Sex workers have many reasons for offering sexual services. True, some may not be happy with sex work, but they may be even less satisfied with other job opportunities that are open to them in their own countries. Similarly, human trafficking may be fueled by migration and labor regimes that make the lives of migrants vulnerable, rather than by actual violence.
Second, abolitionism does not solve the problem of violence which, more often than not, stems from the criminalization of sex workers and migrants, and the lack of rights that goes with it. In fact, research has shown that criminalization of sex workers makes them more vulnerable to instances of abuse and exploitation, including human trafficking.
Treated as criminals, victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation risk remaining undetected and even further victimized by prison sentences. This has been the case in the recent FBI sting operation in the US where minors were arrested for prostitution. In the name of abolition, feminist and abolitionist organizations have supported police raids and police action in the fight against human trafficking. This is true even for those countries where the police is infamously corrupt and prone to abuse and sexually assaulting vulnerable populations such as sex workers, without ever being punished. Such policies hurt sex workers and victims of human trafficking alike. And, most certainly, they should not be called “feminist.”
By contrast, countries that treat sex work as legal labor have lower incidences of violence against sex workers. In these countries, sex workers’ working and living conditions have generally improved. The best example is New Zealand, where even migrant sex workers areprotected by law and where a liberal approach has neither increased the number of sex workers or victims of human trafficking. With the recognition of sex work as labor come many rights, such as access to health services, the social system and, in New Zealand, access to residence permits for migrant sex workers. Most importantly, decriminalization grants access to the legal system in case of rape or abuse by clients or the police.
(however, as Wendy Lyon points out on fb re: New Zealand
“All participants, excluding the NZ Immigration Service representative, stressed that existing legislation treats migrant sex workers inequitably. Most notably, under the Prostitution Reform Act, 2003 (PRA), migrants who require visas to work in New Zealand are prohibited from working in the sex industry. As such, under the PRA those on student and working visa are excluded from working as sex workers.
While the current law was lauded as having greatly improved conditions for sex workers in New Zealand the same privileges have not been awarded to migrants.
Participants challenged the law on the basis that:
§ it places migrant sex workers in an inequitable provision under the law
§ there is no evidence of migrant sex workers having been trafficked to New Zealand
§ legislation places migrant workers in an untenable position.” )
Government leaders and police often fail to acknowledge their own complicity in further stigmatizing girls engaged in survival sex. The FBI’s multi-city raid involved officers enforcing standard laws related to prostitution or solicitation, meaning that many of these so-called “rescues” involved little more than “rounding up the usual suspects.”
Periodic law enforcement raids change none of these realities. Nor do they change the fact that crucial local, state, and federal dollars that used to fund services for girls on the run from abusive families have been devastated by draconian budget cuts. Federal sequestration alone is predicted to bring a 56 percent cumulative reduction in juvenile justice funds that once provided states with vital, community-based services for troubled families and alternative care.
“They (girls) usually get into this because they are running away from something else,” Oakland, California, police Lt. Kevin Wiley declared. “It goes way beyond law enforcement to solve this epidemic.”
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its re-authorizations define commercially-sold girls as victims, but most state laws allow for girls under 18 to be charged as prostitutes. Advocacy groups have tried to pass Safe Harbor laws, which mandate that any girl under 18 who has been sexually exploited be treated as a victim, not a criminal and placed in safe treatment facilities that provide medical and mental health services. Only 25% of states have passed such legislation. Even then, “victims” in these states often find their “rescue” home is a shelter or detention facility.
With no system for helping teens put their lives on track, putting handcuffed girls in patrol cars is far from a rescue. It’s more like a roundtrip ticket to a visit with a broken detention system, followed by a return to the street.
Sort of annoying bc it’s mostly shock abt her age & explanation of what an older woman might be doing in the industry (surprise! she needed money! colour me shocked) but anyway:
A Toronto man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 72-year-old sex worker.
Blake Anthony Wilson, 26, briefly appeared at a Finch Avenue courtroom on Wednesday morning before being taken back into custody.
