Anonymous posted on my blog and what she writes is so well-written that I decided to post it here:
I was interested to see you say the ‘notorious human traffickers are starting to disappear.’ It certainly seems to be the direction of opinion at the moment.
Where once the press would trumpet the arrest of brothel owners and individual men and women denounced by prostitutes as the “tip of the iceberg” of a horrific and widespread problem, now they are dismissed as lover’s squabbles which got out of hand, a practical step to keep the immigration service at bay or as a way out of feeling ashamed for women who have worked as prostitutes and been discovered.
We live in a world led by marketing, a process which seeks to put a price on everything and to deliver any service to a customer who can pay. No thought is given to individual consequences: there is no money in that. Individuals can take charge of their own lives, and this freedom can be a heartless process.
Truth too, is a consumer product. Once it was fashionable to label all prostitutes as slaves, particularly if they were foreign, with no thought for the poverty the women endeavoured to escape, or why their often recently impoverished home countries were so poor.
This was a big story - a truly horrifying scandal, and reputations were made on it, both by academics and journalists. Newspapers are sold and academic papers are read when the victims number in the many tens of thousands.
And now we are to believe there are none, and that trafficking does not exist: another scandal is born, another line of academic enquiry begins, now investigating trafficking’s exaggeration. Another set of reputations are made when this exaggeration is exposed.
The existence, nature and prevalence of trafficking is so politicised now, partly because it is so emotive, and also because it is a central issue in the battle over whether or not prostitution should be legalised, how it should be controlled, and whether it should be controlled at all. This has caused so much distortion it seems to me impossible now to determine the truth.
Both sides of this debate have their facts and figures, all disputed of course, and all seem subject to significant subjectivity and shortcomings of technique. Just as when you ask your MP, “have you ever fiddled your expenses?” he will reply “no,” whether he has or not.
Large numbers of studies have been made; often they contradict each other. Great credence is placed on individual reports which are often in reality only a doctoral thesis written by a student whose parameters have been conceived in order to demonstrate a particular point of view and reach a pre determined outcome, often a controversial one which will be noticed (trafficking does not exist, or it s almost everywhere – even on your own high street.)
Such reports must be treated with caution, since their methodology is often flawed, seem to serve predetermined ends and are written in non neutral language which is at times deliberately obscure and laced with academic jargon.
I believe that there probably are women working as prostitutes in the Netherlands, or Great Britain or wherever, who do so against their will. Some of these will also have been “traditionally trafficked”. How many they number and even their identity will be virtually impossible to discover.
I also believe that the number of these truly forced women has probably been exaggerated - that many more are simply working in prostitution as a job, entirely willingly or at least compelled by circumstance rather than violence, though that is not to say they find it in any way enjoyable.