Modern Slavery



Blood streaking down her face, a sex worker stands in the Kandupatti brothel in Dhaka, after being beaten by a client during a payment dispute. via.

As many as 27 million people are enslaved today — most of them women and girls. Many are domestic servants, factory laborers, child soldiers or sex workers (a more accurate characterization would be “domestic, factory, military and sex slaves,” but to outsiders, modern-day slaves are often indistinguishable from paid workers). Many are victims of trafficking. And yet too many of these women are victimized by the very people who should be able to help them — inadequately trained police forces, officers who target prostitutes instead of johns and traffickers, and immigration officials who have to abide by restrictive and punitive regulations.

As many as 17,500 people are trafficked across United States borders every year
. Another 30,000 are trafficked through the United States to some other country. 800,000-900,000 human beings are victims of trafficking every year. And this modern-day slave trade is, at minimum, a $9.5 billion industry — some estimate it to be as much as $32 billion annually.

Sex tourism in places like Thailand depends sexual slavery, and is funded by a whole lot of wealthy, Western men. Sex work is one of those sticky feminist issues that there’s nowhere near a consensus on, but I think it’s safe to say that an honest assessment of it must recognize the fact that most women world-wide who are sex workers don’t make the choice voluntarily, and are often forced into slave labor. And modern-day slaves may be as close as the kitchen of your favorite restaurant. Not even the people who are supposed to be the “good guys” are immune.

UPDATE: Ms. Jared has dispatches from a human trafficking conference.


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44 comments for “Modern Slavery

  1. Mnemosyne
    March 15, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    We have busts fairly often here in the Los Angeles area. It’s almost always Thai workers who are brought in to do sweatshop work — they have their passports confiscated, are kept locked in the house where they work 24/7, and rarely see any kind of pay.

    It would be nice if some of the “illegal immigrant” hysterics would take a look at the people who are here not only illegally, but are actually held against their will.

  2. Esme
    March 15, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    A big part of the Thai sex trade is also supported by Japanese men. For more on the Asian sex trade, I recommend Casting Stones (authors’ names escape me at the moment)

  3. Gayle
    March 15, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    Those stats are horrifying. 27 Million People. Wow. And that picture breaks my heart.

    Thanks for posting on this, Jill. These human rights atrocities don’t get anywhere near the attention they deserve.

    Human trafficking is slavery, pure and simple. The johns should be arrested and the “sex tourism” industries, shut down. At the same time, solutions must be found to fight the dire poverty that forces women and children into the hands of these kidnappers, rapists and thieves. I’m not exactly holding my breath about any of these things happening anytime soon, but there are a few brave souls out there trying.

  4. March 15, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    Great post, Jill. It’s worth pointing out that in many places, the legalization of prostitution actually facilitates greater exploitation. In Western Europe, where many governments are indulgent at worst of adult prostitution, Eastern European women are regularly abused in horrific ways. There’s a sense out there among some folks that legalizing the sex industry will get rid of the abuse. But jeans and t-shirts are perfectly legal, and that doesn’t mean that sweatshops are regulated…

  5. March 15, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Sex tourists make an easy target when it comes to the sex trade, especially in Thailand. But the local men probably have a lot more to do with driving the trade than foreigners. I suspect if all the dirty white men quit going to Thailand to pay for sex, there would be hardly any impact on the number of women and children being trafficked into the country from Burma and Laos and sold to brothels. Not that that makes sex-tourism any less reprehensible for it’s impact and role in the issue, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. The lack of rights for ethnic minorities in SE Asia is also a major contributing factor that goes along with the poverty, but the governments there prefer to blame the sex-fiend foreigners rather than address or admit to their own shortcomings in that regard.

    CATW-Asia Pacific: Some 4.6 million Thai men regularly, and 500,000 foreign tourists annually, use prostituted women and girls. (Figures may be from 1996)
    Someone from Bangkok (not entirely substantiated but somewhat illustrative): Compared to the survey which indicates that every day at least 450,000 Thai men visit prostitutes, the “farang” component represents only 10% of the total daily visits to prostitutes in Thailand.

  6. March 15, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    Sweatshop workers would not be better off if jeans and T-shirts were illegal.

    I don’t think we need to waste time quibbling over whether there is a such thing as ‘good’ sex work When a woman is beaten by a customer who has no fear of reprisal, when she is physically kept in slavery, whether or not it’s OK for an upper-middle-class college student in New York to turn tricks is all rather beside the point.

    You don’t need to go to India or Thailand, either; police in San Francisco regulary bust ‘Asian massage parlors’ staffed with enslaved women.

  7. Kellyrox
    March 15, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    The reality of human trafficking is one that the media and our leaders have blindly ignored. Thank you Jill for posting on this attrocity. I would like to say that I am hesitant to call human trafficking “slavery” because it may take away from the actuality of our own historical hardships with slavery, and because of this some form’s of trafficking would not be labeled slavery. Human trafficking infect’s every crevice of this globe, true it is in Thailand, but it is dangerous to think that it is a “third world phenomena” and more often than not it is western businessmen who specifically keep the sex industry in these countries running. 91 cities in the US have reported trafficking cases, these stats are startling, scary and should no longer be ignored.
    Again thanks for highlighting this issue.

