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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sex Trafficking & Sex Work

I've been doing some research today on the problem of sex trafficking in both the US and Europe. It's been very interesting and informative to read the different viewpoints surrounding whether or not sex work and sex trafficking are correlated. Some say that the legalization of sex work would increase human trafficking, while others argue that legalization would lead to stricter regulations. So, would legalization of prostitution in CT increase or decrease human sex trafficking? While I believe that it would effectively decrease trafficking, it is important to take a look at both viewpoints:

Marjan Wijers, LLM, Chair of the European Commission’s Expert Group on Trafficking in Human Beings, in the chapter "Women, Labor, and Migration: The Position of Trafficked Women and Strategies for Support" of the 1998 book Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance and Redefinition, wrote:
"Criminalizing the sex industry creates ideal conditions for rampant exploitation and abuse of sex workers…[I]t is believed that trafficking in women, coercion and exploitation can only be stopped if the existence of prostitution is recognized and the legal and social rights of prostitutes are guaranteed."
The Economist, in the Sep. 2, 2004 opinion article "Sex is Their Business," wrote:
"Criminalisation forces prostitution into the underworld. Legalisation would bring it into the open, where abuses such as trafficking and under-age prostitution can be more easily tackled. Brothels would develop reputations worth protecting."
Valid points.
Let's take a look at the other side:
Barrett Duke Jr., PhD, Vice President for Research and Public Policy, Research Institute of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention, is quoted in the May 4, 2004 Pakistan Christian Post as having said:
"Instead of legalizing prostitution, they should work very vigorously at ending prostitution, which in our opinion would significantly contribute to the eradication of trafficking in persons and human sexual slavery."
Ending prostitution? Hmm...seems feasible. While we're at it, let's just declare that we need to work vigorously at stopping drug-use. Once again, because that's possible. *sarcasm*   Very idealistic. Cute, really.

Christine Stark, MFA, author and activist, said on "Justice Talking" on National Public Radio (NPR) on Mar. 4, 2002 that:
"...[Y]ou don't legalize organized rape. You just don't do that. What we have found is that legalization has caused an increase in the trafficking into the area where the legalization exists. The state then becomes the pimp… Legalizing prostitution creates more demand and mainstreams abuse of women and children... [I]t also makes it difficult to hold traffickers accountable." it rape, if the worker is consenting to it? Interesting.
Here is an excerpt from Opinion: Behind the Myth of  the Happy Hooker, 2010
"Research suggests that in most countries men buy women with impunity. For example, Victor Malarek, in his recent book "The Johns," cites numerous international studies that estimate that approximately 70 percent of men in southeast Asia and Japan buy sex; and between 19 and 39 percent of European men regularly buy sex depending on the country. And yet, the vast majority of women worldwide who engage in prostitution endure extreme abuse and violence, ranging from being raped to being kicked while pregnant or being choked with wire. Many prostitutes interviewed in a U.S. nationwide survey in 2004 said they had been punched, burned with cigarettes, hit with baseball bats and had their heads slammed into walls and floors, or held underwater in the toilet. That same survey revealed that 64 percent of women suffered permanent disabilities as a result of beatings and 33 percent had sodomy forced upon them. A 2006 British study held similar findings — 80 percent reported being “severely” beaten and 90 percent were forced into engaging in sexual acts they refused to perform.
If we are to really address the horror of the buying, selling and trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation, then we must make efforts to stop the demand by making the buying of sex a crime with harsh penalties. At the same time, the selling of sex should be decriminalized so that the women, who are already victims, are not further abused by the penal and immigration systems. (Legalization of prostitution only exacerbates slavery — human trafficking flourishes where prostitution is legal.) It is time we recognize that the commodification of women and children is a nefarious form of sexual violence and stop pretending that it is benign.
Prostitution is rarely a free choice and it is never a preferred career path. Behind the myth of the “happy hooker,” hides a horrific human rights abuse."
Those are some horrific statistics. What would happen if prostitution were legal? One would assume that sex workers would have legal rights, and would receive support from the authorities after reporting these crimes. With the current laws, sex workers cannot report such crimes, for fear of being prosecuted and arrested themselves. The men who assault them are obviously aware of the criminal status of the workers, making these women easy targets. These workers have no rights. The author seems to think that harsher punishment for those who purchase sex will decrease the violence against workers. Possible? Maybe...but why not also target the actual sex workers, give them more rights, work to protect them by considering their needs? 

