Background The dominant anti-trafficking paradigm conflates trafficking and sex work, denying evidence that most sex workers choose their profession and justifying police actions that disrupt communities, drive sex workers underground and increase vulnerability.
Who made The RighT Guide and why?
The RighT Guide, a tool to assess the human rights impact of anti-trafficking policies, was
developed by Aim for Human Rights, together with anti-trafficking, sex workers’ rights and
migrants’ rights organisations in Europe and in other parts of the world. They all shared
a growing concern about negative effects of anti-trafficking interventions on the human…
What should be the role for border controls in anti-trafficking responses, if there should be one at all? Heightened border security is increasing risks in the migration process. Many people decide that despite barriers and risks they must cross a border for survival, either in terms of economics or safety. In many cases, at border crossings, it is not possible for practitioners to tell if people are being strictly trafficked or whether they fall in another migration category, yet the risks created by border systems and the violations experienced by individuals at borders are not to be left out of conversations on trafficking and of migrants’ rights more broadly.
THE PROBLEM WITH THE DISCOURSE OF ‘TRAFFICKERS’ AND ‘VICTIMS’: Heroes, Villains, and Victims
I say that trafficking prevention is about addressing social inequities, and not about targeting or demonizing traffickers, because in order to do the latter, one needs a “victim” and an “aggressor.” This irradiates the conditions that make trafficking a viable means of income for traffickers and make victims of trafficking vulnerable to coercion and exploitation. The construction of “victims” and “aggressors” in the discourse of trafficking is unhelpful, and it only neglects a fuller analysis of the social conditions and material realities that the trafficker and trafficked grapple with. This is an analog of the “good guys/Heroes” “bad guys/Anti-Heroes” “damsel in distress” narrative that characterizes the Western story-telling tradition.
Am I saying that there are no victims? No. To the contrary, I am saying that this popular narrative among anti-trafficking activists, lobbyists, feminists, and the like facilitates a re-victimizing of survivors of trafficking in synchrony with the demonizing of traffickers. The impetus to ‘save’ victims of trafficking is not an impetus to recognize the agency of survivors and traffickers. By representing traffickers as ‘exceptional’ figures- notably in the classist, racialized trope of the “pimp,” anti-trafficking discourse occludes the truth that traffickers are often those closest to the victim. In many cases, traffickers are parents, family members, intimate partners, neighbors, teachers, religious leaders, police officers, and other ‘trusted’ authority figures. The trafficker is not simply the shadowy figure in the alley who ‘snatches’ runaways or migrants.
The popular discourse trafficking tends to center on women and girls as victims, conflating sex trafficking w the sex trade while displacing the majority of
trafficking cases- domestic/forced labor/organ trafficking. This same discourse also facilitates an uneven gaze upon the gendered (and often, racialized) bodies of sex workers via inflated reports of sex trafficking. The “Rescue Industry” enacts this through the surveillance and policing of sex workers, and their subsequent arrest and entry into cycles of recidivism through ‘brothel raids.’ These ‘brothel raids’ typically traumatize and criminalize sex workers and survivors of sex trafficking, most of whom are cis-women and transwomen.
Even “End the Demand” efforts targeting ‘Johns’ unwittingly target and criminalize sex workers- particularly transwomen in the sex industry. ‘Johns’ are assumed to be heterosexual, cis-gender (or “male-bodied”)* men. These assumptions of heteronormativity are dangerous, however, as they doubly criminalize transwomen. One example is the Chicago Police Department’s practice of posting the mugshots of of ‘Johns’ who were arrested and charged with soliciting online in order to ‘shame’ them. Thing is, researchers at DePaul University found that 10 percent of the photos are of transwomen (likely sex workers) who were misgendered as men by police officers and arrested as “johns.”
