Abolitionist Influences on Prostitution Criminalization

30 11 2006

The New Abolitionists

By Nina Shapiro, Seattle Weekly. Posted August 30, 2004.


Freeing ‘sex slaves’ is now at the top of the human rights agenda, thanks to Christian evangelicals, the Bush administration, and two former Washington politicians, Linda Smith and John Miller. How did the anti-trafficking crusade evolve, and is it being overhyped?

By Nina Shapiro


A brothel bust in China: While human trafficking takes many forms, the new abolition activists focus on “sex slavery,” broadly defined as any form of prostitution, legal or illegal.

IN 1999, the hell-raising conservative Christian populist Linda Smith left Congress and disappeared from public life. It was like a whirlwind had suddenly stopped in midstorm. Hailing from Vancouver, Wash., Smith had improbably made it to the House of Representatives two terms before as a write-in candidate. Once there, she became nationally known as one of a new breed of Republican women leaders crusading for traditional values and helping Newt Gingrich put a female face on his tax-cutting, welfare-reforming agenda. The New Republic once profiled her in a story titled “Invasion of the Church Ladies.” But Smith was more interesting than that. Much to her own party’s chagrin, she was also an early and strident champion of campaign finance reform, a role that gave her some crossover appeal in her 1998 bid for Patty Murray’s Senate seat, which she nonetheless lost.

Last year, Smith resurfaced. She was now, of all things, working with young girls and women who had been forced, or “trafficked,” into prostitution in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. She had founded a nonprofit organization that was setting up homes for these women, called Shared Hope International. And she was a leading organizer of an international conference on trafficking held last February under the auspices of the State Department in Washington, D.C. She brought several previously trafficked girls from India with her for press interviews then, and took one of them to Disney World.

From shaking up congressional politics to providing social services, from campaign finance reform to Asian prostitution, it seemed a puzzling, if virtuous, transformation. In her Vancouver office one day in June, surrounded by a few old brassy political posters and many more tranquil pictures of her wearing saris and surrounded by girls in India, the 54-year-old Smith explains what happened this way: During her last year in Congress, she got a call from a man who had visited missions in India affiliated with the Assembly of God Church, to which Smith belonged for many years. Through the missions’ work with prostitutes, he had seen “little girls in cages,” and he wanted Smith to know about it.

Linda Smith.
(Michael Rubenstein)

“I thought it was a bit much,” Smith recalls, “but I couldn’t sleep. So I called my staff and told them, ‘I have to see it.'” Within days, she flew to India, where a representative from the Assembly of God organization Teen Challenge took her into the red-light district. “It was one girl, one day,” who changed her life, she says. The girl was about 11 years old, and for some reason, she hugged Smith. “She felt so frail in my arms. I can feel her today.” She reminded Smith of the girls she knew from Sunday school, of her own granddaughter. She felt an unaccustomed wave of emotion. “It was so different for me. I’m pretty cut-and-dry.” As she looked down at the girl, she asked herself, “What do I believe?” and answered, “I believe you are made by God.” Right there and then, she made a resolution: “Today I’m going to act on my faith.” She returned to her hotel and immediately started fund-raising for homes she wanted to build for these girls.

There’s a mythic quality to her story, the way she dropped everything and found revelation in a single moment. It’s easier to understand, though, if you take into account the changing currents around her. Smith’s redirection reflects that of the religious right as a whole. Looking past the divisive social issues that ignited the movement for much of the ’80s and ’90s, conservative evangelicals have turned their attention to international human rights, forging new and unlikely allies along the way. One of the biggest issues to seize their imagination is that of human trafficking. The archetypal case—a young girl, tricked into leaving her impoverished homeland by the promise of a respectable job, then brutally held captive, raped, and forced into prostitution—strikes deep moral chords. Making common cause with feminists also fired up about the issue, evangelicals are largely responsible for turning the issue into a top priority of the U.S. government.

John Miller.
(Getty Images)

Leading the government’s charge is another local: former three-term Republican Congressman John Miller of Seattle. Although Jewish, Miller’s convictions and record on human rights—he opposed granting most-favored-nation status to China despite Boeing’s ardent lobbying for it and labored against Soviet control of Eastern European countries—helped to make him the pick of evangelicals working on the issue to take over the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. President George W. Bush appointed him to the post in December 2002 and this June empowered him with the title ambassador at large. Miller has used his authority to make sure the issue is a top priority of governments around the world as well. His energy and bipartisanship have generated enormous goodwill among groups on both the right and the left. An inspiring spokesperson for the cause, Miller brands human trafficking “modern-day slavery” and calls it “the emerging human rights issue of the 21st century.”

It is being treated as such by the press as well as nonprofit groups and government agencies. Thousands of stories have been written on the subject in the last year, including a cover story in The New York Times Magazine under the headline “The Girls Next Door,” stressing that trafficking is all around us, even in the “normal, middle-class surroundings” of Main Street, U.S.A.

There’s only one catch. There’s widespread confusion about what exactly trafficking is and how big a problem it might be. Consider this: Washington state has its own anti-trafficking task force—the first in the country—charged by the Legislature to study the scope of the problem locally. In June, the task force, run out of the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy in the Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development, released a 92-page report. Congratulating the state for “leading the country in taking collaborative action against human trafficking,” the report asserts that “Washington possesses many of the underlying conditions that support trafficking of persons,” such as its border status. Midway through the report, however, it notes the number of cases brought under a year-and-a-half-old state trafficking law: zero.

The Christian Right: The Next Generation

“It just jumped off the pages of the newspaper.” Richard Cizik, the influential vice president for government affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, is talking about how human trafficking became a cause for crusade. He remembers reading a piece about the trafficking of women in Eastern Europe, where the harsh economic realities following the collapse of Communism made many vulnerable to false promises. “If we truly stood for human rights for all, surely the trafficking of young girls and boys for the purposes of human slavery could not go unchallenged.” Cizik helped put together a coalition of groups across the religious and political spectrum to work the issue. Gloria Steinem sent a representative to meetings. So did the B’nai B’rith. The coalition succeeded in passing federal anti-trafficking legislation in 2000 that created Miller’s office.

The coalition did not come about by accident. It was part of a deliberate strategy to move away from the unyielding methods of formative leaders like Jerry Falwell. “Second-generation leaders—people my age—saw the initiatives of the 1980s crash and burn and decided we had to do things differently,” the 52-year-old Cizik explains. If evangelicals wanted to accomplish anything, they would have to build coalitions with people they previously considered opponents, on issues they could agree on. Not only did they form alliances with feminists on human trafficking, Cizik says, evangelicals worked with Jews, Catholics, and Buddhists on passing the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, monitoring religious persecution around the world; with the Congressional Black Caucus on bringing about the Sudan Peace Act of 2002; with the American Civil Liberties Union on pushing through last year’s Prison Rape Elimination Act; and with gay people on securing more international AIDS funding.

Speaking by phone from Washington, D.C., Cizik sounds practically giddy as he considers the victories won. He notes that some evangelicals take issue with the notice they are getting for their global activism, insisting that it is nothing new. “The difference is this,” he tells them. “We have been internationally involved for 100 years, but we have never been successful before on Capitol Hill.” Cizik recognizes that having a born-again Christian in the presidential office hasn’t hurt.

