Academic journal article English Studies in Canada

Twenty-First Century Global Sex Trafficking: Migration, Capitalism, Class, and Challenges for Feminism Now

Academic journal article English Studies in Canada

Twenty-First Century Global Sex Trafficking: Migration, Capitalism, Class, and Challenges for Feminism Now

Article excerpt

THERE WERE SO MANY YOUNG GIRLS IN THERE. They were from Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Bulgaria. Some were crying. Others looked terrified. We were told not to speak to each other....All the time, very mean and ugly men came in and dragged girls into rooms. Sometimes they would rape girls in front of us. They yelled at them, ordering them to move in certain ways ... to pretend excitement ...

Those who resisted were beaten. If they did not cooperate, they were locked in dark cellars with rats or no food and water for three days. One girl refused to submit to anal sex, and that night the owner brought in five men. They held her on the floor and every one of them had anal sex on her in front of all of us. She screamed and screamed, ...

In a chapter on "The Breaking Grounds" in The Natashas: The New Global Sex Trade (2003), Canadian journalist Victor Malarek interviews a young woman named Sophia describing how trafficked women and girls were "broken in" for service in the sex trade in Kosovo. Initially Sofia thinks, "I will fight back," then watches as another woman who does resist is burned with cigarettes "all over her arms," "attacked ... anally," and beaten unconscious until she is "no longer breathing. There was no worry on the faces of the owners. They simply carried her out" (33-34). Trafficking in human beings is "now the third-largest moneymaking venture in the world, after illegal weapons and drugs," Malarek observes (4). A 2005 International Labour Organization report estimates that among the 8.1 million persons in forced labour by private agents and enterprises globally (excluding those coerced by states, the army, or rebel military groups), 2.5 million are trafficked. Of these more than half, 1.4 to 1.7 million, are "in forced commercial sexual exploitation" ranging along a continuum from debt bondage and intimidation to incarceration, rape, terrorism, and torture. (1)

Despite the measures thus far taken by NGOs such as the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW), the UN (through its 2000 Palermo Protocol against trafficking), the European Union, and by various governments, sex trafficking is not declining but is growing in scope, sophistication, and invisibility, as Paolo Monzini and Marco Gramenga, among many others, document. (2) Driven by global inequities, growing numbers of migrants working in the sex industry, and structural readjustments in the developing world, the former Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe, sex trafficking is also increasingly networked with the drug trade, the trade in human organs, prostitution networks, internet pornography, mail-order bride operations, and sex tourism. (3) Minors are also increasingly among those exploited, like the children trafficked back and forth across the Mexican-U.S. border described by Peter Landesman in a January 2004, New York Times story. (4) Malarek and Monzini both note that, notwithstanding progressive human rights initiatives, the UN and the U.S. have themselves substantially contributed to trafficking through the ineffectual regulation of peace-keeping troops in places such as Bosnia or the effects of military bases in Asia. (5) While the U.S. initiation of its State Department's annual "Traffic in Person" audit in 2000 created measures to counteract trafficking by ranking countries according to their success in regulating it, Malarek notes that the effectiveness of the TI? audits has increasingly been hollowed out by the political reasons seeming to govern the movement of countries from the lower ranks of Tier Three--for countries not meeting or attempting to meet minimal standards in counteracting trafficking--to Tier One, for countries said to be in full compliance with "minimum standards" (187). (6) Nor does the U.S. State Department "consider that the vast majority of men using trafficked women either at home or outside their borders are from the ... well-heeled nations sitting smugly on Tier One" (Malarek 205). …

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