Then women and children are exploited, trafficked and forced into sex slavery . Gangs are fier of their job, getting too much money that goes to billions on the expense of innocent, forced, degraded women and children .
• Notice to the West : Listen to Olga
Hoping closure of brothels , denial of prostitution as a job, death penalty for gangs as for drug smugglers, promoting disperate women and children to a respected , honarable life as all human beings .
• Olga, the moldovian, was kidnapped from school . Olga was forced not only in prostitution after being raped and beaten , but also humiliation . Meti, the gang leader forced her to clean the toilet by tongue, the toilet was horrible and dirty !!Meti must be chased till he cleans the toilet with his tongue .
We present the following articles to Mr.Bush to know how deep is the trade of human beings mainly in Slavery, where US refuses till today to sign UN treaty against prostitution since 1949 .
• Infiltration Europes shamesful trade in human beings
• Modern Slavery.
• Street Children
• Sex Trade , prostitution , and Globalization
(1) Infiltrating Europe’s shameful trade in human beings
MSNBC.com exposes a sexual slavery network
VELESTA, Macedonia - Olga winced as she drew back the bandage on her right breast, revealing an infected puncture wound that hadn’t healed since a man bit her in a fit of sexual rage. But the wound, for which the 19-year-old Moldovan lacked even basic medicine, is only a small part of Olga’s daily agony. For more than a year she has been held as a sex slave in this town in western Macedonia, where human trafficking flourishes and young girls are forced to endure the sexual whims of thousands of men.
Sitting in a brothel bedroom in Velesta, a town synonymous with forced prostitution that police and experts consider one of the most dangerous places in Europe, Olga said that her “owner” would kill her for telling a reporter about her state of captivity. But the cruel conditions under which she is held, and her deteriorating mental and physical health, compelled her to speak out.
Her head hung in shame, Olga’s dark brown eyes welled with tears. She brushed back her long black hair, revealing a fair complexion flushed with anger at her fate. “There is only one word for this,” she said. “Slavery.”
Olga was interviewed secretly by MSNBC.com while she was held against her will in a Macedonian brothel. An untreated bite wound on her breast became infected.
Forced to have sex with as many as 10 men every day, Olga and other women clandestinely interviewed by MSNBC.com as part of a four-month investigation into the sex trade in Europe, insisted that their real identities not be revealed.
Their fears are not unfounded. Those brave enough to seek help have been savagely beaten — and sometimes killed — for trying to escape.
Flourishing sex trade
Olga is one small cog in a huge transnational industry, and Macedonia is merely a way station on a path to bondage that begins in impoverished Eastern Europe and the chaotic states that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union, and stretches to Western Europe, the Middle East and beyond.
In Europe alone, officials estimate that more than 200,000 women and girls — one-quarter of all women trafficked globally — are smuggled out of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics each year, the bulk of whom end up working as enslaved prostitutes. Almost half are transported to Western Europe. Roughly a quarter end up in the United States. Human rights activists say the numbers do not tell the full story, because most women remain silent rather than turn to frequently corrupt authorities for help.
The rapid rise of this sex slave trade can be traced to the fall of the Soviet Union, where borders once heavily guarded by the Red Army suddenly became porous and Soviet republics and Eastern European satellites once in the Kremlin’s grasp saw their industries and subsidies collapse overnight. Millions of young women like Olga came of age amid this economic misery. Their childhood fantasies of a better life in the West soon became a human trafficker’s golden opportunity.
Nowhere is this trafficking worse than it is in Moldova, Olga’s home, where experts estimate that since the fall of the Soviet Union between 200,000 and 400,000 women have been sold into prostitution — perhaps up to 10 percent of the female population.
The numbers are staggering, but for Liuba Revenko of the International Organization for Migration in Moldova the bondage of the country’s young women has become routine. “Moldovans are a hybrid population of Russians, Romanians, Jews, Ukrainians and Bulgarians,” Revenko said. “That creates a special race of women that are beautiful and in demand. They have no future. They are a good target for the traffickers.”
In Velesta, a town so small that the 120 Moldovan girls working as prostitutes there make up a sizeable part of the population, the sex slaves are rarely seen during the day. Kept under lock and key in the back rooms of a dozen “kafane,” or café-bars that double as brothels, they are summoned by their owners when a customer arrives. Then the girls, most in their late teens or early 20s, are paraded in skimpy lingerie before clients who “pick us according to their tastes,” said Irina, a Moldovan who answered a want-ad to be a waitress in Italy, but ended up trapped in a Balkans brothel instead of working in a restaurant in southern Sicily.
Rural Moldovan women, lacking education and desperate to escape, are easy targets, activists say. Sometimes the bondage is built around a debt that is impossible to pay off. Other times, it is simply brutal captivity.
They end up servicing clients with the false hope of working off a “debt” to their owners, who continue to entice them with real jobs in Europe.
The women’s tales of bondage are hauntingly similar. Olga, the Moldovan with the breast wound, was virtually kidnapped when she played hooky from school in rural Moldova. Initially, she was drawn to the prospect of a new life in Italy — far away from her alcoholic mother and abusive brother. But the next thing she knew, a Serb smuggler called “Dragan” was pulling her out of a car trunk in the Romanian town of Timisoara, on the border with Yugoslavia. Dragan and his Romanian pals loaded 10 girls on a boat to cross the Danube. After a few days in a basement near Belgrade, Olga was led across the Serbian frontier with Macedonia — under the eyes of obliging border guards — and brought to Velesta. “There were clients on the very first night,” she said.
What are the countries of the Balkans doing to curb the trade in women? Choose a country below:
With no passport and little idea where she was, Olga was raped, beaten into submission and humiliated until she no longer had the will to challenge her horrible fate.
“Meti made me clean the toilet with my tongue. It was horrible and dirty. I think they did it because I was the newest girl,” Olga said of her ethnic Albanian owner. “He made me lick another girl’s … you know, down there. And then he laughed.”
