12 October 2013

Human trafficking, prostitution, and me (3)

There are a number of reasons that I am uncomfortable with equating prostitution with human trafficking

It seems to play with the numbers and understanding of "unwilling" and "being forced" so that anyone doing sex work is seen as a victim. Any woman who might argue that she is okay with what she does, even might enjoy certain aspects of it, and/or is willing to do this out of love/care for another is thus considered to be lying or too traumatized/indoctrined. We, those striving against human trafficking, know better than she does. And her voice and self is irrelevant except in as far as she can receive (and accept) help. I personally find this view simplistic of all the complicated aspects of prostitution. More so, it does not seem to value those in prostitution as being fully persons: imago Dei. 
Linking human trafficking with prostitution also feels like an argument used by well meaning Christians to convince non-Christians, who won't necessarily see prostitution as being against God's good order, to see prostitution as an evil - and thus to join us in fighting against it. I very much believe prostitution is not part of God's ideal, but then shouldn't we be fighting to make things better for the women now here instead of women we imagine are suffering?

Those who have met and talked to the women and who have listened at least some of their stories know that things are not simple. Human trafficking certainly happens, but it is often a strange mixture of bad choices, lack of a future, concern/care/love for others, cohersion and violence, poor regulations, and (country/land) corruption. Sin and evil play a significant role.

I have spent two years meeting bi-weekly with various prostitutes. None has ever told me she was being trafficked or pimped out, although a few have mentioned that they experienced it in the past. At the same time, I have lost count of how many have told me that have been mistreated by clients or those whom they rent their windows from. They feel unsafe - the rent they pay and the alarm bell are no guarantee for help when needed. And so, they are open to alternative means of more effective protection: in other words, a pimp might not be worse that what they know experience.

It seems easy to talk about how we want to stop human trafficking - after all, who wouldn't support that? Yet, it is much more difficult to talk about how we, as Christians, love the women as they now are and as they now experience the world, amidst all the difficulties of now. Amidst the pain of not making ends meet. Amidst not understanding all of the strange regulations (that are only found in Dutch) - and the poor treatment they receive when they try to understand things better, whether it be on account of language, nationality or profession. Amidst not having anyone to tell their story to of how a client tried to force them to have sex without a condom. No one to reinterpret their story to say that that was rape, even if the police won't file a report since "it's your job." Amidst the pain of feeling like they have so little choice - where else can they find somewhere else to make enough money to pay the rent and still send some home? And then, on top of that, not being seen or heard by those who claim to come help?

Perhaps there is also the difficulty of a pimp or trafficking in the midst of all those other pains and difficulties. However, until many of those other pains and worries - from the necessity of making enough to make ends meet and stay safe in the midst of this crazy world to simply being seen and appreciated as a worthwhile person - until these things are addressed, human trafficking is just a strange political word that has little more effect on these women's day-to-day reality than a cup of coffee brought by some well-meaning worker.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a survivor, & I link prostitution & sex trafficking together because they ARE one in the same...What is different? I was forced, ALL my money was taken by a pimp, I was raped...... Please do tell what was different?