Monday, 13 December 2010

we really need to get our shit together about trafficking

after the refuge i worked at explicitly opened itself up to "women trafficked into the sex industry", when one of the first thus-labelled residents moved on, she set herself up as a high-class escort, with a fancy website. my colleagues, gathered around a computer, were scandalised and bitterly amused. "all that work for nothing!" "we were really taken for a ride there"... this woman had come into refuge because she was fleeing violence from pimps, my colleagues were not disputing that. but they felt that "all their efforts" had been in vain, because she "hadn't even wanted to exit prostitution".

as often happens in the office, i was too taken aback to really say anything of use. i muttered something about "don't you think it's great that she's free to make her own choices now?" to which they said "mmm", but continued to look disgusted.

i just find it crazy, though so illustrative, that schemes like this can get specialist funding to support trafficked women, while having no guiding philosophy (except, Trafficking Is Wrong), or politics, and no political or philosophical guidance for the staff doing the work. but it's illustrative because, of course, if an organisation was political, let alone holistically empowering of women who've survived trafficking, it wouldn't get funding.

and meanwhile, there's this crazy moral panic about trafficked women, through which any migrant sex worker, especially if she is 'illegal', could potentially find herself 'rescued' (which can take the form of deportation) against her will. it's really disturbing how there are so many feminist organisations latching onto the anti-trafficking thing, without simultaneously defending the right of women to migrate and do sex work. i was totally confused and distracted by these feminists for a long time, and until recently still couldn't articulate to myself why their campaigns were fucked up. the voices of migrant sex workers are so marginalised, including by well-meaning (? why do i keep using that word?) feminists, i'd kind of gone along with the deeply racist implicit conflation of all migrant sex workers as forcibly trafficked and enslaved, which also carries the assumption that this conflated group 'just can't ever speak out. they're too oppressed. or something.' i'm ashamed.

anyway, i've just read this amazing interview with Nandita Sharma, over at the Incite! blog, originally from No One Is Illegal Radio. she just cuts through the crap with such clarity:
"It is impossible to legally get into Canada as a sex worker and enter as a permanent resident. You don’t get “points” for being in the sex industry, even though there is high demand. The anti-trafficking legislation is another way to attack women’s ability to work in the sex industry, and it does so in a way that further legitimizes (and relies on) the idea that no woman should ever be engaged in sex work. Ultimately, the moral panic against sex work makes migrant women more vulnerable in the sex industry.
Ultimately, if we want to end the exploitation of women, we need to challenge capitalism, which is the basis for all of our exploitation. Whether we’re working in the sex industry, a restaurant, or in a university, we’re being exploited by those who are benefiting from our labour. So, if we want to end exploitation, we don’t give more power to the state to criminalize workers, we give more power to workers to end their exploitation. Of course, being a university professor is not demonized like sex work is. So we also need a major attitude adjustment. 
Those of us who are critical of anti-trafficking rhetoric and legislation are often accused of not caring about women. We’re accused of not caring about women who are kidnapped, women who are beaten up, women who are enslaved or not paid wages, women who have their passports and other documents withheld from them so that they’re rendered immobile. In response to these accusations, the important thing to remember is that all of those crimes are already addressed in the Criminal Code of Canada. It is illegal to kidnap people, to beat them up, to rape them, to not pay them wages, to withhold their documents without their permission, etc. Why do people think new anti-trafficking legislation will make women safer when the police seem completely disinterested in enforcing Criminal Code measures that already exist to protect women? Instead of anti-trafficking legislation, we should be demanding that workers in the sex industry are protected under occupational health and safety regulations, as all workers should be."

1 comment:

  1. It's an amazing piece of writing for all the web people; they will take advantage from it I am sure.

    Feel free to surf to my blog