Young and beautiful, Olga has stayed in Velesta longer than most trafficked women, many of whom are moved on into Albania and Greece after the local population “breaks them in or gets tired of them,” Olga said. Once they reach the Albanian coast, they are easily trafficked to Italy, where the European Union’s lax border controls allow them to be smuggled deep inside the continent.
Billions in profits
Ten years of wars in the Balkans have turned the region into a trafficking highway paved with lawlessness and corruption that has prompted former enemies — Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and ethnic Albanians — to set aside ethnic rivalries in the name of vast profits. “You’re talking about big international organizations,” said Rudolf Perina, a former U.S. ambassador to Moldova who was involved in Washington-funded anti-trafficking efforts.
Luisa was rescued in a raid on brothels in western Macedonia.
Ethnic Albanian rebels in Kosovo, Macedonia and south Serbia — long the masters of drug running in the Balkans — are deeply involved in the human smuggling business, using the flesh trade to fund their separatist movements.
Luisa, a 32-year-old single Moldovan mother whose neighbor persuaded her to accept a job in Italy and “marry a rich Roman,” found herself repeatedly raped by her “owner,” Dilaver Bojku, an ethnic Albanian trafficking kingpin from Velesta. European law enforcement officials say Bojku, one of the sex trade’s “Most Wanted,” has used cash and, reportedly, contacts with ethnic Albanian rebels to avoid arrest for years. “He bought me for $700,” Luisa said.
She was freed in a police raid on Velesta, after MSNBC.com confronted Macedonia’s interior minister, Ljube Boskovski, with tales of sex slavery only a few hours’ drive from his office in the capital of Skopje.
But Olga and other women who took great risk to speak about their predicament were nowhere to be found.
The Macedonian SWAT team that raided bars called Coca Cola, Safari and Bela Dona was only partly successful.
Tipped off to the raids, brothel owners had spirited girls out secret exits in the backrooms of the bars and hidden them in the woods behind the buildings. The sheets on the beds were still warm. With the exception of a few minor pimps, the kingpins like Bojku escaped.
Lack of laws
The raid on Velesta was the first by Macedonian police, long wary of upsetting the uneasy peace between the country’s Macedonian Slavs and ethnic Albanian minority.
Ljube Boskovski, the hard-line Macedonian interior minister
Even Boskovski admitted his own policemen were on the smugglers’ payroll, making it virtually impossible to surprise the traffickers and rescue their sex slaves. Boskovski also complained about a lack of laws to keep traffickers behind bars. “The punishments are not really severe,” he said.
In an interview with MSNBC.com, Vitalie Curarari, the head of Moldova’s anti-trafficking police, lashed out at the media for “sensationalizing” sex slavery and placed much of the blame for trafficking on the women themselves. “Fifty percent of our women just go abroad to find another man and then come back to divorce their husbands,” Curarari said.
In the heart of Europe
Farther along the trafficking pipeline, hundreds of women and girls are smuggled into Europe every day and forced onto the streets of cities like Hamburg, Paris, London and Amsterdam.
Amsterdam, a city synonymous with hedonism, is perhaps best known for its legalized sex industry, in which prostitutes pay taxes and undergo regular health exams. The city’s Red Light District is a virtual Disneyland of sex — with only European Union passport holders allowed to ply the trade.
But only a few miles’ drive from the city center, traditional Dutch tolerance is helping fuel the trafficking problem. In Theemsweg, a fenced-in, football field-sized parking lot built by the government for unregulated sex workers, girls sit in bus shelters — also courtesy of the government — waiting for clients. There are no EU citizens here — and the prostitutes’ countries of origin are strikingly familiar: Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic. On weekends, men looking for cheap sex wait in cars that back up for a mile. Sexual encounters, which take place right in the cars, cost $20.
Smuggled into Europe
Asked how she got to Theemsweg, 20-year-old Anna from Russia’s Far East said, “You don’t want to know.” Dutch police officials, speaking privately, estimate that as many as 70 percent of the prostitutes in the Netherlands are working illegally, using false documents provided by smugglers to skirt Dutch and European laws.
With the women facing poor odds, activists are working overtime to try to thwart traffickers and rescue some of the thousands of sex slaves in Europe. The International Organization for Migration, backed by U.S. funding, has managed to return only 400 of the perhaps hundreds of thousands of Moldovan women victimized by the sex trade. Activists are beating a path to rural areas to educate young girls about the dangers of the trade.
Twenty-one-year-old Natasha, a single mother, considers herself one of the lucky ones. She escaped Velesta, where her clients included NATO soldiers from Germany, France, Britain and the United States who were stationed in Macedonia for peacekeeping duties.
It was an Albanian client who took pity on Natasha and bought her from her owner for 5,000 Deutsche Marks, about $2,500. “Yes, I’m back in Moldova, but it’s difficult,” she said in a village three hours north of the Moldovan capital, Chisinau. “We do not have money to buy bread. We do not have money to pay for the electricity.”
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MSNBC: One night in Velasta
For Olga, tending to her sore breast in captivity, anything sounds better than Velesta. “What kind of animal can do this to me?” she demanded, tears streaming down her face. “All of Macedonia is filled with girls like me, and we’re all crying.”
Preston Mendenhall is MSNBC.com’s international editor. MSNBC’s Bob Arnot, MSNBC.com’s Andrew Lock and David Binder contributed to this report.
(2) Modern slavery - forcing millions of women into the sex trade
As the world commemorates International Women’s Day, concern is rising at the alarming growth in the trafficking of women. Marwaan Macan-Markar focusses attention on this serious problem,
which is expected to be taken up again later this year when the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime comes up for adoption.
A SHORT play staged by a Filipino theatre group has become a popular feature on the international conference circuit, given the powerful message it conveys - women are abused when they are lured into the international sex trade by criminal gangs.