If leaders like Cizik set a new alliance-building course for the evangelical movement, the topics that rose to the top of the agenda came more from the grass roots, according to Allen Hertzke, director of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma and author of the forthcoming book Freeing God’s Children: The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights. Hertzke maintains that the dramatic growth of evangelical churches around the world has led “American evangelicals to an awareness of the plight of their brothers and sisters” in impoverished, often repressive societies.

The religious viewpoint of evangelicals has not been irrelevant in the way they have perceived that plight. It is a reason that human trafficking, more than almost any issue they have worked on, has stood out as an urgent matter. “In some ways, I think having a moral view has actually helped the community see the issue more clearly,” Hertzke ruminates. “Trafficking was in a kind of netherworld,” he says. It wasn’t the kind of human rights issue traditionally addressed by secular groups like Amnesty International, which focused on government abuses of citizens. Hertzke believes that evangelicals saw past that because they came with the understanding that “this is not the way children of God were meant to live.”

Out of all the ungodly miseries of the world, though, why did evangelicals pick human trafficking as their clarion call? For one, the notion of modern-day slavery resounded with them, reminding them of the leading role evangelicals like the British parliamentarian William Wilberforce played in the abolitionist movement of the 18th and 19th centuries. Then there is the sexual side of the issue. “It certainly fits with an evangelical concern for sexual integrity,” says Ron Sider, founder of the Pennsylvania-based Evangelicals for Social Action, which challenges his peers to work for economic and racial justice. By sexual integrity, he means that “sex is to be reserved for a marriage relationship where there is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman”—a tenet clearly abridged by prostitution.

The fact that prostitution was being forced upon people, that even children were being held as “sex slaves,” seemed all the more horrible but also fit into their world view. “This is just another example of depraved moral behavior,” says Clyde Wilcox, a Georgetown University government professor who writes about the Christian right. “The world is a sinful place.” Human trafficking resonates with many Christians in the same way that recovered memories of satanic sex rings did in the ’80s and ’90s, and the way white slavery did at the turn of the century—phenomena, incidentally, that were hailed as endemic until they were scrutinized more closely.

In some respects, the evangelical worldview is similar to that of certain strains of feminism, which also see the world as full of evil—perpetrated by men on women, with sex a primary means of exploitation and abuse. Hence, Equality Now, a New York organization that works on international women’s rights and has Gloria Steinem on its advisory board, is enthusiastically working with religious groups on trafficking. The famous feminist University of Michigan law professor Catharine MacKinnon, also affiliated with Equality Now and whose fervent antipornography views have put her in alignment with the Christian right before, is deeply involved with the cause.

Sex, however, is only one side of human trafficking, which encompasses all forms of coerced labor. The biggest case brought by the U.S. Justice Department, revealed in 2001, concerns a garment factory in American Samoa, where, according to the department, more than 250 Vietnamese and Chinese nationals were forced to work in a guarded compound “through extreme food deprivation, beatings, and physical restraint.” When one victim objected, she had her eye gouged out with a jagged pipe. Trafficking victims are also forced to work as domestic servants, on fishing boats, on cocoa plantations, and elsewhere.

There has developed a thinly veiled fault line in the anti-trafficking world, with the evangelical-feminist alliance on one side and, on the other, the kind of liberal, do-gooding groups that traditionally toil in international causes like famine relief and family planning. To the liberal groups, it seems as if the evangelical- feminist bloc, which has the Bush administration’s ear, has placed an undue emphasis on sex trafficking. While defenders respond that such is the most common form of trafficking, statistics that back that up are controversial, and critics argue that the emphasis on prostitution is for ideological reasons. “The general public gets confused,” says Christina Arnold, founder of an organization called Project Hope International (no relation to Linda Smith’s group), which is starting the first shelter on the East Coast for trafficking victims. “All they hear about is prostitution. . . . It’s gotten to the point where other organizations are having to mount re-education campaigns.”

Good deeds and a brand-new power base

Certainly, Linda Smith has focused on the sexual side of trafficking. The $1.8 million State Department conference she lobbied for and helped host last year went by the heading “Pathbreaking Strategies in the Global Fight Against Sex Trafficking” (italics added). Similar to other like-minded activists, she has harnessed the trafficking issue to fight against prostitution in general, even where it’s legal. “I encourage the administration to consider countries with legalized or tolerated prostitution as having laws that are insufficient to eliminate trafficking,” she said in testimony at a congressional subcommittee hearing on trafficking in 2002. “Tolerated prostitution,” she argued, “provides cover for the traffickers,” a line of reasoning that has become the official position of the Bush administration. It does not penalize countries for maintaining legalized prostitution, as it might through its new policy of sanctioning nations considered to be inadequately fighting trafficking. It does, however, withhold funding from nongovernmental groups that are judged to “promote” prostitution.

The fact that Smith (along with three other groups, two of them faith-based, that make up the War Against Trafficking Alliance) co-hosted the State Department conference and testified before Congress is a testament to how religious groups have finally made it on Capitol Hill. There is a nexus of connections surrounding the Bush administration of which Smith is a part. She and Attorney General John Ashcroft have had a friendly relationship since her days in Congress. They both belonged to Assembly of God congregations and would see each other at functions for visiting church leaders. “I saw him right after he was sworn in,” Smith recalls. She used the moment to talk about trafficking. Smith also counts John Miller as a friend. The two met years ago after Miller wrote an op-ed piece praising Smith’s stance on campaign finance reform. They socialize. “We’re both single in D.C.,” Smith says, “so we have dinner.” (Both have spouses living in Washington state.)

Smith’s access and standing as a former congresswoman has undoubtedly helped her build her organization. She received $930,000 in federal funding over the last two fiscal years. Shared Hope’s total annual revenue last year was almost $1.7 million, including private donations and foundation grants. The former congresswoman didn’t exactly run off to become a humble, self-sacrificing Mother Teresa (if that’s how you see the soon-to-be saint). Worthy as her work may be, Smith’s discovered in it a new power base: a sprawling, well-funded, influential organization riding one of the hottest issues in the world.

Not that you’d be able to tell that from her office. It lies in a modest, nondescript building in a leafy neighborhood of Vancouver. Past a small reception area are winding corridors that lead farther than you might imagine. Smith, who travels almost constantly, meets me on a rare day that she is there. She’s stayed in town a few days longer than expected because she picked up a bug the week before during a fact-finding mission to the Czech Republic. The next day, she plans to fly to Washington, D.C., for the release of the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which comes out of Miller’s office. The report is to incorporate Smith’s documentation of trafficking cases in Australia, where she worked with a local women’s group that has been challenging the government’s contention that it doesn’t have a problem. A few days after that, she’s on to Johannesburg, where the War Against Trafficking Alliance is joining with the South African government in putting on a follow-up conference to the one held in D.C. last year. The alliance has received federal funding to put on six such conferences around the world.

