a demand in sexual services. But demand on its own does not create trafficking, but it is made possible by the lack of labour rights implementation, the lack of criminal prosecution of traffickers and compensation for its victims, plus strict immigration controls forcing migrants into illegality, making them even more vulnerable. This, together with the main reasons for trafficking, which is the profits that can be made with exploited labour, lie at the heart of trafficking I believe.

Secondly, sex workers are not synonymous with trafficked persons. Trafficked women are often forced into the sex industry, but they are also forced into domestic work, into the garment sector, into begging, and men are being trafficked into the agricultural and construction sector. In short, trafficking is not synonymous with sex work and those debates and claims of causal relationships should be carefully considered, as they can have disastrous policy consequences, as another article in the journal on the criminalisation of sex work in Cambodia shows (not that the author of the trafficking article supports the criminalisation of sex workers, but those conflations can lead to such policy outcomes).

I am actually just writing this because Max Dashu asked whether people wanted to comment, and I happen to have looked at many demand reports recently. An interesting one is: Trafficking – a Demand led Problem? A Multi-Country Pilot Study (http://www.lastradainternational.org/lsidocs/11%20Trafficking%20-%20a%20...)

Warm greetings, Katrin

Max (female!)
Nov 18, 2019
Nov 18, 2019

Katrin, you write, “there is no evidence to suggest that trafficking is triggered or increased by 'demand’." I must disagree, because demand is where big money is to be made by any pimp who can get women to sell sex, under whatever conditions. Where easy money can be had, there will be coercion. I don’t define “trafficking” narrowly, as is often done, to transporting across state or national boundaries, but any selling involving coerced humans. (Which includes the exploited laborers you mention, of course.) But as women who have exited the trade have repeatedly said, pimps are traffickers.

In the places where the sex industry has been decriminalized (including pimps and brothel owners), trafficking has greatly increased. This is true of Germany, Amsterdam, and New Zealand. See for example this article from New Zealand, “My work as a prostitute led me to oppose decriminalisation.” https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-41349301 which shows how women’s control of conditions they work under has actually narrowed under the decrim regime.

thanks, and sorry to be ten years in replying!
Max

This analysis is not a condemnation of women who do survival sex, but of the conditions that force them into that position.

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 10, 2019
Nov 10, 2019

Hi Max,
I appreciate the chance to look at the trafficking of women into forced prostitution, and find it critically important to be able to talk/write/speak about this without forced sexual slavery turning into a debate about what has been termed more recently and separately as sex work. I look to the words of Nomonde Mihlali (“Mickey”) Meji included in your links: "When my daughters grow up, I want to ask them, “What do you enjoy most about your job?” If you’re in prostitution that question is impossible to answer. South Africa cannot become a country where prostitution is what is left for us when everything else is taken away. Black women and girls deserve justice and equality, not the sex trade". My priority is to listen to women who have been through it. I imagine the day when no woman is forced or has no other option. Making sure there are options for financial security for women, good solid options, will show how many really do want to choose sex work. I look forward to the day when no man wants to buy sex, and when sexuality can be the powerful loving connection it can be. In the meantime I see our work as wanting to end all forms of violence, including needing to focus on trafficking without this specific work being stopped for debate.

Max (female!)
Nov 18, 2019
Nov 18, 2019

Hi Tam,

I agree with this, "My priority is to listen to women who have been through it." Unfortunately the loudest voices are coming from advocates of the sex industry in the Global North, the most privileged women, and not from those who have no other option, and who want out of it.

"Making sure there are options for financial security for women, good solid options, will show how many really do want to choose sex work." Yes. I support the Nordic model, decriminalizing those whose bodies are on the line, but not the pimps and brothel owners (whose interests are those of bosses). The big difficulty is funding services for the great majority of women who don't want to be there, but are constrained by poverty, housing costs, immigration status. There needs to be housing, support services, and job training to make exiting viable. The rates of PTSD are very high, given the high levels of violence by johns and pimps, and that needs to be addressed as well.