Written by Maria Paulin-Ballesteros, the play draws a parallel between women subjected to sexual exploitation and a chicken dish that is a favourite in the Philippines, ’lechon manok’. And Paulin-Ballesteros describes her work, titled We’re Syndicated, Ma’am, as a ’fowl play’.
This Filipino human rights activist was inspired to write the play after attending an international forum, where three Filipino women narrated their plight after being forced into the sex trade in Nigeria. And the response the play has received - through its live performance or a videotaped account, in Asia, Europe and North America - has satisfied Paulin-Ballesteros.
’While Filipino consumers crave the lechon manok, male customers around the world are going crazy over their young women,’ she told a Filipino newspaper in an interview. Paulin-Ballesteros’ concern has been echoed by other human rights activists, who are equally worried about the rapid rise of women being transported around the world for the sex industry. Currently, according to available reports, close to two million women have been forced into ’sex slavery’.
In February, Regan Ralph, the executive director of the women’s rights division of the United States-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), underscored the urgency for an international response to such abuse during his testimony before the US Senate’s committee on foreign relations.
HRW has been involved in documenting and monitoring this ’serious human rights violation’ for many years, Ralph revealed. ’We have reported on the trafficking of women and girls from Bangladesh to Pakistan, from Burma to Thailand and from Nepal to India.’
In his view, the current trafficking in women is ’a slavery-like practice that must be eliminated’, since it involves the ’illegal and highly profitable transport and sale of human beings for the purpose of exploiting their labour’.
He even exposed its prevalence in the United States. In August 1999, for instance, a trafficking ring was broken up in the southern state of Georgia that transported up to 1,000 women from several Asian countries into the United States and ’(forced) them to work in brothels across the country’.
Similar evidence was presented in late February at a public hearing before the European Parliament. Close to 500,000 women are smuggled into Western Europe every year, experts said. According to researchers, nearly 60% of the women forced into the sex industry in some Western European countries are controlled by Russian and Albanian criminal networks.
The situation in Britain illustrates this scenario. According to research conducted by the University of North London’s Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit, six out of 10 women in London’s brothels have been ’trafficked’ from countries such as the Ukraine. The study added that the ’criminal gangs trafficking prostitutes are not confining their activities to major cities’.
And once the women arrive in Britain, they are informed by the gangs responsible for their journey that they owe the gangs ’thousands of pounds for accommodation, fees to the brothel and advertising’.
In most cases, the manner in which women have been trapped into the sex industry hardly differs, say rights activists. The woman is approached with the promise of a good job in another country, ’and lacking better options at home, she agrees to migrate’.
Once overseas, however, she is delivered to her employer. In these new surroundings, the woman has ’no control over the nature or place of work, or the terms or conditions of her employment’.
What is more, when the woman learns she has ’been deceived about the nature of the work’, she finds escape ’both difficult and dangerous’, given the coercive and abusive situations in the brothels.
Kevin Bales, a lecturer in sociology at the University of Surrey, in Britain, sees this explosion of ’modern slavery’ as a result of many factors, among which are ’corruption’ in governments and the ’silence’ that has encouraged it.
In his book, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, Bales argues that the international community needs to perceive the difference between modern slavery and slavery as it was known before the Atlantic slave trade of 200 years ago.
’If you insist on defining slavery as ’the legal ownership of one person by another’ then slavery has pretty much disappeared. But the key to slavery is not ownership, but control through violence...(or its threat). Couple that with economic exploitation in which someone is paid nothing and you have a good working definition of the new slavery that encompasses about 27 million people around the world,’ he says.
Human rights groups, too, have brought to light that aspect of the sex industry. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), for instance, defines trafficking as a situation where someone is persuaded, tricked or forced into leaving their country for the promise of a ’better life’, only to end up in forced or slavery-like conditions.
But to guarantee the rights of these women, most rights groups feel that new international standards are required, including a broadening of the definition of ’trafficking’, harsher punishment for those involved in the international trafficking of women, and guaranteeing that the victims have an opportunity to seek ’remedies and redress for the human rights violations they have suffered’.
And rights activists have stepped up their efforts to achieve such guarantees from the international community, given a projected UN convention that is due to be taken up this year - the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime. To end this cycle of human trafficking, they add, the language of this convention should not be watered down. For that would be ’extremely detrimental to women’.
Marwaan Macan-Markar is a correspondent for the Inter Press Service, with whose permission the above article is reprinted.
(3) Sex Trade, Prostitution and Globalization
re/productions: Issue#2.... body.... recent debates... the language of AIDS
(and disease)...The Discourse on the Child...The Colonial Aspects... Reports... Photo Gallery... re/readings... background theory
In the Belly of the Beast :
Sex Trade, Prostitution and Globalization
- Jyoti Sangera
141 Olive Street, Victoria, B.C., V 8s 3 H 4, Canada
Tel (250) 480-1863, Fax ( 250) 408 -1853
DISCUSSION PAPER FOR SOUTH ASIA REGIONAL
CONSULTATION ON PROSTITUTION
Feb., 17-18, 199, Bangkok, Thailand
A Note To The Readers
This paper was prepared to serve as a discussion document for the closed consultation on prostitution in Bangkok in February 1997 during the Asia Pacific Forum on Trafficking.
- The forces of globalisation affect and direct all structures and institutions of our contemporary social reality. As such, no phenomenon or issue can be understood outside of the all encompassing globalised context. This is particularly true of trafficking since global economics and national/international policies shape the dynamics of trafficking in a crucially important manner. This paper attempts an analysis of globalisation and its attendant ramifications in order to contextualize the various dimensions of trafficking and the sex industry.
