Re:Frm Carol Leigh, at Hungary address-defs of trafficking

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Salamon Alapitvany (
Wed, 17 Jun 1998 10:55:03 -0700

In preparation for the conference in Budapest I have been going over
written materials, specifically the excellent book from Marjan Wijers and
Lin Lap-Chew 'Trafficking in Women and Forced Labor and Slavery Like
Practices in Marriage Domestic Labour and Prostitution.'

I wanted to discuss some of my impressions from my reading in preparation
for the conference.

As some of you know (see my website,
I have been quite focused on definitions of the term
trafficking, and now I see that a good deal of this book discusses this
issue at length. I believe more strongly since reading this book, that an
ongoing discussion of definitions of terms is central to addressing the
abuses that concern us all, and I am disturbed that this issue is more
often not central to discourse.

One question I have, and have not seen it addressed in any context is:

If STV's 'working definition' of trafficking includes:

all acts involved in the recruitment and/or
transportation of persons within and across national borders, for work or
services by means of violence or threat of violence, abuse of authority or
dominant position, debt bondage, deception or other forms of coercion.

What is the term for assisting/organizing migrant labor that does not
involve force/coercion?

If we are against a certain type of 'agenting'of migratory (women's?)
then what sort of agenting do we support? Does it have a name? I would
think that 'anti-traffcking' materials should note both phenomena in order
to avoid the predicted anti-immigration approach of governments to the
trafficking issue.

It has also occurred to me that the abuse/exploitation in 'trafficking'
is a continuum. If a trafficker charges me 30,000 to come to the US, it
may be
considered exploitative, but what about $10,000...and when does it become
exploitative, and what is a fair price...especially considering the risks
involved, which increased with the anti-trafficking fervor. Does the
anti-trafficking fervor 'up' the prices the women have to pay? Perhaps
previously charging 20,000 to come to the US was exploitative, now 30,000
is the exploitative figure?

 I spoke to one woman who explained that some women might enter
a contract for a steep amount, and she would be able to fulfill it...where,
perhaps another women, older or something, might not. Then for the former
the conditions will be abusive, and the latter not? The whole idea about
creating a black and white measuring system around exploitation issues in
the sex industry IN THE CONTEXT OF CRIMINALIZATION ignores the realities of
black market work.

Another issue that has occurred to me is about the continuum of
'slavery-like practices.'

I am considering this issue based on the outreach I have done where
work with exploitative managers ('pimps'), which has not been the majority
of my work, but does represent an area in which women need to be more

There are so many slavery like
practices (based on the STV definitions, which seem to be from ILO) which
are part of male/female relations in prostitution (and other
relationships)... and I wish activists would concentrate more on 'FL/SLP.'
In working with prostitutes in some circumstances (certainly not all) it
seems that their conditions fit the definitions of FL/SLP, and PRIMARILY
this seems related to the fact that safe, work places, regulated with
industrial rights in mind are illegal, so they are forced to depend on
exploitative individuals who work in these black markets.

I recall that young women on the street in my city barely even believed
they could work independently because it certainly takes sophistication to
manuever an independent work situation when the 'pimps' are trying to
control certain work venues. (I was older when I started and it was very
easy for me to target a work venue that was fair.)

I also recall one anti-trafficking conference in Reno,in which those
opposed to prostitution were basically defining trafficking as pimping, and
using examples of local women with pimps to inform our awareness of
trafficking. Some people did not agree with that approach as it may have
minimized factors such as immigration and also was to 'US centric' but I
appreciate this approach. I wish activists were targeting FL/SLP whether
across borders, OR in our own neighborhoods...
because these phenomena are inextricably linked, and I suspect they have
more to due
with each other than with immigration/migrant work.

Again, I think it is only governments, and their desire to protect their
borders that have much at stake in distinguishing FL/SLP in migrant work,
from FL/SLP in domestic labor.

This was just another of my rants against the 'anti-trafficking framework,'
wanting people to move toward concern for abusive conditions in
prostitution, which most of us agree includes, and is partly/largely caused
by criminalization of lack of civil/human/industrial rights for

Another thing I think is missing is more discussion of why the current
progressive strategy separates women in 'traditional female roles' like
marriage, domestic labor and prostitution from women factory and farm
workers... or from males in FL/SLP. I am not necessarily opposed to the
strategy, but I have not seem very much written on why this division is
helpful in addressing FL/SLP for women.

from Carol Leigh, in Hungary

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