Saturday, 8 March 2008

Prostitution, Trafficking and Law

In the comments that were made to my recent post On Choices, Delphyne made a great point:

"As always it boils down to who do we listen to. The handful of women who claim that sexually servicing men is fab and who are fully supported by the sex industry in their defence of it, or the much greater number of women who have been damaged and hurt by being sexually used and exploited by men. Of course the pornstitutionists want to pretend that what the latter say don't matter, but we don't have to go along with them."

I agree that pro-pornstitution folks would have us believe that the vast majority of prostituting women who are abused in the 'sex' industry don't matter, not as much as "sex workers' rights", or, more exactly the so-called rights of pimps (mostly men, but sometimes women) and johns to make big profits from and/or get off on the degradation of prostituting women.

As I said before, pro-prostitution women or "sex workers" who say they "defend sex workers' rights", very often, are in fact madams, or women who defend the rights of pimps to run a business which inherently relies on the sexual exploitation of women and children, and the rights of johns to (ab)use prostituted women. They sometimes are also among the tiny number of somewhat privileged prostituting/pornographized women who “made it to the top” (i.e. make a lot of money), the ones who genuinely want to stay in prostitution and, thus, who are magnified by male-supremacist porn culture (as I already talked about in my previous post on prostitution).

Never will I stop being on the side of the overwhelming majority of prostituted women who never got the chance to get a better life and are suffering unbearable pain and injury on a daily basis!

Melissa Farley, Janice G. Raymond, Donna M. Hughes, Gunilla Ekberg, etc. are excellent prostitution researchers. I read their work, met most of them once or twice and have been in touch with them more than a few times. They have (like Mimi Silbert and Ayala Pines had in the early 1980's) interviewed hundreds of prostituted women and girls (some of whom had had pornography made of them). The true stories of all these prostituted female human beings (who were interviewed by good researchers I know) apparently don't mean jack shit to "sex work" advocates and pro-pornstitution "feminists". How vile and sick all that is!

Of course, "sex work" advocates sometimes pretend to care about the stories of abused and prostituted women. But then, they usually quickly ignore them in favor of "sex workers' rights" (please read "pimps', johns', and a few privileged women's rights" instead of "sex workers' rights") and glamorized pornstitution stories. And "sex work" advocates obviously cruelly deny major research findings on prostitution.

As Dorchen Leidholdt, the other co-executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women wrote in an admirable essay entitled "Prostitution and Trafficking in Women: An Intimate Relationship" (which was published both in the Journal of Trauma Practice and in Melissa Farley's masterpiece book Prostitution, Trafficking and Traumatic Stress) that explored legal instruments that addressed and defined trafficking, pointing out that distinctions between prostitution and trafficking in women have been promoted by organizations and governments trying to legitimize and/or legalize prostitution as work:

"A perceived need to define trafficking and to distinguish it from prostitution came only. . . in the 1980's. The goal was to confine both the scope of domestic and international laws addressing the sex industry and activism against it. . . Media reports of the suffering of trafficking victims and the increasing globalization of the sex industry were fueling support for a campaign against the sex industry. Eager to ward off such a danger, pro-sex industry forces developed a strategy. Ignoring or denying the harm of the sex industry was not an option, for that harm was well documented. A more pragmatic approach was to focus on the most brutal and extreme practices of the sex industry -- transporting women from poor countries to rich countries using tactics of debt bondage and overt force -- while legitimizing its other activities in the name of workers' rights. The old dichotomy of Madonna-whore was replaced by a new dichotomy: sex worker-trafficked woman. In order to defend prostitution as sex work, trafficking was articulated as gender-neutral, with labor trafficking and sex trafficking collapsed under the same rubric as "trafficking in persons." Otherwise it would be too evident that the ultimate harm of sex trafficking is the decidedly gendered condition in which the trafficking victim is transported into -- prostitution. "Prostitution" was stricken from the lexicon and replaced by "sex work." Similarly, "pimp", "procurer", and "brothel owner" were replaced by "business owners" or "third-party managers". The old terminology suggested that the sex industry was exploitive or worse whereas, according to the new understanding, it is about the right of individuals to make money as they choose. Indeed it is about the right to economic development. Even "trafficking" was troublesome because it implied that those who were trafficked were victims. The term "trafficking" began to be replaced with the more neutral "migration." Because there was a danger that the agents who profited from transporting women might be stigmatized as common traffickers the phrase "facilitated migration" was coined."