  8. Dauthendey
    March 15, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    Just wanted to note that the LA Times OpEd piece is written by a ex-Bush administration official, who suggests helping out by donating to church groups. I view this as Republican hype serving two goals: 1) Anti-sex and anti-sex worker. One thinks one is helping poor, innocent foreign women, who had never heard of sex work before in their sheltered lives, but it seems more like a radical Christian effort to rid them of an “immoral” source of income. 2) Anti-immigration. We are being flooded by foreigners, epecially women and children, smuggled here by their evil, dark-skinned male compatriots.

    I’m saying that I think one should be cautious of simple accepting such numbers, especially concerning “sex slaves”, whatever one thinks about prostitution. We had a famous NYT Magazine article a dozen months or so ago claiming that on Main streets all over America there were sex slaves at work. Search the Slate.com site for “sex slave” and “Jack Shafer” to read Shafer’s whithering, multi-post critique of that article. In one of those articles, he quotes a Seattle Weekly report:

    “The situation has been exaggerated; that seems to be the reality we’re learning,” says Ann Jordan, the director of a trafficking program run by the International Human Rights Law Group in Washington, D.C., who has worked on the issue since living in China 15 years ago. Jordan, who works with a network of service providers nationwide, notes that the feds keep changing the statistics regarding the number of people trafficked into the U.S. At one time, they said there were 50,000 trafficking victims here, then 18,000 to 20,000 and now, according to the latest State Department report, 14,500 to 17,500.

    “I only know that all our partner NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] are busy with clients all the time,” Jordan says. “But they have nowhere near that number.”

    Jill, it seems like you are anti-sex worker (sorry, newbie here, I’ve only been reading your blog for about 2 months.) That is the only reason why I can think that you say: “but I think it’s safe to say that an honest assessment of it must recognize the fact that most women world-wide who are sex workers don’t make the choice voluntarily, and are often forced into slave labor.” Why do you think that? Or rather, how do you add up the numbers?

    Last spring, the major Spanish newspaper El País printed several articles in which a magical number started appearing stating that some 90% of prostitutes in Spain were forced to do that work. Who would debunk that? A pro-sexworker organization run by women. They wrote to the obudsman, and he agreed that that number was just pulled out of a hat.

    Also, I am reminded of two more sex hype events here that had everyone shocked: 1) Those cases of repressed-memory, where people were convinced by their phychiarist/phychoanalasist that they were raped by their father or other, though that had no memory of it, which ended up sending innocent people to jail. 2) Those cases where children were feed leading and manipulating questions, causing them to accuse their day-care workers etc of bizarre witchcraft related sex acts, etc.

    In short, I’m seeing that same type of thing with all this sex slave talk. Surely, I do not deny that evil, sexually related situations exist. Sex slaves exist. But on one of those “Save the Sex Slaves” sites, they were saying that thousands of children are smuggled into this country to be sex slaves, and, well, I just don’t believe it. Where is it? (See Shafer’s critique for why I ask that question) Surely, child molestation occurs most frequently where it always has–in the good old American home.

    Love the blog by the way and I hope I haven’t offended anyone.

  9. March 15, 2007 at 10:59 pm

    Jill, it seems like you are anti-sex worker (sorry, newbie here, I’ve only been reading your blog for about 2 months.) That is the only reason why I can think that you say: “but I think it’s safe to say that an honest assessment of it must recognize the fact that most women world-wide who are sex workers don’t make the choice voluntarily, and are often forced into slave labor.” Why do you think that? Or rather, how do you add up the numbers?

    I’m actually not anti-sex worker at all, but I think there’s a world of difference between a college student who sells sex on the side and a woman who lives in a Thai brothel and is forced to have sex for money that she doesn’t get to keep. They aren’t even comparable.

    I think that most women don’t make the choice voluntarily because I’ve worked at a few human rights organizations and studied sex work. Plus, common sense — how many women world-wide are empowered enough in the first place to make a truly voluntary decision to sell sexual services? Even in the United States most prostitutes are under the control of a pimp. Yes, there are sex workers who don’t answer to anyone, who are educated, who make good money, who have the power to turn down clients or set sexual limits, but world-wide those women are a distinct minority. And honestly, I get a little irritated whenever that minority of very privileged sex workers (mostly in the global north) are brought up in response to concerns about the sexual enslavement and coercion of poor women, mostly in the global south.

    In short, I’m seeing that same type of thing with all this sex slave talk. Surely, I do not deny that evil, sexually related situations exist. Sex slaves exist. But on one of those “Save the Sex Slaves” sites, they were saying that thousands of children are smuggled into this country to be sex slaves, and, well, I just don’t believe it. Where is it? (See Shafer’s critique for why I ask that question) Surely, child molestation occurs most frequently where it always has–in the good old American home.

    So… because child molestation exists, we shouldn’t worry so much about sexual slavery?

