Human Trafficking, Coercive Sex and Feministing

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I’m having a difficult time understanding this post at Feministing. As far as I can tell, the post author prefers that the federal government NOT “waste time” investigating cases where pimps claim that trafficked, prostituted people are “free to leave.”

The author claims that if this law (which at least she links to, unlike the allegedly problematic House amendment, H.R. 3887) (see “fact sheet” overview of this law here) is amended in some mysterious way that she describes as “remov[ing] all together the requirement that force, fraud, or coercion be present in instances of commercial sex,” then there will be “delays” in investigating other cases of trafficking. She provides no evidentiary basis for this claim in the post. We are apparently just supposed to believe that by declining to investigate sex trafficking, the federal government will pay more attention to other trafficked people. She disengenuously gives the example of a women who has been waiting a long time to have her trafficking case investigated. Was this delay caused by H.R. 3887? No, because it has not passed the Senate, no less become law. But if it does, the resources the government devotes to human trafficking will actually increase! Needless to say, the Feministing post does not mention this inconvenient fact.

There is a fair amount of dishonest pro-prostitution cheerleading going on at Feministing here, and the fact that the post is long on instrumental outrage but short on specifics is deeply appalling and incredibly suspicious. The text of H.R. 3387 is public information. It was sponsored by Rep. Tom Lantos [D-California] and cosponsored by 42 others, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney [D-New York], who has been written about with great admiration by Feministing bloggers in the past, she was even their “Woman of the Week” once. If not to their readers, don’t the folks at Feminsting at least owe it to Maloney to explain exactly what they think the problem with this bill is, and why?

–Ann Bartow

Updated to add: The United Nations estimates that some 80% of persons trafficked are trafficked for sexual exploitation, most of whom are women and children. These are the folks Podkul doesn’t want to “waste” money helping?

See also. And see also.

From Equality Now:

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) enacted in 2000 is aimed at combating trafficking in persons, whose victims are predominantly women and children, to ensure punishment of traffickers and to protect its victims. While this law has strengthened anti-trafficking measures, it has also proven to be a difficult tool particularly in the prosecution of sex trafficking cases because of the proof requirements of”force, fraud and coercion.” Many victims of trafficking have been lured, deceived or coerced into sexual or labor servitude. Many victims of trafficking know their traffickers. Proving that”force, fraud and coercion”was used at any given time or at all times of trafficking victims’ labor or sexual servitude is ineffective in prosecuting trafficking cases. This”force, fraud, coercion”requirement poses a significant burden on victims, who are often reluctant to testify for a number of reasons, including fear or mistrust of law enforcement, threats by traffickers to harm them or their families or traumatic bonding with their captors. The proof of”force, fraud and coercion”is so onerous for federal prosecutors, that less than 70 sex trafficking cases have been successfully prosecuted since the TVPA was passed.

Owing to this and other inadequacies under the TVPA and because its funding provisions are expiring, new legislation, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3887) aimed at strengthening the TVPA is making its way through Congress. On December 4, 2007, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 3887 (405 to 2), which strengthens the TVPA as it incorporates language from the federal Mann Act that criminalizes anyone who transports a person across state lines for purposes of prostitution, making it much easier to prosecute sex trafficking cases. The Mann Act language would lower the burden of proof by just showing that the individual”persuaded, induced or enticed”a person into prostitution “in or affecting interstate commerce.” The TVPRA also includes provisions that make sex tourism a crime and provides trafficking victims increased protection and services.

It is now up to the Senate to pass H.R. 3887. In January 2008, Equality Now in collaboration with the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), The Feminist Majority, and the National Organization for Women (NOW) wrote a joint letter (PDF 228K) to Senator Joseph Biden and Senator Sam Brownback, reported co-sponsors of the anti-trafficking reauthorization bill, urging each of them to pass the Wilberforce Act as soon as possible.

UPDATE 2: Like Podkul, the Bush Justice Department opposes this bill. Why? In part, BECAUSE IT WILL HELP PROSTITUTED WOMEN. The Bush DOJ’s objections to the bill are articulated here. Among them:

- It will require the DOJ to “waste” money helping adult trafficking victims, when all the DOJ wants to do is help children. Because in Bush World only child victims are innocent enough to be deserving of help?
- It “authorizes federal Victims of Crime Act funds to be provided to prostitutes.” Oh, the horror! Of course Bush’s DOJ does not want to help prostitutes financially. But why doesn’t Podkul?
- It “would allow trafficking victims to stay in the United States pending resolution of a civil suit they filed against the traffickers who had victimized them.” Goddess forbid the victims should get to see their day in court! Of course the Bush Administration wants to deport coerced prostitutes. It doesn’t consider them human.

