For some, my constant ramblings about prostitution may not make sense in the light of working in the human trafficking field. However, they are so intertwined, as I hope you will see below. However, I also want to add one word of caution, just because prostitution and human trafficking are intertwined, does not mean that they should be treated the same way. Individualized interventions do need to take place. Also, I don’t want to overshadow trafficking for labor or for body parts, as so often happens. Finally, I feel the need to point out, even though it is not the exact topic on hand, that victims of labor trafficking and trafficking for body parts are also subjected to sexual violence.
Human trafficking and prostitution are intrinsically linked through sex trafficking. Human trafficking, also known as “modern day slavery,” is an umbrella term that encompasses several forms of exploitation including debt bondage, sex slavery, forced labor, and trade in human body parts. Human traffickers prey upon and exploit economically marginalized persons making trafficking a geographic phenomenon from poor, underdeveloped, and war torn countries into developed countries.
Leidholdt explains that a staggering percentage of prostitutes in many western countries are illegal immigrants; more than 50% in Germany and as much as 80% of Dutch prostitutes are foreign born. He surmises that most of these illegal immigrants were trafficked into brothels. Moreover, he argues that all other prostitution could be understood as domestic trafficking due to the violence, the women’s lack of control, and her inability to leave. Cwikel et al. studied prostitutes in brothels and prostitutes waiting deportation in Israel. The women awaiting deportation had been trafficked into brothels; however, their demographic and trafficking history was extremely similar to the brothel sample. This group of victims of trafficking had a meager 17% meet the diagnostic cut off for PTSD. Seventy nine percent, however, scored in the very depressed range of the Short Depression scale; this was significantly higher than results of the brothel sample. Additionally, 47% had considered suicide, 19% had attempted suicide at least once, and 9.5% had attempted suicide more than once.
Additional citations and statistics from:
Cwikel, J., Chudakov, B., Paikin, M., Agmon, K., & Belmaker, R.H. (2004). Trafficked female sex workers awaiting deportations: Comparison with brothel workers. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 7, 243-249.
Stay tuned for the final installation in the series on prostitution aptly named Part V.