The “White Savior” impetus manifests itself frequently in anti-trafficking organizations representations of themselves. For example, one organization tellingly named “Saving Innocence” offers would-be anti-trafficking activists a chance to “buy her freedom.” Yes, they propose that anti-trafficking activists fuel trafficking in order to save the ‘exceptional’ victim. Who is this ‘exceptional victim?’ She is typically a cis-gendered Eastern European girl or woman with blond hair, pale skin, and blue eyes. She is “innocence” unlike ‘presumably ‘hypersexual’ African-descended or Latina women who are trafficked into the sex industry. Orientalism rears its head in the anti-trafficking discourse when the ‘victim’ is an Asian woman or girl. A good example is Nick Kristof’s January 2004 column where he reported on ‘buying’ two Cambodian girls’ freedom for $353. He positions himself as a benevolent White Savior gracing the lives of poor trafficked Cambodian girls. He never questions that he fuels the human trafficking industry by ‘saving’ these victims that he’s deemed exceptional. He never questions the gross inequality between the himself and these girls. He never questions his complicity in trafficking. Instead, he silences the girls and tells their story in his typical self-aggrandizing manner.
- Melissa Gira Grant: The War on Sex Workers: An Unholy Alliance of Feminists, Cops, and Conservatives Hurts Women in the Name of Defending Their Rights
- Petra Östergren http://www.petraostergren.com/pages.aspx?r_id=47601
- Laura Augustin http://www.lauraagustin.com/
- Jo Deozema http://t.co/yp2Nrn7t (citation: Jo Doezema. Loose Women or Lost Women?: The re-emergence of the myth of ‘white slavery’ in contemporary discourses of ‘trafficking in women’ International Studies Convention, Washington, DC, February 16 – 20, 1999, Gender Issues, Vol. 18, no. 1, Winter 2000, pp. 23-50.)
- In terms of statistical data re:
#trafficking, the best source is the Int’l Labour Org (ILO) http://www.ilo.org/public/english/protection/migrant/areas/trafficking.htm …
- Also, the US Dept. of Justice has case studies of
#trafficking. You can search: http://www.justice.gov/archive/olp/human_trafficking.htm …
* I avoid using “male-bodied” or “female-bodied” because it is extremely problematic terminology. The terms themselves do not capture the reality that sex is assigned and ascribed, not innate.
WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?
According to the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, Article 3(a), trafficking in persons is defined thusly:
“Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;”
In sum, trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, receipt of persons for the purpose of exploitation. In this chain of acts, all participants are traffickers.
In legal terms, trafficking in persons is broken down into 3 parts: 1) Action 2) Means 3) Purpose. Action is the actual act of trafficking. Means is the ‘how’ of trafficking. Finally, the purpose (mens rea) of trafficking is exploitation. In order to establish a legal case, lawyers must prove all 3. Action and means are typically easier to prove than purpose, which is highly circumstantial.
In practice, trafficking is complicated. The legal definition says “transportation,” but not all trafficking victims are transported. Understandings of trafficking that hinge on “transportation” will tend to conflate smuggling with trafficking. Smuggling is defined in the UN Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime as:
“the procurement, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a State Party of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident;”
What separates smuggling from trafficking is the absence of exploitation. Smuggling becomes trafficking when, for example, smugglers demand higher fees after bringing migrants to a transit or destination country, thereby forcing migrants into a situation of debt peonage or debt bondage.
WHAT FORMS DOES TRAFFICKING TAKE?
Trafficking takes on many forms in many sectors.
- illegal (transnational) adoption
- sexual exploitation
- coerced labor in agriculture, the service industry, domestic work, construction, sports, and so on.
- child brides
- recruitment of children into armed conflict
- forced begging
- removal of organs
Human trafficking worldwide is very complex. Trafficking overlaps with traditional forms of slavery, and often follows historical migration and trade routes and newer migration and trade routes. In other words, human trafficking is a problem internally, regionally, and internationally. In West and Central Africa, trafficking is recognized as a problem in 70% of nations in the respective regions. In East and Southern Africa, trafficking is recognized as a problem in a third of the countries. In West and North Africa, the trafficking of Africans into Europe is a problem exacerbated by pressures exerted by forces of globalization, which drive capital flow northward, and correspondingly, drive eurocentric migration.