Despite the bug, Smith looks cool and collected in a black jumper and sandals, her short brown hair streaked with highlights. She has an aloof manner, accentuated by a somewhat regal timbre to her voice. But she’s intense. She begins talking about subjects as if she were in the middle of a conversation, seeming to pick up threads of thought that come into her head, and which she would like me to know. Within minutes, she mentions a “partner” who’s a Muslim. She’s referring to Mohamed Mattar, co-director of the Protection Project, a research institute based at Johns Hopkins University that is the only secular group in the War Against Trafficking Alliance. She also repeatedly alludes to the personal financial commitment she and her husband, Vern, have made to the cause, adding a money-conscious note to her generosity. They threw a lavish wedding in January for a woman named Ganga, the same one she took to Disney World, now living in a Shared Hope facility in India. “I don’t know if Ganga even realizes . . . ,” she says of the expense. “We gave her a full Indian wedding for 500 people.”

In Nepal, they’re also raising another young girl, named Mannisha, whose mother was a prostitute. Although they have not adopted her, they’re paying for her education and living expenses. “That’s our baby,” she says, pointing to a picture on the back wall of a girl about 8 or 9 years old in a pink dress, smiling broadly, holding what Smith says is the first doll she ever had.

Smith seems genuinely wrapped up in her mission. She talks for hours about trafficking routes and destination points and which group of organized crime is doing what to which nationality of girls. Moldovan girls brought to the Dominican Republic, Thai girls to South Africa, Nepalese girls to India. India, the place she got into this work, is her touchstone. She relates how she met young women who were forced into prostitution in order to repay money that had been given their parents, a classic tale. “They were trying to preserve their dignity even though they were given no more than a day off for the birth of a baby,” she says. She bemoans the plight in general of girls in India. “A nonperson is a nonperson,” she says of the prevailing attitude. Her response: “These girls can do anything they want.”

Her greatest contribution is the way she is trying to help them do so. A number of anti-trafficking groups “rescue” women into the void, with no home for them to go to other than nasty government facilities and no plan for what they might do next. In Mother Jones late last year, Maggie Jones wrote about one rescue in Thailand orchestrated by the International Justice Mission, a religious-based group aligned with Smith in the War Against Trafficking Alliance. Feeding information to police, IJM succeeded in shutting a brothel down, but many of the girls had in one month’s time “run away from being saved,” according to Jones.

Smith, in contrast, is building homes for trafficking victims, offering them educational and vocational options and sticking with them for the long haul. Michele Clark, the other co-director of the Protection Project, says that Smith understands that “you can’t just say, ‘Here’s a bed for 30 days; go back into the same world from which you were trafficked.’ She understands that it can take years for a woman to recover.”

Outside Mumbai in India, Smith partnered with Teen Challenge to develop a 72-acre facility known as the Village of Hope. There’s a mango orchard on it, and Smith says she’s looking at putting a mango processing plant there to make the facility self-sustaining. Smith funded the facility’s start-up, while Teen Challenge runs it day to day, a partnership model that she uses on all her projects. In Fiji, she and a local group have established another facility with a bakery. In South Africa this summer, Smith dedicated a renovated farmhouse where she wants to put another bakery as well as a toilet paper factory. While residents would have an opportunity to learn job skills from such enterprises, Smith says she also makes sure they get a basic education and, in some cases, pays for them to go to college. She appears to spend atypically large amounts on individual cases. “We have $10,000 on one girl,” she says.

Yet it’s curiously hard to pin Smith down on details of her operations. Asked how many people live in the Village of Hope outside Mumbai, she shrugs dismissively and says, “I don’t know.” It has a capacity for 300 to 500, she had told me, but is not at capacity. She never quite comes up with a figure for how many homes she has opened in all, despite being asked repeatedly, finally saying it’s hard to calculate because some have closed while others have opened. Going through them one by one, it emerges that there are at least 10 facilities in six countries. “We intend to not have press coverage,” she says at one point, indicating that the dangerous, illicit nature of what she is up against mandates a need for secrecy. So, in some cases, do her methods. “If we identify a child” in a brothel, she says, “we will have her physically removed.” Asked how, she responds, “I’m not going to go there.”

Obviously savvy to sensitivities around proselytizing, she is wary of talking too much about the religious aspect of her work. Smith’s spiritual life has evolved. About 18 months ago, she left her Assembly of God congregation to attend a multidenominational church that ministers to those coming off the streets and out of prison. But religion is still a central part of her life. In a promotional video about her homes that she plays for me, she says to the camera about those she is helping, “When they find there’s a God, one God, that loves them—it changes them.” When I ask her about it, she says that workers at the homes “are not trying to convert somebody to a religion,” though they are open about the fact that “they’re there because of what they believe.”

Donald Wilkerson, the executive director of Global Teen Challenge, based in Virginia, is more up-front about the religious nature of the Village of Hope, which his organization oversees on a daily basis. “It’s clearly a Christian program,” he says, one that entails a regimen of religious instruction and daily prayers. Many of the women that come to the village learn about the facility through a church Teen Challenge has set up near Mumbai’s red-light district.

While there might be some specific reasons for Smith to be vague, there’s an amorphousness that lingers over the entire trafficking field.

Is all prostitution ‘sex slavery’?

Leigh Winchell, head of the regional office of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, sits in his high-up downtown Seattle office overlooking Puget Sound. ICE, as it is known, is charged with conducting trafficking investigations domestically. Winchell recently popped up in newspaper coverage of a June prostitution bust in Bellevue. Two of the alleged prostitutes were illegal immigrants from China. Winchell told the Seattle Times reporter writing about the case: “Human trafficking in the sex trade is alive and vibrant, particularly in the Northwest.” Yet the Bellevue police, who helped conduct the raid, say they do not believe the women were being held against their will. When I ask Winchell about that, he tells me that he did not intend to suggest that this was a trafficking case. “Any comments I made in regard to the Bellevue case were more global in nature.”

A tall, burly former cop, Winchell affirms that he has made trafficking a top priority, both because of directives from top brass and because of his judgment of the local landscape. “My agents tell me that about half of the women smuggled across the Pacific Northwest border are going into the sex trade.” I wonder aloud whether they’re being trafficked or going willingly. He acknowledges that some may be willing, but says: “All they have to do is be brought into the U.S. for purposes of the sex trade, as I currently understand it.”

“But doesn’t trafficking require some measure of force or deceit?” I ask.

He falters and reaches for some papers on the subject from a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security. “I have to research it. I believe just the fact that they are being smuggled alone falls into the area of fraud.”

A few minutes later, he returns to the subject. “Where do you draw the line between smuggling and human trafficking? A person is smuggled in and put to work in the orchards. Are they being held against their will? They may have come here with a debt to pay and knowingly did that. So were they forced or coerced? I don’t know.”

It says something about the nonintuitive nature of what this crime is that the man responsible for investigating it here has to check his papers in order to grasp it. His confusion is understandable. There are varying definitions. The United Nations definition has three essential elements: some kind of transportation of an individual, some form of coercion or deception, and the ultimate result of one person “having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation.” As this year’s federal trafficking report notes, “many nations misunderstand this definition, overlooking internal trafficking or characterizing any irregular migration as trafficking.” The differing U.S. definition “does not require that a trafficking victim be physically transported from one location to another,” as the report states. But it does require “force, fraud, or coercion,” unless the victim is a minor. To complicate things further, Washington state has its own definition, which is so loose as to include exploitative mail-order bride situations as a form of trafficking.