Firefighters first responded to a call at 5754 Yonge St., near Finch, around 1 p.m. on July 13. Once the fire was put out, Janina Wrigglesworth was found dead inside her apartment. A post-mortem revealed signs of trauma to Ms. Wrigglesworth’s body.
“One of the reasons they kind of do well is because there are not a lot of them,” said Ms. Grant. “They do kind of corner the market a bit on that older demographic. If you’re a guy who’s in his 70s, you may not be even comfortable seeing people in their 50s because that’s the age of your own kids.”
Another reason some sex workers continue well into retirement age is because they can hang on to a trusted client base built over many years, she said. The clientele would be “aging with you” and could be seeking a sex worker with whom, based on age, they have more in common.
But when sex workers of any age run their business independently and give out their phone numbers or addresses, as Ms. Wrigglesworth did, without the “safety net” of agencies, the risk factor rises, Ms. Grant said.
Det. Sgt. Browne said police believe Ms. Wrigglesworth, who was charged with sex trade-related offences in 1997 and 2000, “lived by very limited means” because she sent most of the money she made through her sex work and community tax work to family members in Poland.
CICERO, Ill. (AP) â Cops in the Chicago area call it a track, a stretch of street known for its steady sex trade.
Elsewhere, a law passed in New York state in 2010 allows women who can prove they were coerced to have prostitution convictions wiped from their records – a move that advocates say allows them more options for housing and employment.
And in California, voters recently passed Proposition 35, which increases prison terms for human traffickers, as well as fines, which also are to be used to pay for services for victims.
It’s progress, experts say. Yet a question often persists: Who is really a victim?
“We’ve got this idea of an ideal victim – someone who is physically locked in a room, chained up . and who makes no money,” says Catherine Longkumer, a Chicago attorney who works with victims of trafficking to help them get their lives back together.
Certainly that classic example of the locked-up trafficking victim exists on our shores, too.
But others, she says, are forced into prostitution with more subtle, yet equally paralyzing coercion. While it’s not always obvious to the outside world, intimidation and drug addiction become tools for control.
“The reality is that traffickers are very smart,” Longkumer says. “You can use a lot of psychological coercion to keep a person bonded, things like threats, or ‘If you try to leave, you’ll be deported, or your family will be harmed.’”
But the matter of victimhood can get even murkier than that.
Bridgette Carr, a trafficking expert and clinical professor of law at the University of Michigan, sees it all the time. She is director of the law school’s human trafficking clinic, where students get credit for representing clients, many of them teens and young women who are trying to break free from traffickers and start new lives.
But can people be “victims” if they sell their bodies for sex – and keep some of that money or trade it for drugs? Are they victims if a pimp provides cellphones, buys them clothes, or even cars, or places to stay? In some instances, a prostitute might even have children with her pimp.
ok emphasis mine.
basically I think anything that helps sex workers get backup options is potentially helpful bc it is hard to quit after having no paper trail and whatever else—it’s hard to get a job, it’s hard to get an apartment, &c&c&c
but the language is whatever and also look at the first paragraph I quoted like the incentive to claim trafficking status is pretty strong. There’s much more leniency for people who claim they’re trafficked than those who don’t. and there is a vision of the perfect trafficking victim, as that one person says.
I mean what does coercion look like? does it look like needing to pay your bills and feed your kids, does it look like poverty? if sex work gets you better money and hours to take care of yourself, is that a problem? isn’t the real problem violence and vulnerability and lack of access to legal protections, all indemic in a trade driven underground and out of sight? like what if you could be like “this guy is an abusive asshole & a pimp” and not worry about being thrown in jail yourself? how do you protect the most vulnerable, I mean is this it?
When police in July last year announced the results of Operation Pentameter Two, Jacqui Smith, then home secretary, hailed it as “a great success”. Its operational head, Tim Brain, said it had seriously disrupted organised crime networks responsible for human trafficking. “The figures show how successful we have been in achieving our goals,” he said.
Those figures credited Pentameter with “arresting 528 criminals associated with one of the worst crimes threatening our society”. But an internal police analysis of Pentameter, obtained by the Guardian after a lengthy legal struggle, paints a very different picture.
