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Can we at least agree on this? April 4, 2007

Posted by Winter in trafficking.

Blog Against Sexual Violence logo

I’m posting this a little early because I’m going away tomorrow and won’t have access to the internet.

For this blogathon against sexual violence, I want to highlight an issue on which I think we should all be able to agree, no matter what kind of feminist politics we adhere to.

The trafficking of women, girls and children into sexual exploitation is a form of sexual violence so hideous, so widespread and well-organised that it’s often difficult to comprehend emotionally or psychologically. It’s hard to talk about because it makes us feel powerless – a nightmare we know to be happening in our communities every day. Many of us live relatively privileged lives in the UK, and as we go about our jobs and studies, take our kids to school, socialise, drink, have fun, it’s not easy or convenient to remember the fact that somewhere nearby other women are being exploited, abused, imprisoned and kept in sexual slavery.

There are no reliable statistics and it is the nature of any organised criminal activity that the greater part of the activity goes undetected. According to the UN, 700,000 people are trafficked every year for sexual exploitation, but Women Aid International puts that figure at 2 million. The turnover is estimated to be between $4 and $7 billion depending on where you find your statistics. Either way, it’s huge and it’s being fuelled largely by rich western countries. According to the UNODC report of April 2006, the main countries of origin are central and south-eastern Europe, West Africa, Latin America and Asia. The main countries of destination are those of Western Europe, the USA, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Japan.

The UK Situation

According to the Poppy Project:

The statistics available are:

Up to 1,420 women per year are trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation – The Children and Women’s Abuse Centre (CWASU) Kelly and Regan, 2000.

500,000 women were trafficked into the EU in 1995 – International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 1996.

The POPPY Project mapping report ‘Sex in the City’ (2004) shows evidence of ‘off street’ prostitution in all of the 33 London boroughs, with an estimated 80% of non British nationals working in Brothels, Saunas and Massage Parlours

The UK has, to date, failed to prioritise monitoring the off-street sex industry (where, according to research, the vast majority of trafficked women are held Sex and the City 2004).

A piecemeal or a total lack of initiatives to tackle demand for sexual services, and a lack of clarity regarding the effects of a thriving sex industry on UK society. Legislative and police responses have failed to deter pimping and procurement to any notable degree, resulting in a ‘green light’ effect of “almost rolling out a red carpet” to traffickers.

As people living in a “country of destination,” we urgently need to roll back that red carpet as a priority. We need to demand more services for trafficked women, especially hostels and safe houses. We all need to ask our MPs what they are doing on this issue and, as feminists, we should be demanding public awareness raising campaigns and action.

Where are the posters? Where are the government funded public information campaigns on television? We have them for STIs? So, why not for trafficking? Why aren’t there workshops in schools on this issue? How about leaflets through the letterbox of every house in areas where trafficking is known to be taking place? Hell, how about leaflets through every letterbox in the UK?

And we shouldn’t wait around for the government to do something; we should be doing it ourselves. We should be getting together to make the leaflets and posters. We should be bringing the issue up whenever journalists call us for interviews and ask about the most important issues for feminists in the early twenty-first century. We should be raising it with our families and friends. We should be shouting together from the rooftops that trafficking for sexual exploitation is not acceptable and has got to be stopped.

Some people are offended by this image. We’re not. What offends us is the way hunderds of women are trafficked into the UK every year and forced into prostitution.

Further info

Coalition against trafficking in women.

Human Rights Watch.

Global Alliance against trafficking in women.


<a href=”Women Aid International.