Working together for effective solutions to trafficking and forced labor

josie, on September 19th, 2007 at 2:20 am Said:

“Karly, this is an issue I am deeply intereseted in. What should be the standard practice when dealing with trafficed women cuaght in raids? There are obviously going to be raids. And at least in Nevada, there are many undocumented people caught up in them.

So what should be done? Obviously ICE is not the answer. We can’t just send them back to their trafficker. So what is the human standard of care here? Anyone?”

Hi Josie, thanks for posting this question. It seems important, so I decided to make it a whole new thread.

Since I am a US-based worker, I cannot speak from personal experience about what trafficking victims go through before, during or after raids. For information, I look to trusted organizations such as:

The Network of Sex Work Projects

The Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center

EMPOWER, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Zi Teng, Hong Kong

And there are many others. These are just examples to get you started.

This article provides a chronological explanation of how money for trafficking is routed in the US. It highlights the problem of using un-scientific and exaggerated figures to quantify the problem of trafficking. Using these figures dilutes the real problems of trafficking that exist, focuses energy on punishment rather than services and wrongfully discriminates against women who travel here from other countries, even if not for sex work or any other labor.

From my perspective, even one case of sexual exploitation is too much and something should be done about it. But one instance of abuse does not mean that all sex work is abusive. Sex workers should be seen as allies in this fight. We need real solutions that provide assistance and support to people who are actually in need, rather than money being funneled through law enforcement agencies. The Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in NYC provides legal support and assistance with immigration paperwork/T visas/etc. I would check them out for info about the actual practical details of assisting an identified trafficking victim. These efforts require money, but the money available for this work comes with all sorts of strings attached. Here is a statement from SWP:

Statement on Trafficking in Persons for the 51st Session of the Commission for the Status of Women on the “elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child.”

We recommend a realistic and effective policy model on human trafficking and prostitution, which would include:

• Training people who work in all industries where trafficking occurs to identify and aid trafficked persons;

• Enforcement of laws against assault, extortion and other human rights abuses committed against trafficked persons and sex workers;

• Access to comprehensive health care, education, and opportunities to seek a living wage in adulthood for all girl children;

• Removal of harsh immigration policies that exacerbate the vulnerabilities of those who are susceptible to being trafficked;

• Reform the criminal justice response to prostitution, as harsh systems increase vulnerability for trafficking and other abuses;

• Training in business and money management;

• Reductions in social stigmas that often prohibit sex workers from moving into other forms of labor if they want to do so; and

• Education and empowerment for sex workers on ways to prevent the spread of HIV.

What has actually happened is that there are a few thousand cases annually of trafficking for sexual purposes (and many thousand more cases of trafficking for other labor) but the numbers have been inflated. The federal government pumped tons of money into the ‘war on sex trafficking’ based on these false estimates. This resulted in dozens of NGO’s and law enforcement agencies getting huge grants to find victims that did not exist (this is not to say that there are no victims at all, but there were not enough victims to meet quotas for this money.) Since there were not enough people who could be identified as trafficked persons to justify this funding- and the NGO’s, law enforcement entities and government workers wanted to continue receiving that money- the definition of trafficking needed to be broadened, in order to include anybody engaged in any consensual sexual exchange, including US citizens. There are various provisions about crossing county/state lines for the purposes of sexual commerce= trafficking, etc. Plus, they wanted to be able to go after clients, which is where the ‘end demand’ language factors in. More info about the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the 2003 re-authorization of that act can be found here.

Some more material from SWP at the Urban Justice Center:

 

CRITIQUE OF FOCUS ON DEMAND IN THE CONTEXT OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS

On the supply side, poverty, unemployment, the search for economic and other opportunities, and gender inequality combine to put many people at risk for exploitation and abuse during the migration process or once they arrive at their intended destination. Addressing these causes of the “supply” will do far more to protect the rights of sex workers and of trafficked persons than ineffective attempts to curb “demand.”

 

 

THE DANGER OF CONFLATING TRAFFICKING AND SEX WORK:

Sex work is alternately described as being the same as trafficking in persons or the cause of trafficking into sex work.16 These conclusions are based on flawed studies, providing biased and inadequate information.17 Conflating sex work with trafficking into sex work erases the voices of sex workers, worsening the conditions of sex workers and warping discussions of trafficking.