The analysis, produced by the police Human Trafficking Centre in Sheffield and marked “restricted”, suggests there was a striking shortage of sex traffickers to be found in spite of six months of effort by all 55 police forces in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together with the UK Border Agency, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the Foreign Office, the Northern Ireland Office, the Scottish government, the Crown Prosecution Service and various NGOs in what was trumpeted as “the largest ever police crackdown on human trafficking”.
The analysis reveals that 10 of the 55 police forces never found anyone to arrest. And 122 of the 528 arrests announced by police never happened: they were wrongly recorded either through honest bureaucratic error or apparent deceit by forces trying to chalk up arrests which they had not made. Among the 406 real arrests, more than half of those arrested (230) were women, and most were never implicated in trafficking at all.
Of the 406 real arrests, 153 had been released weeks before the police announced the success of the operation: 106 of them without any charge at all and 47 after being cautioned for minor offences. Most of the remaining 253 were not accused of trafficking: 73 were charged with immigration breaches; 76 were eventually convicted of non-trafficking offences involving drugs, driving or management of a brothel; others died, absconded or disappeared off police records.
Although police described the operation as “the culmination of months of planning and intelligence-gathering from all those stakeholders involved”, the reality was that, during six months of national effort, they found only 96 people to arrest for trafficking, of whom 67 were charged.
Forty-seven of those never made it to court.
Only 22 people were finally prosecuted for trafficking, including two women who had originally been “rescued” as supposed victims. Seven of them were acquitted. The end result was that, after raiding 822 brothels, flats and massage parlours all over the UK, Pentameter finally convicted of trafficking a grand total of only 15 men and women.
Police claimed that Pentameter used the international definition of sex trafficking contained in the UN’s Palermo protocol, which involves the use of coercion or deceit to transport an unwilling man or woman into prostitution. But, in reality, Pentameter used a very different definition, from the UK’s 2003 Sexual Offences Act, which makes it an offence to transport a man or woman into prostitution even if this involves assisting a willing sex worker.
Asked on the website Ask.fm if she would report an abusive client, one sex worker replied, “For the majority of areas I would say no. Never. I’ve done it before and it was pointless and I got in more trouble than the person who hurt me.”
Prostitutes cite a number of reasons for their reluctance to go to the police, including the belief that their testimony isn’t taken seriously and concern that the authorities would target them instead.
That’s not unfounded. When an east London brothel was held up in a violent robbery by an armed gang in 2011, police appeared more interested in shutting the establishment down than pursuing the robbers.
After two other brothels were subsequently attacked by the same gang, they decided not report the incident to police, according to a 2012 report.
Crimes against sex workers often aren’t fully investigated unless perpetrators begin to target people outside of the sex trade.
In 2010, a 22-year-old man named Sunny Islam forced a 15-year-old girl into his car at knifepoint from an east London street, drove her to a secluded spot and raped her.
When police investigated her report, they discovered three previous cases with similar details. All of the victims were sex workers, none of whose cases had been fully investigated. Islam was convicted in August 2011 on seven counts of rape.
“The problem with the raid and rescue industry is that it uses some of the most oppressive arms of the state to target sex workers – the police,” Meena Saraswathi, director of SANGRAM, a grassroots HIV organization in India, told IRIN.
“Whether sex workers have been trafficked or not, their understanding of what the police do is very different than that of other people because they are so often targeted as sex workers, migrants, transgender people, or for other reasons.
“This impacts how they perceive any attempt by the police to help them,” she said.
It is not only during anti-trafficking raids that sex workers have come to fear the police.
According to research compiled by WHO and the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, nearly half of the street-based sex workers in Bangladesh reported being raped by “men in uniform” while 70 percent of sex workers surveyed in India reported being beaten by the police.
Poorly conducted anti-trafficking operations have done little to abate such fears.
A 2003 study in Indonesia revealed sex workers rounded up during anti-trafficking raids have faced police abuse, including beatings and sexual abuse. A 2007 anti-trafficking law in Cambodia led to raids of sex work establishments in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, some of which involved police violence against sex workers, according to activists.