Something Here is Very Strange.

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So, The Nation published an article called “The Crusade Against Sex Trafficking” by Noy Thrupkaew. This article focuses on one organization only, “the International Justice Mission, an evangelical Christian organization devoted to combating human rights abuses in the developing world.” But a number blogs of blogs are linking to the story in a way that encourages generalizations about all organizations that are trying to address sex trafficking, for example the link at Feministing asks: “Do organizations and officials that try to help women out of forced prostitution hurt more than they help?” According to the article in The Nation, the International Justice Mission uses brothel raids, and this approach is counterproductive. Supposedly there will be a follow up article that “will explore alternative approaches to addressing the problem of trafficking for the purposes of forced prostitution.” I look forward to reading that, because the strong impression I got from this article was that working as forced prostitutes is the best these women and girls (some as young as 8) can hope for out of life, and the IMJ should just mind its own creepy Christian Bush loving icky sex-hating Christian business.

Something very strange – Here is an except from the article:

Ping Pong is frowning, her formidable charm dampened by memory. The sex worker is mulling over IJM’s work in Thailand. As a health and legal-services advocate with the sex-worker organization Empower, she’s seen the aftereffects firsthand.

“Oh, yes, there were problems,” she says at last. “The deportation–and back to Burma! They were desperate to leave in the first place. The long detention. The girls running away. And the way they treated other NGOs, just expecting them to clean up the mess afterward. Even the other anti-trafficking groups couldn’t get along with them.”

The name “Ping Pong” stirred a memory about something I read previously about Empower, which was this:

.. Unlike brothels or strip clubs,”Ping Pong Shows”do not lure clients through promises of sexual arousal, but promises of sexual perversion : if not sexual torture. They offer freak shows where women’s bodies are reduced to grotesque objects exploited for tourists’ entertainment.

Thai women who have lost their jobs in villages during the economic downturn often travel to cities such as Bangkok for work and are hired not as sex entertainers, but circus animals.These shows are inherently misogynistic; after all, there is no equivalent of a “ping pong show” for men, in which they use their anal muscles to pop out frogs and pull out razors.

One older woman with a scar across her belly from a c-section confides after her performance at a Ping Pong Show,”I don’t like being here, I feel dirty.”She adds,”I left my village when my factory closed.” Nobody knows when, exactly, Ping Pong Shows began, but they’re increasingly raunchy and dangerous as tourists’ threshold for shock increases. One Bangkok organization, EMPOWER, even instructed women in bar prostitution how to insert and pull out razor blades from their vaginas, according to Melissa Farley, Executive Director of Prostitution Research & Education. “This is understood to be a job requirement in the bar-show setting where tricks are sexually excited by the possibility of the genital mutilation of Thai women,” notes Farley.

Maybe it makes sense that a sex worker working with a sex worker organization would call herself “Ping Pong” but I have to think this was some kind of bad joke on Thrupkaew, who quotes another Empower representative for the proposition that “sometimes the best interests of the women and what they want fits more closely with brothel owners than with the rescue organizations or police.”

Thrupkaew may not acknowledge this, but there are NGOs other than IMJ working on sex trafficking issues in Thailand. Read about a couple of them here.

–Ann Bartow

This entry was posted in Acts of Violence, Coerced Sex, Sisters In Other Nations, Women and Economics. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Something Here is Very Strange.

  1. hysperia says:

    Thanks so much for the link provided here. I read The Nation article with great concern. The NGO seemed terribly badly organized. If you don’t have an organization that can keep women out of the hands of virtual detention centres and police who are more than likely to be abusive, if you can’t provide medical care and social services and re-training opportunities, then you certainly can’t hope to be effective. To conclude that therefore it’s doing more harm than good to provide women with a way out of sexual slavery seems somewhat obvious to me in the circumstances described. But who could fail to see that there can and must be a different set of circumstances?

  2. Ann Bartow says:

    Hysperia, you should check out articles written by writers who are interested in constructive change, rather than defending a status quo of sex slavery. I’ll try to get some links up at this blog to direct you to soem good ones. Pimps are very good at manipulating people like Noy Thrupkaew, as her article I think makes obvious. Other journalists are better equipped to critique failed responses to sex trafficking and sex slavery without doing PR work for pimps.

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