- A North American perspective on trafficking or prostitution can be best developed in relation to and in conjunction with the growth of these phenomena in other regions of the world. In the transnationalised context of trafficking as well as the sex trade industry, North America plays a distinct role on account of its location within the privileged, industrialised core. Therefore, an understanding of the issues under discussion within North America would be partial and incomplete unless they are discussed in connection with and relations to other regions of the world.
- In a majority of the writings on trafficking and the sex industry the women concerned are presented as victims either of patriarchy, or a crude, undifferentiated capitalism. While recognising the overwhelming forces of global economics which create common structural patterns which affect and oppress us all as women, this paper strongly argues to transcend the ’victim mould’ in order to comprehend the various layers of reality defining both trafficking and the sex industry. We need to identify and comprehend the myriads of distinctions and differences as well as the similarities defining various regions and social groups to which women belong. Above all we need to recognise that even when oppressed by external factors women consistently reject the ’victim mould’ and find negotiating spaces to assert their agency and dignity.
Discussion paper for the Asia-Pacific Regional Consultation on Prostitution
Feb., 17-18, 1997, Bangkok, Thailand
There is, perhaps, no other social phenomenon as steeped in controversy, confusion and mythology as prostitution. The confusion, and in some instances, moral diatribe, surrounding prostitution existed historically and continues well into our contemporary day and age. Over the past decade in particular, we have seen an explosion in the discourse around this issue at an international plane. Several organisations and activist groups have mobilized themselves to attend to the pressing phenomenon of sex trade in their regions. This spate in debate and activity doesn’t occur in a vacuum; neither does it emerge out of a new fangled interest of ’fad’ of ’latching into hot issues’ within the realm of social activism. This heightened activity is grounded in a very sobering reality : It has been established beyond any doubt that, especially over the past two decades, there has been a phenomenal explosion in prostitution and sex trade in most countries of the South or the developing world (henceforth referred to as third world for purposes of this paper).
Millions of women and young girls, primarily from marginalised and impoverished communities of the third world, eke out a living in burgeoning red light districts of urban metropoles either in their own or neighbouring countries. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of young, third world women have ended up on the urban centres of the West or Japan, providing sexual services to a vast array of primarily male clientele via an ever-expanding sex industry in the advanced, industrialized world. This migratory pattern from the countryside to near or distant metropoles shows no sign of abating or declining/ rather, it is constantly on the rise. Whether opting to migrate voluntarily to sites of sex trade, or trafficked through means of deceit or coercion, prostitution has increasingly become a means of sustaining and maintaining vast numbers of third world women and their families.
The reality of prostitution and sex trade today is extremely complex and contains a multiplicity of forces, dimensions and players. If anything, this reality can least be understood by casting it simplistically in dichotomous frames - black or white; right or wrong; good or evil, forced or free; victimized or empowered; abolish or support; pro-prostitution or anti-prostitution. For most women who are plugged into the sex trade locally or internationally, the reality of their choices and compulsions, of their actual lived experience is adumbrated through the multitudinous shades of grey which stretch out extensively between the black and the white. It can safely be said that those who seek to grasp the totality of a complex social phenomena such as prostitution by viewing it only from the two is peripheral to the reality of women in prostitution. To be satisfied with a half-baked, dichotomous understanding of contemporary prostitution and to embark upon activism from a morally judgmental or a feministically purist platform is to indirectly acknowledge the privilege of one’s own social location. Such practise merely serves to highlight the gap between those who live the reality of prostitution daily and those who dole out prescriptive solutions from afar. A genuine commitment to ensuring the right to individual and collective self determination of women in the sex trade business entails that first and foremost, a multi-faceted and comprehensive analysis of prostitution, in all its complexity, is developed. Only such a grounded understanding can then inform and create meaningful strategies and action plans from the perspective of the women in sex trade. This exercise is imperative and it necessarily implies a self critical stance towards one’s own social location and attachment to prescriptive or ideological positions.
Purpose of the Discussion Paper
This discussion paper seeks to highlight the major contemporary aspects of prostitution and sex trade by examining the issue historically, economically, socio-culturally, and politically. As such, the ambit of discussion within the paper relates to the situation as it broadly exists in the third world, with a principal focus on the Asia-Pacific region1 .
It must be pointed out at the outset that this paper by no means represents a conclusive or authoritative position on prostitution in the third world or in Asia-Pacific. The main objective of this document is to generate and facilitate discussion on prostitution and sex trade by highlighting the major trends within the trade; synthesizing some of the salient initiatives in the field of legislation and policy; broadly analyzing the various political and ideological standpoints on prostitution with a view to assessing their impact on women in the sex trade; identifying the ’grey areas’. the gaps and the glitches in our analyses and strategies on the issue; and assessing the new, emergent parameters which will frame the debate on prostitution during the approaching period.
For the sake of accessibility and convenience, this paper is divided thematically into sections. Reliance on academic terminology or theoretical jargon has been eschewed or when necessary, kept to a minimum. As well, the strictly academic format of referencing has been avoided in order to facilitate readibility and maintain an easy flow.
1. Understanding and analyzing prostitution
To all those who either work in the sex trade or work with women in the trade, no other statement is more familiar than the following: "What is the big deal about prostitution- its the oldest profession, isn’t it ? Its always been around and will continue to be around". This well-bandied comment is based on truism as well as a myth. Let us examine the socio economic roots which engender a phenomenon such as prostitution.
The Socio Economic Base - Class and Patriarchy
It is certainly true that some form of prostitution, that is, contractual exchange of sexual services in lieu of cash or other material benefits in kind, has existed for as long as society has been characterized into classes based on differential access to resources. The institution of prostitution also goes back historically to the time when the newly emerging class society began to organise its access to property and other regenerative resources through social relations of patriarchy.
