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Trafficking in Lives

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Prostitution Fueling Exploitation of Women

By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, DEC. 6, 2007 (Zenit) - The evil of human trafficking is receiving attention in many countries around the world. The illegal trade is carried out either to provide cheap labor or for the sex industry, although it is the latter that is receiving more attention.

The BBC on Nov. 6 noted that the United Nations in 2006 had named Israel one of the main destinations in the world for trafficked women. According to the report, during the 1990s and the first years of the current decade, up to 3,000 women a year were lured to Israel by false promises of jobs, only to find themselves forced to be prostitutes. Prostitution in Israel is legal, but pimping and maintaining a brothel are not, according to the BBC.

Japan is another country with significant numbers of women forced into being sex slaves, the South China Morning Post reported Oct. 27. Every year, 50,000 women enter Japan on entertainer visas, but sources cited by the newspaper maintained there are never that many working as dancers or singers.

Japan is one of the largest destinations for international trafficking of women and children for sex and forced labor, according to the South China Morning Post. Due to international pressure the Japanese police set up a department to combat the problem. In 2005 the new unit made 81 arrests, but only five cases have reached the prosecution stage in the courts, all ending with suspended sentences.

In England, an Oct. 22 article in the Independent newspaper reported the arrest of a gang of Lithuanian and Chinese criminals who made up to 5,000 pounds ($10,281) a day by forcing young women to engage in prostitution.

New form of slavery

"What these gangs do is modern-day slavery," detective inspector Gary Young of Scotland Yard's clubs and vice unit told the paper. The growing industry is being fueled by the expansion and sophistication of the Internet, he said.

According to the Independent, one estimate is that at any one time, up to 4,000 women are being compelled to work as prostitutes in Britain by criminal gangs.

The problem was also recently the subject of a study published in Ireland, the Irish Examiner reported Oct. 19. Eilis Ward of National University of Ireland, and Gillian Wylie of Trinity College Dublin, found 76 women from 20 countries had been trafficked into Ireland to work in brothels and lap dancing clubs. They said that the total number could be far greater.

A major front-page article in the Sept. 23 edition of the Washington Post examined efforts by the United States to stamp out human trafficking. The U.S. government has spent more than half a billion dollars fighting trafficking around the world since 2000. The State Department has an office in charge of investigating the problem, which publishes an annual Trafficking in Persons report.

According to the Washington Post, estimating the number of women trafficked into the United States is problematic. Estimates vary widely, but one recent calculation put it at 14,500 to 17,500 each year.

The most recent edition of the report by the State Department came out in June. It estimated that in 2006, approximately 800,000 people were trafficked across national borders. This does not include, the report added, millions more who were trafficked within their own countries.

Trafficking and the sex industry play a major role in spreading HIV/AIDS, the report noted. In addition, violence and abuse "are at the core of trafficking for prostitution."

A seminar on how to fight against trafficking was recently held in Rome. The session was a joint effort between the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and the Italian Union of Major Superiors (USMI). "Human trafficking is a critical (issue) for the Holy See," said Monsignor Pietro Parolin, the Pope's undersecretary of state, in an address to the seminar.

According to a press release dated Oct. 19, one of the fruits of the seminar was the creation of the International Network of Religious Against Trafficking in Persons (INRATIP). The new organization issued a statement in which it called upon governments "to address the issues of economic inequality, poverty and corruption which lead to the destruction of so many lives."

"We urge all people of good will to open your hearts to the victims and to act to change the root causes of human trafficking -- poverty, gender inequality, discrimination, greed and corruption," the statement declared. "Our hope rests in a vision of humanity which honors the principle that no woman, child or man is a commodity for sale."

Fallacy of legalization

To combat trafficking and other abuses against women in the sex trade, some argue in favor of legalizing prostitution. This is a serious mistake, according to the conclusions of a recently published study of how legalized prostitution operates in the U.S. state of Nevada.

In "Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections," Melissa Farley argues that legalization has not improved conditions for women, but has worked in favor of pimps and brothel owners. The boom in the sex trade in Nevada has also made the state one of the main destinations for victims of human trafficking, observed U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney in the book's foreword.

In fact, after a two-year study of how prostitution functions in Nevada, one of the book's conclusions is that prostitution and sex trafficking are linked in the state as in other localities. "Sex trafficking happens when and where there is a demand for prostitution and a context of impunity for its customers," Farley stated.

Moreover, the legalization of prostitution has created a culture that promotes the sex trade, and far from eliminating illegal activities, both legal and illegal venues flourish. Farley calculated that Nevada's illegal prostitution industry is nine times greater than the state's legal brothels.

This is similar to what has happened in other places that have legalized prostitution, such as the Netherlands and the Australian state of Victoria, she added. In the former, legalized prostitution has made the country one of the major destinations for trafficked women, said Farley, citing several studies and declarations made by local authorities.

By contrast, places that have taken serious steps to stamp out prostitution, such as Sweden, have also seen a decrease in sex trafficking, Farley argued.

Promoting discrimination

We live in a world saturated with pornography and where prostitution is increasingly presented as a mainstream activity, she observed. It's a world where only too often girls and women are presented as sexual objects for men's gratification, and where sexual assaults against children are at ever-higher levels.

Prostitution, Farley argued, is a business rooted in inequality: between men and women, rich and poor, ethnic majorities and minorities. "Legal prostitution has set the stage for discrimination against women, especially those who are most vulnerable: poor and ethnically marginalized women," she concluded.

Legalization also increases sex trafficking because it expands the market. "It's actually deceptive to make a distinction between trafficking and prostitution because the implication is that it is the distance she is moved in order to be sold for sex that matters rather than being sold, used and prostituted per se," Farley expounded.

"What's relevant is what is done to her in prostitution, the sale of and sexual use of a human being," she continued. The degradation of persons, whether in trafficking or prostitution, stand out as one of the major challenges to a culture that too often ignores the weak.


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Human, Traffic, Family, Life, Flynn

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