In fact, a number of evangelicals and feminists fighting trafficking consider virtually all prostitution, whether forced or not, a form of trafficking. “In reality, there is no distinction between them,” says feminist scholar MacKinnon of prostitution and trafficking. She refers to the “inherent exploitation of the buying and selling of people for sex, which is what prostitution is—paying for sexual abuse, typically paying a third party [a pimp] to sexually abuse someone else.”

It’s an argument that Miller is sympathetic to. “Yes, people can be voluntarily in prostitution,” says the trafficking czar. But, he says, “the more usual situation is that there is coercion or force or threats or psychological pressure.” He points to research published this January in the Journal of Trauma Practice, worked on by University of Washington psychologist Ann Cotton among others, who interviewed current and former prostitutes around the world. Many had been raped or abused in their past. Eighty-nine percent said they wanted to leave prostitution. “I don’t know of any other occupation where 89 percent of people want to escape,” Miller says.

There is an argument to make that people who go into prostitution do not truly do so of their own free will but have been driven by economic desperation and abusive circumstances. But does that make them, literally, slaves? What about sweatshop workers? Poorly paid janitors? They’re not as demeaned as prostitutes, but surely they’re dying to leave their profession, too. One gets the impression when Miller talks about the “emerging human rights issue of the 21st century” that we are dealing with a new, shocking crime. It seems an odd label for prostitution, the oldest crime in the book.

Part of the problem in understanding trafficking is that there are a lot of assumptions made from afar about the ostensible victims, argues Joanna Busza, a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Nobody’s bothered to ask them how they got there and if they’re exploited,” she says. She and two fellow researchers spent time in Mali and Cambodia interviewing people that had been identified by local nongovernmental organizations as trafficking victims. They published their findings this June in the British Medical Journal. Of 1,000 young people identified in Mali, many of whom had returned from working on cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast, “only four could be classified as having been deceived, exploited, or not paid at all for their labor.” Talking to Vietnamese prostitutes in Cambodia, just six of 100 women “reported having been ‘tricked’ into sex work or betrayed by an intermediary.” Many of the women, however, were working under a “debt bondage” system, paying back loans made to them or their families, and were unhappy with their sometimes violent working conditions.

Busza’s study has tapped into a reassessment some are making within the anti- trafficking movement about the scope of the problem. “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. Either we have tens of thousands of people in the U.S. sitting in slavery or their numbers are off. I don’t know.” According to Ashcroft’s report on trafficking to Congress this May, the federal government had identified just 450 trafficking victims domestically in the 2003 fiscal year who were eligible to receive certain benefits, including the newly created “T” visa. In King County, the Refugee Women’s Alliance received a grant of approximately a quarter million dollars to lead a “trafficking response team” that would provide services to victims. It has handled only about 10 cases in more than a year.

“A lot of the stats are, if not made up, then certainly the basis for which they are derived is never given,” says David Feingold, who coordinates regional trafficking projects for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Bangkok. Speaking by phone from there, he says that a lot of the estimates come from nongovernmental organizations that have no training in research. His agency has put together an illuminating database of the many and wildly varying trafficking statistics, cited along with their sources. The worldwide trafficking estimates vary from 700,000 victims (in the range of the current State Department figure) to 200 million.

“It’s very embarrassing,” Miller admits of the statistical fluctuations. Within the federal government, he says, the varying numbers reflect the increasingly intensive research effort.

The Victims are real, but how many are there?

Like Jimmy Carter and George Mitchell, Miller has achieved new renown in his post-political life. “I’ve been around government for 25, 30 years, and I’ve never seen a guy as admired by people on both sides of the aisle,” says Michael Horowitz, a prominent neoconservative affiliated with the Hudson Institute. Having left Congress in 1993 to spend more time with his then 4-year-old son, the 66-year-old Miller was chairing the Discovery Institute, a conservative Seattle think tank, and teaching English literature at the Northwest Yeshiva High School on Mercer Island when the president tapped him to take charge of the national trafficking office. Since doing so, he has brought a new level of forcefulness to an office that previously kept beneath the radar.

“My role has been to elevate the issue,” he says, speaking by phone during a vacation trip to Lake Chelan, “to make sure that our embassies and the State Department and other agencies take this very seriously, that they know that this is not just some throwaway part of American policy.” Miller has been willing to put pressure even on allies of the U.S., including Japan, which in this June’s trafficking report was put on a “watch list” of problem countries. If those countries fall to Tier 3, the lowest grading of countries evaluated in the report according to their anti-trafficking efforts, then they risk losing American aid and funding for cultural exchanges. Last year, a Tier 3 rating so spooked Kazakhstan that its foreign minister went on national television and gave a 30-minute address railing against the scourge of trafficking.

Miller has met victims himself. He says one of the first was a woman in the Netherlands. She had been living in the Czech Republic in a failing marriage when a friend suggested she could make money waiting tables in Amsterdam. Leaving a 2-year-old daughter behind, she crossed the border with someone who turned out to be a trafficker, who handed her over to another in Amsterdam who took her to the red-light district. “You will work here,” Miller says the trafficker told her. When she said she wouldn’t, the trafficker replied, “Yes you will, if you want your 2-year-old daughter to live.”

There are enough stories like hers, some far more brutal, to serve as a reminder that trafficking is not a chimera. But as for how pervasive it is, Miller maintains that it’s impossible to know. “Victims don’t stand in line and raise their hands to be counted,” he likes to say in his booming, jovial voice. He minimizes the importance of exact quantification. “All of us involved in the issue know enough firsthand to know that the problem is huge.” Pressed on the point, he points to 8,000 trafficking prosecutions worldwide in 2003. “The typical trafficker is involved with 20, 100, 500 victims,” he says. “If you just take those into account, you’re clearly in the hundreds of thousands.”

But the difference between 20 victims per trafficker and 500 is the difference between 160,000 and 4 million victims—sizably different levels of magnitude. The difference is not academic. It’s essential to determining what should be done about the problem—if you can pin down exactly what the problem is—and how many resources should be put into it. The federal government spent $91 million fighting trafficking in the last fiscal year, much of that money going to nonprofit groups and government agencies around the world that accordingly have a vested interest in trumpeting the problem and are refocusing their energies around it. “Trafficking is big business not just for traffickers but also for the international development community,” write Busza and her co-authors in their piece scrutinizing the prevailing wisdom on Malian and Cambodian trafficking. The trafficking task force in our own cash-strapped state recommends that a new funding pool be set up to tackle the issue. Miller’s office uses current trafficking estimates, broken down according to country, to pressure governments around the world to pass new anti-trafficking laws and spend money on the problem—or risk facing sanctions.

The disconnect between the rhetoric on trafficking and the actual number of documented cases, nowhere more evident than in Washington state, does more than raise questions about the resources spent. It presents a credibility problem that takes away from the horror of the real cases out there.

Some in the anti-trafficking field consider it heresy to suggest that the issue has been hyped. But the Human Rights Law Group’s Ann Jordan takes a more sanguine view. If the numbers are smaller, she reasons, we probably can have more success in solving the problem.

Nina Shapiro is Senior Editor at the Seattle Weekly.




Prostitution seen as Violence Against Women

30 11 2006

Prostitution seen as Violence Against Women

– a supportive or oppressive view?

by Liv Jessen

Liv Jessen receives first ever Human Rights Award from Amnesty International for Prostitutes’ Rights work.