Also of note is the fact that the article provides many statistics regarding violence against workers, presumably from self-report interviews with workers. The article then ends with the author's opinion that there is no such thing as a "happy hooker." How did the author come to this conclusion? Does this mean that all sex workers are forced into prostitution by means of coercion? Well, apparently not all...

Veronica Monet, prostitute and author, wrote in the 1994 Gauntlet article "Sex Worker and Incest Survivor: A Healthy Choice?" that:
"I'm complicated and defy the stereotypes about whores, as do most whores. We are a misunderstood and much maligned group of people (women, men and transgendered). Recent research has shown that many of us are extremely educated and experienced in the straight business world. We chose sex work after we did a lot of things we couldn't stand. Sex work is better. For me, sex work isn't my first choice of paying work. It just happens to be the best alternative available. It's better than being president of someone else's corporation. It's better than being a secretary. It is the most honest work I know of."

Hey look, are those happy sex workers? Real people who actually CHOSE to get into sex work? *GASP*

How can we learn more? Unfortunately, it is difficult to produce unbiased and representative research about this population...

David Kanouse, PhD, Senior Behavioral Scientists at the RAND Corporation, et al., in the Feb. 1999 Journal of Sex Research article "Drawing a Probability Sample of Female Street Prostitutes in Los Angeles County," wrote:
"...[L]ittle of what is known about the size of this population... has been derived from careful scientific study. Most studies of prostitutes rely on samples of convenience, typically recruiting in jails, STD clinics, and methadone maintenance programs. A few studies also include outreach recruitment of respondents in areas known for street prostitution....
The usual way to minimize sampling bias is through the use of probability sampling techniques. However, the nature of commercial sex work makes that approach especially difficult. Because prostitution is an illicit activity, registries or rosters of prostitutes are not available,... persons in the general population who are willing to admit to such activity is inefficient and unlikely to yield satisfactory coverage of the target population."
The workers that are found in these samples of convenience may not be representative of all sex workers. Research would be much easier if prostitution were legal, and workers were not afraid to speak out and discuss their experiences.

Ok, ok, I got a bit off track. Big surprise. I started off researching the correlation between trafficking and prostitution, and somehow ended up in a different place. There's just so much ground to cover...questions that beg answering...

1 comment:

  1. All prostitution is rape? Let's examine what is also rape according to some.
    "...all heterosexual intercourse is rape because women, as a group, are not strong enough to give meaningful consent." Catherine MacKinnon in Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women's Studies, p. 129.
    "I claim that rape exists any time sexual intercourse occurs when it has not been initiated by the woman, out of her own genuine affection and desire." From Robin Morgan, "Theory and Practice: Pornography and Rape" in "Going too Far," 1974.
    "Sex is the cross on which women are crucified ... Sex can only be adequately defined as universal rape." Hodee Edwards, ‘Rape defines Sex’
    "Romance is rape embellished with meaningful looks." Andrea Dworkin in the Philadelphia Inquirer, May 21, 1995.
    "Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice. Rape, originally defined as abduction, became marriage by capture. Marriage meant the taking was to extend in time, to be not only use of but possession of, or ownership. Only when manhood is dead--and it will perish when ravaged femininity no longer sustains it" Andrea Dworkin
    Rape is a word people love to throw around in propaganda. Everyone opposes rape. On the "left" or the "right" people use rape to make their point and forward their agenda. It all comes down to someone imagining that they know what is best for EVERYONE else. I can't imagine a greater delusion. Something -- and it could be anything -- isn't for them so they paint the entire practice with the broad brush of "rape" and then they often claim it is "too dangerous" to be allowed to continue. Almost ANYTHING can be considered "dangerous" and we need to demand the liberty to make our own choices -- regardless of the risk. We are best suited to determine the level of risk and reward in our lives! With that being said I don't think there is any question that legalizing prostitution reduces the risk of abuse in the profession.
    “I need not add that freedom is a dangerous thing. But it is hardly possible that we are all cowards.” – John Whiteside Parsons (Rocket Scientist/Poet/Magician)