Traditional slavery manifests in Northern Ghana and parts of Togo, when young girls are „donated“ to priests and are forced to live as ‚wives‘ and submit sexually to the shrine priests in return for the protection of the families.“ (15, „Trafficking in Human Beings, Especially Woman and Children, in Africa“, UNICEF Innocenti Research Center) In central and western Africa, impoverished families (especially in the face of food insecurity- as seen in Niger in the past year, where a famine meant increased attention on child brides) might marry their young daughters off to much older men- subjecting them to destitution, abandonment through divorce. In Kenya and Ethiopia, girls who are married off at a young age are a runaway risk- many of whom end up in urban centers like Addis Ababa, Mombasa, and Nairobi where trafficking in the sex industry is a known problem. The risks of sex work- sexually transmitted diseases/infections, increased likelihood of abuse- only exacerbate the vulnerability of these young women.
In Northern Tanzania, the mining industry (tanzanite and gold) drives demand for human trafficking. Additionally, the mines drive demand for the sex trade in their vicinities, which is answered in turn by active recruitment among young women with the promise of fast cash. Just recently, Bloomberg published a story highlighting the gross abuses and violence in the mines of Tanzania. In Ghana, the 10th biggest exporter of gold, thousands of children are forced to work in the dangerous mines. Similarly, debt bondage and sex slavery occur in proximity to these mines. In response, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) have formed the The Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection Coalition and launched projects such as their Community Resistance to Slavery and Forced Labor (CRSFL), which helps vulnerable communities “organize and create community-based action plans to eradicate slavery.” The project offers miners alternative means of revenue, via economic assistance intended to foster economic self-sufficiency and autonomy.
It is useful to talk about trafficking in terms of push and pull factors. What would make the child of a smallholder farmer in Niger vulnerable to trafficking? What drives their parents’ decision to enter into an uneven contracts with distant family members or acquaintances that stipulate sending their child away to be an apprentice for a small business owner? Push factors could include:
- Climate change [desertification, flooding, etc] and the resultant displacement of subsistence farmers and pastoral groups
- Poor management of natural resources
- Land dispossession
- Poverty [e.g. the increased reliance upon cash economies and the global food market makes low-income households vulnerable to price-induced food security]
- Low wages
- Social marginalization [e.g. the transnational trafficking of stateless Rohingya people (who originate from Burma) into Malaysia by Thai police and army officers]
- Lack of opportunities in home communities
Pull factors include:
- Perceived opportunity elsewhere
I am hesitant to address the pull factors of trafficking, because, then I risk the appearance of victim-blaming or contradicting the definition of trafficking as being coerced. Persons who are trafficked are indeed lured into coercive situations. Recruiters, in the form of modeling scouts, sports scouts, labor recruiters for temp agencies, even religious leaders, who make promises that appeal to the trafficking victim’s sense of lack. They might promise opportunities to earn money, pursue their studies or become famous. Here is where trafficking prevention would step in. Trafficking prevention should be about addressing social inequities, and not about targeting or demonizing traffickers.
Cross-linked at Bertelsmann Stiftung – Future Challenges’ site
Youth unemployment in Africa is a problem of alarming proportions precisely because 65 percent of the continent’s population is under the age of 24, with over 40 percent of the total population below the age of 16, and about 25 percent between the ages 15 and 24. According to the International Labour Office (ILO), youth make up approximately 36.9 percent of the total working-age population and about 60 percent of Africa’s unemployed are youth.
While Africa’s nations have seen economic growth that outstrips other continents, the high share of young people (ages 15–24) who are unemployed has the potential to undermine that growth. In addition to the economic costs of youth unemployment, there is also a social cost. As youth face long-term or cyclical unemployment, they can become disaffected and dis-invested in their own communities. This can lead to higher crime rates and greater involvement in underground economic activity, as well as social unrest.
A 2008 World Bank report entitled “Youth and Employment in Africa: The Potential, the Problem, the Promise” indicates that access to education is still a major hurdle. For example, in Kenya and Uganda, school fees were too costly for poor families, and enrollment rates were low. However, after Kenya and Uganda eliminated the school fees, completion rates for fourth and fifth graders from impoverished families increased initially.
In the case of Kenyan schools, the elimination of school fees was not enough, as detailed by a Center for Global Development working paper entitled “Why Did Abolishing Fees Not Increase Public School Enrollment in Kenya?”