    The fact is that we hardly worry about sexual slavery. A whole lot of countries don’t have anti-trafficking laws. Female sex workers are targeted by law enforcement, instead of abusive johns and human traffickers. We can quibble about the numbers, but even Jack Shafer (who I personally can’t stand and think is perennially full of shit, but that’s another issue) concedes that at least 800,000 to 900,000 people are trafficked every year. Even if only a tenth of those people end up as sex slaves (and that’s a pretty low guess), that’s still a hell of a lot of women forced into sex. Add that to the number of women who “choose” sex work because it’s literally the only thing they can do to feed themselves and their families, and you’ve got a a pretty high figure.

    I’m pro-sex worker in that I’m pro-women’s rights, and I think that every woman needs to do what she needs to do in order to be healthy and happy. I think sex work should be decriminalized. Now, on a theoretical level I think that the commodification of sex is bad for women as a whole, but I don’t think that punitive legal solutions are going to solve that problem, and I believe individual sex workers when they say that they choose their work. But part of being pro-sex-worker is not sweeping the truth about sexual coercion and slavery under the rug. Part of being pro-sex-worker is wanting to ensure that all women who engage in sex work are doing so voluntarily.

    The woman giving blowjobs for $5 in a port-a-potty in LA is not empowered, and I’m willing to bet that she’d be doing something else to make money if she could. The hundreds of thousands of women who are trafficked and forced into sex work here, and in places like the Netherlands and Germany and India, are not empowered. Hearing from minority of self-employed, happy and prosperous sex workers is important, but not when it drowns out the voices of the many, many women who are victimized by sexual slavery. Arguing that the problem is exaggerated doesn’t do anything to help the undeniably numerous women who it affects.

  10. Dauthendey
    March 15, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    I’m afraid there is a disconnect here that we won’t be able to bridge. For instance, where do you come up with the numbers that: “Even in the United States most prostitutes are under the control of a pimp.” Seriously, you may believe that, but how or where does one get that data? That’s why I mentioned the El País article.

    And honestly, I get a little irritated whenever that minority of very privileged sex workers (mostly in the global north) are brought up in response to concerns about the sexual enslavement and coercion of poor women, mostly in the global south.

    Well, and I get a little irritated when privileged white, American women patronize poor, little, innocent, non-English speaking global south women. Not just in your post, but in a few of the replies, I sense a racist attitude: Third World women are stupid and can’t think or act for themselves. Also, there is that age-old hint that dark-skinned Third World males are to blame, and we brilliant First-Worlders must save those foreign women from their own, evil culture.

    I don’t doubt that you have studied sex work, and again, I don’t mean to offend, but from my many experiences with prostitutes, your “$5 blowjobs in a port-a-potty in LA” comment is an incredible caricature. I’ve never experienced anything like that with all the prostitutes I’ve been with. And if I may, since I don’t question your studies of sex work, I hope you’d take some of my own experiences as also part of sex work study: I just came back from the horrible global south, that part of the world where, according to you, we see a radical opposition to those minority, priviledged, global north prostitutes. Sorry, but that is bull. The prostitutes I met in the deep south of Mexico are just like anyone else. They have their pride and their lives to live. They would take real offense at you implying that they aren’t happy, self-employed, and prosperous. Off work hours, we would go out to dinner together, go to movies, I brought them medicine when they were sick, we cooked dinner for each other, etc. I mention all this because I take offense that you think only white, First-World women can engage in prostitution in an empowerment capacity.

  11. March 15, 2007 at 11:48 pm

    I’m afraid there is a disconnect here that we won’t be able to bridge. For instance, where do you come up with the numbers that: “Even in the United States most prostitutes are under the control of a pimp.” Seriously, you may believe that, but how or where does one get that data? That’s why I mentioned the El País article.

    I got it from the following article: K. Barry. The Prostitution of Sexuality. New York: New York University Press (1995).

    Well, and I get a little irritated when privileged white, American women patronize poor, little, innocent, non-English speaking global south women. Not just in your post, but in a few of the replies, I sense a racist attitude: Third World women are stupid and can’t think or act for themselves. Also, there is that age-old hint that dark-skinned Third World males are to blame, and we brilliant First-Worlders must save those foreign women from their own, evil culture.

    No one said they couldn’t think for themselves. Where did anyone even infer that? The post is about sexual slavery. Slaves, by definition, don’t have choice. As for the evil Third World male, did you read the line where I wrote, “Sex tourism in places like Thailand depends sexual slavery, and is funded by a whole lot of wealthy, Western men”? And nowhere have I said that sex work is a Third World phenomenon. It’s pretty universal, as far as I can tell. You’re beating up strawmen with that argument.

    I’m absolutely sure that there are women in the global south who make the fully free choice to do sex work. But I’m also sure that there are more who are either forced or coerced into that work out of financial necessity.

    I don’t doubt that you have studied sex work, and again, I don’t mean to offend, but from my many experiences with prostitutes, your “$5 blowjobs in a port-a-potty in LA” comment is an incredible caricature. I’ve never experienced anything like that with all the prostitutes I’ve been with.

    That’s fine, but I based it on a column in the Los Angeles Times about prostitution in LA. It might have been $15 instead of $5, but I didn’t pull the port-a-potty anecdote out of my ass.

    I’m not arguing that only white First-World women can engage in prostitution in an empowerment capacity. Women world-wide can certainly find empowerment in prostitution. But, being that first-world white women are already sufficiently more privileged than women anywhere else in the world, it would probably follow that they have a better chance at freely choosing prostitution, no?