16 See Feingold, supra note 2, at 24 (The State Department website argues “Where prostitution is legalized or tolerated, there is greater demand for human trafficking victims and nearly always an increase in the number of women and children trafficked into commercial sex slavery,” despite a lack of data to support this bold assertion). 17 Ronald Weitzer, The Growing Moral Panic Over Prostitution and Sex Trafficking, THE CRIMINOLOGIST, 30(5), 1-5, 3-4 (Sept./Oct. 2005).

 

Response to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights aspects of the victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Sigma Huda

A human rights-based approach to human trafficking acknowledges the root causes of trafficking, such as discriminatory practices in education, health and education marginalizing women, girls and minorities, and focuses on empowerment models to reduce or eliminate the vulnerability of persons to being trafficked. A human rights approach is more effective than a solely repressive criminal law strategy that claims to address the consequences of trafficking but not the causes.

I hope that this material will be helpful to you in understanding a human rights based approach. Hopefully other folks can add more material or clarify some of my summary. Thanks for taking the time to look into this Josie!

sincerely,

Karly

32 Responses

  1. This paper by the Global Alliance Against the Traffic in Women is also very worthwhile:

    Trafficking: A Demand Led Problem?”

    GAATW is one of the major anti-trafficking NGOs, and unlike Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, doesn’t conflate voluntary sex work with forced prostitution and sex trafficking.

    Also worth checking out is this new paper by Ronald Weitzer:

    The Social Construction of Sex Trafficking: Ideology and Institutionalization of a Moral Crusade

    While I think Weitzer takes too uncritical of a view of present-day versions of regulated prostitution (such as Nevada brothels) and has perhaps too-benign a view of poor women going into sex work at the behest of their families, I think the paper overall is very good and provides a strong, richly referenced source for clearing up a lot of myths, such as the idea the conflation of all sex work with trafficking.

  2. Karly: Thank you 1,000 times for reading the articles and posting pertinent points!!!!

  3. This is so well-constructed. The WaPo article makes me feel a little bit of hope. And re: Ronald Weitzer, I wonder what he would think of our efforts!

  4. […] Bound, Not Gagged, with many more resources on how supposed anti-sex trafficking policies translate on the […]

  5. yeah if we wanted to work together for effective solutions, telling the truth about the numbers is the obvious place to start as well as who’s profiting off the criminalization of prostitution and the criminalization of immigration. Also it would be prudent to get some research to expose the role that international trade agreements have actually play in the forced migration/labor. We can spend money empowering workers in foreign countries all day long how to be capitalist, but its not a comprehensive approach.

    The last few chapters in this book titled the ‘Sex of Class’ talks about some it.
    http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Class-Women-Transforming-American/dp/0801489431/ref=sr_1_6/105-4757931-0627668?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1190668742&sr=8-6

  6. The lack of compassion for victims of sex trafficking here is appalling. Why is it so important to you to minimize it? Is it because it would force you to look at the fact that your johns are assholes who don’t care where that 16 year old Korean girl came from? Does that mess with your fantasy of the sweet lovable john?

    Are some of you traffickers? Or pimps who make money on the backs of those trafficked women and children? What the hell is your motivation?

    Do you honestly think they all WANT to come here and are using “sex work” as an immigration vehicle?

    Being kidnapped and repeatedly raped is not “work” or “choice” or “a legitimate option for poor women.” I would expect to find a little more compassion here and a plan of action to help the victims.

    Is your entire agenda just to attack Farley? You have nothing else to offer? Nothing that can help real women…today?

  7. Willow, you may need to re-read this post, and the rest of this site for that matter. Nobody here has sympathy for anybody who would force women into sexual servitude. This post actually outlines resources for trafficking victims and the positions that an organization that actually works directly with trafficking victims has on this issue. Perhaps you should follow the links and see what services SWP actually provides.

    None of us are traffickers or pimps- although that seems to be the favorite accusation of abolitionists when you don’t have any better grounds to attack us on.

    Our agenda is not to attack Farley, had you read through this site at all, you’d see that it is about a lot more than that. Challenging Farley’s unsubstantiated claims are a current topic of discussion.

    Welcome.

  8. Gosh, it seems the more diplomatic and open we are, the more folks respond with anger and hostility.

    I made this post in part to give kudos to some folks who are doing good work. And in part to make the point that blaming sex workers for the existing problems with human trafficking does nothing to assist the people who are actually being trafficked- ACCORDING TO the people who actually provide direct services to victims of trafficking, not just numbers and statistics used by ‘researchers’ and lobbying groups.