I am the head of the Pro Centre, a national centre for prostitutes in Norway. I am a social worker by profession and for seventeen years I worked daily among Norwegian and foreign women and men who sell sex and among some of their customers. In talking about prostitution and society’s view of this phenomenon, it is natural for me to base myself on the Norwegian/ Scandinavian reality.

Since the seventies, parallels have been drawn between prostitution, pornography, rape and domestic violence. A radical feminist theory on prostitution has developed. The theory is that prostitution should be regarded as violence against women. In this chapter, I will try to argue that this is an imperfect or at worst an oppressive theory that can continue to stigmatise prostitutes. Furthermore, I will argue that this theory can go hand in hand with views that regard prostitution as a moral or social problem – theories that the feminists have disagreed with. For the sake of simplicity, I will write about women who sell and men who buy sex.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the position of women in Scandinavian society was the subject of vigorous debate. The most important thing that happened was that women wanted financial independence and they invaded the labour market. As time went on, very many areas of society became arenas for feminist thinking and influence. They were researched, debated and demonstrated for and against. Many battles were won and a number of measures were implemented. The fight for legal abortion was won. There were heated discussions about rape, wife battering, sexual abuse and prostitution. In their wake, we saw the appearance of women’s shelters, rape centres, centres for victims of incest and, not least, support centres for prostitutes – of which we are one. Feminist thinking was behind much of the progressive politics of that time.

The prevailing view on prostitution had up until then been that women prostitutes are different from most women and they are whores due to bad morals or to a biological defect. For thousands of years, women have been ashamed of working as prostitutes. The belief that some women have qualities that make them do it is very much alive, and not just among women in prostitution. At any rate, it is her fault and she has to take the ‘blame’ for prostitution. We have not yet had a serious debate on men, on the customer’s responsibility for his role in prostitution. He goes free; the searchlight is on her. The whore and Madonna myth is still very much alive, as is who is ‘to blame’ in prostitution.

The feminists of the 1980s objected to this view. To us feminist, prostitution was violence against women and there was naturally no reason to divide women into the respectable ones and the temptresses, unless it was to keep women disciplined and split. We believed that women were forced into prostitution for various reasons, such as material and spiritual want. Prostitution was a class question then as it is now. It is women of the working class who are available today, too.

What does or did this radical feminist view consist of? I am sure that plenty of you are familiar with it. In fact, even today it affects much of Scandinavian society.

Basically, a feminist believes that the balance of power between men and women determines their different positions in society. Women were and still are inferior to men in the financial, social, political and cultural area. Although much has changed since the 1980s, research and statistics show that there is still a long way to go. This structural imbalance affects both our thinking and society’s many institutions. What happened? Other areas, which had previously been regarded as private, were now politicised: battering, rape, sexual abuse, etc. The violence a women suffered in her home was no longer a private matter. It was an expression of men’s power over women and thus a social issue. Previously, it was the woman’s fault for putting herself in a position where she was raped and abused. Now this violence was interpreted within the context of the power balance between the sexes, the need of the male sex to discipline the female sex. Viewed this way, women were the victims and men the abusers. So far so good. But we also interpreted prostitution within this framework. A woman prostitute was a victim of the (male) customer’s abusive power over her.

The philosophy that prostitution is violence against women presumes that men have power, are the subject, can act and make choices. Women prostitutes are then victims, objects, and more or less ‘forced’ into prostitution for a variety of reasons, such as sexual abuse, poverty, drug dependence and an unhappy childhood and youth. Moreover we claimed that prostitution – selling sexual services – was synonymous with selling part of yourself and therefore done at great emotional cost. Our sexuality was identical or closely associated with our identity or our very SELVES.

It was also agreed that the people who organize this business, the ringleaders and pimps, should be persecuted. Further tightening up of the anti-prostitution regulations was not to affect the weakest party, i.e. the sellers. Disagreement arose when there was talk of criminalizing the customer only and that disagreement remains to this day.

The years pass by and thanks to my day-to-day work at the ProCentre I learn more, understand more, read more and, not least, meet women in prostitution who do not fit into the picture we all had of the woman prostitute – the picture of wretchedness and misery. I feel the need to expand the picture. It is not just the drug-addicted streetwalker I meet, with a difficult past, with few options, who thinks prostitution is hell on earth. She has different faces. She no longer talks with only one tongue.

I meet women who tell me both that they have ‘chosen’ prostitution and that they do not lack anything because of it. I do not believe them. I think that they are saying this because they do not know what is good for them: WE KNOW what traumas are involved.

How often can we say or think this without wondering what view of humankind is hidden here. Norwegian philosopher Hans Skjervheim has wisely said that if we objectify another person, it is not easy to take her and what she is saying seriously. He says: “By objectifying the other person, you attack that other person’s freedom. You turn the other person into a fact, an object in your world. In that way you can gain control of the other person. The person who objectifies the other in the most sophisticated way is the master”. This gives me a nasty taste in my mouth. I do not want to objectify anyone or take control of anyone. Who am I to say to these women that I know better than they do, what their life is like, what they feel and think?

As time goes on, we meet more and more people who describe their life in prostitution in a rather different way from the picture drawn by radical feminist research. A picture I myself had obstinately stuck to throughout my initial years at the. The picture becomes more varied and therefore more complicated. It is no longer so black and white. The horizons become wider. Can different realities be true at one and the same time? I think, at any rate, that the feminist perspective of the 1980s alone does not provide a satisfactory answer to all the complex questions we come up against, or explain the paradoxes we encounter, nor is it a sufficient basis on which to formulate a wise policy for the future. The starting point was too narrow. For where is the social significance of male prostitution or women buyers, if prostitution is only an expression of men’s sexual dominance over women? There are many questions which obscure the picture. The mistake we had made was to believe that our view embraced the whole world of prostitution. Until then, the prostitution we had seen was among the defeated women on the street. Where need was great – and it was easy, as a social worker, to regard her as a victim of men’s oppression. This was particularly easy when it fitted in with our theoretical superstructure. Radical feminist research had also chosen to research the “obvious victims” in street prostitution.

At any rate, I am more afraid today of the people who have found the whole truth about prostitution than I am of those who have the courage to doubt.

A person who has dared to ask questions is a Finnish researcher, Margaretha J�rvinen. She challenges us by asking some interesting questions which I would like to present here. She claims that there are several possible feministic views of prostitution. Some complement each other, while others are in direct conflict. The sex trade is not a phenomenon outside of society; on the contrary, it is constructed by society. It reflects the gender and power structure we have and is thus not abnormal. Thus, it is important not to attach importance to what distinguishes prostitutes from other women, but to focus on the fact that women in general have a great deal in common, such as our work on the reproduction front, the fact that we are largely financially inferior to and dependent on men, the female role in the sex game, commercialisation of the female body, the disciplining of women’s sexuality, and so on. She calls her view a socio-constructionist view and she says it is not very constructive to explain a prostitute’s participation in prostitution by her background, upbringing or similar, or by the detrimental effects prostitution is claimed to have. She uses some controversial questions to support her view. For example:

Can prostitution be seen as an option, or is it always a situation where there is no choice?
Are women prostitutes deviants or normal people?
Is the purchase itself an expression of power or of powerlessness?
Should prostitution be criminalized or not?
I would like to consider some of these questions.
Does prostitution always have to be linked with a no-choice situation?