This implied that within a society structured along inequities lines economic and social power accrued to that class who ’owned’ property which was capable of generating capital and therefore, more property. This ’owning’ class was also the class which could employ workers, or engage the services of the ’non-owning’ classes by paying them either a wage in exchange for their labour, or in kind. Simply put, the ’owning’ or ’popertied’ class (referred to as the elite or the leisured class, as well) lived off its property which was multiplied via business, production, trade and investments. The ’non-owning’ or the ’non-propertied’ classes (also the landless, the proletariat, the dispossessed strata) lived off selling their labour in return for a wage or remuneration in kind by gaining employment on the lands, trades, factories of the owning class.
Thus, for the non-propertied classes, the only asset they owned in a society where the ability to subsist and live as a human being was tied to assets, was their actual physical body. This body was pressed into service performing manual labour in exchanging for an allowance via a contractual arrangement referred to as employment or a job: Since certain jobs require special skills, the body is then trained to acquire these skills, be they physical or mental. The treatment of the body as an asset, as a means to seek subsistence lies at the core of the phenomenon of prostitution.
The class structure of society, which continues to this day, is not gender neutral. Each class in internally divided along lines of gender, and the power accruing to each class is structured through patriarchal relations. That is, in a society based on structures of inequality, the members within each class are not equal; gender based inequality dictates that the men within each class have access to greater social and economic power than the women of that very class. Furthermore, in most societies, women acquire their class status only by virtue of their attachment to the men of that class, either as daughters, wives, sisters, or mothers. Patriarchal relations within many societies determine that women, even when they do enjoy the benefits and privileges of the class they belong to, do not have a secure, independent status in their own right. Hence, when the men of her family or class withdraw their support away from a woman she may become virtually propertlyless even when she does claim a middle-class status. At any event, she would be forced to engage in a long drawn legal battle to claim her rights through a judicial process which is itself marked by patriarchal and class biases. Thus, women as a gender, are vulnerable citizens of our modern civil society characterized by class and patriarchal hierarchies. This vulnerability of women constitutes an essential ingredient of women’s relative powerlessness, and factors in significantly into prostitution.
All women are not Equal : Unsisterly Relations
Just as class is not a homogenous category and is internally divided along gender lines, gender itself is not a homogenous or universal category. While all women are subjected to some measure of patriarchal prejudice within each class, and this fact may form the basis of gender solidarity among women across classes, yet women are in turn hierarchically located with respect to each other on the basis of class, racial, ethnic and regional background. Thus while a woman from a marginalized cultural community such as the Tamang from Nepal, may face patriarchal discrimination just as a white woman from a privileged class in Canada may, the commonality of oppression ends right there, and this commonality too is very fragile. A exploration of the several matrices of power and privilege which define a Tamang woman’s life will reveal that her reality is linked to that of the woman from Canada not through bonds of similarity but through a hierarchical structure of privilege and oppression with the former unequivocally oppressed in relation to the latter who is categorically privileged.
The oppressed status of the Tamang woman flows out of an intricate web of social, economic and political relations which determine her location within her family community, country, region and the world. Her oppression and marginalization, and therefore, her extremely restricted options in this world, stem out of the complex nexus of her multiple identities : as a woman from an impoverished family of the socio-culturally marginalized Tamang community, a minority ethnic group, which does not adhere to the religious or linguistic practices of the mainstream Nepali society, as a Tamang woman from Nepal, globally one of the poorest countries of the relatively less-developed South Asian region of the world; as a third world woman, inescapably caught in the web of globalization which defines her as producer of goods and services consumer by the wealthier women and men in countries of the industrialized world as well as her own region. Her labour is super-exploited since as a poor, illiterate, minority, third world woman, she is paid a pittance for a wage for more than 12 hours of work in extremely hazardous conditions. Day and night she sits in a dank, seedy, airless room, weaving carpets for the world market. In order to compete in the global market, these carpets (and other goods produced by third world women) have a relative advantage; they are sold cheap. The principal reason why goods produced in the third world sell at lower prices in the developed world is not because exporters and manufacturers keep prices low by compromising on their profit margins, but because they are effectively able to keep their cost exploitation of the workers/ producers by paying them a wage far below any acceptable subsistence wage in the West; in fact, often below a subsistence even in the third world. Since no worker will accept such a wage in the West or in the developed world, production is organised at advantageous sites in the third world which offer large pools of vulnerable, exploitable labour, such as women and children of socio-economically marginalized cultural communities.
Evidently despite a shared gender, the objective and subjective reality of the two women from Nepal and Canada belonging to different classes is very dissimilar. The one is grinding away under subhuman conditions for her and her family’s survival, while the other has all her basic needs attended to, and now aspires to adorn her house with carpets and other ethnic and consumer items produced in exotic lands. The one struggles to subsist while the other aspires to a higher standard of living by accumulating items of conspicuous consumption. The struggle of the Tamang-Nepali woman as a producer to secure a wage which will allow her a modicum of dignified existence is directly pitted against the needs and preoccupation of the middle-class woman from Canada as a consumer, for the lower the price of goods and services the more she can sunsume and enhance her status and living standard. She rummages through shopping malls and sales looking for inexpensive, affordable goods. According to the dictates of globalization and the global market today the cheapest goods can only be produced in the third world by marginalized women who have little bargaining power to demand a decent wage. Given this relative polarization in the world market between consumers and producers, as consumer demand is whetted and competition heightens, the clamour for goods and services at evermore competetive prices increases and the conditions for further exploitation of already marginalized sections within society multiply.
And hence, we see that the oppressed status of a marginalized woman from the third world is the outcome of complex local, national and international forces woven steadily through history right into this contemporary moment. Furthermore, within the context of globalization, the process by which the oppression of third world women is constructed is also the process which simultaneously constructs the privilege of middle and upper-class women in the developed world and indeed elsewhere as well. In fact, within the parameters of consumerist global expansion, the status and power of women of the privileged classes is grounded in and dependent on the oppression of underclassed, underprivileged women from the South. And so, the sisters are connected through very unsisterly relations of production and consumption under globalization. Under such conditions, a Tamang woman from Nepal would have far more in common with a poor Tamang man than she ever would with a white, middle-class sister from Canada.