    Willow, you’re new here and haven’t actually had a chance to engage with us. I’m sure if you hang out for long enough you’ll find that we have very common goals that we should be working on together.

  9. Willow, just because we support the right of sex workers to cross borders legally and safely doesn’t mean that we lack compassion for trafficking victims.
    The conflation of all migrant sex work with trafficking actually makes workers in the sex industry more vulnerable to trafficking and other abuses that occur on the illegal market. If sex workers had the opportunity to cross borders safely and legally, they would have no need for traffickers to sneak them over the border for thousands of dollars. They would at least have legally recognized labor rights and perpetrators of violence could no longer use the criminalization of these sex workers as a tool to get away with abusing them, hold them in debt bondage, or cheat them out of pay. under the criminalization of prostitution, the pepetrators can threaten to turn sex workers into authorities in order to silence them and get away with such abuses as the ones described above. Migrant sex workers face the additional fear of deportation.
    Also, in response to your comment that our clients “are assholes who don’t care where a 16 year old Korean girl came from,” are you trying to say that all Korean sex workers are trafficking victims? If so, this is a very xenophobic attitude that has resulted in many sex workers who came to the U.S. from South Korea being subject to raids, arrests, and deportations. Is that your idea of compassion?
    Also, you didn’t mention how U.S. pressure on South Korea to enforce prohibitionist policies against prostitution has resulted in mass arrests of prostitutes in South Korea and thus, numerous South Korean sex workers are fleeing South Korea to seek work else where, and some of these workers have come to the U.S. What a self-fulfilling prophesy……………….

  10. >Are some of you traffickers? Or pimps who make money on the backs of those trafficked women and children? What the hell is your motivation?>

    Nope. And, what they all said.

    I really hate this whole “nuance? vas is das ‘nuance?’ YOU EAT BABIES, DON’T YOU!!” thing, i gotta say.

  11. The comment that there are no pimps or traffickers here is incorrect. C’mon people.

    Certainly it appears there may be some sex workers here who are sincerely concerned with trafficking. If that is case, are you not troubled by the current PR campaign by Weitzer and others to minimize the pain and suffering caused by trafficking? I would think you would find it very troubling. What is the agenda behind minimizing the pain of victims of trafficking? What could it be? THINK!

    And what is this phrase “Migrant sex workers” all about, sexworkeradvocate? Are you trying to convince us there is a huge contingent of women just chomping at the bit to cross the border and become prostitutes in America? Seriously? You’re not even a little bit concerned that they will be taken advantage of by traffickers and pimps? Not even just a little bit concerned?

  12. Willow,

    I agree with all the responses thus far.

    Imagine how much social change we could orchestrate if we focused all our energy on said change and not on attacking each other?

  13. Janfray,

    I’m pretty sure there are women chomping at the bit to be prostitutes in America, just as there are men ready and willing to come and pick our fields. For those who come to work here voluntarily (if not legally), the potential money is worth the risk. This is certainly a statement on the sad state of affairs in their home countries.

    I think all of us here are concerned about their well-being because their well-being is our well-being. No sex worker in America is truly seperate — the same issues affect us all.

    The only issues I have with the whole trafficking thing is that the hysteria surrounding it tends to be overblown, real victims slip through the cracks and it’s used to demonize all sex workers — including those who make a choice to be a sex worker.

    XX

  14. oops, somehow I missed janfray’s response. I’m glad Amanda caught it, and I concur.

  15. “C’mon people.”

    I hear this sort of condescending stuff from people in these debates a lot. It’s very Bill O’Reilly, very patriarchal in tone, to try to manipulate what people think about what someone else has said to try to invalidate them with a dig that implies that the answer is so obvious it doesn’t even need to be substantiated. It’s the old “rolling of the eyes” trick.

  16. Janfray, migrant sex workers are not just sex workers coming from outside the US to work in the US, but sex workers who cross borders all over the world to work outside their country of origin or residence. Many of us here work with sex workers from outside the US in our advocacy work, and partner with organizations who fight for the human rights of sex workers to travel freely, as any other person. When all border-crossing for work is labeled “trafficking,” it removes agency from legitimate workers.

    We don’t need to over-exaggerate the wrongs of human trafficking in order to combat it. In the supposed “PR campaign” of Weitzer, what is being questioned, and fairly, are the typical Bush administration tactics of whipping up hysteria with vague or false evidence in order to fund Federal, state and local agencies to do work they aren’t trained or prepared to take on. We want to find real solutions to trafficking, but those solutions needed to be grounded in evidence and advocacy, not moral panic and chauvinism.