We agreed that women are generally in an inferior social position. Some women also find themselves in a no-choice situation where they feel that prostitution is the only solution. The more traumatic a woman’s background is, the easier it is for us to understand her. It is easy to confuse the structural view of women as victims and objects of men’s abusive power with the picture of individual wretchedness in some street prostitutes. We naturally have no difficulty in understanding that her wretched life quality ‘forces’ her to prostitute herself.

Like other radical feminists, H�igard and Finstad, two norwegian scientists, are unable to accept voluntary prostitution because they do not believe that anyone could ever choose to take part in such activity: “no-one wants to rent out her vagina as a garbage can for hordes of anonymous men’s ejaculations”. Nevertheless, to apply the social victim-object view to individuals in prostitution can at best arouse our sympathy, but at worst can result in her no longer seeing herself as a person, a subject with a choice. If there is anything women in prostitution need to do, then it is to mobilize all their willpower and strength to make a choice – and perhaps chose something other than prostitution. But to do that she must be ascribed humanness, subjectivity and identity. And then we also run the risk that she will not make the choice we want her to; she may choose prostitution. As the wise Hans Skjervheim has said: “The first thing you have to choose, is to make the choice yourself”.

The sex trade today covers many different degrees of volition and exploitation. That is why it is fruitless to take a general victim view of prostitution. Free will and force vary in different cultures in the past and in the present, within any one country and perhaps also in any one individual.

What about prostitutes as deviants or normal people?
We have mentioned above that prostitution has traditionally been regarded as socially deviant, and that this was something the feminists objected to. They would not agree that her participation in prostitution could be explained by individual characteristics and pathologization. But what happens if we explain her participation solely by background factors such as a difficult childhood, drug abuse in the home, psychological problems, sexual abuse, etc. Or if we analyse the social and psychological deviations and harmful effects caused by prostitution, such as split personality, loss of self-respect, sexual problems, social isolation etc.? What then? We are getting dangerously close to defining her as a social deviant. She is certainly not like us. She is still the Other Woman, with whom we do not have to identify. We are careful not show our contempt. Instead she becomes the object of our pity.

If she is in a situation where she has no choice, is he always in a position of power?
In 1979, Taksdal and Prieur, also norwegian scientists, launched their book, � sette pris p� kvinner – menn som kj�per sex (Putting a Price on Women – Men Who Buy Sex). This book has unfortunately not been translated. At last, the focus shifts for a brief moment. Since then both the Swedes and the Danes have written books and reports on the purchaser. Research shows that the customer is no different from ordinary men as regards age, marital status or occupation, although there is an overrepresentation among men who travel a great deal. The customers’ reasons for purchasing vary. However, the feminist interpretation of men as the subject, active and power-wielding does not fit in very well with the motives given by the interviewees. Their statements can be interpreted as powerlessness as easily as anything else. In some ways, the women even believe that they are the ones with power in prostitution, not the customers. Since power and the exercise of power vary so much between the different forms of prostitution and in different cultures, it is not easy to paint an unambiguous picture. I think that many of us who busy ourselves with these questions agree that far more social effort must be directed at the customers in the years ahead, both in the form of more research into the market and into the buyers’ motives for buying, and we should perhaps implement some social measures for certain groups of customers.

Then there is the criminalization aspect
For many years it was (and still is) generally agreed that we did not want to criminalize women in prostitution. The situation for street prostitutes was already wretched; no-one wanted to make it any worse. Some political voices advocated this criminalization, but it does not look as if the suggestion has much support among the people of Scandinavia. However, there are many people who, out of sympathy for women in street prostitution and on a feministic basis, advocate criminalizing the customers. Sweden passed a law in 1999 prohibiting the sale of sexual services. One good thing about the Swedish law is that, unlike earlier legislation, it has brought the customer’s role into the debate on prostitution.

However, my main argument against criminalization of the customer is that it would most likely send the activity under ground and away from public supervision and control. Furthermore, any kind of criminalization will hurt the weakest party, the women. In 1985, changes were made in the penal code in Canada, prohibiting the sale of sexual services in public places. They tried to adapt the law in a gender-equal way, but more sellers than buyers were caught. Many of the street prostitutes I have spoken to in Oslo do not see criminalization of the customers as supportive of them. They say that they do not make any distinction between criminalising prostitution as such and criminalizing the purchase alone. They already feel that they are doing something illegal, so if the purchase alone is criminalised in Norway too, they know that in practice it will be bad for them.

Off-street prostitution will always be very difficult to prosecute. For that reason, the Swedish police have concentrated their efforts on street prostitution. The women in street prostitution are already very vulnerable to abuse; the situation will become worse. Confidence in social workers and in the police will dwindle, and the market will be wide open for procurers and other profiteers. The best means of preventing the situation from becoming worse is openness and dialogue.

We must be capable of finding other ways of doing something about prostitution. Believing that criminalization will ‘resolve’ this difficult dilemma for us is not the way to go. A society with our humanistic traditions must make an effort to find better solutions. I do not know of any restrictive society where legislation has abolished prostitution – it has only made the situation more difficult for those who sell sex. Since 1999 when they introduced the new law in Sweden, 160 cases were reported. Out of these, 67 cases were withdrawn. Of the rest, 43 were charged for the crime. 25 persons were fined, 11 submitted fine without trial and 7 not guilty. 50 cases are still under investigation. These figures are from February 2001. There, they have focused on street prostitution and ‘got rid of’ half of the street prostitutes. What has happened to them, no-one knows. Very little is known about off-street prostitution.

At all events, there is a scarlet thread running from the view that prostitutes are victims and social losers through the idea that purchasing sex is ‘violence against women’ to the suggestion that the activity of customers should be criminalized. Seen from this point of view, criminalization will recognize that prostitutes have no choice and apportion the blame where it belongs, namely with the customer.

How can we sum this all up? J�rvinen says: “Prostitution is not a marginal phenomenon on the edge of society, inhabited by deviant individuals. It does not represent a break with the male society’s central values and norms. It is a social construction which corresponds with the male and female roles in society. Therefore, there is no obvious and universally applicable line between prostitute-client relationships and other heterosexual relationships.” Whether or not J�rvinen is right is open to discussion. We, for our part, can sum up as follows:

Customer research has shown that the customer alone cannot be seen as and interpreted as an abuser of power. But there are areas of prostitution which attract criminals and abusers, and this will be the case if we marginalize these areas even more and place them outside public supervision.

We have also wondered whether tightening up the legislation will have the desired effect, or whether other measures might prove to be better. No country I know of has managed to abolish prostitution with the help of a few legal provisions. I have never seen such widespread sales of sex as there are in Thailand where prostitution is prohibited.

We know today that women ‘choose’ prostitution for a variety of reasons. Some from a more enforced and inferior position than others.

Some are extremely unhappy with what they are doing, become deeply troubled, and need years of good support to repair the damage. Some seem to sail through it without a problem. But they all have one thing in common. They all know that society around them condemns them for what they do. They are a pariah race, branded, outcasts and feared. Combating this should be a major challenge for all feminists. Instead, the radical feminists continue to talk about her as a victim. If she defends her participation in prostitution, they say that she is not credible; they talk about a false consciousness syndrome. The only women who are believed and who know what is best for them are the “repentant sinners”, who have been called Survivors.

