Posts Tagged ‘Anti Trafficking’

Recruiters in Nepal are often former victims of commercial sexual exploitation who have ‘graduated’ from sex work and are now supplying victims directly to either traffickers or retailers. Or they are independent recruiters who resell their commodity to traffickers who in turn act as wholesalers by buying trafficked victims and slaves from the recruiter at the Nepal border and reselling them to retailers in the red light districts of major Indian cities. Recruiters in Nepal are able to take advantage of the South Asia’s crushing poverty to recruit victims using a number of deceitful practices. According to the Asian Development Bank, Nepal’s annual per capita GDP is $220. ADB notes that 44% of people in the rural West and mountain areas (Nepal’s primary source of sex trafficked persons) survive on income below the poverty rate of $77 per year. Practices used by recruiters in these areas include: “false promises of employment; approaching debt-bonded families and persuading them to part with their children to pay for their debts; abduction; and arranged marriages whereby young women and underage girls are ‘married’ to grooms willing to pay poverty-stricken parents a dowry. Once married (marriage makes this form of trafficking particularly difficult to challenge under the law), wives are either forced into prostitution directly by their husbands or abandoned/divorced and sold to a broker who resells them to a brothel,” (Joffres, et al. 2008: 2).

When families in extremely poor places face increasing economic hardship, some resort to selling family members into slavery in order to help support the remaining family unit. Human Rights Watch reported in 1995 that 86% of Nepali sex trafficking victims interviewed reported being “trafficked to India with the help of close family friends or relatives,” (28). In certain areas of South Asia this practice is so conventional that it has become local tradition; CNN reported in 2011 that in a village outside Bharatpur, India, “some members of this community practice a caste-based sex trade – and have done so for generations. The men knowingly send their own daughters and sisters into the sex trade.”

There has been a major focus by researchers and activists to put the focus of anti-trafficking / abolition efforts on the demand for trafficked sex workers, but it is important to keep in mind the factors that push victims into exploitative situations in the first place. These conditions are ideal for recruiters.

References

Christine Joffres, Edward Mills, Michel Joffres, Tinku Khanna, Harleen Walia and Darrin Grund. 2008. Sexual slavery without borders: trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation in India. International Journal for Equity in Health, 7:22.

Human Rights Watch. 1995. Rape For Profit: Trafficking of Nepali Girls and Women to India’s Brothels.

 

Migration and sex work expert  Laura Agustin (who, as some readers may know, recently left a brief comment on this blog), has published a scathing criticism of Siddharth Kara’s Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery, in which she launches into a tirade against Kara that alternates between valid critiques of his work and questionable criticisms of his personal motivations.

I’ve read Inside the Business of Modern Slavery from cover to cover myself, often citing it on this very blog . But I have hesitated to cite it as  a primary source in my academic work because of its own questionable references and research methods. With these shortcomings in mind, Ms. Agustin tears into Kara with statements like: “Apparently unaware of over ten years of difficult debates reflected in hundreds of scholarly articles and journalistic reports, Kara is an MBA on a mission, using statistical sleight of hand to solve the problem of slavery,” and “the absence of academic supervision to control his preconceptions, critique his lack of methodology, or check his spin makes one wonder what Columbia University Press thought they were doing publishing it.” I agree that we should all demand much more of so-called “scholarly works” than Mr. Kara provides.

Unfortunately however, Ms. Agustin intersperses her review with reductionist theories that frame the interest of ALL men in the sex trafficking “rescue industry,” or rather all “Good Men,” (Ms. Agustin’s terms) as limited to a stereotypical desire to “prove themselves” and rescue “damsels in distress.” Citing Kara’s “exalted sensibility and anachronistic rhetoric” as a base for these claims, she frames this as the latest in a long tradition of mens’ chivalrous attempts, which apparently include “slaying knights and giants.” More than anything, Ms. Agustin’s own anachronistic rhetoric feeds into the sexist mindset she attempts to shed light on with her piece. Must men have a “damsel in distress” complex in order to care about the horrible phenomena of sex trafficking? Do not all people, including men, have the duty to be aware of the heinous nature of sexual slavery and mitigate its damaging affects on society? Here I refer to duty not in the traditional chivalrous sense that Ms. Agustin is so critical of, but in a contemporary sense of social responsibility and caring for others who share in the human experience.

In broader terms, I appreciate Ms. Agustin’s efforts to delineate the distinction between sex slavery and prostitution. And I agree with her that Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery was not scholarly and should not have been published by the well-respected Columbia University Press. But I fail to recognize how Ms. Agustin’s reductionist theories of male interest in the abolition/rescue industry movement contribute any substantive thought to the debates taking place today over human trafficking.

See:

Agustin, Laura.  Feb. 27 2012. “Sex trafficking: not inside the business of modern slavery.” Counterpunch. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/02/27/sex-trafficking (accessed 02/29/2012).

Kara, Siddharth. 2009. Sex trafficking: inside the business of modern slavery. Columbia: Columbia University Press.

The UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UNGIFT) recently posted this article about criminal groups organizing human trafficking conferences “in order to gain sensitive information and money from participants.” UNGIFT specifically cites the World Congress on human trafficking and forced labour 2011 as one of the specious events.

After just doing a cursory Google search it seems obvious that this particular event is a scam. Searching for the World Congress on human trafficking and forced labour 2011 brings up several websites such as http://www.keepsafeofthenet.co.uk which is a forum for people to discuss current internet scams, in the first couple of results. To me this is no big deal; we all know that there are internet scams in action every minute of every day.

This particular kind of scam is more disturbing than the run-of-the mill internet scams. UNGIFTs claims that this conference was organized in order to gain sensitive information from anti-trafficking activists and that it is composed of 2 phases, 1 each in New York and Senegal, to “maximize its pool of victims.” If these claims are accurate then this is evidence of a new level of sophistication and gall among human trafficking organizations, targeting the intellectual community which is constructing their demise.  However, I have many, many questions about exactly who is organizing these bogus conferences and what their motivations are. UNGIFT says that the original scam was uncovered by UNODC’s Trafficking in Persons Unit, but I could not discover any more information about it from the UN, or any other source for that matter. I would be very interested in learning more about this, if for no other reason than to avoid falling into one of these traps myself…

In our discussion with the Polaris Project representatives about the public placement of human trafficking warnings in bars, restaurants and hotels, I thought back to the sign that I saw in the Dallas sports bar (remember this post?). Looking back at the picture of the sign that I snapped back in April, I can see that the number listed as the “National Human Trafficking Hotline” is actually the number to the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center run by Polaris, which we discussed in our session with them: 1-888-373-7888. Funny how some things come full circle like that.