Monday, July 30, 2007


I managed to find out how large the total information on my blog really is (drag it to WORD).

On A4-sized paper this is near 200 pages, and when you print it as a pocket-sized book it would be over 400 pages!!!

I already wondered why I lost overview over my blog.

It is really meant as a short summary for potential clients of prostitutes (not that they would ever use this information).

Hmmmm, perhaps I should make a short summary of a summary.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Goals, Methodology and Conclusions


I will try to give my research a more scientific basis by stating the goals and working methods. I’m thinking long and hard how to do this and it’s extremely difficult. I’m still not satisfied so there will be a lot of tinkering. Actually, this is part of a complete overhaul, but I have no time to waste.

The Goal is to find out from a viewpoint of a critical consumer which prostitute is forced and which one is not. I will use the following ideas of what voluntary/forced prostitution is:
-The right of sexual self-determination of a prostitute. As long as she cannot decide for herself what she does with her body than I consider that person as forced. So when there’s somebody in the background who decides when and where the prostitute works then I see the prostitute as forced. I don’t believe it makes a difference if the woman knew that she would work as a prostitute or if she already was a prostitute before she enters a situation of forced prostitution. I believe also prostitutes have the right to sexual self-determination. I look wider than only physical force, also emotional and financial force by third persons I consider as forced.
-The prostitute must have the ability to exert her own will. Somebody who works to maintain a drug addiction or who is psychologically not in order I also consider as forced, because that person cannot voluntarily decide to work in prostitution.


I will list some methods I used to study prostitution in the Netherlands and some of their results.

-The first and most obvious thing you would do is to find out if you can directly see if a prostitute is forced.

But in my opinion you cannot judge by the behaviour of a prostitute if she is forced. I base myself on eyewitness reports but also on common sense. Of men who have visited prostitutes I know that prostitutes who offered good quality service including the “girlfriend-experience” afterwards turned out to be victims of human trafficking after all. I know for instance from clients who visit FKK-clubs in Germany that many Eastern European prostitutes who work there do that under the pressure of pimps, but these women still offer much better quality than for instance Dutch prostitutes in the Netherlands.

I seems that everybody thinks that clients are clairvoyant. Take for instance Maria de Cock of the Foundation against Human trafficking (Interview from Het AD, 12 September 2005, translated from Dutch):
What we want to do is to make clients more aware and we will actively ask to pass on abuses to justice. Because a whore-hopper can excellently see if a woman prostitutes under coercion.
Even Karina Schaapman seems to believe that (see "Het onzichtbare zichtbaar gemaakt, prostitutie in Amsterdam anno 2005" [The invisible made visible, prostitution in Amsterdam in the year 2005”). From a selection of quotes from it is concluded that (translated from Dutch):
(…) clients actually are aware of the fact if one prostitutes under coercion or voluntarily.
I’m of the opinion that things are not that simple. A prostitute who enters prostitution on her own accord could hate her job and ooze that out (hmmm, if that's such a good thing, but it's 'consensual' anyway....). Perhaps the fact that a prostitute is looking depressed could have nothing to do with the fact that she is working in prostitution; perhaps a family member died or something else terrible has happened.
A victim of human trafficking can under pressure of virtual debts and threats of violence act as if she enjoys her work to satisfy the clients. Also looking for loitering pimps won’t yield anything. Many victims of human trafficking are not guarded 24 hours a day. Many times the threats of violence towards the victim and her family members are enough to comply. Also many women who work for their boyfriend or husband are often not guarded, and won’t ooze out that they are coerced, these women often don’t believe that they are forced. On I count of the almost 4000 prostitutes reviewed in the Netherlands, at most 30 women where the client notices that she could be forced by a pimp. That’s less than 1 percent. In those cases there’s clearly a guy circling around the woman or she has a showy tattoo on her body with an Arab or Turkish name. That nearly always happens in window prostitution followed on a large distance by prostitution at home (privéontvangst, private reception). Controlling pimps in these sectors of prostitution are much better visible. In a club you won’t find a pimp hanging around (except for FKK-clubs in Germany where this does often happen).