    Poor brown women world-wide have fewer choices in just about everything employment-related. They’re more likely to work in a factory for pennies a day than a white western woman is. They’re more likely to work in a brothel. They’re less likely to have the power to demand condom use or turn away customers. Recognizing global inequalities isn’t nearly the same thing as arguing that poor brown women lack agency.

    Look, I’m not denying that sex workers can be happy and empowered anywhere in the world. But I’m also not painting sex workers as a monolithic group. You seem to think that every sex worker is happily self-employed, and that just isn’t the case. It also does a lot of damage to push the idea of happy sex workers everywhere, when there are so many women in need of help. I also think that sex work needs to be de-stigmatized, and there needs to be the model of the happy, empowered, non-victimized sex worker. That’s an important contribution to the conversation, and it reflects many women’s realities. But I’m troubled that it’s being brought up as if it’s the truth for all sex workers, and I’m troubled that it’s being brought up in the context of a conversation about sexual slavery.

    I don’t deny that there are some who happy and empowered, but the Diary of a Manhattan Callgirl model simply isn’t available for most women in the world.

  12. March 15, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    Here is the L.A. Times article I was referencing. I was right the first time — it’s $5-10 for oral sex.

  13. Dauthendey
    March 16, 2007 at 12:31 am

    Damn, wrote a long reply, but lost it all cause I hit the wrong key!! Maybe I’ll try a reply tomorrow, although I liked what I had written… Oh well..

    Buenas noches y cuídate.

  14. exangelena
    March 16, 2007 at 12:36 am

    I’m sick of the race card being brought up during the Sex Wars. I’m an American-born woman of color and radical feminist, and white sex positive feminists have implied that I’m racist because I don’t agree with them about sexual politics.
    And guess what – a lot of men of color ARE sexist.
    I’m going to repost a comment I left a few months ago:
    Trigger warning

    “If it wasn’t for men you wouldn’t have prostitution,” said Myers. “They think it’s a joke, she’s having a ball. No she isn’t! They think they didn’t do anything wrong — ‘My wife is pregnant and I deserve to have my needs taken care of.’ Well fuck your needs! And fuck the things you do to us, things that would have you arrested if you tried to do them to a date. Women need to be taught that their body isn’t an offering or a sacrifice.”

    Frundt was 14 when a man in his twenties persuaded her to run away. She thought it was about love. He brought his friends over to gang-rape her … When Frundt disobeyed her pimp, she said, he broke her arm with a bat. I was 14. I looked 14. I was sleeping with men who were 65 years old,” said Frundt, 31, who joined the left-right coalition. She said her customers, bald and wrinkled, had sex while complaining about their wives; she closed her eyes. One fat client reeked of Bengay ointment. Afterward, she threw up.

    You see, I was also a prostitute when I was stripping for the escort service … I fall into the camp of the 90%. I want these men, these sick fuckers who think that they have a right to buy women, to go to jail. I want them locked up and I want them to pay for their sense of entitlement. I want them to pay for raping these women and girls and yes, prostitution IS rape for the vast majority of women/girls working in the field.”

    Seriously who would want to sell her body, to sell her sex to anonymous men except for those women who have no other way of feeding their children?…Women like my mother who was eventually stoned to death need your help. They need the world’s help and support. Their forgotten families, too, need the world’s help. Help them!

    Excellent feminist anthology about prostitution, includes essays by nonwhite women and former sex workers, which should help put to bed the myth that only rich white women object to prostitution

    Their voices matter too.

  15. Dauthendey
    March 16, 2007 at 1:04 am

    Fuck it, I’ll try to recap what I originally wrote in reply, though I had it all nicely formatted with block quotes and all…

    Edward Said in _Orientalism_ talks about how discourses force one to repeat what are often fictions, simply because the discourse demands it. As far as our topic goes, I’ve seen this so many times in the media whenever the topic of foreign prostitution goes. Take that NYT Magazine article, for instance, about foreign sex slaves in the US. The discourse on this sordid matter compels him to mention pedophilia. And he complies by citing an American website devoted to abuse of American girls. In other words, even though those websites are a purely American matter, having nothing to do with international sex trafficking, the discourse on foreign sex workers, no matter how “legitimate” or not, compels him to mention pedophila.

    This is why I said that it seemed like you and a few of the commentators seemed to think Third World girls are stupid. Because it is one of those tropes that the discourse compels one to say: That, for example, there are scores of innocent, little Czech girls, living in their peaceful, little villages, who are lured into the promise of a job as a waitress in Western Europe, only to be forced into sex work, something they had never heard of before, or maybe they were forced into pornograpy, again, something they didn’t know existed. And you and at least one other commentator mentioned Germany.

    Now, literally overnight, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, throngs of Eastern European women converged on the borders with Western Europe, offering sex for pay. That was a major new item in Germany for over a year after the Fall. Surely, there is an economic disparity at work here. But if those throngs formed immediately after the Fall, what is so strange about the fact that those Eastern women might want to work in the heart of Western Europe itself, instead of on the highways? How do they get to the West? Perhaps through illegal means. But again, it seems the media and the posts here simply repeat that innocent Czech villager trope, without wondering if the vast majority actively chose to go to the West to do sex work.

