Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Overhaul - part 2

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I have changed my mind once again.

My first big theory about the main cause of human trafficking was that there’s a big demand for prostitutes but a low supply of women who are ready to sell sexual services, that should keep the prices for visiting prostitutes high, which in turn should attract criminals who want to profit from prostitution by forcing women against their will into prostitution and to make money from them.

I have philosophized a long time about this and I have come to the conclusion that this explanation cannot possibly be true. And the simple reason is that…

by far most prostitutes don’t make so much money at all!!!!

My knowledge stems from the book “sekswerk: ervaringen van vrouwen in de prostitute” (1991) by Sietske Altink, Martine Groen and Ine Vanwesenbeeck. The prostitutes interviewed in this in book are the same as the 60 women in the ‘coping and well-being’ study in the book “Prostitutes’ well-being and risk” (1994) by Ine Vanwesenbeeck. Only a few prostitutes in this study make large amounts of money. Many prostitutes stop according to this study because the earnings are so low.

This has important consequences; it means that the supply and demand of prostitutes is reasonably in balance. There’s no shortage of prostitutes. Basically, human trafficking don’t need to fill the gap, all the women who voluntarily work in prostitution are sufficient to satisfy the demand.

But still, the fact of the matter is that many prostitutes have to deal with forced prostitution. In the ‘coping and well-being’ study almost half of the prostitutes where once forced to work in prostitution by pimps and human traffickers.

But why? What do human traffickers gain by doing this?

I’m forced to search for another explanation. What do victims of human trafficking have in common? What do the voluntary prostitutes have in common?

Lets look at the voluntary prostitutes first. Latin American prostitutes in the Netherlands are known to be very independent. Granted, they often work under very bad conditions in ramshackle window-brothels, they work 12-15 hours a day, and the only clothes they where apart from lingerie are jogging-suits… but they rarely are victims of human trafficking. The most common explanation often put forward is that there’s a large Latin American community in the Netherlands. The Latin American women who work here can easily turn to this community when help is needed. So despite the fact that these women are poor, illegal and don’t speak Western languages, the presence of a community where they can rely on could be a big protection against the exploitation of human traffickers.

That’s perhaps a reason why Eastern European prostitutes are so dependent on human traffickers. The traffickers are the only people where the women can rely on. There’s not a big Eastern European community in the Netherlands.

The same could be true for Ghanaian prostitutes. I always thought that basically all African prostitutes are trafficked and controlled by evil madams and have to pay back large debts. I recently read old reports which described African prostitutes as very independent of pimps, and very professional even compared to Latin American prostitutes. It turns out that they mainly speak of prostitutes from Ghana. The prostitutes controlled by madams mainly come from Nigeria. What could be the explanation? There’s a large Ghanaian community in the Netherlands. But there’s also a large Nigerian community in the Netherlands. Hmmmm, that’s not an explanation.

But why do we have the strange phenomenon that so many Dutch women are trafficked in prostitution? (I don’t want to exaggerate, we are probably dealing with several hundreds of Dutch victims)

Is it because many victims of human trafficking are illegal? No, that's not the reason. Actually, organizations such as the Red Thread and Tampep point out that even many legal Eastern European prostitutes depend on human traffickers. (also see my post about Eastern European prostitutes)

This is a total mystery.

Perhaps the real explanation is not so straightforward.

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