Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Apologies for not responding sooner -I have been wrestling with a response and continue to find myself going too far down one path or another. I think I have come up with something that holds a through line.

I have not seen the series, I saw the trailer awhile back and watched it gain today before responding. -a friend is recording it for me tonight, so I will watch the whole thing.

Maven your choice of words, and sentiment, was similar to the negative review of the Lifetime movie in the Washington Post: Exploiting Misery -you may need to register for the Post.

I perceive this to be a piece that focuses on the spectacular, so yes I do have some problems with it. However, if it motivates or intrigues some people enough to dig deeper into the subject, then regardless of the hyped up approach or hollywoodization of the trafficking subject it is has done something worthwhile.

With that preface in mind, some questions come to me when watching the trailer. Some of this criticism may simply be inappropriate for what is ultimately four hours of television time that has to sell advertising space.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s there was an effort to address what was referred to as the "white slave trade". It was a concern that white women were being abducted and brought into the cities, and some cases to Arab lands, to be used as sex slaves.

Jo Doezma, I believe a professor in Gender Studies, wrote a paper entitled Loose women or Lost Women: The re-emergence of the myth of 'white slavery' in contemporary discourses of 'trafficking in women' The paper compares the current counter trafficking movement to the earlier movement.

Whether or not one agrees with the premise of the paper, the break down of the language and metaphors used to describe both human trafficking and the white slave trade, as well as the parallels between both movements, is very revealing.

Here is a quote from 1910 -taken from Doezma's paper:

"Deceit, force and/or drugging featured heavily in the accounts of 'white slavery.' Some accounts reported women and girls kidnapped outright, others focused on 'deceit', with violence entering in after the 'victim' became aware of what was expected of her, to ensure compliance and prevent escape. This process was referred to as being "broken in"

What Doezma proposes is that much of the counter white slave trade efforts of this time period was more an attempt to abolish prostitution. If you could rile up the public about these heinous acts, then you could get laws passed against prostitution and more law enforcement to address prostitution.

Doezma proposes that many of the people who were being made out to be victims were female migrants using sexual services as a means of achieving some type of financial autonomy.  Doezma proposes that this is occurring now in the contemporary human trafficking movement.

As I mentioned, this is one of the politicized debate points of this issue, the legitimacy of prostitution as a means of labor -again I am going to make an effort to not get into the debate too much right now.

Doezma presents a quote from Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women

"traffic in persons and forced prostitution are manifestations of violence against women and the rejection of these practices, which are a violation of the right to self-determination, must hold within itself the respect for the self-determination of adult persons who are voluntarily engaged in prostitution"

Some groups feel that all prostitution is forced prostitution. Other groups, like GAATW draw a distinction. Others focus on harm prevention.

The Bush administration will not provide funding for HIV/ AIDS efforts or counter human trafficking efforts if that group is perceived as regarding prostitution as a legitimate form of labor.

This is from an article in the American Prospect

"For years, the health-care educators and social workers had worked closely with the children, who are living "by hook or by crook, doing tricks," says Arnold(a social worker). They tried to teach the girls how to care for themselves. "They would tell the children, `You will get out of this (prostitution). There's a way out,'" says Arnold. "`In the meantime, here's how to use a condom.'"

But that was before University of Rhode Island professor Donna Hughes started accusing nongovernmental organizations of teaching children "how to be prostitutes." On April 3, 2003, she testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying, "It is unacceptable to provide medical services and condoms to enslaved people and ignore the slavery."

Her words had a chilling affect on health-care workers in Svay Pak. "We were standing on a muddy street, talking to a woman who works for one of these organizations," says Arnold. "We asked, `So you're not able to deal with children?' `No, not at all,' she said. `Unless we want to get shut down.' She looked very upset, and she was holding her face in her hands. The children there are very confused. NGO workers told us pedophiles now know they can go and have unprotected sex with children because the health-education programs have stopped." Arnold paused, then added, "And when children come to the NGO workers and ask for help, they are being turned away."

Back to the Lifetime movie.

If you go to the front page of the Lifetime web site you will see under the Human Trafficking trailer screen a button with the label that says "Take Action: Stop Human Trafficking". If you click on this link you will see a box that starts out:

"Join our Champions for Change team and sign up now to urge Congress to pass the bipartisan End Demand for Sex Trafficking Act -- sponsored by Reps. Pryce (R-OH) and Maloney (D-NY)"

This then asks you to enter your email as a signature to urge Congress -and probably get lots of spam as well.

The End Demand for Sex Trafficking Act of 2005 starts out with the following "Congressional Findings":

(1) Commercial sexual activities have a devastating impact on society. The sex trade has a dehumanizing effect on all involved.

 (2) According to a 2004 publication by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons of the State Department, prostitution and related activities, including pimping and patronizing or maintaining brothels, fuel the growth of modern-day slavery by providing a facade behind which sex traffickers operate. Where prostitution is tolerated, there is a greater demand for trafficking victims and nearly always an increase in the number of women and children trafficked into commercial sexual activities.

Here is a write up -pdf, which includes the bill in its entirety -at a particular draft stage. Along side many of the clauses, several groups involved in counter human trafficking efforts or groups that work closely with people in prostitution wrote their analysis and criticism.

Here was this group's problem with the title of the bill:

"The focus of the bill is upon unlawful commercial sex and not on trafficking perse. Thus, it would be appropriate to revise the title of the bill to more clearly to reflect the content of the bill."

I think it is fair to say there is a political statement in this Lifetime movie, and a cultural one.

I have a concern that some political actions push the vulnerable deeper into vulnerability.

I mentioned in my original post about the Saudi government escaping sanctions so that around 5 billion in military sales could occur.

Was Rep. Smith the only abolitionist to speak out about this?

The UAE was moved into a tier 2 "watch list". From the people I have spoken with, of any country in the Middle East, the UAE currently is the worst in terms of being a destination country for victims of trafficking; particularly for sex trafficking.

The UAE does not recognize a victim of trafficking as a victim of a crime. Many after being trafficked into the UAE will spend years in jail. -I will write more on the UAE in my second post.

If there is such a concern about the demand side of the equation, which I think is a valid concern, what about these countries?

Good night. Thanks for the comments.

by aden on Tue Oct 25th, 2005 at 04:08:21 AM EST

Others have rated this comment as follows:


Occasional Series