Even where school enrollment increased, schools tended not to hire more teachers to accommodate their growing student body, resulting in lower qualities of education. Another factor- particularly in rural areas- is the the proximity of schools. The cost (in time or money- especially in terms of fuel use) to get to and from school is prohibitive to many parents.
As a continent, Africa has a long way to go in terms of educating, training its youth and providing opportunities to be economically active. Between heads of states who are not beholden to constitutional tenure clauses, the failure to make education generally accessible and relevant, and the burgeoning influx of migrant workers from Europe, Africa’s youth face a number of challenges. As Africa’s nations grow economically, we must be mindful of the fact that growing GDPs are not synonymous with less socio-economic inequality.
In fact, John Githongo, chief executive of Inuka Kenya Trust and chairman of the Africa Institute for Governing With Integrity and Kenya’s former secretary for governance and ethics, points out that as growth speeds up, so does inequality. In light of youth unemployment on the continent of Africa, this has huge implications on the social and political stability of Africa’s nations.
What can be done to lower unemployment rates among Africa’s youth?
How can we better equip our youth for today’s labor market?
How can we enable African youth to become job creators without saddling them with debt?
For all of my critiques of the aid industry- lack of transparency and accountability, paternalism- I’ve yet to offer substantive alternative solutions. (I did provide alternative local organizations in Northern Uganda during the whole Kony2012 thing). However, when Solome Lemma told me about her initiative, Africans in the Diaspora (AiD), I was on-board almost immediately. For all of this trendy talk on “diaspora engagement” beyond the micro scope, Africans in the Diaspora walks the walk.
Today, AiD launches its online platform: http://africansinthediaspora.org/
“Africans in the Diaspora (AiD) envisions a self-reliant, socially and economically just Africa. Through our Funds, Connections, and Voices programs, we unleash the financial, social, and intellectual capital of Africans to advance social and economic change in Africa.”
What’s not to love? An initiative that allows members of the African Diaspora to invest their social, financial and intellectual capital for social and economic change on the continent?
Best of all, if you don’t know where to begin, or you’re a skeptic, there are resources to address your concerns. My concern is always whether African-led initiatives at the community level are being supported. So much of the glamor around large international NGOs and aid agencies puts organizations like Physicians for Social Justice (in rural Northern Nigeria) in shadow.
If you are a Diasporan who wants to give back, Africans in the Diaspora is here to help you. The online platform provides information about local projects and organizations on the continent, and makes it easier to connect with them as a supporter. After all, we do not need to re-invent the wheel- the wheel is already rolling quietly at the community level, in the shadows of bigger international NGOs. Africans are at the forefront of development here, and Africans are the funders, designers, implementers and supporters.
Check it out! I am excited about the future of Diaspora mobilization and engagement on the continent of Africa.
Facebook: Africans in the Diaspora (AiD)
Cross-linked with Bertelsmann Stiftung – Future Challenges Organization’s site
Indigenous peoples and resource exploitation. Who wins, who loses, how is the game played, how should it be played?
When one lands in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, it is immediately apparent how resource-rich this country is. The silk cotton trees greeted us with their verdant lushness and the patchwork terrain of high rises and densely-populated residential areas occupied my thoughts as the plane completed its descent.
It’s easy to get caught up in the potential, the unrealized dream of equitable development, but we cannot. Yes, it is true that Equatorial Guinea’s GDP has increased from about 1 million USD in 1968 to 14 billion USD in 2010 (World Bank, 2012). But where does this wealth come from? Equatorial Guinea is heavily dependent on oil. According to the African Economic Outlook report, 78 percent of the nation’s GDP is derived from the exploitation of its oil reserves. The fact remains that Equatorial Guinea has the highest GDP per capita on the continent (about 19,300 USD in 2011, a near 2100% increase from 940 USD in 1998).
However, Equatorial Guinea’s population of just under 700,000 has yet to partake in this wealth. This disparity is seen in terms of healthcare. The population makeup, in terms of age, looks like a bell curve – as “Equatoguineans” aged 0-5 and 65 and up are a small percentage of the population. The United Nations (UN) estimates that about 20 percent of Continue reading
Cross-linked with Bertelsmann Stiftung – Future Challenges Organization’s site
- Lake Turkana. Credit: Wikimedia.org
In May 2012, the Kenyan government sent 200 additional reserve troops to the Kenya-Ethiopia border in response to Ethiopian militia attacks in the Turkana region. Tensions were high following the killing of a Kenyan police reservist at the hands of Ethiopian militiamen.