Women in prostitution naturally have different views on the subject of prostitution, but to say that only the ones who agree with us are right, while the prostitutes who think differently are not ascribed human qualities like the right to make their own choices or to be believed, is oppressive and a fundamentalist attitude.

Our society’s humanistic traditions should be the basis for all our work on prostitution. We need to demonstrate our solidarity with women and men who sell sex. Every prostitute suffers from the way society brands her. Furthermore, we must initiate measures which can help to strengthen prostitutes’ human and civil rights. They must have the same rights as other citizens and we must abolish any laws which prevent this. Whatever we do, we must ask ourselves whether the measures intensify the stigmatisation or make the situation worse for those who sell sex. We must keep their health and well-being in mind. We need initiative and enterprise to fight the aspects of prostitution which are oppressive and degrading.

We must formulate a social welfare policy that gives a helping hand to prostitutes who want to get out of it. That applies to both buyers and sellers. While prostitution itself should not be a crime, coercion, violence and deception should still be.

We do not think we can regulate ourselves out of prostitution by passing new, more stringent laws. The burdens imposed by restrictive changes in legislation will always be borne by the people who sell sex.

Women’s inferior position to men in society applies regardless of prostitution. We also know that being oppressed is not the same as being weak and passive. We always have to distinguish between understanding prostitution at a structural level and understanding it at an individual level. But prostitutes, like all other people, must be given the freedom to choose. That is what makes you human. It also means that you are allowed to take the responsibility for your actions.

Prostitutes will no longer be looked upon as victims to pity or rescue – but as heroes in their own life.

copyright by Liv Jessen Jan. 2002



Resources, Text of Laws and Swedish Government Papers

30 11 2006

Resources, Text of Laws and Swedish Government Papers

Text of 1999 Prostitution Law in Sweden

Other Laws Which Affect Prostitutes in Sweden

Sweden’s Penal Code-download pdf

Sweden’s Official Description of 1999 Prostitution Law

Purchasing sexual services in Sweden and the Netherlands

30 11 2006

Purchasing sexual services in Sweden and the Netherlands

2004 Report


2004 Report

Europap Conference Attendees Condemn Swedish Prostitution Laws

30 11 2006

International Sex Workers Meeting
19th January 2002
A session held at the EUROPAP/ENMP Conference in Milton Keynes, UK
18th- 20th January 2002

Note: This document was presented during the conference and was met with a standing ovation from almost all (if not all) of the conference attendees.

It was agreed that the Swedish legal model (criminalising clients of prostitutes) was being touted by some as an exemplary model, however sex workers have spoken out against this.

All sex workers at the meeting voiced their objections to the model and agreed that there should be some direct action to protest this. It was suggested that the meeting demand of the Conference that the entire Conference official voice its objections to the Swedish model based on the following statement:

We the International Union of Sex Workers and the International Network for Sex Work Projects, sex workers and our supporters at the EUROPAP/ENMP Conference in Milton Keynes,

-Agree that this model of legislation is counterproductive and inhumane.
-That this model increases the vulnerability of sex workers in Sweden and increases levels of violence.
-In addition that the Swedish model and laws on prostitution violate not only the basic human rights of sex workers, but also the basic human rights of their clients.

We call on the government of Sweden to scrap its anti-sex work laws and to lead the way in Europe and decriminalise prostitution in Sweden.
We call on the Conference at Milton Keynes to condemn in the strongest terms the Swedish model in favour of a more appropriate legal reform.

Therefore we call on those who support this protest to stand in solidarity and in solidarity with sex workers in Sweden who are oppressed by the legislation.

Direct action sponsored by the International Union of Sex Workers will follow this Conference which will voice the condemnation of the Swedish laws in the form of protests at the Swedish Embassy in the United Kingdom.

The International Network for Sex Work Projects will facilitate an email campaign aimed at Swedish parliamentarians to condemn the laws.

The meeting ended with a demand for the first five minutes of the last plenary of the Milton Keynes Conference to voice these objections and to call on the Conference participants to join in this campaign. A direct action protest would be called for at that plenary.

Rosinha Sambo – Taipei conference 2001 – on the Situation of Sex Workers in Sweden

30 11 2006

Address by Rosinha Sambo to the
Taipei Sex Worker Conference 2001
on the Situation of Sex Workers in Sweden 

To be a sex worker in Sweden, is dangerous.  It’s a hell- mostly dangerous.  We don’t know anymore, what, or how to do it.  What we have in Sweden, it’s a law who doesn’t make us any good, and doesn’t give us any choice.  Government in Sweden wants to rehabilitate us, to rehabilitate the sex worker, just like we are victims of some kind of dangerous sickness. 

Rehabilitate us as we could spread around this sickness.   I have, in vain, tried to explain, for politics, feminists, and other ignorant intellectuals, that this is a work, and that’s why this is also a choice. I have tried to explain that we should instead, have classes, on sex work.  To do it more safe, and better- especially for the younger generation of sex workers in this country now. 

All the Swedish Government does is abstract our work of trying to make it easier for the younger ones.  It’s very difficult in Sweden right now.  Very, very, difficult.  Specially the health question.  The health question, it’s in the air and nobody seems to care about it.  The sex workers are victims of everyone’s dangerous. 

She have to protect her customers in order to keep them.  She’s exposed to all sorts of criminals, psychos, sadists, because she must protect the customer.  Well, the problem is that Sweden lives on the looks- how does it looks like for the rest of the world.  That’s the most important for the Swedish, ah, Government.  They wanna look good, but they don’t really care, how are we do it.  Well, the polity, the politicians, they know very well that sex work continues, and that they have completely failed in their ridiculous try, to get rid of us.  This is how we know that.  Only because they don’t see us, it doesn’t mean we don’t exist.  They know that. 

But of course, Sweden is very far away from most of the rest of this planet, so not everybody go to Sweden every month to see how the hookers are doing. 

Well, one of the worse consequences with this law, is that there comes a lot of underage prostitution in Sweden.  The Mafia come inside- the Russian Mafia that has nothing to do with Sweden at all, should be the Swedish Mafia, okay, but, the Russian Mafia come into Sweden  with a lot of kidnapped young girls, older womens, all ages.  A lot of Swedish hookers get killed because they can’t call the Police any more.  Because if they call the Police, the word goes around that they put a call to the cops, come by that they got problems, and they lose all their customers.  So a lot of, um, women have got killed, and men.  Prostitutes, sex workers.  Just like me.  Just like many of us.  Others have moved.  Others have, ah, start, to drink too much, lost their children, and so on, and so on.Okay, for me, three years ago, before this law came, I was living with my two children.  And now, I’m not.  I have to put my children in Portugal, and be more careful before the Welfare comes and take them away, it’s a little excuse.  It’s very easy for a prostitute to lose her children now in Sweden.  If they know you are prostitute, they have their eyes on you.  If you get some problem, they take your children away immediately.  As I didn’t want to have that risk, I’d rather have my children living with my father’s family in Portugal, than with me.  So this law is splitting up families too, because I am not the only one  who is separated from their children right now, with this law. 