    Anyways, yes, I thought you were treating prostitutes as a monolithic group, as you thought I was doing. I don’t. I am just saying that prostituion, especially in the Third World, is a multi-faceted phomenemon, just like here. We have many pimped girls here, and we have women working in evil circumstances in the Third World. It is just that, from my experience in deep southern Mexico, amongst other places, a $15 BJ in a porta-potty is far from the norm.

    Cuídate.

  16. Miller
    March 16, 2007 at 1:24 am

    These are slaves, not workers–slaves. Universally these women and girls (the younger the more money earned) rare not free to leave the hell of brutal daily rapes (dozens of rapists are served daily, on average) with callous misogynists who might even kill them–either with AIDS or physical force. Those few who “choose” to prostitute themselves do so because of financial desperation to provide basics for themselves or their family or are junkies who are in the distinct minority. But even they are not exactly free from threats from trafikkers who jealously guard their territory to maximize profit.
    Referring to them as “sex slaves” confuses commercialized rape–a hate crime–with sex. Yes, rape is a hate crime because it depends on the dehumanization and demonization of the target on the basis of gender–an immutable trait. Aggressive violence requires the former and the latter justifies such violence. Why do you think this industry is so universally popular? The same reason why “sex” in mainstream pornography can only exist as the humiliation, degradation, physical torture, and raping of women and girls: violent hate. Porn “sex” clearly shows women and girls in emotional and, especially, physical distress or else males would not be aroused. They cry, choke, vomit, and wince in sheer pain to the delight of the masses. Even if you insist that actors are “only” simulating rape, a male is still masturbating to its depiction, which depends on enjoying her brutalization and destruction. If you think Abu Ghraib was an outrage, you should realize it is the staple of mainstream porn, and it’ll only get worse to keep the “excitement” alive.
    Misogyny has framed “sex” in our culture as the degradation of females or rape–increasingly violent hate. We have no chance in combating this slavery in the public eye if we encourage such dangerous myths by calling them “sex workers” insteads of slaves of the rape trade, or at least, slaves.

  17. Frumious B
    March 16, 2007 at 8:51 am

    I am hesitant to call human trafficking “slavery” because it may take away from the actuality of our own historical hardships with slavery,

    Or it might highlight the actuality of our present day hardships with slavery.

  18. March 16, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    thanks for this post Jill – very heartbreakin, but very necessary.

    if anyone has a chance, I highly recommend watching the documentary Hope in Heaven, which is about the sex tourism/slavery industry in the Phillippines. It’s pretty much devastating.

  19. March 16, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Also, there is that age-old hint that dark-skinned Third World males are to blame, and we brilliant First-Worlders must save those foreign women from their own, evil culture.

    Jill, I think he may have been inferring this from my comments about Thailand.

    Dauthendey, you may try reconsidering my comments within the context of the nationalist trope of “foreigners are rapin’ our wimmens”. I was only referring to the situation in the Thai-Burma area, because I’m familiar with it, I was not extrapolating to the global south. The Thai government/elite are the ones who push the notion that tourists are driving the sex trade there, an idea which lets all of them off the hook for their role in the problem and their responsibilities to fix it. Sex slavery, rape, and trafficking is still rife in areas of Asia where there are no tourists. My point was that everyone, white men and brown men, northern or southern, need to own up to their roles in the problem and take steps to fix it.

  20. Kellyrox
    March 16, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    I agree it is modern day slavery, and actually I created a student group to combat trafficking about 4 months ago and titled the group Slavery Exists Today, for just that reason- it provokes questions and sentiment. However, I sometime’s feel like it may degrade the reality of our own historical past experiences.
    The 27 million number is not really debated within trafficking human rights circles (who use the governement determined number 2.5-4 million). When I brought it to the attention of a lawyer who helped write the UN report on trafficking she was not aware of it, only that it must have come from Dr. Kevin Bales (and it did indeed). Kevin is one of the founders of freetheslaves.com

    The issue surrounding trafficking is difficult because of course there are politic’s within the problem. Many want to abolish sex work altogether, and this is how many church organizations are involved. It’s never just about ending the inhumane trade of people as commodities, its about ending sex work in general. Numbers like 27 million come from many forms of slavery like practices, and one of them they say is all sex work.
    Trafficking is a area I hope to work in after I get out of school and get a law degree:) However I am well aware that while there are many great organization’s out there trying to fight trafficking, many may be in it for what I see as the wrong reasons…I do NOT want to abolish sex work, I want to abolish human trafficking, and I think when people talk about trafficking it is crucial that they understand the difference between the two, and therefore will have different numbers.
    The issue of numbers is remedial though, one trafficking victim is too many, however falsifying facts in order to get a more drammatic response is hurtful to any campaign. This is again why I am hestitant to call it Slavery (even though the group I created uses it in its title) not only because this term is being grossly overstated by the christian right, but because it may be taking pressure off of the US for it’s own historical relations with it.

