Wednesday, February 16, 2011

BBC World Debate on Trafficking

The BBC World Debate program recently held a debate on Human Trafficking with panelists Laura Agustin, Author of "Sex at the Margins"; Sophie Flak, Executive Vice-President of Accor; Rani Hong, Trafficking Survivor; Siddharth Kara, Author of "Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery"; and Ronald Noble, Secretary General of Interpol. Unfortunately, BBC videos are not embeddable, so I can only link to them here.

I have to say, this starts out slow, but the debate picks up quickly. These are really difficult discussions that I think are important for the field to have. There are some quick points that obviously were not settled and it would be great to hear the point of view of our readers:
  • For all of the controversy that Agustin creates through her candidly hardened point of view, some of her points are difficult issues that service providers are faced with every day. At one point she stated that people are often educated or trained on the worst possible scenarios of trafficking, but that migration often invokes a range of abuse and exploitation. While some members of the audience disagreed with the premise of debating the definition, without (a more specific) one, do we risk missing potential victims and/or exposing/deporting migrants who then do not meet this "worst possible scenario?"
  • Will it ever be possible to have reliable numbers of those trafficked? If not, will that affect the work of advocates and how?
  • Just generally, how does the language we use surrounding trafficking affect the way we combat it? When we use numbers we don't fully understand? When we overly associate it with organized crime? Etc.
Thank you for any responses!

1 comment:

  1. I think it's encouraging that you're apparently finally beginning to wonder about your certainties regarding trafficking. Laura's work has been out there for YEARS and you folks in the rescue industry have largely ignored it because, frankly, it's not in your interest to take it seriously, though it is VERY MUCH in the interests of most of the people who get labled "trafficking victims" by you folks.

    I have been reading this blog, on and off, for about three years now and the dogmas you express shock the hell out of me. I work with prostitutes and immigrants in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and I can say for a fact that most of what you've posted here regarding the situtation in this country is at best greatly exagerated and very often COMPLETELY wrong.

    Jelani Cobb, whose article you've linked the world to, is not an authority on anything brazilian. He came here ONCE. For a WEEK. He does not speak the language. He does not know jack about how prostitution works here. His article in Essence is full of misinterpretations and simply BAD information. (I detailed the problems with that article when you posted it but you pretty much chose to ignore those comments.)

    The Prostitution Inc. articles are equally as bad. The CATW's claims about Brazil's child prostitution problems are straight off-the-wall ludicrous. At one point on some of their websites, they were claiming that Brazil had more children "vulnerable to sexual exploitation" than were actually children in Brazil. They do not check their facts: they simply repeat what like-minded individuals say. Brazil does have a child prostitution problem, as do most countries. How big is it? WE SIMPLY DO NOT KNOW. A lot of people make a lot of claims and very few of those claims are backed up by anything like solid research.

    I can tell you one thing, however: I work on copacabana beach, which is probably the largest sexual tourism venue in Brazil and I RARELY see minors prostituting themselves. Very rarely.

    Almost as many religious figures have been accused of molesting chidren in Brazil, according to our 1-800 (disque 100) anti child abuse hotline as foreign tourists. These stats come straight from the federal government hotline. Last year, a priest in Pernambuco excommunicated a 13 year old girl who had been raped by her step father. Why? She had an abortion to get rid of the child. The stepfather was not excommunicated, however. This is the reality of the vast majority of child sexual abuse in Brazil: it's family, neighbors and authority figures with access to the kid's life who are doing the abusing, not foreign tourists.

    I look at the information you post about Brazil is and it frustrates the hell out of me, because the sense of moral panic you contribute to hurts many of my friends who are men and women in the sex industry. It also draws resources away from fighting the main scourge of child sexual abuse - family, freinds and neighbors - into a witch hunt directed against foreign tourists. You don't have even a basic understanding of this country's realities, and yet you go about declaiming about situations you know nothing about.

    I can only speak with authority on the Brazilian information you've provided to your readers, but I very much doubt that the information provided regarding the rest of the world is better.

    Laura Augustin is right: with the best of intentions, people like you are helping make life difficult for immigrants, especially if they work in the sex industry. You folks need to rerassess your prejudices and wonder how many human rights violations are being CAUSED by mass brothel raids and the forced deportation of immigrants in the name of anti-trafficking.