11 March 2013. A World to Win News Service
This year on 8 March, International Women’s Day, as thousands of women were marching in central London to protest violence against women, a woman was performing a protest dance in Underground station where she had been harassed and molested. At the same time a woman in prison was writing a poem to recite her story, saying that her main “crime” was that she was a woman.
On this day women in India continued to protest the gang rape of Amanat, an act so brutal it shocked the world. Women in Argentina were outraged at traffickers of women and their backers in the justice system. Women in Sudan are fighting child marriage. Women in Pakistan and Kurdistan are fighting against honour killings. Women in Turkey are standing against increasing violence and anti-abortion laws. Women in Iran are fighting state violence and the Islamic laws intended to drive women out of various social activities.
Women in Afghanistan are fighting both the backward rule of the U.S.-backed fundamentalists and the Taliban. It was reported that over 1,500 actions took place in the U.S. to protest discrimination and violence against women. Violence against women has taken many different forms. One form that gravely threatens the lives and status of the women in a world scale is the trafficking of woman. This trade in women’s bodies has the following particularities:
(1) Despite its very long history, in recent decades it has greatly increased in most countries of the world. This growth is shocking and a threat for every young woman and teenage girl in today’s world.
(2) Despite its history, it is not rooted in any particular culture, tradition, religion or country. It is a fairly new phenomenon in terms of its current scale, rising in tandem with the globalization of capitalism.
(3) It is not only a form of violence in its own right, but also an important source of “supply” fostering other forms of violence and the degradation of women, such as sex slavery, prostitution and pornography.
(4) The so-called sex industry generates billions of dollars for the imperialist world economy. It has become an integral part of world capitalism and its functioning, both economically and ideologically.
(5) Despite gestures of opposition by ruling class representatives, the scale of this trade and the associated phenomena highlight the connection between modern class society and imperialism and one of the most terrifying forms of violence against women. At the end of the nineteenth century and the turn of the twentieth, as capitalism entered its highest stage, imperialism, the trafficking of the women became a noticeable social problem that led to international agreements to “prevent the procuration of women and girls for immoral purposes abroad.” In the U.S. it led to the passing of the Mann Act of in 1910, a law that “forbids transporting a person across state or international lines for prostitution or other immoral purposes”. Did these international agreements and laws suppress the trafficking of women?
Reality shows that such trafficking has been increasing throughout the twentieth century, including in the post-World War 2 economic boom in some countries. Since the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the surge in globalisation, it has been growing exponentially. Despite the statements and laws against it, sex trafficking is growing on an unprecedented scale. Women and children are kidnapped from poor regions of the world, transported from their villages and towns and sold at auction to dealers in human beings to supply the so-called sex-industry in the U.S. and Europe, Australia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and other well-off countries where there is a big market for it. Apart from those who are kidnapped, there are those who are tricked into the sex trade by the promise of employment abroad as a waitress, nanny or other unskilled job. The desperation of their families often blinds them to the life of agony and misery that waits them. The woman’s travel to the destination is arranged by organised gangs with international connections.
When she is taken to the employer (slave owner), she is told she will be held until she reimburses her travel expenses, an amount that she simply cannot pay. She now realises the reality behind the promises but it is far too late. She is threatened in various forms with harm to her family back home, then beaten, raped or gang raped, drugged and in many cases addicted to make any resistance or thought of escape impossible. There are other ways to lure young girls into sex trafficking, such as false marriage proposals by supposed boyfriends or through social networks.
In some cases children are sold by parents or relatives for a small amount of money because of extreme poverty. The United Nations estimates that every year between 700,000 and 4 million women and children are trafficked around the world for purposes of forced prostitution, labour and other forms of exploitation. South and South-East Asian countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand and India are the worst effected regions. Millions of female children and teenage girls are sold or trafficked internally within the country or to a more well-off country in the West or elsewhere.
The number of prostitutes in Cambodia during the 1980s was estimated at about 1,000. In recent years there are an estimated 55,000 women and children working as sex slaves. More than a third are under the age of 18. Cambodia’s sex trade generates half a billion dollars a year. There is no doubt that war has been an influencing factor in the rising number of rapes, gang rapes, sex assaults and kidnapping of women and girls for sex slavery in countries like Congo. The arrival of 15, 000 UN “Peace Keepers” in Cambodia in the 1990s boosted the trade in women, but the problem has grown far worse even after the end of the war there.
Every year more than 50,000 women and children (a total of 750,000 over the last decade) are trafficked into the U.S. from nearly 50 countries around the world, including Mexico, Honduras, Latvia, Korea, Japan, Cameroon, Taiwan, India and Vietnam. According to a BBC report: “Tenancingo is a Mexican town built on sex trafficking – with little alternative employment, it’s become the only way to make money. Young women from across Mexico are duped into becoming sex slaves by wealthy men living in grand homes, offering them work or even marriage.