So another consequence of this law is that many Swedish sex workers now go to Norway, the neighbour country, it’s only some hours from Sweden when you go there through the train, and work there.  But of course, if I live 6  or 5 hours, 7 hours, away from, ah, Norway, I can’t go back home every day.  And that means that I have to have a baby-sitter.  And that means that I have to trust that baby-sitter very much.  Because I can only go home in the weekends, and not every weekend.  And that is very difficult.  Not only is embarrassing, that’s not the problem, but is difficult to leave your children with a stranger for a week, or for two weeks because you have to go to another country to work.  And also it overloads the Norwegian sex market.  The Norwegian hookers are getting crazy.  Because they have (?),they have, ah, ah, um, over, they’re over, um, sex.  So their prices in Norway have caved down, because of the Swedish law. 

The hookers run away to the countries right beside- Denmark and Norway.  But in Denmark the prices are lower, so they teach the Danish hookers to also go to Norway.  So, suddenly, Norway finds itself, with Danish and Swedish hooker.  And they don’t know what to do anymore, in Norway, so getting in the (?).  It’s a problem, it’s a big problem.  Say, the Swedish have the grace to give the problems to their neighbours.  They’re famous in Scandinavia for that. 

Then we have, the former, the ex, high standard’s Scandinavian hooker, not having, ah, anymore that the high standards, and ah, ah, faring for the future.  All Scandinavian hookers are in panic, from the south to the north of Scandinavia, because of the Swedish law.  So all the neighbour countries, Denmark, ah, Finland, Norway, they want the Swedish to change this law, but it’s so very difficult.  Very, very difficult.  Because the Swedish, they are happy because they win money on, ah, public transports to Norway, and Denmark.  Always full of hookers.  And customers.  Because the customers takes the boat over to Denmark, or to Finland, to fuck sometimes.  The ones that are more paranoid about the police, they go, and this is the usual, regular, customer that doesn’t want to get caught.  This is a big problem. 

And the law, is that, the Swedish Government is being very selfish here.  Because, ah, as long as they look good, out to the other, ah, their, with their fellow conservative idiots of the rest of the world, they’re happy.  They don’t care about putting the problems in the neighbour’s garden.  Is like for example, if I don’t want to have this big tree in my garden, I just in the night go dig it up from the ground and next day, my, my, ah, neighbour will wake up and have a shadow in the window.  It very (?).  No, I’m laughing but it true, but it very (?).  We all in Scandinavia agreed on the hookers, and no hookers are angry about the Swedish, ah, ah, law, because they are putting the problems, giving away their problems.  I’m very afraid that it could happen the same thing in other countries that are trying to copy this model.  

So, ah, it’s, um, necessary, ah, (? ?), and ah, especially the neighbour countries, to the countries that go to copy this model, pay very good attention, so you don’t get, um, market like we have in Norway now.  Its panic, the um, the organisation for Norway, the Prostitute Interests Organisation of Norway, called PION, which are my good friends, are helping all the hookers that are coming over the border, and  trying to get down rooms cheap and everything, even down, like first help, politic asylum.  But, ah, the normal sex worker, who has children in Norway, and bills to pay, is resenting very much because, she doesn’t get enough money any more to pay her bills because there comes a lot of other people that was not there before and ah, make the market much cheaper, and ah, customers disappear, is tough.  Complete tough.  And it will happen the same in all countries that are neighbours to countries who copy the Swedish model.  It’s a dangerous model, for the neighbours.  For us is very terrible, for us, the sex workers, that live in these countries, with these laws, like Sweden have right now.  For us it’s terrible.  But, for the neighbours, it gets much worse, because then they will have to get rid, not only of the outside hookers, but also their own hookers if they want to do something about the situation, and so on, and so on.  And then finally I don’t know where they will do that.  I don’t know.  Will they kill us?  Will they, um, exterminate us?  Will they invent gas caverns?  To put us inside so it is as if one for long time?  I don’t know.  It’s very dangerous, politic, this law.  Nobody thought about that before, but it is very, very, very, very dangerous..

I went to, high school, but I still feel like I graduate.  I graduate in prostitution.  I know more about prostitution.  I could say, I’m a doctor of prostitution.  And that’s why I’m sitting here, talking to you today.  And that’s also why, I wanna call a very huge SOS to Sweden, because all countries, trying to copy Sweden in this obviously terrible, and worthless, and fruitless law.  I want to call your attention, because Sweden, it’s, a very strong example, where that position can bring us to.  Where the law, so-called law and order can bring us to.  Well, if they won’t step back, we shouldn’t step back either.  If they are a model now, and they want to continue to be a model, we will let them be a model, and make sure that they will fail internationally.  And, that they will recognise their mistake, because, as a model they are being watched, and everybody will see them fail.  Well, every country that have learned of Sweden, and is trying to hound us away from the face of the earth, they should only need to see that it doesn’t work like this, and that, we can only do from Sweden. 

All countries have their eyes on Sweden, in this issue, and that’s why I’m here, for one more time to appeal to all my colleagues, from all over the world.


Sexköpslagen ska ses över

30 11 2006

Sexköpslagen ska ses över

måndag 20 november 2006

Regeringspartierna i riksdagen nu vill utvärdera sexköpslagen. Lagen infördes för sju år sedan. Men de är alla överens om att det inte ska bli lagligt att köpa sex.

– Vi vet att gatuprostitutionen har minskat, men vi vet väldigt lite om den dolda prostitutionen, vad som har hänt där, och också vilka konsekvenser det får för framför allt kvinnor som säljer sex, säger Hillevi Engström, riksdagsledamot för moderaterna och ledamot i justitieutskottet.


onsdag 22 november 2006

Unga tjejer säljer sex på nätet


Internet har gjort att unga tjejer som aldrig skulle tänka sig att sälja sex på gatan nu prostituerar sig via nätet. Front i P3 har tittat närmare på nätprostitutionen i Sverige.

Unga tjejer som aldrig skulle tänka sig att sälja sex ute på gatan prostituerar sig via nätet. Det säger länskriminalpolisen, forskare och socialsekretare runt om i landet. Front i P3:s Anna Landelius har träffat 24-åriga Karin. Hon började sälja sex för två månader sen och eftersom hennes släkt inte vet vad hon gör har vi bytt ut hennes röst och namn.

 ”Jag gör det inte för pengarna”

Just vägarna in i prostitution har blivit fler på grund av internet. Det kan till exempel börja med att man visar upp sig i webcam mot betalning. Sven-Axel Månsson, professor i socialt arbete har skrivit boken ”Sexindustrin på nätet”. Han har forskat om prostitution sen 70-talet och sett hur allt förändrats iom internet.

 ”Man glider in i prostitution”

Men fortfarande vet varken polis, forskare eller myndigheter så mycket om nätprostitutionens omfattning. Malmö ska som första kommun i Sverige kartlägga just prostitutionen på nätet och intervjua de som säljer sex. Niclas Olsson är socialsekreteraren som ligger bakom undersökningen.

 Socialtjänsten i Malmö kartlägger nätprostitutionen.

Det var 1998 som sexköpslagen kom. Den innebär att det är olagligt att köpa sex – men inte att sälja. Enligt kritiker har lagen bara lett till att sexköp flyttat inomhus och ut på nätet. Nu vill allianspartierna i riksdagen utvärdera vad sexköplagen egentligen inneburit. Det säger Hillevi Engström, moderat och ledamot i justitieutskottet.