Heidi Doezema (H.J.Doezema@sussex.ac.uk)
Tue, 12 May 1998 13:30:20 +0100
From: Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network [SMTP:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 01 May 1998 23:42
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: News articles : Cosmopolitian and Marie Clare
From: Tanya <Tanya@compuserve.com>
Subject: News articles : Cosmopolitian and Marie Clare
I am presently visiting the UK, and will visit Holland next week before
returning to Hungary.
While in London newsagent's I noticed the latest May editions of
Cosmopolitan UK and Marie Claire, both are considered up-market serious
magazines for women.
Cosmopolitan had "Proud to be a prostitute" as a story advertised on the
cover page, and Marie Claire had "British Women lured into Europe's sex
trade" advertised on its cover.
The Cosmopolitan story was two pages on a young, married, British mother
who had started in prostitution to pay her local taxes. Eventually she
revealed her activities to her husband, and then they organised her escort
work themselves, by advertising in a national newspaper.
She now has a income of more than $100 000.00 per year, which is declared
income and on which she pays taxes. She stated an intention to leave
prostitution when she had achieved various financial goals.
The Marie Clare article, again two pages, featured a story about one UK
woman who was lured to Holland and coerced into prostitution and then
featured items about coerced prostitution in Germany, Poland and the Czech
We had been contacted by the journalist who wrote the Marie Claire story
and when we spoke with her before the article, it was clear to us that she
had already been given her editorial instructions to write a "Sex Slave"
story, but only wanted some names and places to put into what could have
been almost pre-arranged text.
We were very careful to explain that the majority of migrating women we had
contact with were consensual in their migration for sex work. On hearing
this, her disappointment was tangible over the telephone line, and we then
told her that we knew what she had been instructed to write and that we
didn't feel like promoting unbalanced reporting or feeding into media hype,
and unless she was willing to write a balanced article regarding the
various aspects of migration for sex work she should write the article
without reference to us. She assured us that Marie Claire was a serious
professional publication and that her editor would be very interested to
run a balanced article about the various aspects of migration for sex work.
She never called back !
We have great concern regarding selective reporting of "trafficking", we
certainly feel that the much of the media have no genuine interest in women
who migrate, but only want to focus on those areas of the phenomena that
can be used for the occasional sensational sex story.
Both articles were true, but neither tried to tell the whole truth, nor did
they try and position the truth they were telling in any reasonable context
that would inform the reader that they were being told a selective part of
a far more complex story.
We feel the participants in both articles, were used by the journalists to
serve a pre-set agenda of the publication involved. Such articles are not
without value in highlighting issues, but any benefits to the people
concerned were only incidental to the interests of the journalists. More
often these articles create confusion as they ignore very important aspects
of the issues concerned.
We subscribe to other lists that have many consenting sex workers as
participants, many of these consenting sex workers react against agencies
working with "trafficked women" as being abolitionist and anti-sex worker,
at the same time I have a sense that some agencies concerned with
"trafficking" and that are engaging with sex workers in only one scenario,
have not accommodated an understanding of the needs and interests of
consenting sex workers. There is also a need among consenting sex workers
to understand the considerable need of agencies to intervene on behalf of
people who are being coerced.
We believe that everyone needs to understand that prostitution is a
phenomena that is incredibly varied and complex, and that we need all need
to clearly identify our agendas, and then accept that there are aspects of
prostitution that fit with our agenda and then other aspects of
prostitution that do not.
Certainly we believe that "trafficking" should be identified as a concern
regarding coercion through deceit or force, leading to forced labour, and
not be about the movement of consenting sex workers.
We would be grateful to know if this is received opinion among the list or
are there agencies who would consider any international movement of any sex
worker to be trafficking.
for Salamon Alapitvany
I am visiting three Romanian sex workers later today, who are working in
London from their own apartment as escorts. Two of them are University
graduates and all of them consider their involvement in sex work to be
voluntary and under their own control. They intend to work in sex work for
three or four years so as to be able establish themselves in their
professions on their eventual return to Romania. The two graduates are
lawyers and want enough money to open their own office in Bucuresti.