Needing money for their families, the women discover too late they’re being sold into prostitution, often in the U.S. One Mexican charity estimates there are 1,000 traffickers in Tenancingo, out of a total population of 10,000.” According to the same report, “”Maria’ was 17 years old when she was lured to Mexico with promises of a new life. Instead she was forced into prostitution and sold from one bar to another. For those women trafficked in Mexico, the capital, Mexico City, is a central hub. From there, many are smuggled to the US, or exploited in border towns and tourist resorts.” The victims brought from Mexico to the U.S. are as young as 14. They may be forced to have sex with as many as 130 men per week in a trailer park. What has ensured that this trafficking can continue is the complicity of the police and officials at the highest level, including in the justice system.
This complicity with traffickers has been revealed in many cases over the last decades. Allegations have been brought against top Montenegrin government officials for their complicity in the forced prostitution, illegal detention, rape and torture of a 28-year old Moldovan woman, Svetlana. Six high-ranking government officials and the country’s Deputy State Prosecutor, Zoran Piperovic, were among them. (www.protectionproject.org) A recent case in Argentina is another example. When police did not help a mother named Susana Trimarco whose young daughter Marita Veron had been kidnapped, she started going from one brothel to another to look for her daughter herself. She was threatened but she continued until she found evidence that her daughter had been kidnapped. After a decade-long crusade she brought to court 13 of the kidnappers who had sold Marita to traffickers who forced her into prostitution.
She was threatened if she did not abandon the case but she refused. After the courts cleared the kidnappers, people became outraged and waged a mass protest last December. Out of the estimated 10,0000 Latin American women trafficked across the Mexican borders into the U.S. per year, 47 prosecutions took place in 2010 and only four traffickers were convicted. In the U.S., with so-called tough laws against trafficking, more than 50,000 women were trafficked across the country’s borders in 2009-10. Yet there were only 103 human trafficking cases prosecuted and 141 people convicted. Let’s look at a sex offender in the UK and the government’s response. After the death of Sir Jimmy Savile, a long-time and well-known presenter for BBC, he was revealed to have been a very active sex offender throughout his lifetime.
Using his position at the BBC and charities to contact young girls, he raped and assaulted hundreds of girls and young women – so many that the real number is not known. BBC officials and the police ignored numerous tip-offs and turned a blind eye to his behaviour. Most of the victims did not dare make a public accusation against such a “respected” and well-protected public figure. When some did, nothing happened. The system is in reality fomenting sex abuse and trafficking. The sex trade and the capitalist system In fact this issue of the sex trade or the so-called sex industry has concentrated many of the contradictions of this rotten and exploitive system.
(1) Women and their bodies have become a commodity to be bought and sold.
(2) Trading women as sex slaves for prostitution and pornography has become a growing branch of the world capitalist economy, pouring tens of billions of dollars a year into the broader economy. For example, the income from the “sex industry” composes 5 percent of the total national income of Holland.According to a BBC report, the human trafficking industry generates $32 billion annually on a global scale.
(3) In its international division of labour, imperialism has assigned some countries to produce “sex tourism” and prostitutes to be “consumed” in more well-off countries. The tourist industry in many South-east Asian countries revolves around prostitution. Hundreds of thousands of youth and teenagers in those countries are forced into prostitution. More than 20 percent of economic activities in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines involve prostitution. It is estimated that prostitution brings around four billion dollars in annual income to Thailand, Brazil, Cuba, Russia, Kenya and many other countries.This situation intersects with pressures from the IMF and World Bank for some of these countries to expand their tourist economy. Many of those working for travel agencies, hotels and clubs, bars and airlines actually owe their jobs to the use of women and children as tourist attractions.
(4) This trade has ensured the profitability and continuity of the sex industry as well as the oppression of women. The worth of a woman’s life is given an economic evaluation: A transaction involving ten, thirty or fifty dollars is worth more than her whole life. The money is more important than she is, and by paying it a man can do whatever he wants with her. In sum, the trade in women has increasingly become an integral part of capitalism and its patriarchal social system. It is consistent with the system both economically and ideologically. Efforts to crack down on this trade have not changed that situation, which has become worse. The problem is not the corruption of a few officials.
The problem is the whole system where everything is organised based on profit and male supremacy. Patriarchy has been an important and integral part of all exploitative systems, but the capitalist system not only has not eliminated this oppression, it has promoted terrifying forms in which it continues.