The process, relations and connections outlined above may appear to be bordering on the extremes. There may be even some truth in such criticism. Certainly, not all woman in the industrialized world are connected to third world women through exploitative relations. Many poor, aboriginal, immigrant and minority women in the West replicate the economic and social status of marginalized women of the third world. Similarly, the chasm between upper-class and marginalized women within countries of the third world in not negligible either. At the same time, it is not just women consumers from privileged countries who are responsible for the production and intensified exploitation of marginalized minority women in the third world, indeed, several forces which bolster the structures of global capitalism are responsible for this. However, one of the major purposes of charting out the above complex and socio-economically antagonistic relationship between women from the two worlds was to problematize the notion of gender solidarity, and to show that inded, they often inhabit two very separate worlds of social reality. Belonging to the same gender does not automatically imply that we share the same experiences, problems, and struggles; rather women do stand in opposite camps when it comes to their class interests or concerns as members of social groups. This has become evident through global configuration of socio-economic forces today.
The above discussion will serve as background to critiquing some gender-based approaches to prostitution which have gained considerable currency, as well as developing a third world perspective on prostitution. As well, it will also serve as a spring board for further discussion prostitution.
11 From the ’Oldest Profession’ to the ’Newest’ income generating strategy
As accepted earlier and reinforced by common adage, prostitution is among the oldest professions. This is due to the fact that the social and economic vulnerability of women and their attendant powerlessness in society has left only a small range of options open to them to eke out a livelihood. So prostitution is indeed the twin sibling of poverty, and as old as indigence, destitution and compulsion. Women with no assets and few options have relied directly on their bodies to maintain themselves and their dependents through the ages.
On the side of demand, prostitution is as old as patriarchy. The demand for prostitution has been engendered in a context where masculinity and male sexuality is constructed through sexual prowess and appropriation of the female body, whereas simultaneously, female sexuality is controlled, denigrated and erased. Traditionally, male sexuality has been constructed as well, within the context of miniaturization and conquest, thus, power and victory have been closely tied in with conquest and appropriation of land, resources and, invariably, women’s bodies. Given the direct conflation of power, virility and success with the sexual act and sexual prowess, male sexuality and identity has been socially constructed by patriarchy, accordingly. And hence, even when the context of war and conquest is removed, sexual performance and intense sexual activity is normalized as a basic male sexual need. He who can demonstrate his sexual prowess through intensified sexual activity by accessing several women is considered by his peers and himself to be virile, successful and powerful. Such a man is considered an active agent in the social patriarchal world, and as long as his sexuality is ’healthy’ his identity and self esteem remain intact. In fact, in many instances, male initiation into manhood is marked by a ritualized visit to a prostitute.
With the development, historically, of market forces the consequence of the above mentioned forces of supply and demand has been the location of sex and sexual services in the market place. And thus, prostitution developed into a trade, a profession, segmented into diversified tiers, skills, and services.
In particular, concentration of prostitutes occurred where ever colonies of single men were located. As such throughout history, prostitution centres grew in port cities of the world; around colonies of migrant, male workers; around cantonments and barracks of military men, and in the vicinity of any such activity which marked a conglomeration of male workforce.
During times of natural disasters or social and political upheavals such as famines, epidemics, earthquakes, wars of displacement of large populations, it has been documented historically that masses of women offering sexual services in the market would swell disproportionately. The era of industrialization in Europe was one such phase in history which saw an unprecedented growth in the sex trade on account of massive exodus of people from the people from the countryside into new urban centres. In the main however, it can be said that while prostitution is certainly an old trade yet, it maintained its basic character well into a couple of decades after the second world war.
The basic, determining factors on the supply and demand side remained principally the same in most parts of the world. If the same features which characterized prostitution in the 60s prevailed globally today, it is possible that we may not have gathered here to discuss and formulate strategies to address the issue. Nor would we be suggesting a third perspective on prostitution.
The New Face of Prostitution
The fundamental question we need to ask is, what is so novel and different about the contemporary form of prostitution which has come to exist in many regions of, particularly, the third world, today ? While a complete response to this query will merit a lengthy analysis as well as some further indepth research, certain overriding trends and characteristics can be identified here to facilitate discussion.
Industrialization and Transnationalization of Sex trade
Today, not only is it possible to talk of prostitution as constituting ’the sex industry’, rather, the only way its complexity can be grasped is by examining it as one mamoth and contiguous structure with its tentacles spread in different regions, globally. The industrialization of sex trade, and indeed, the transnationalization of it is one crucial factor which makes contemporary prostitution different.
Reams of data flowing in from various sites in the world attests to the fact that not only is sex trade a transnational industry but among the most profitable industrial enterprises globally today, prostitution occupies the place of pride. And, similar to most lucratively expanding industries in the ambit of global capitalism presently, the sex industry is one of the most diversified, sophisticated and specialized. It offers a vast array of services, caters to a spectacular range of customer demands, offers specialized venues for sex entertainment in different countries of the world, caters to every need in terms of price range in the consumer market, and has designed a mind-boggling repertoire of market strategies to attract prospective clientele. And hence, savvy and skillful prostitutes massage male egos and bodies with adroit expertise; young, aboriginal girls are purveyed as virgins to customers expressing such demands; women of every colour and ethnicity can be procured via the sex industry; young girls, fresh from the countryside are trained in hazardous sexual acrobatics such as inserting razor blades, glass bottles and lighted cigarettes into their vaginas in order to entertain; and venues for sexual adventures can be arranged in Brazil, Cuba, Russia, Kenya, Goa, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan, etc.