Hey, guess what else? The Bush DOJ funds Ayuda, Podkul’s employer! What an unexpected coincidence. Not.

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0 Responses to Human Trafficking, Coercive Sex and Feministing

  1. sam says:

    Thank you. I tried to make sense of her assertion that treating prostitution as a victimless crime (brave new feminism, that there) would lead to better treatment of trafficking victims and I couldn’t make the square peg fit the round hole.

  2. sam says:

    Also, “free to leave” is the misogynistic standard used to deny domestic violence. I fear this anti-woman standard for proving sexual abuse is where pornfed feminism’s future lies.

  3. Ann Bartow says:

    I just couldn’t get past the assertion that investigating whether trafficked women were doing sex work voluntarily was BAD for women. WFT? This is TRAFFICKING we are talking about, not voluntary immigration. How can any feminist oppose efforts to reduce COERCED prostitution? Truly sickening, but a coercive pimp’s dream come true.

  4. Ann Bartow says:

    Imagine how the “free to leave” standard will play out (in fact sometimes does play out) in rape cases. Cripes.

    If the Feministing bloggers don’t believe that trafficked women being coerced into prostition is a problem, they should drive on down here to South Carolina and listen to the sad stories of some of the women this has happened to, all poor, mostly WOC. Oh well, why “waste” federal dollars helping them, right? Yeesh.

  5. thebewilderness says:

    It seems a bizaar argument to make. That trafficking crimes are not being investigated now so it would be bad to have even more trafficking complaints filed because that will be the reason that the ones that are not investigated now will be not investigated then.

    There is an implication in there somewhere that if it is not obvious to the authorities that you are in captivity, then you are not.

    I have been having trouble signing in on your site for several months. WordPress is not my friend. Except for today…maybe for a minute.

  6. Ann Bartow says:

    Hello thebewilderness, I’m sorry you have been having trouble commenting. Please e-mail me if it happens again, I hate for you to feel silenced.

    Someone from Equality Now commented at Feministing, but so far no correction or clarification has been issued by the bloggers there. I’m really disappointed in those Feministing folks, to put it mildly. For feminists to oppose a law that facilitates preventing COERCED prostitution really boggles the mind.

  7. Bonita says:

    Podkul is a staff attorney at Ayuda, which the Feminsting post links to. The funders are named here:
    http://www.ayuda.com/pages/page.cfm?pid=9&id=4
    I’m going to contact them to see why they are funding opposition to a law that would help trafficked women who have been forced into prostitution.

  8. Ann Bartow says:

    Bonita, before you do this you might want to ascertain whether Podkul was speaking for Ayuda in her post at Feministing. Though if she wasn’t, failing to mention this in the post was a fairly deceptive and unethical maneuver.

  9. Ann Bartow says:

    Wow, talk about shoveling it:
    http://feministing.com/archives/009350.html
    No legal analysis, no quoting of the text of the actual bill, just pure unhinged, unsupported distortions about how the Bush Administration must be correct about this bill. Well, I call bullshit on that. Equality Now, NOW, The Feminist Majority, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, and anyone with a shred of decency wants this law passed. Just because someone is 18 years of age or older doesn’t mean she can’t be coerced by pimps. The Bush DOJ view may be that those women somehow deserve what happens to them, but I think it’s repugnant and chilling to turn our backs on trafficked women forced into prostitution. I’ve met women this has happened to, and I’ll challenge anyone to look them in the eye and tell them they were “free to leave” or that they brought this on themselves.

    Coercive pimps don’t want to be investigated, while Bush officials don’t want to “waste money” helping coerced prostitutes, whom the Bush DOJ policymakers apparently view as less than human once they reach adulthood, and Feministing is shilling for both of them.

  10. sam says:

    I vehemently disagree with Juhu Thukral that prostitution is an effective means of raising destitute, marginalized women (at least the young and pretty ones judged fuckable-for-money by johns) out of poverty.

    The right to be free from rape and other types of coerced sex applies even to young and pretty women without money.

    If feminists would not say it’s a good thing for a woman to stay in an abusive, not-infrequently deadly relationship to one man because he pays the bills, then they shouldn’t give the thumbs up to women staying in abusive, often deadly relationships with many men because the men pay her bills. When did it became progressive to suggest impoverished women should put up with some (marital) rape and (spousal) abuse so long as they get a comfortable split-level out of it? I always thought that was the conservative, traditional position on male-female relations.

  11. Ann Bartow says:

    Well, Thukral and the Bush Administration agree that women 18 years or older who are coerced into prostitution are unworthy of protection or assistance, that is clear.

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