Traffic- a multitude of vehicles moving in one direction; the illicit movement of goods. Human traffic- an illicit movement of people from one place to another. Sex traffic- the illicit import and export of women and children for the sole purpose of sexual slavery.
Freedom of choice
For those with the archaic belief that prostitution is a woman’s choice, reconsider. While there are women, often in dire need, who choose the route of prostitution, there are many more who are duped into the industry under the guise of opportunity and better living. These are women from poverty stricken communities, offered the chance of respectable employment across borders. In most cases, these women are persuaded by other women or men in whom they place a deep trust.
You’ve probably already heard about the methods used to enslave women. A female friend phones to say they’ve found a job in a town 50 miles away, ‘oh, and don’t forget to bring your passport!’ Cue 19 year old grabbing her belongings and taking the train to ‘x’ town where she is met by ‘y’ person. Speed up to kidnapping, repossession of passport, systematic beating and rape. The next move is to take the girl into a neighboring country where she can’t escape without that all-important document.
And what about the friend who called with the wonderful news? She’s probably got a gun to her head, or maybe they threatened to kill her aunt Maisy. It’s even possible that they made a deal with her; get two more friends in and receive a once-in-a-lifetime free exit. Another way is to phone a parent of an abducted girl. Same deal; recruit two girls or more and get your daughter back. Of course she’ll come back damaged goods, potentially wrought with STIs, never to mind the psychological damage. That is, if they stick to their word.
While we generally acknowledge that many women are trafficked from Eastern Europe and Thailand, recruitment is not limited to these areas. A huge amount of women are trafficked around Asia and the Middle East, into countries such as Japan, Saudi Arabia and UAE. From Eastern Europe, women are taken from places like Belarus through Poland and into the EU, towards Paris, London and even Dublin. Or in the other direction, through Azerbaijan into Iran and so on. It’s hard to conceive that any country might be untainted by this industry.
Human trafficking has been ongoing since the beginning of humanity. However, sex trafficking has exploded since the 1970s and is on the verge of surpassing the trafficking of cocaine and heroine as the number one industry of organized crime. And what it all comes down to, as any successful business does, is supply and demand. There’s no cause to say that the criminality of prostitution is helpful in preventing sex trafficking. On the contrary, it is argued to be aiding the industry, pushing it further underground, making it almost impossible for the women involved to escape.
Where to appeal?
So, to whom should the appeal to slow, or even end, trafficking be directed? The people earning billions every year from the industry? The Police systems that, in dozens of corrupt ridden countries, actually assist the industry? The women and children who should know better than to trust? Of course not.
Most men availing of the service are down-to-earth, normal. They’re brothers, husbands, fathers and sons. They have kids themselves and never conceived of the image of their 6-year-old boy caught up in an industry so dark. But it’s true; it’s not only adult or teenage women. It’s small girls and boys, children. And despite who it is, the severity of the situation needs to be addressed. If the thought of the industry isn’t enough to sicken you, consider the practicalities. Many women are disposed of once their sickness begins making them unprofitable. The HIV turns to Aids before they’re taken off the market. Average men, returning to their wives, girlfriends or other sexual partners note: a condom isn’t always enough.
The bottom line is, if you’re going to purchase sexual services, choose the women who’ve chosen the route. As I understand, they’re not difficult to identify. They’re often more expensive than trafficked women. They’re likely to be natives of the area and potentially, they work independently. It’s also probable that the sexual risks are lower as these women won’t have been trafficked through a range of countries.
It’s not realistic to end prostitution, and who are we to judge. It is, on the other hand, possible to put a dent in an industry that has a brutal disregard for human sensibility.
Resources used to inform this article include Misha Glenny’s McMafia, and from various contributors; The Traffic in Women: Human Realities of the International Sex Trade.