As in the case of every major multinational enterprise under global capitalism, the principal players and beneficiaries of the sex industry are cohesive and organised. They have managed to sucure to secure through bribes and pay off, the services of politicians, police personnel, and high functionaries responsible for governance and enforcement of law. Most importantly, the various dimensions, activities and agents connected with the sex industry are not confined by narrow national or territorial boundaries. Capital, labour and organisation move relatively unhindered within and trans regionally. This movement is facilitated and negotiated via structures which are both overground and underground. This particular feature, namely, the overground and underground nature of the transnationalized sex industry lends to it tremendous strength and sustaining power. A combination of the legal and illegal, hence, brings to the sex industry margins of profit which are astronomical. Reportedly, material benefits accruing to organisers of the sex industry currently equal those flowing out of the global clandestine trade in arms and narcotics. The transantionalized sex industry further seeks to strengthen itself and expand by negotiating mergers with other multinational enterprises, namely, the tourism industry, entertainment sector, travel and transportation industry, international media concerns, the underground narcotics and crime industry, etc.
And therefore, while women are still selling sex in the market, the magnitude, expanse, organisation, rate of capital accumulation and range of market strategies employed to sell sexual services make the contemporary transnationalized sex industry qualitatively different from the old practice of prostitution and sex trade.
Prostitution as the New Development Strategy
The second factor which makes sex trade qualitatively different today is that prostitution is no more simply the means of survival or material gains for sections of under privileged women; it is the chosen strategy for survival, and indeed development, by nations. It is no coincidence that most of the countries opting to model their national development by encouraging the sex industry directly or indirectly are the poor and newly industrializing countries of the third world.
To meet their balance of payments and debt deficits, innumerable countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa have been encouraged by international bodies such as the World Bank and the IMF to develop their tourism and entertainment industries. Vast amounts of loans have been advanced by these organisations to many countries. Thailand, the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Chile, Guatemala, to name a few, have been actively encouraged to develop their tourism sector. At each of these sites (some more than others) the burgeoning tourism and leisure industry, without exception, has incorporated and indeed, focussed disproportionately on developing sex trade into an industry. And hence, often two tiers are visible within the sex trade business : (1) the first tier is attached to the tourism industry, and caters principally to domestic and international tourists. This tier of the sex industry grows and flourishes around major tourist resorts. (2) The second tier, which may even be a continuation of the old sex trade, caters to local resident men and is located at all the traditional sites within the countryside and towns. In certain instances, as in the case of Nepal, women and girls may be plugged directly into regional, transnational sex trade without any significant growth in the domestic sex industry.
In the context of the segmentation of the sex industry, the case of Thailand is unique and, therefore, illustrative of the simultaneous existence of multifarious forms of prostitution within its large and prolific sex industry. It serves as a country of origin, transit and destination for women entering the sex industry. These women may have been trafficked or voluntarily choosen employment in the sex industry. Thailand is a point of destination for sex workers within the Southeast Asian region; a vital hub on the transnational route for women en route from one part of the world to another, as well as a reputed sender to the industrialized regions of the world. Women and girls are siphoned off into the global sex industry either via a one-step or a two-step process. The former entails the transportation of women directly from the Thai countryside to sex centres in countries of the West or Japan; the latter refers to a process whereby rural women first seek employment in Thai cities and then find their way (again, voluntarily or under deception) into the sex industry of major industrialized countries. As well, Thailand reveals pockets of the old form of prostitution which may not intersect with the new sex industry. Above all, Thailand is a case in point demonstrating, in a complex and incisive manner, the impact of globalization on a developing country and the related expansion of its sex industry.
Irrespective of whether or not a country reeling under international debt reflects all the moments along the continuum within its sex industry, the fact that forces of global capitalism as well as its emissaries (the World Bank, IMF, WTO) ardently encourage a certain strategy for national development in these countries aspiring to ’catch-up’ with the advanced world is vitally crucial. Sex tourism, sex entertainment, and indeed the sex industry, are bestowed with an international and national legitimacy.
Incorporation of Women into the New Sex Industry
The third aspect which defines the newness of contemporary prostitution is the manner in which particularly third world women’s bodies, are related to the modern sex industry. A vast body of recent research data clearly demonstrates that women and children from those regions of the world which have been under the grip of structural adjustments and economic liberalization are increasingly defined as the new raw resources..
They constitute the prime export item for national development and international trade. This human cash crop is unique in that it offers a double-featured advantage: woman ’bodies are both goods and services at the same time. Consequently, while the third world has been the principal source of raw resources, goods and labour since colonial times, in todays age of globalization the new raw resource in national development as well as international trade are women and increasingly children. This new resource, whose labour is exploited beyond acceptable human rights standards through forced labour and slavery like practices, is one of the prime tools for capital accumulation under globalization.
Hence, we find Asian, African, Latin American, and increasingly, East European women either migrating voluntarily or trafficked and traded within and across continents to be slotted in the sex and service industries. Transnational, transcontinental movement of the new human cash crop is from low concentration areas of capital and development to high concentration areas. Consequently, the flow of migration and traffic in women is from the rural to the urban, and from the less industrialized to the industrialized world. This reality defines the objective conditions under which women and their labour are incorporated in the sex industry under globalization. This reality is also the vital basis for defining a third world perspective on prostitution.
Socio Economic Causes of New Poverty and Women as the New Resource
The changing and intensifying dimensions of the sex industry in most third world countries cannot be understood independently of the rapidly altering socio economic contours in the region. The growing saga of development in these countries, especially, in the wake of economic liberalization, while registering an increase in overall economic growth, has meant deepening immiseration, displacement and rising unemployment for rural populations and cultural minorities as well as for the urban poor. A wealth of recent data has been generated attesting to this reality. The substitution of traditional subsistence farming with modern technology-based, commercial agro-business on account of the former’s inability to transform itself into a viable enterprise for capital accumulation has meant that large masses of rural people who subsisted on traditional agriculture have been dispossessed and displaced. This crisis is intensified manifold in the case of hill tribes, aboriginal peoples, and ethnic and regional minorities. It is not a coincidence then , that often close to 80 percent of the women working in the sex industry of various regions belong to tribal and socially marginalized communities.