  21. Lya Kahlo
    March 16, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    “The same reason why “sex” in mainstream pornography can only exist as the humiliation, degradation, physical torture, and raping of women and girls: violent hate. Porn “sex” clearly shows women and girls in emotional and, especially, physical distress or else males would not be aroused. They cry, choke, vomit, and wince in sheer pain to the delight of the masses. Even if you insist that actors are “only” simulating rape, a male is still masturbating to its depiction, which depends on enjoying her brutalization and destruction.”

    I don’t agree that it’s *always* about humilation, degradtion and torture, but a shocking amount of it is. I’ve seen it. It makes me physically sick. And were I to find out anyone in my sphere of influence enjoyed such porn, they wouldn’t be around me after that. It’s disgusting.

    A friend of mine has a blog that took part in the porn google-bomb. A look at her key word searches is extremely depressing. Constantly – day after day there are countless perverts searching for “rape porn” “incest porn” “abuse porn”.

    Just a little reminder about how much men hate women.

  22. exangelena
    March 16, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    Two bloggers actually investigate the porn spam in their inboxes. Definitely NSFW and rather disturbing, but provocative.

    All I got in my xmas hamper was a shitload of spam

    Rape spam leads to secret patriarchy handbook

  23. March 16, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    I get the sickest searches too. The reason there is disgusting porn is that someone somewhere is willing to pay for it.

  24. Dauthendey
    March 17, 2007 at 3:40 am

    Monkey, no, I wasn’t referring to your post. It was more the references to Germany, and, well, of course, to America, since the vast majority of foreign sex workers here are from the Third World.

    And, btw, I specifically chose to say “a hint” of that racist trope for a reason, since I wasn’t trying to accuse any one here of being racist; it was as a caution.

    As for that nationistic Thai-Burmese trope, yes, I’m sure you are right. So thanks for that. And that is exactly what I was trying to say when I said this is a “multi-faceted phenomenon” that should be treated as such: In other words, matters concerning prostitution will differ a lot from country to country.

    Kellyrox, I think you are exactly right to feel uncomfortable and to be questioning in order to get matters straight and to be sure of what the fight is for. And to sort of tie a few of my thoughts together, ie. that of the racist trope and the easy labelling of “sex slavery”, this is what I often see in the media:

    The police bust a brothel where foreigners are working. The police answer reporters’ questions saying: “We are not sure if this was a sex slave operation.” Which of course leads one to think it was. The reporter then contacts some of the “save the slaves” organizations who then spit out rather high numbers of supposed sex slaves that are in the country. And, as the discourse dictates, they also throw in something about pedophilia as well, even if none of the women busted were underage. So, immediately, a perhaps very mundane prostitution bust, if it had to do with American sex workers, is turned into an exotic story of innocent foreign women forceblily smuggled to our American soil by their compatriots, living lives from the Middle Ages, and some of them are children as well, etc, etc.

    I once clicked on the link given in those news articles of one of those “save the sex slaves” websites (I can’t find it at the moment; looks like I didn’t bookmark it…), and there in the “about us” section was the transcript of a short talk given by the president of the organization. He started out by showing his audience horrible pictures of young women sex slaves in cages in India. Surely shocked and horrified by the end of his 30 minute talk, he told the audience that this situation may be closer to home than one might think. “For even here in Washington, DC, there are several Korean-run massage parlors.”

    It is this type of talk that really bothers me. What on earth do caged sex slaves in India have to do with a Korean massage parlor/brothel in the US? No doubt many in the audience thought that the Koreans are kept in cages as well. And after all, how are they to know? From my own experience in Korean-run brothels in California, well, one chica glowingly told me all about her recent trip to Paris. Now, I have no idea if what I experienced in CA is the same as the Korean situation in Washington. All I am saying is that there seems to be a drive amongst the “save the sex slave” people to paint all us brownies with a wide brush.

    And I promise no more long posts…

  25. March 17, 2007 at 4:23 am

    I’m surprised by how little reference there is to immigration policy in what I’ve read on anti-trafficking sites. I would have thought people advocating anti-trafficking legislation would be more keen to prevent their arguments being taken up by the anti-immigration lobby. Closed borders leave economic migrants at the mercy of people-traffickers, and make it harder for them to get the help of the authorities in the countries they find themselves in. A call for open borders should be, I would think, a central plank of any anti-trafficking campaign.

  26. Gayle
    March 17, 2007 at 9:24 am

    Dauthendey,

    Which sub-set of the slave trade are you blogging for anyway? Are you paid well for posting pro-sex slave (a savvy poster on another thread called it the “rape trade”) propaganda?

  27. Gayle
    March 17, 2007 at 9:39 am

    voyou,

    They probably don’t get into immigration policy as they know the problem is caused by both poverty and DEMAND. The higher the demand, the more children and women are trafficked. Immigration policies can make people-moving easier or more difficult, but traffickers will find a way regardless as long as it’s profitable.

  28. exangelena
    March 17, 2007 at 10:29 am

    So Jill puts up a picture of a woman hurt and angry because of sex work, several commenters provide links with testimony from researchers, witnesses and sex workers (former and present) who are also outraged, and we have to talk about, “no, really, women LOVE being prostitutes!”
    And about the apparent “innocent villager” myth, here’s a long and beautiful post about trafficked Eastern European women by a Ukrainian born woman who lives in the US.