The term "facilitated migration" is about how some "sex work" advocates claim that trafficked women from poor countries are "migrating for sex work" so that pimps can profit without having to be recognized as traffickers. Leidholdt also explained, in the same essay, that prostitution and trafficking are fundamentally interrelated, to the extent that sex trafficking can accurately be viewed as "globalized prostitution" while generic prostitution often is a practice of "domestic trafficking." I totally agree with that.

Here is a link to the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women's Case Against the Legalization of Prostitution.

Janice G. Raymond also argues that Sex Trafficking is Not “Sex Work”:

"Over the last decade, certain UN agencies, various governments, and some NGOs have promoted the policy that prostitution is voluntary and sex trafficking is forced. Yet, the reality is that prostitution and sex trafficking are habitually co-dependent. In countries that prohibit trafficking but decriminalize the sex industry, prostitution, sex trafficking, the illegal sex sector and child prostitution all expand. Even the indulgent Dutch are closing down their main tolerance zones, originally promoted as places that would protect women in prostitution and control the influence of organized crime. In 2004, Amsterdam’s mayor admitted that the “Tippelzone,” Amsterdam’s infamous prostitution zone, had become a haven for traffickers and unsafe for women. . . To its victims, sexual exploitation is neither sex nor sexy. Many progressives who state that globalized capitalism promotes gender, race and class inequality have a strange reluctance to criticize the sex industry for doing exactly that. They are out of touch with the majority of women in prostitution who want not “better working conditions” but a better life. Prostitution is not “sex work;” it is violence against women. It exists because significant numbers of men are given social, moral and legal permission to buy women on demand. It exists because pimps and traffickers prey on women’s poverty and inequality. It exists because it is a last ditch survival strategy, not a choice, for millions of the world’s women. . . When the American Civil Liberties Union joins with evangelicals to pass the Prison Rape Elimination Act, or when the Congressional Black Caucus works with conservatives to pass the Sudan Peace Act, their progressive credentials are not suspect. . . Opposing sex trafficking, the system of prostitution and the sex industry doesn’t make you a conservative, a moralist, or an apologist for some political party or group. It helps make you a feminist and a human rights advocate."

Also in the comments that were made to my recent post On Choices, Witchy-Woo made clear that:

". . . the focus of attention needs to shift from women's "choices" to the motivations and actions of those who create and sustain the demand for the sexual commodification of women and children."

Jennifer Drew also said that:

". . . we must switch from asking why do so many women enter prostitution/porn and instead ask why do so many men believe it is their right and entitlement to have a constant supply of fresh women and girls available for them to rape, sexually abuse and subsequently destroy."

I believe that there are systems of prostitution (trafficking, pornography, strip clubs, escort services, etc. -- as mentioned in previous post). I believe that those systems of prostitution are interconnected and are a violation of women and girls' human rights. I wrote my previous post on choices so that now I can shift my focus from explaining prostituting women's lack of meaningful choices toward writing about who has the real power over systems of prostitution in this patriarchal world. For systems of prostitution to exists, there has to be a demand for them.

This demand is generated by millions and millions a of men who seek to benefit of the sexual exploitation of women and girls one way or another. You've got a starting point here: you've got a large amount of men who want to get off on the sexual degradation of women and girls. Then, you've got another massive group of (mostly) men who want to capitalize on the sexual degradation of women and girls. Thus, pimps have to procure the supply to the johns somehow.

And, because there is a very little amount of women who would want this type of "job"(*), pimps usually prey on many young girls who either ran away from abusive homes or got kicked out of their homes, destitute women, girls and women who are marginalized due to class, race or ethnicity, battered wives who ran away from their husbands, women being transported from poor countries by traffickers, etc. The magnitude of violence against women and girls that occurs in the prostitution industry in order to cater to males' desires for the sexual degradation of female human beings is gruesomely atrocious!