  17. Then name them, Janfray. I am not a pimp or a trafficker, and I resent the implication that because I don’t immediately fall in line with someone’s dogma I must have some Sinister Ulterior Motive. I’m quite certain a lot of other people feel the same way.

  18. I find it distressing that not one of the dissenters here has shared their thoughts on the breadth of information presented in the original posting.

  19. “I find it distressing that not one of the dissenters here has shared their thoughts on the breadth of information presented in the original posting.”

    I have had plenty of people insult me over my piece about my experience with being uninvited from an NYU panel, one of whom even said that I was probably uninvited for the “whiff of intellectual dishonesty” that came off me–as if whiffs of intellectual dishonesty get people kicked off panels, not activists with agendas. I’ve had people accuse me of being a corporate lackey (whether of an actual corporation or just some vague corporate culture, I have no idea), which is ridiculous because corporations don’t support their employees’ rights to organize labor unions.

    I have noticed, however, that not one of the people who has commented on what a dummy I am has ever been motivated to look into the situation at Tan Bazar which I mention repeatedly in my piece, and which was what I was impeded from speaking about at that event. Not one has ever mentioned it. No curiousity, no compassion.

    Sometimes they’re MUCH more eager to go after the way the discussion is going than to look into any of the situations people are discussing. Insulting people on the internet is just such a hoot, who can resist? It’s so much more fun to write big chewey sentences and establish our hardline feminist credentials and use flashy phrases like “corporate pimp” and “fucked by the football team” than to google around a little bit, you know?

    I believe that there are a lot of abolitionists who do have compassion and curiousity, but the people who go off on their little self-serving hard-ass rants about what feminists they are aren’t the ones.

  20. Willow sounds alot like Jody or was it Josie?
    And there are lots of women chomping at the bit to become prostitutes.
    Everytime I disclose, people express how much they want to do it too. Loads of people have done porn or something. I had a discussion with a fellow who is in his 60’s now and is getting ready to retired from his day job and he told me about how he worked on the streets as a 19 year old for 6 months and how he worked for a man madame for 2 months at the age of 16. He didn’t have anything derogatory to say about the business, in fact he’s a big supporter of the sex worker rights movement as are most ex workers. So the idea that people aren’t beating down the doors to get into the sex business isn’t true, they are.

  21. >I believe that there are a lot of abolitionists who do have compassion and curiousity, but the people who go off on their little self-serving hard-ass rants about what feminists they are aren’t the ones.>

    Amen.

  22. Some are beating down the doors to get in, some are beating on the doors to get out. The fact that both types of sex workers (as well as those who kinda would rather not but don’t feel it’s the worst thing that could happen, and those who kinda love it but feel like they need to get to work on a profession with fewer issues around it, and all other kinds of workers) exist is more to my point. It’s why I think no group can accurately represent all sex workers. Some groups may devote their focus on helping workers who want out to get out; others may focus theirs on helping workers who want unions to get them; still others may be focussed on promoting awareness about discrimnation against workers. I just don’t feel like groups with different goals all have to be so opposed to each other, and when I was first an activist I never heard ANY of this feminist stuff. All I ever heard about were Christian morals and property values.

  23. I don’t think that groups have to oppose each other either, but I’ve yet to hear any common ground. The criminalization of prostitution and the criminalization of migrant workers effects workers’ ability to say no and to say yes. To think that all time and resourses are going to relieve forced labor never addresses the issues of how the labor got forced in the first place. It leaves no place where the yes can exist.

  24. Jo Weldon: “It’s why I think no group can accurately represent all sex workers.”

    So true. I think this is a very important issue to address. There seems to be a lot of pressure on advocacy groups to attempt to do so. I think as activists, we don’t need to represent every sub-group of workers, but we do need to be accountable to workers. These are HUGE obstacles that as activists we have to be conscious of and we need to be able to be honest with each other and ourselves about it.

    There is also disagreement among some about this. Many think that if as an organization you’re going to advocate for sex workers, then you have to advocate for every single kind of sex worker. Organizations really cannot and should not claim to serve everybody, but they can express commitment to working with and standing in solidarity with a broad spectrum of workers. That’s why alliances are important. *wink*

  25. Alliances are good inso far as what they are doing for me.
    Whose going to stand by me when I sustain an injustice?
    I suffer injustices on a daily basis. Today, I had a member of the clergy and a non profit ED tell me that they don’t support prostitution rights to our labor rights because they don’t support prostitution.
    Its that old, ” I don’t beleive in homosexuality but I love the homo sexual” Slave owners all.
    But then I had community with those that support me and they bought us all lunch and we planned for the future.