  29. March 17, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    Ex, it’s one of those never fails. Mention the word ‘sex’ and people’s brains run out their ears.

  30. Dauthendey
    March 17, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    exangelena and Gayle, almost everything I said is repeated in this article by Nina Shapiro in the Seattle Weekly, which I hadn’t read until now. Or maybe she and those she quotes are paid by the sex-slave trade too?

    http://www.seattleweekly.com/2004-08-25/news/the-new-abolitionists.php

  31. exangelena
    March 18, 2007 at 12:05 am

    Dauthendey: first of all, most of the links that I left in #14 are NOT about innocent Eastern European girls tricked into prostitution by advertisements from modeling. The first three are from former American sex workers, the fourth from an Iranian woman coerced economically into prostitution in Iran (and then stoned to death) and the fifth, although I haven’t yet finished the anthology, mostly about the experiences of sex workers in Western countries. Jill linked to an article about prostitution in Los Angeles. These are real people who had terrible experiences in sex work (also illustrated in the picture Jill posted).
    And as for some sex workers that you have met (and I have no idea about the context, etc), I work in a 100% legal, documented and socially acceptable field. I also don’t enjoy it. I wouldn’t be complaining to everyone about how I don’t like it and want another job, because, oh, I don’t know, I need the money?

    Shannon: THANK YOU.

  32. Donna Darko
    March 18, 2007 at 12:43 am

    Sex workers / = sex slaves.

    Ugh. Someone please take responsibility for sex slavery in each country where it happens. 90% of the customers are from that country and governments mostly look askance at the sex trade.

  33. Dauthendey
    March 18, 2007 at 1:07 am

    exangelena, I’m just cautioning against hype. Of course the prostitutes I’ve met are doing it for the money and especially to support their kids and family. But third world women also have their dignity, and if Americans were to say to the women in Mexico that I know: “You are a sex slave. You are raped every day. Why can’t you understand that!?” They’d say “Fuck you. I have my children to raise. Damned gringo”

    I have certainly heard tragic stories in my encounters. Give me a break. As regards the innocent villager myth, that was a poor choice of wording on my part. I was just trying to say that that is part of the hype: That women don’t chose to do sex work, but that they are all tricked. As that Seattle Weekly article mentions, a recent bust of two Chinese sex workers assumed to have been tricked into the trade, actually knew exactly what they were coming here to do.

    Jill’s link to “LA prostitution” is a link to abject poverty, homelessness, and drug abuse. Sorry, but to view that as in any way emblematic of the majority of sex transactions in this country is ridiculous.

    These are the only reasons why I mentioned my own experiences with prostitutes. Not to negate or deny any of the specific cases mentioned here and not to say that all prostitutes are happy.

  34. Dauthendey
    March 18, 2007 at 1:10 am

    And since no one here finds anything of interest in my posts, well, then, I’ll leave. Sorry for all that.

  35. Gayle
    March 18, 2007 at 9:31 am

    “Jill’s link to “LA prostitution” is a link to abject poverty, homelessness, and drug abuse. Sorry, but to view that as in any way emblematic of the majority of sex transactions in this country is ridiculous.”

    Yeah, reality sucks, Dauthendey.

    Bye, bye!

  36. March 18, 2007 at 10:06 am

    We’ve got a flouncer! People don’t tell the third world women they are being raped- they say themselves that they were. But hey, it’s sex! Let’s ignore child prostitution and rape because they have sex in it! *shakes head*

  37. exangelena
    March 18, 2007 at 10:33 am

    “And, btw, I specifically chose to say “a hint” of that racist trope for a reason, since I wasn’t trying to accuse any one here of being racist; it was as a caution.”
    “…if Americans were to say to the women in Mexico that I know: ‘You are a sex slave. You are raped every day. Why can’t you understand that!?’ They’d say ‘Fuck you. I have my children to raise. Damned gringo’
    Then why did you pull out the race card again? Trust me, no one in Latin America would call me a gringo!

    “I was just trying to say that that is part of the hype: That women don’t chose to do sex work, but that they are all tricked.”
    Well if you’d followed my link the first time:
    Many of these women venture out with visions of the film ‘Pretty Woman’ dancing in their heads. They expect to rake in lots of fast money and in the process perhaps even meet Mr. Right. But those fantasies are shattered when, within moments of arriving at their destinatioons, they learn their true fate. Most end up in situations of incredible debt bondage, unable to earn enough to pay back the high interest on their travel and living expenses. They become victims of the wost possible forms of sexual exploitation. They are not free to leave, nor can they easily escape….All in all, no matter how ‘willing’ they were and regardlress of how they fell into the trafficking trap, the vast majority of these women end up as nothing more than slaves-abused, used, and traded. And when they’re no longer useful or when they’ve gotten too old or too sick and riddled with disease, they are simply discarded. Only then can they contemplate returning home. Countless others never do go home. Many die from the abuse and the diseases. Others give up and kill themselves.
    But I guess since they “chose” to become prostitutes that’s ok, right?

    “These are the only reasons why I mentioned my own experiences with prostitutes. Not to negate or deny any of the specific cases mentioned here and not to say that all prostitutes are happy.”
    Then why have you refused to acknowledge the experiences of sex slaves (and 160,000 is too many!) and insisted that prostitutes freely choose and love their work?