I don't believe that legalization of prostitution is a solution to reduce the harms perpetrated against prostituted women and girls. Legalization has been proven to be an utter failure in countries where prostitution has been legalized or decriminalized. In those countries: violence against women has become more normative; there are very few exit programs for prostituted women; trafficking, child prostitution, and sexual exploitation of women in illegal brothels or on the street have dramatically increased.

I believe that the right solution to tackle the problem of prostitution, this atrocious and widespread crime against women and girls, is found in laws similar to the abolitionist Swedish laws. Prostitution is a form of slavery. Therefore, it has to be abolished. In passing their legislations that criminalize johns, pimps, procurers and traffickers while decriminalizing prostituting women, Sweden has adopted the right solution of reducing men's demands (for this abject sexual crime against women) while assisting the prostituted with exit services. Sweden has given the overwhelming majority of prostituting women the assistance they want.

Of course male-supremacist mainstream media typically loves to discredit the Swedish model. But that's an inevitable consequence of patriarchal capitalism trying to maintain the status quo.

As for the small number of somewhat privileged women who genuinely want to stay in prostitution: well, after all, they are not criminalized in Sweden, and consequently not oppressed. And, as I said above: Never will I stop being on the side of the overwhelming majority of prostituted women who never got the chance to get a better life and are suffering unbearable pain and injury on a daily basis!


(*) See WHISPER one-page tongue-in-cheek "help wanted" ad for the "job" of prostitution.

Some further reading for those who are so inclined:

Legalizing Prostitution is Not the Answer

How Legalization has failed

Myths & Facts About Nevada Legal Prostitution by the Nevada Coalition Against Sex Trafficking

"It's Abuse and a Life of Hell"

The Hidden Slave Trade

Opposing Prostitution As a Form of Male Violence: the Swedish Model

Sweden's success against prostitution

Captive Daughters: Is it Possible to Reduce Demand?

"The best thing we can do for our sisters is to support them to get out of prostitution"



2 comments:

stormcloud said...

I don't believe that legalization of prostitution is a solution to reduce the harms perpetrated against prostituted women and girls. Legalization has been proven to be an utter failure in countries where prostitution has been legalized or decriminalized. In those countries: violence against women has become more normative; there are very few exit programs for prostituted women; trafficking, child prostitution, and sexual exploitation of women in illegal brothels or on the street have dramatically increased.

As well as the trafficking/child prostitution etc increasing with legalisation/regulation, it does nothing to actually keep street prostituted wimmin safe, wimmin, who, for whatever reason, don't make the grade in 'parlours'/brothels.

The other fact that is glossed over, is that it is the same Johns who will be (ab)using prostituted wimmin, legalised 'industry' or not. These Johns have very low opinions of females, and the opinions held by these males will not magically improve after legalisation.

Legalisation would not have saved the five young women from Ipswich from being murdered (even though the ECP will tell you otherwise).

Instead, what happened after the Ipswich murders was that the community went all-out and put exit programmes in place. From 30+ prostituted women working the streets, it is now down to about 3. This is basically inline with other research that has documented 89-90% of prostituted wimmin would get out of 'the business' if the opportunity was there. So much for the 'career choice' and 'it's just a job' arguments.

This comment has been far too long already, but the abuse of wimmin and girls in other areas, is just 'supply' for the servicing of males. It's a hideous cycle of disposable females.

Exit programmes. Not legalisation.
Prosecute Johns.
Educate males, reduce 'demand'.

JENNIFER DREW said...

Yes I intend elsewhere to raise the fact that human trafficking is a convenient term designed to hide the fact it is women and girls who are trafficked into sexual slavery never men and boys. But then this is what patriarchy does, it co-opts feminist terms and once again male needs and demands become central never women's and girls. Patriarchy does not want gender to be mentioned because if it were, then the social construction of masculinities would come under the microscope.