In the wake of globalization of the world economy, pauperization and displacement of large sections of marginalized peoples who are left with few means to subsist on except their bodies and labour has created a new poverty. Within this process, women and children who are often the most disadvantaged account for a majority of the new poor. Furthermore, as pointed out above, from the standpoint and its internationalization, women (and children ) of the third world are the new resource, and the new model category of labour. Their productive labour has been exploited by multinational corporations in sweat shops of export production zones and their reproductive labour is exploited via the sex and tourism industry.
What is new about this new poverty in the third world, in particular ? While a full response to this query would require a deeper elaboration, some key pointers are suggested for purposes of discussion. Poverty and the poor have existed for many centuries all over the world. Ample evidence of indigence, destitution, debt bondage and peonage is available in historical and literary texts from all countries and ages. However, in our contemporary in all its material and non material dimensions.
Poverty is far more complex than extreme deprivation or not having the means to eat and subsist. Through urbanization, global economic boom and rapid spread of technology the absolute numbers of those living in absolute poverty, i.e., when food water and shelter are scarce, has declined. Therefore, in certain economic terms a society in a third world country may appear to be advancing economically since it may register positive growth rates and rising consumption patterns as well as standards of living. This is the case with many newly industrializing countries. And yet, from the perspective of human and social indices, the gap of inequality between the rich and the poor has grown significantly. This widening inequality and the awareness of this on part of the poor in particular contributes to a dimension of poverty which is both perceptive and subjective. In addition, it is also socially explosive in that it leads to social violence, criminalization and instability of civil society.
The poverty we see today, especially, in the third world, is one which pushes down and locks people in states of bleak helplessness. It robs from people the tools and ability to improve their lives further through normal means. On an overt level, it is a lack of skills and denial of basic needs such as - education, health, employment, even as these are spreading at the upper strata and becoming evermore sophisticated. But at a deeper level it is the systemic loss of power of communities over their lives and futures even as their lives may appear to be improving in some other ways. While resources and services may be expanding at a frenetic pace in the world , it is the total inability of pockets of the new poor to ever dream of accessing these during their lifetimes. This new poverty is one which rests upon ecological degradation, extreme cultural impoverishment, and is constructed through globalization by the twin forces of greed and consumerism. The new poverty in the third world is principally a poverty of power whereby people do not have the power to manage their forests; their resources; their schools, communities or health systems; the path of their development. The people are systematically impoverished by their lack of say in determining their future.
New poverty as and outcome of the globalization of the world economy is global. Therefore features of it are increasingly visible even in the industrialized world where despite all the material amenities people experience an increased loss of power in their lives. However, the dimensions of new poverty and the new poor are very pronounced in the third world. As referred to earlier, contermorary poverty is predicated upon the widening gap between the rich and the poor within regions and between the industrialized and the third world. Despite recent claims by the World Bank that the North-South gap is narrowing, the North-South gap continues to widen in all but a dozen third world countries, and there remains a net flow of resources from the Southern nations to the North.
Considering the fact that the resources of the world are limited and are fast depleting, the consumption patterns in the industrialized world are enormously disproportionate in relation to the South. It has been amply stressed in social justice circles that one quarter of the world population residing in USA, Europe and Japan consume three quarters of the world’s resources. It has been estimated that if all the global resources were equally shared by the global population, Americans would have to manage on only one-fifth of the per capita amount they presently consume. 2 And even if the resource base of the earth was unlimited, it would take close to five hundred years for the poor countries of the third world to reach the standard of living currently enjoyed by people of the rich countries of the North. Furthermore, the high living standards in the rich, industrialized countries are made possible only through the historical and ongoing exploitation of resources from regions of the third world. It has been calculated that two hundred years ago the Western world was only five times as rich as the poor countries of today. In 1960 the rich North was 20 times more wealthy than the South and in 1983, 46 times richer.3
The increased phenomenon of the entry of women from Asia-Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean today into various segments of the sex industry cannot be fully understood outside of the above context of globalization. The levels of prosperity in the industrialized North and the widening gap in distribution of resources, wealth and benefits between the privileged and under privileged regions is based upon the continuing, intensifying and modifying appropriation of resources from the latter to the former. In this process, women are the new, natural resource to be exploited on site and exported.
III Prostitution As Work
It has been observed in history that the proportion of prostitutes is significant in areas where there is a concentration of single men. The maintenance of the armed force as well as the civilian male workforce has meant the provision of sexual service along with basic physical necessities such as food, clothing and shelter. The main reason for providing for these basic needs has been to ensure the labouring capacity of the male worker and the fighting ability of the soldier on an ongoing basis. Under colonialism, when large male populations were uprooted and transported across land and sea to raise vast brigades of workforce their sexual and physical needs were provided for by colonial states and masters. Thus women from the Indian subcontinent were transported to Fiji, Malaysia, South Africa, Surinam, the West Indies and the Caribbean to sexually service the indentured male workforce from the same subcontinent. Similarly, Chinese women were taken to service the Chinese male workforce under colonial policy. The proportion of women to the men they were required to service was extremely low, often one woman to ten or fifteen men. However, it is worth noting that under colonial rule, these women transported as sexual service providers most often belonged to the same region as the male indentured labour and slaves.
Even a cursory look at the organised use of women’s sexual and reproductive labour by colonial powers to maintain their ’native’ enslaved and indentured male work brigades shows that women’s sexuality was controlled and deployed to (a) procreate and produce more workers. this was specially the case under slavery in the Americas when African women were separately designated into categories as breeders and draught worke