Trafficking for sexual slavery

“The treatment by men of women as goods, objects, toys, amusements, or chattels is at the heart of the global trafficking of women into sex markets and those attitudes are the only place to create lasting change in the dynamics of the trade.”

- Brian Iselin, international human trafficking expert

 

A multi-billion-dollar criminal activity

"Trafficking in human beings is a multi-billion-dollar form of international organized crime, constituting modern-day slavery." (Interpol)  

Victims
           •  are recruited and trafficked within or between countries and regions
           •  are, typically, deceived or coerced
           •  are stripped of their autonomy, freedom of movement and choice
           •  are inherently vulnerable
           •  face various forms of physical, sexual and mental abuse.


Trafficking for global sex markets "affects every region in the world, either as a source, transit or destination country.  Women and children from developing countries, and from vulnerable parts of society in developed countries, are lured by promises of decent employment into leaving their homes and travelling to what they consider will be a better life.  Victims are often provided with false travel documents and an organized network is used to transport them to the destination country, where they find themselves forced into sexual slavery and held in inhumane conditions and constant fear." (Interpol)

 


See charts on Trafficked persons by sex and Estimated annual profits, comparing sex slavery with 'other forced work', as estimated by the ILO (International Labour Organization).
   

 

 

Myths and facts

False beliefs about trafficking for sexual slavery are widespread.  Click on each myth and get the facts.

• Traffickers are the main players. FALSE

Traffickers are NOT the main players.  Traffickers are, in fact, mere intermediaries. Although often unscrupulous and brutal, traffickers simply move and supply "the goods" - in this case, the bodies of young women and girls.

Traffickers’ lucrative earnings are possible only through the huge global demand from men - through prostitution, stripping, lapdancing, peep shows, sex tourism, pornography, etc. - who seek a ‘smorgasbord’ of mostly-female bodies of varying ages, ethnicities, and physical characteristics, to meet a wide range of sexual fantasies, sexual titillation and sexual demands.

Traffickers don’t drive sex trafficking.  Male "patrons" of global sex markets do.

But for male demand, there would be no supply.  Sex traffickers would be out of work.  Sex trafficking would cease.  Countless women and girls would experience life free of repeated rapes, sexual exploitation and sexual denigration.

• Poverty is the main cause of sex trafficking. FALSE

Poverty is a significant risk factor for potential victims (most simply wanting a better life) but poverty is NOT the main cause of sex trafficking.  How many poor young men are trafficked into sex markets?

Young women and girls are trafficked into global sex markets first and foremost because they are female, with bodies and orifices that countless men believe they are entitled to use, abuse and exploit.

Male demand, not poverty, is the main cause of sex trafficking. more

• Sex trafficking will be solved by targeting traffickers. FALSE

Targeting traffickers, while commendable, has limited value.  Most operate undetected through small networks or in collusion with corrupt officials, rule victims with threats and violence, and are never likely to come to the attention of law enforcement. 

Targeting a few will have little deterrent impact.  Others will spring up, to take their place.  As long as millions of "patrons" of brothels, lapdancing and strip clubs, sex tourism, etc. feel entitled to seek a 'smorgasbord' of young women of varying ethnicities, characteristics and ages as sex objects, toys, or chattels, profits to traffickers are huge, risks are low.

Efforts to target traffickers, without tackling male demand, will achieve little.

• Sex trafficking will be solved by rescuing victims. FALSE

Rescuing victims is high on the agenda of some agencies.  While commendable, and of immeasurable value to those rescued, rescuing 100 victims will merely give rise to another 100 victims being trafficked and repeatedly raped, if demand by men stays static. more

Efforts to rescue victims, without tackling male demand that drives global sex markets, will achieve little.

• Sex trafficking will be solved by resolving poverty. FALSE

Poverty is a significant risk factor for potential victims (most simply wanting a better life) but poverty is NOT the main cause of sex trafficking.  How many poor young men are trafficked into sex markets?

Young women and girls are trafficked into global sex markets first and foremost because they are female, with bodies and orifices that countless men believe they are entitled to use, abuse and exploit.

Male demand, not poverty is the main cause of sex trafficking.   Male demand will ensure that goods are found somehow – if not from those eager for a better life, then by coercion, fraud, or force. more

Addressing poverty, without tackling male demand that drives global sex markets, will achieve little.

• Sex trafficking will be solved by calling on governments. FALSE

National, regional and international laws, Plans of Action, treaties, etc are important.  However, if they are not matched by calls on the countless men who fuel sex markets through brothels, strip and lapdancing clubs, sex tourism, hardcore pornography, etc. they are largely rhetoric and "window-dressing", achieving little.

• Sex trafficking will be solved by calling on law makers. FALSE

Most countries with laws targeting human trafficking currently criminalise so few traffickers, legislation has virtually no impact.  Deterrence is negligible.

What is required however are laws following the models of Sweden (criminalising those who purchase sexual services) and Iceland (in addition, outlawing clubs that profit from the nudity of employees).  These progressive countries recognise that such activities fuel sex trafficking, the degradation of women and gender inequality.  In recent years, intercepts of traffickers by Swedish intelligence have revealed that Sweden is no longer an attractive destination for sex traffickers, unlike its neighbouring countries.

