trafficking

Maggie Gordon's picture

One Step Forward, Too Many Back

TRIGGER WARNING: Images of trafficked/kidnapped women experiencing emotional turmoil (second part of the post)

Laura Agustín's picture

Migrant brothel workers who oppose raids and want to work tell why

(Posted at Border Thinking on Migration, Trafficking and Commercial Sex)

I just gave a talk about irregular migration and informal-sector jobs, including in the sex industry, at a conference in Copenhagen. The talk was well-received, but as always most people say they have not heard my point of view before. So to make sure everyone realises that my ideas are not the result of an ideology about prostitution, I run this photo again of a poster prepared by migrant sex workers (self-identified so) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, at the EMPOWER centre.

See for yourself the list of reasons migrant sex workers at Barn Su Funn Brothel gave for opposing raids and rescue operations intended to liberate them, whether rescuers are police officers, ngo employees or charity workers:

• We lose our savings and our belongings.
• We are locked up.
• We are interrogated by many people.
• They force us to be witnesses.
• We are held until the court case.
• We are held till deportation.
• We are forced re-training.
• We are not given compensation by anybody.
• Our family must borrow money to survive while we wait.
• Our family is in a panic.
• We are anxious for our family.
• Strangers visit our village telling people about us.
• The village and the soldiers cause our family problems.
• Our family has to pay ‘fines’ or bribes to the soldiers.
• We are sent home.
• Military abuses and no work continues at home.
• My family has a debt.
• We must find a way back to Thailand to start again.

Laura Agustín's picture

Sex workers and Violence against Women: Utopic Visions or Battle of the Sexes?

(From Border Thinking on Migration, Trafficking and Commercial Sex)

How is it feminist, if the goal is improving society and achieving more equality amongst human beings, to focus on crime and punishment? Published in 2001, this article provoked horror in some sectors. Although I wouldn’t write it exactly the same way now, I stand by its ideas. If Gender Equality is one of feminism’s goals, how can we imagine it without reducing everything to black and white, perpetrator and victim, crime, crime, crime?

Sex workers and Violence Against Women: Utopic Visions or Battle of the Sexes?

Laura Mª Agustín

Development, 44.3, 107-110 (2001)

Sexual exploitation and prostitution

In the movement to construct a discourse of ‘violence against women’, and thus to raise consciousness about kinds of mistreatment which before were invisible, the stage has been reached where defining crime and achieving punishment appears to be the goal. While it is progressive to raise consciousness about violence and exploitation in an attempt to deter the commitment of crimes, I hope to show that the present emphasis on discipline is very far from a utopic vision and that we should now begin to move toward other suggestions for solutions.

The following argument uses the example of prostitution or ‘sexual exploitation’ as an instance of ‘violence against women’, but the approach can apply to any attempt to deal with not only definitions of gender and sexual violence but with proposals to deal with them. When applied to adult prostitution, the term ‘sexual exploitation’ attempts to change language to make ‘voluntary’ prostitution impossible. For those who wish to ‘abolish’ prostitution, therefore, this change in terms represents progress, for now language itself will not be complicit with the violence involved. For those who may or may not want to ‘abolish’ prostitution but who in the present put the priority on improving the everyday lot of prostitutes, this language change totalizes a variety of situations involving different levels of personal will and makes it more difficult to propose practical solutions. When applied to the prostitution of children, the term ‘sexual exploitation’ represents a project to change perceptions about childhood. For those who believe that the current western model of childhood as a time of innocence should become the ‘right’ of all children in the world, this term is very important.

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