  38. exangelena
    March 18, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Gayle, Donna Darko, shannon – thanks for preventing me from kicking a hole in my computer or throwing up.

  39. March 18, 2007 at 11:21 am

    exangelena, I’m just cautioning against hype. Of course the prostitutes I’ve met are doing it for the money and especially to support their kids and family. But third world women also have their dignity, and if Americans were to say to the women in Mexico that I know: “You are a sex slave. You are raped every day. Why can’t you understand that!?” They’d say “Fuck you. I have my children to raise. Damned gringo”

    I have certainly heard tragic stories in my encounters. Give me a break. As regards the innocent villager myth, that was a poor choice of wording on my part. I was just trying to say that that is part of the hype: That women don’t chose to do sex work, but that they are all tricked.

    But no one is saying that. We all recognize that many women voluntarily do sex work. But this post is about sex slaves — women who are forced into sex work. It’s not about consensual sex workers. It’s about seriously abused women. And that’s why it’s obnoxious when someone comes in and starts saying that these women don’t really have it that bad, and besides sex workers like their jobs and this is all over-hyped since there are really only 200,000 women who are sexually enslaved.

    It would be like if we were talking about forced factory work, wherein workers were locked in and forced to perform dangerous tasks to pay off debts that will never end, and were beaten and abused or even killed when they didn’t comply — and someone showed up to say that she works in a factory in Detroit and she does it voluntarily and every other factory worker she knows does it voluntarily so what the hell are we talking about and quit over-hyping this. Obnoxious, right?

  40. Donna Darko
    March 18, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    And that’s why it’s obnoxious when someone comes in and starts saying that these women don’t really have it that bad, and besides sex workers like their jobs and this is all over-hyped since there are really only 200,000 women who are sexually enslaved.

    This reminds me of the 200,000 sex slaves who are being denied their DIGNITY by the Japanese government’s denial of sex slavery (“comfort women”) during WWII. Please sign this petition to urge Nancy Pelosi to bring House Resolution 121-1H to the House floor.

    Dear Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi,

    We the undersigned request you to support House Resolution 121-1H. We urge you to bring the House Floor to a full vote.

    Historians and researchers in South Korea and Japan discovered several official war documents in the late 1980’s that established the existence and systematic abuse of WWII Comfort Women. They estimated 200, 000 young women were taken hostage by Japanese soldiers to serve as military sex slaves from all of
    South East Asia.

    After fifty years of silence, surviving Comfort Women have broken the culture of shame to document their experiences of systematic rape and sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army. Their demands are simple — they would like a formal apology and reparations for the war crimes they suffered, crimes that
    continue to affect their aging bodies in physically, mentally and sexually abusive ways. The women make their demands in order to reclaim their dignity, and ensure the safety of their own daughters, granddaughters and now, great granddaughters.

    The surviving Comfort Women are mostly in their 80’s now. Many are dying. We urge Congress to act swiftly so that some may see justice before they pass away.

    Sincerely,

  41. Donna Darko
    March 18, 2007 at 12:44 pm
  42. Donna Darko
    March 18, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Furthering taking away the DIGNITY of Asian women, the Japanese prime minister is now pouring fuel on the fire, despite stating he stands by the wording of the unofficial 1993 apology. He is calling for a NEW INVESTIGATION.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/japan/story/0,,2029775,00.html

    Japanese prime minister fuels tensions over wartime sex slaves

    Justin McCurry in Tokyo
    Friday March 9, 2007
    The Guardian

    Japan’s row with its neighbours over its wartime use of sex slaves deepened yesterday when the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, announced a new investigation into the contentious issue.

    Mr Abe said the government would cooperate with a study by a group of Liberal Democrat MPs who are sceptical of claims that thousands of Asian women were forced to work in Japanese military brothels before and during the second world war.

    (snip)

    Mr Abe resisted calls for the government to conduct its own investigation. “The party will conduct the research,” he told reporters. “The government will cooperate as needed by providing materials.”

    The group of more than 120 MPs has claimed that the brothels were operated by private contractors, not military officials. They want to water down an unofficial apology issued in 1993 by the then chief cabinet secretary, Yohei Kono, which expressed the government’s “sincere apologies and remorse”.

    (snip)

    Mr Abe, in an apparent attempt to mollify his critics, said yesterday that he stood by the wording of the Kono statement, which acknowledged that the women had been forced to work in brothels, in many cases by Japanese military authorities.

    But acceptance of the group’s findings is expected to heighten diplomatic tensions. It comes before a trip by the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, to Tokyo in April and a visit by Mr Abe to Washington.

  43. Donna Darko
    March 18, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    It reminds me of Terri Schiavo and politicians making political points over dead women’s bodies.

  44. March 20, 2007 at 11:00 am

    Mention the word ’sex’ and people’s brains run out their ears.

    Yep. I have no compunction about calling the ‘work’ that is done by people in EPZ’s slavery. No one except the most delusional neo-liberal insists that they’re loving it, or that it’s hype to get angry about the policies and treatment of them, or that by calling what is happening to them a human rights violation, we’re somehow being patronizing. But the minute they have to fuck for a living, and suddenly the rules change.

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