Tuesday, July 07, 2009

More evidence that trafficking is a myth

Excellent article here by Nathalie Rothschild. Extract:

At the beginning of April, just days before the European Convention on Action against Human Trafficking came into force in Britain, academics, sex workers and activists from around the world took part in a five-day ‘Sex Workers’ Open University’ in east London.

Participants were keen to debunk the myths of global ‘people smuggling’ and forced prostitution. The head of the Danish Sex Workers’ Interests Organisation claimed that ‘very few who work in the sex industry have been trafficked’. Nick Mai, a senior research fellow in Migrations and Immigrations at London Metropolitan University, asserted that, although anti-trafficking legislation is rolled out in the name of protecting migrants and women, it ultimately amounts to ‘anti-migration legislation’. A representative from the British Collective of Prostitutes said anti-trafficking campaigners ‘use inflated figures and exploit public concern’ to push through legislation.

Indeed, even as EU member states join forces to combat human trafficking, evidence for its existence is disintegrating. A major police investigation into prostitution in Ireland has failed to find any evidence of organised trafficking there.

Across the globe, serious clamp-downs on liberty are occurring in the name of ‘combating trafficking’. This became painfully clear at the Open University, where activists from around the world spoke of the challenges posed by anti-trafficking legislation. One woman told of how migrant sex workers in Costa Rica are routinely rounded up and arrested in the name of rooting out trafficking. In Cambodia, anti-trafficking legislation, introduced under pressure from the US Department of State, has led to raids on brothels, with thousands being ‘forcibly rescued’ by NGOs. Women at the Empower Foundation, a collective of sex workers in Chiang Mai, Thailand, have reported similar ‘rescue missions’ by police and charity workers, ending with them being locked up, interrogated and deported without any compensation for them or their dependants (7).

Anti-traffickers tend to claim that it is only a small minority of privileged, Western sex workers who are against the criminalisation of sex work in general. Yet around the world, thousands of sex workers have organised to campaign for their working rights – from Argentina and Mexico to France and the UK; from Thailand and Cambodia to Malaysia and India. As the organisers of the Sex Workers’ Open University said: ‘The issue of trafficking has been used by some to try to criminalise all sex workers. We contest this simplistic association of all sex work with trafficking and abuse and we support the rights of all migrant workers, whether victims of trafficking or not, and condemn the detention and deportation of those workers.’

It is high time we ended the perverse war on ‘trafficking’ and started standing up for personal choice and for the right of people to move freely around the world.