While the world has been rightfully focused on the kidnapped girls of Chibok, Nigeria, it is important to consider that the abduction and sale of women and girls for exploitation and economic gain is also evident in the West, including the UK. This is a devastating, and escalating practice of male violence assaulting the human rights and dignity of women and girls.
The exploitation and sale of women is frequently presented as though it is an entirely ‘foreign’ phenomenon. However the UK and Western Europe, US etc are major destinations for trafficked women due to Western male demand. Trafficked women and girls are commonly forced into prostitution, pornography and other forms of exploitation. In schemes which have legalised prostitution, in countries such as the Netherlands, trafficking of women has actually increased.
According to research the number of British men who admit to using prostitutes has more than doubled in the last decades. The growing popularity of ‘stag weekends’ is recognised as one factor in this research. However the overall mainstreaming of the ‘sex industry’, lap dancing clubs , the accessibility of porn through internet sites etc …have all played their part in allowing utilising women as merchandise for sexual gratification as acceptable and even applauded ‘red blooded male behaviour’.
It is estimated that thousands of women have been brought into the UK and forced to work within the ‘sex industry’. Trafficked women are found all over the UK, not just in metropolitan areas. The gangs behind the trade buy and sell the women for between £2,000 and £8,000. Some women have been forced to work for 16 hours a day. This can mean they may be raped up to 30 times a day.
Many trafficked women in the UK are from Eastern Europe and also the Far East, South America and Africa. Often, women are lured by adverts in their home countries for jobs such as restaurant staff, maids and child minders. Many women are from poor economic backgrounds. Suffering from poverty and deprivation greatly increasing vulnerability. Some are sold by family members, fathers, husbands….
Poorer women and girls are more easily bought and sold as commodities as trafficking gangs have a firm foothold in areas of economic deprivation where people can be ensnared by the promise of ‘a better life’. Women’s worldwide face a lack of access to the same economic assets, benefits and opportunities as men. Inequalities are found to exacerbate the vulnerability of women and girls. 70% of the world’s poor are female . To eliminate or alleviate poverty requires attention to sex inequality and women’s human rights.
The age of the trafficked women varies widely, but most are between 18 and 24. Many girls under the age of eighteen have been identified however, indicating many younger girls are also involved.Trafficked Women can end up in any town or city where the sex industry operates. The women are moved about the country frequently and may be sold and exchanged between a number of different gangs.
Migrant women may also be involved in the ‘sex industry’ without being trafficked, however decisions to enter this work may be induced by destitution, lack of opportunity and repressive border controls. ‘Consent’ therefore is not necessarily aligned with ‘choice’. (The same is true of any woman in the ‘sex industry’). The state often says that all foreign prostitutes are trafficked and uses this to excuse more oppressive border clamp downs. These controls actually force more migrant women into prostitution and under worse conditions as they are denied access to other work and benefits and may owe ‘debts’ to people smugglers.
When dealing with trafficked women and migrating women the state often basically suits it’s own political aims.
The traffickers typically use children who are trafficked with their mothers for blackmail purposes. The men who control trafficked women routinely use threats of violence against their families to guarantee their silence. In Europe and in other parts of the globe, the behaviour of police towards trafficked women has led to their reluctance to come forward. Police have also been discovered to collaborate with the traffickers.
Unlike drugs this is a low risk, high income trade – you can sell a female many times over. It can be viewed as the woman or girl’s fault in the eyes of the police and the traffickers can pay for good lawyers. In one UK raid more than 84 trafficked women were picked up. Two were 14 and pregnant. Many women have legal documents but these are taken from them as soon as they reach Britain. Others are smuggled in without authentic papers. Women are often sent back from the UK but then left without support, with the knowledge their traffickers may be waiting for them.
Trafficked women often suffer severe physical and mental health consequences including injuries from beatings and rapes, psychological trauma, HIV/AIDS, and alcohol and drug abuse either introduced by pimps or by their attempts to reduce physical and mental pain.
Sex trafficking won’t stop until there is a an end to male demand.
It is implicit in the demand for the sale of women on any level that women are inferior…… merchandise, commodities, goods…sexual exploitation viewed in the light of these facts, is not a deviation from the norm. It represents mainstream values: The logic of domination and subordination that is central to patriarchy.
How to deal with demand remains mostly unaddressed. State authorities have often allowed men found in brothels with trafficked women during police raids to leave, without consideration of whether they should face charges, while the women – victims of forcible detention and multiple rape – often find themselves in detention centers, prior to quick deportation.
The rise in demand for prostitution has become a major incentive for trafficking gangs to provide ‘the goods’ to satisfy these requirements. Traffickers would not go to the trouble of transporting young women here if there were not increasing numbers of men in the UK willing to pay for sexual services. Paying for sex is so increasingly popular, information is even exchanged about prostitutes on websites, posting ‘reviews’.
The difference between trafficked and non-trafficked women is not obvious to men who use prostitutes and porn etc. In an ‘industry’ which sells women, often presenting rape, torture and enslavement of women as entertainment for male pleasure, ethical concern for women is evidently not any sort of priority.
‘It is true, and very much to the point, that women are objects, commodities, some deemed more expensive than others – but it is only by asserting one’s humanness every time, in all situations, that one becomes someone as opposed to something. That, after all, is the core of our struggle’ – Andrea Dworkin ‘Woman Hating’