This occurs less than a year and a half after Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and former (now-deceased) Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s May 2011 meeting in Uganda, where they decided to end border conflicts amicably. In addition to water conflicts, there is the conflict of claims over the Elemi Triangle, which is the northwestern corner of Lake Turkana, bordering South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya.
As I previously addressed in an article entitled “Water Scarcity and Conflict at the Ethiopia-Kenya Border,” water shortages have been contributing to tribal clashes between the Kenyan Turkana and the Ethiopian Dassanech, Nyangatom and Mursi tribes.
In the Horn of Africa, where regional temperatures have risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1960, and are projected to increase an additional 2-5 degrees by 2060, climate change is particularly salient. The effects of this climate change: increasing variability of rainfall,deforestation and land degradation are all occurring within the context of rapid population growth and limited land and water resources.
An estimated eight million semi-nomadic people in Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya depend on the waters of Lake Turkana for their livelihoods. Lake Turkana gets 90 percent of its water from the Omo River, but in recent years, the lake has been receding into Kenya.
The conflict is further exacerbated by the diversion of the Omo River’s flow to Ethiopia’s upstream dams (including Gilgel Gibe III), considered the largest hydro-power project south of the Sahara. While providing electricity to Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda and Yemen, the dams threaten the livelihoods of nearly a million nomadic, pastoral tribesmen.
The question at this point is, “are we going to see a repeat of previous events?” In the first week of May 2011, fighting at the Kenyan-Ethiopian border claimed 34 lives. This, in addition to what Steven Watson alluded to in his lead article “Liquid Asset”- the disincentivizing effect of food aid and the perceived price of water, makes it clear that the price of water is high. However, our attitudes toward water use often do not reflect this:
“The moment international agencies give out food, there’s no incentive for the local population to help themselves,” he says. “I worked for some time in the Turkana desert in Kenya where that was very evident. As long as somebody else gives out food there’s no reason to try and provide your own food. It’s a lot of work. Why should you work when you can get it for free? Or take for example the price of water; if water is expensive for you then you will try to use it as efficiently as you can and minimize losses. However if you get the water free as is the case in a very large number of developing countries then there’s no real incentive to use it efficiently.”
Furthermore, in the late 1970s, the Kenyan government’s policy of arming the Turkana was followed within a decade by the Ethiopian government’s arming of Dassanech tribesmen with Continue reading
Cross-linked with Future Challenges’ site
The arid nation of Namibia has a newly discovered aquifer called Ohangwena II, that spans its northeast region, which flows under the boundary between Angola and Namibia. The country is considered one of the driest in Sub-Sahara Africa, as it is largely covered by the Namib Desert. This is especially significant because the nation faces further desertification in the face of climate change.
The 800,000 people who live in the area currently depend on a 40-year-old canal that crosses the Namibia-Angola border for their drinking water. The new aquifer could supply water to the residents of Northern Namibia (who comprise 40 percent of the population) for an estimated 400 years. Historically, the scarcity of drinking water sources in the area has limited the scope of development. The discovery of the aquifer Ohangwena II means new opportunities and new challenges.
In response to this discovery, Namibia’s Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry announced on July 11, 2012 that his ministry will host a water investment conference in September to bring together the major players in the water sector. This includes the private sector, as financiers and equipment manufacturers would be essential to attracting private investment. Notably absent from the list of attendees are local residents of Northern Namibia.
The opportunity here is ripe. Public-private partnerships can ensure that all Namibians have access to safe water sources. However, the challenge of balancing profit with sustainability looms overhead. GRAIN’s report entitled, “Squeezing Africa Dry: Behind Every Land Grab is a Water Grab” warns of the dangers of privatizing water resources in the context of increasing water scarcity and increased propensity for water conflicts. These dangers are already seen at the Ethiopia-Kenya border and near Ethiopia’s Alwero River in the Gambella region, where deadly conflict brewed over Saudi Star Development Company Continue reading