I have another Romanian contact in London who travelled to the UK for sex
work in the early nineties, and then married a local man and is now happily
married with two children and is working as a receptionist in a medical
I have also met Russian and Ukrainian women in Croatia and Germany who have
been beaten, tortured, and lived in constant fear from the gangs who
control them. I have also spent time with young Albanian teenagers who have
been tricked into prostitution in Greece and have suffered terribly as a
I am convinced that the issue should not be prostitution but the coercion
of people for forced labour.
Since I wrote my comments on the above message, an article on
'trafficking' appeared in Fridays "Guardian", a moderatly left-wing
'quality' UK newspaper. It highlighted again many of the issues referred to
in John's letter. The piece was prompted by La Strada's (the Polish
anti-trafficking organisation) new video about the dangers of
'trafficking'. According to the piece, the video shows the plight of a
young Polish woman who answers an advertisement for waitressing, then
encounters the now-familiar round of rape, abuse, and forced prostitution.
The video is a composite based on true stories and is designed to inform
and protect young women. It has recieved wide media coverage in Poland, and
has been shown on national television.
The Guardian report was not especially salacious. Nonetheless, reading it,
one got the impression, once again, that trafficking was largely a matter
of innocent women being coerced. The article gave three major means of
trafficking-women being lured by false promises of jobs, being kidnapped,
or being deluded about the glamour and money of the sex industry. Even in
this last intance, the women are portrayed as unkowing, innocent, and
stupid-victims, in short, not women actively determining their future. The
article even stated that sometimes the women are asked to pay a fee to make
it seem more legitimate! This seems to me an attempt to fit the facts into
an already decided on template-no matter what the distortion of reality
involved. Sure, often sex workers have to pay middlemen to cross borders-
this is one of the biggest areas of exploitation! In this article it is
mentioned only as another way to trick hapless women.
I know that La strada recognises the right to work in the sex industry, and
supports decriminalisation and sex worker's rights. Yet there is not a word
of this in the article, nor does it seem to be in the video. As it will
not, of course, feature in any government statements or policies in the
wake of this latest anti-trafficking frenzy whipped up by La Strada. The
inevitable result of this type of 'victimizition' of 'trafficking victims'
is legislation that aims to 'get tough' with traffickers by imposing higher
sentences, restriction of immigration for women from either so called
'sending' or 'recieving' countries, yet more definitions of illegal third
party activities around prostitution that will be used against sex workers,
and maybe, if they are lucky, a tiny provision allowing the victim to stay
in the country long enough to testify. Of course, this will only extend to
those 'trafficking victims' who correspond to the very limited picture of a
'victim' painted by La Strada in their video! 'Victims' lose all
credibility if they were not 'lured' tricked' or 'forced' into sex work- a
woman with convictions for prostitution in her home country stands little
chance of being treated as a 'victim', even if she were caught in an
exploitative debt- bondage situation. Once again, La Strada has simply
confirmed the image of the 'good' or 'innocent' trafficking victim -one the
whole country can identify with- not only at the expence of reality, but at
the expense of all those 'bad' women who in the eyes of the public, deserve
whatever treatment they get for whoring in the first place!
Not only will the video and campaign further entrench ideas about 'forced
prostitutes' as hapless victims and 'voluntary prostitutes' as dirty sluts
who deserve what they get, I doubt it will do any good at all in stopping
women from deciding to migrate. An anecdote- the Netherlands made a
similiar video for women from the Dominican Republic. I talked to a sex
worker project worker about prostitutes' reaction to the film. He told me
that they determined that if things were that bad, they better be
prepared-make sure they had knives at the ready. It didn't change their
determination to migrate one bit.
In short, this video could have been made by any anti-prostitution
organisation. If groups like La Strada want to distinguish themselves from
abolitionist orgainisations, they must stop this victimizing. Is it any
wonder that sex workers are suspiciuos of anti-trafficking organisations
that claim to support their goals?
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Sun May 23 1999 - 13:43:46 EDT