    The questions are; what are the best models to move forward, but the also is the question of move forward to where from where?

    It seems on this blog, the only common ground are that the haters and the pro rights movement are in agreement that we all want the violence against prostitutes to stop.
    There is disagreement about what the causes are and the prospective solution.

    I thought this book was interesting.
    The Revolution Will Not Be Funded

    http://www.amazon.com/Revolution-Will-Not-Funded-Non-Profit/dp/0896087662/ref=sr_1_1/105-4757931-0627668?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1190869111&sr=8-1

  26. Maxine,

    I have not read that book, but I am currently reading All The Power: Revolution Without Illusion:
    http://www.amazon.com/All-Power-Revolution-Without-Illusion/dp/1888451726/ref=sr_1_3/105-2151200-5206819?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1190892832&sr=1-3

    I have been attempting to complete a post for this blog based on the thoughts that surged through my brain while reading a chapter on alliances and social justice work. I do believe that both sides of the sex work debate would benefit from analyzing the text and studying the lessons learned from revolutionaries who came before us.

  27. I’m in agreement with that sister

  28. In response to janfray, when I say migrant sex workers, I refer to sex workers who cross international borders to make a living, like workers in various other industries do. If workers in other industries can be migrant workers, why can’t sex workers also be migrant workers?
    And yes, I’m very concerned about sex workers being taken advantage of by traffickers and pimps, which is one of many reasons why I advocate for the decriminalization of prostitution and against prohihitionist policies which criminalize prostitution and encourage abuse.
    Also, what do you mean when you mean by “PR campaign by Weitzer and others to minimize the pain and suffering caused by trafficking?” Just because some people actually have enough respect for sex workers in prostitution to differentiate between forced and consensual prostitution doesn’t mean that they minimize the pain and suffering caused by trafficking.
    Trafficking occurs in various industries and if we aren’t conflating all other industries in which forced labor has occured with trafficking, then why are we conflating all prostitution with trafficking? For example, there are people who have been forced into marriage against their will and people who are abused in marriage, but does that mean we should conflate all marriage with trafficking?

  29. Women who are forced into marriage or acts by their husband have legal rights to access, free lawyers they can call, and even shelters they can go to, along with centers that offer free counseling to them.

    We don’t have however any such resources for women in prostitution.

    Abolition of prostitution is a legal term. It does not mean you’re trying to outlaw prostitution, or anything harmful to them. Before you attack Melissa – you should get to know her. Before you attack her research – you should read it. Before you attack the term of “abolition” you should understand what it means is that women will get exit and support services, and that the legal position is working to eliminate human trafficking in the areas where it’s been used.

  30. “Women who are forced into marriage or acts by their husband have legal rights to access, free lawyers they can call, and even shelters they can go to, along with centers that offer free counseling to them.

    We don’t have however any such resources for women in prostitution.”

    Well, it’s not illegal to be a married woman- it IS illegal to be a prostitute.

    Hmmm, I wonder why there are no resources for prostitutes?

  31. The assumption that decrimin. would not offer those same support services just speaks to your ignorance about what has been posted here and all the links we have given you to research services that are being provided by organizations that use a sex worker rights model.

    If we’re wrong for speaking about Farley without having read the book, then you are also wrong for making such accusations and assumptions without reading the information we have provided to you.

  32. You might like to take a minute to read over SWOP East’s statement concerning where we stand on issues surrounding the sex industry:

    “SWOP East is an active participant in the effort to build a sex worker human rights rights movement more specifically our sex worker human rights statement, efforts to end coercion, violence, sexual abuse, child labor, rape trafficking and racism in the sex industry. We strongly advocate for sex worker access to health clinics where they do not feel stigmatized and call on all health care providers to offer judgment free services. We believe in the need for retraining programs for sex workers who want to leave the industry, and work to end social attitudes which stigmatize those who are or have been sex workers. SWOP East endorses ending the criminalization of consenting sex workers and sex work involving legal adults. SWOP East opposes any form of coerced participation in the sex industry, human trafficking for the purpose of forced labor of any kind however we believe there is a difference between sex work that involves legal adults and coerced participation by anyone forced into the sex industry or left without any other choice to survive and is thereby denied choice. We believe this is a complicated issue that can not be addressed with sweeping generalizations.

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