• Sex trafficking will be solved by calling on law enforcers. FALSE

Scant resources, costly operations, lengthy trials, corruption of officials, etc. are impediments to sufficient numbers of prosecutions worthy of making a difference.

Without efforts to tackle male demand that fuels trafficking of young women and girls into sexual slavery, little will be achieved.  Countless young women and girls will continue to be repeatedly raped, sexually exploited and sexually denigrated, for male use, abuse and entertainment.

 


  Watch this YouTube clip [2:28]

Men - in their words...

“Some are really made to or forced – like raped – and they find there is no other hope for them. Some are being held hostage and in a brothel, not all of them but in situations where she is looking to get out. I felt a little bit guilty when I was in saunas and massage parlours.” (source, p.16)

"They had been shown a group of girls and he thought they were probably trafficked. 'They stood against the wall with a lack of soul, a dead look on their faces...'  
    
Half the stag group left, but the other half stayed."  

- Journalist, interviewing British stag
visitor in Prague

 Stag Party

* * * * * *
Prague
Steak & Tits

One of the most popular activities!

 

"The girls are from Bulgaria, Russia, gypsies, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia... The girls never refuse sex acts. The best sex is without a condom – condoms kill sexual pleasure by 30%.” (source, p.17)

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Men - in their words...

“... the trafficking of persons, particularly women and children, for forced and exploitative labour, including for sexual exploitation, is one of the most egregious violations of human rights that the United Nations now confronts... driven by cruel indifference to human suffering on the part of those who exploit the services that the victims are forced to provide."

- Kofi Annan, then UN Secretary-General

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Putting it bluntly...

Trafficked women don't have a choice.  Men do.
A man who has sex with a trafficked woman rapes her.  He is a rapist, as are the countless men before him and after him.

"Hundreds of men had sex with the [trafficked] woman over the following months
in what Judge Pitts referred to as 'multiple rape'." 
source

 

“Clients could see that I was distressed, but none of them offered to help me”.
Danielle, 15-year-old, trafficked from Lithuania. source

"Sometimes I asked the customers for help but they just laughed at me..."
Rosemary, 19-year-old, trafficked from Nigeria. source 

“Almost daily, those in the anti-trafficking community decry their lack of impact and point to a mounting body of evidence of an upward spiral in trafficking,” says international human trafficking expert Brian Iselin. 

Iselin suggests “that the reason for this lack of impact is that the incomplete analysis regarding the causes of trafficking has negatively influenced our policy responses to human trafficking, and as such, contributed to these weak results. Nothing short of revisiting our initial assumptions will save us from perpetuating flawed responses. Taking Thoreau’s advice, the best way to correct a mistake is to make it right.” 

That mistake?  A failure to tackle male demand.  "To tackle trafficking for sexual servitude without tackling demand is a losing battle," observes Iselin.  "All the expensive measures in the world will add up to nought unless there is an attitude change on the part of men to buying and selling women.” 

 

Tackling demand

Men who buy sex or sexual titillation report that their sex buying behaviour is influenced by factors such as effort, convenience, having the money, risk of prosecution,and a belief that is a harmless activity.  

Most sex buyers are not that committed, observes international human trafficking expert Brian Iselin.  The key to taking buyers out of the sex markets is to make the casual buyer think before acting; to interrupt the transaction. 

How? 

  • Increase the effort needed to buy.  
  • Increase the inconvenience for buying.   
  • Push up price.  
  • Normalise the illegality. 
  • Provide information. 

 

Progressive - and regressive - approaches to demand

In recent years some "progressive" countries have done just that - exploring how best to increase effort, inconvenience and price, normalise the illegality and educate the public towards greater gender equality. Others have done the reverse. 

PROGRESSIVE countries that have said

NO

to sex buying behaviour
to reinforcing sexist attitudes
to accommodating gendered violence
to entrenching gender inequality

by criminalising the buying of sex
and providing exit support to sellers

Sweden Norway Iceland Canada
     
Under consideration: Ireland ♦ Northern Ireland

LIBERAL countries that have said

YES

to sex buying behaviour
to reinforcing sexist attitudes
to accommodating gendered violence
to entrenching gender inequality

by decriminalising or

legalising prostitution

Netherlands Germany Australia New Zealand
     

 

It's a NO-BRAINER! [meaning]

"To tackle trafficking for sexual servitude without tackling demand is a losing battle.  All the expensive measures in the world will add up to nought unless there is an attitude change on the part of men to buying and selling women.”  (Iselin)

 

Find out more, from a list of resources on male demand and sex trafficking.

 

Check out the organisations that are tackling demand and sex trafficking.

 

Bookmark our Sex Trafficking News Updates page and stay informed.

 

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Check out what's happening with Sex Trafficking in New Zealand.
 

Stop Demand's focus is on the cumulative, endemic gendered sexual violence, sexual exploitation and sexual denigration committed by men against women and (mostly girl) children around the world.  Countless lives are shattered! 
It is not inevitable.  It CAN stop.

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