Sex trafficking is a serious violation of human rights’

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‘Sex trafficking is a serious violation of human rights’. For Lee (2011), there is a common-sense assumption, due to media promulgation and massaged statistics, that immigrants, trafficked women and prostitutes are affiliated; this essay will highlight that this rhetoric is nonsensical and, that while migrants and autonomous sex-workers often retain their own agency, trafficked women are owned and dehumanised (George, 2012). Victims are generally the most vulnerable and face degradation and abuse which autonomous sex-workers and migrants may never experience (UNODC, 2013). For Lee (2011) trafficking is a global problem and equates to ‘modern-day slavery’; it is based on greed and its revenue exceeds both illegal drugs and arms trafficking (McKelvey, 2004). Probably the most serious violation of Human Rights, it is substantially different from ‘agentic’ prostitutioni : “wherever they operate, traffickers are motivated by profit” (op cit: 201). Confusion also surrounds smuggling and trafficking which stems from unreliable statistics and rhetoric: “border authorities do not always distinguish between trafficking, smuggling and irregular migration” (Lee, 2011:19). Notwithstanding, smuggling is a migration concern, almost always involves consent and contact usually ceases after transportation. For Bales (1999) trafficking relies on deception, violence and exploitation long after transportation culminates and is a serious Human Rights concern, not least because it defies article 3 of the Human Rights Act: the prohibition of torture and of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishments (justice.org). Solving the ‘problem’ of trafficking is allegedly high on the agenda for many countries yet stopping it altogether is questionable: “Human Trafficking is a complex and hidden crime” and there is “no ‘one size fits all’ solution” (Winterdyk: 291). ‘Owning’ humans is hardly a modern-day concept; slavery was widely accepted until it was formally abolished in the 19th century (Monzini, 2005). However, due to patriarchal hegemonyii (Carlen, in Barton et al, 2007) the trafficking of young women for sex-slavery continued until it was recognised as a real problem in the twentieth century; in 1902 it was labelled the ‘white slave trade’iii (op cit). Many laws were introduced but The Palermo Protocol 2000 was the most widely ratified. Article 3 describes trafficking as: “the recruitment, transportation, transfer… of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion … or of the giving or receiving of payments…having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation” (in Monzini, 2005). This includes whether or not consent was given for movement, as victims only agreed to be moved and not enslaved but traffickers are ruthless both in the way they treat victims and the victims they insidiously pursue (Winterdyk et al, 2012). There are various factors which ‘push’ people into transit including civil war, natural disasters and disparities in economic wealth (Bales, 1999). Pull factors include guaranteed migration, economic rewards and the promise of education amongst others. This makes trafficking relatively simple if the right people are targeted. The most poor and vulnerable are offered a chance to enter the ‘land of plenty’ and many are duped by the false promises of regular work and high salaries; this does not rest at sex-workers but extends to all labour markets. If a country’s nationals shun ‘menial’ jobs for low pay, migrants are happy to take up new employment. They soon realise that they have been duped but are helpless to resist; the work is hard, the pay is meagre and there are dangers to health and life as was witnessed with the tragedy of 21 Chinese cockle-pickers who drowned at Morecambe Bay (Lee, 2011). Notwithstanding, the majority of trafficked people are women and for Lee (2011:6) “globalisation is highly gendered”; since the 1960s many have experienced a ‘feminisation of migration’iv...
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