Also you will not see bruises on the prostitutes (on I count three prostitutes where the client says that she has bruises). By the way, that is a mystery to me. Especially because of the fact that human traffickers often use excessive violence against the prostitutes, you would expect that (if human trafficking is indeed such a huge problem) that there must be a lot of prostitutes behind windows with visible bruises. Yet I’ve never seen them.
In some Volkskrant-articles written by Menno van Dongen some possible explanations are given for this contradiction. In the article “een geraffineerd spel” [A clever game] (May 12th 2007) a human trafficking gang is described (translated from Dutch):
Beatings often take place in these circles, but treating the women with baseball bats is another story. Victims who spoke about this with the police nearly all said that immediately after they were beaten up, they were put in cold water. Then you get much fewer bruises.
In another article written by Menno van Dongen in de Volkskrant (“Toch weer verliefd op een pooier” [Yet in love with a pimp again”], May 17th 2007) a former prostitute says that (translated from Dutch):
He squeezed out cigarettes on my body and beat me up. I had to polish off the bruises with make-up, then you didn’t see much of it with that dimmed light behind the windows. When I looked bad, I had to take rest. But then I built up a debt, which I had to repay by working longer.
The book “Ga je mee schat?” [Will you accompagny me honey?] (1998, Henk Ruigrok, Bert Voskuil) describes the Polish Maria (on page 92, translated from Dutch)
The next day I had to go again. But I didn’t want to. Then I was beaten again. In such a way that we didn’t get black eyes. The disabled Moroccan let one of his helpers hold my hands behind my body and then he hit me with a glass cola bottle on my stomach. It hurt a lot. Then you do give in.
On the blog of Rob Zijlstra (court reporter based at Groningen) a case of forced prostitution is described in the article "loverboys" (Rob Zijlstra, February 1st, 2005):
The public prosecutor – he demanded a sentence of 24 and 30 months – bases himself predominantly on wiretapped telephone conversations, from which he amply cited to convince the court. Furthermore, in the home of one of the suspects an article was found about loverboys [pimps]. Epilogue is written at the top of the article, written by one of the suspects. It says among other things that if you beat a woman, you must never hit her in the face. After all, with torn lips or a black eye you can’t play whore. Hitting on the head with the flat of one’s hand, that works.

Also this is denied by the suspect. The article is not from his brain, but he transcribed it, out of boredom, from the Libelle or the Margriet [Dutch ladies’ magazines], or something. But the public prosecutor had let it been checked out and let it known that these ladies’ magazines, and also not de Viva, de Tina and de Flair have published such an article.
That would mean that human traffickers could use special techniques to make sure that injuries are not visible.

It is not necessarily so that a loitering man who keeps an eye on the prostitute means any harm. It could be out of genuine concern that her boyfriend keeps an eye on her. The Norwegian researchers Cecilie Hoigard and Liv Finstad studied street prostitutes in the eighties in Oslo (see the book: “Backstreets: Prostitution, Money and Love”, 1992). It occurred to them that actually the men who were loitering around in the neighbourhood of the prostitute actually were the nicer pimps. Men who use violence on their women often just sit down at home!!!!

In my views I feel confirmed by the fieldwork of Liesbeth Venicz. In the period 1997/1998 she has done fieldwork among window prostitutes in Groningen. Her experiences are written down in the report: “Achter de ramen – veldwerk onder raamprostituees in Groningen” [Behind the windows – fieldwork among window prostitutes in Groningen] (1998). She says:
(translated from Dutch)
On page 3:
The foreign women are not so dependent as the popular image wants to, on the contrary. Also the Dutch woman are by far not all those independently working women like we want to see them.
How sensitive the prostitutes are to that image, becomes clear through the smoke screens the women lay around them, especially when they don’t completely work voluntarily. This makes the stories that I hear, sometimes very confusing. (…)
Again and again I was confronted with the fact that I judged too quickly about a situation. Behind every image that I formed of a woman there turned out to be another, more nuanced story. A very independent looking woman, allowed herself to be given a black eye by her boyfriend. A woman who I thought looked like she was succumbing, turned out to have a surprising resilience.
About Dutch prostitutes who work for pimps she says (on page 10):
It must be emphasized that this concerns not all Dutch girls. There are also girls who do work independently, sometimes after working for some time for a pimp-boyfriend, or who choose to maintain their boyfriend and decide for themselves what amount of money they hand over to him. Through the smoke screens the women create around themselves, it is not easy to say with precision who does or does not belong to this group.
And on page 25:
The girls often don’t always look like being under pressure. Also women with a self-confident posture sometimes turn out to be a victim of human trafficking.
My question is: if this aid worker – who is better able to come in contact with prostitutes - cannot even know or see that prostitutes are forced or not, how can clients?

Main conclusion: clients cannot judge from the behaviour of the prostitute if she is forced or not, except perhaps under extreme conditions.

The next question is then, are there other ways to know for a client to know if a prostitute is working voluntarily? Obviously, if you personally know a prostitute, then it’s possible. I can image that via an internet forum you could get in contact with a prostitute and first get to know that person. Or perhaps another client knows several prostitutes really well and is certain that they are free, and who could refer you to them or vice versa. But this is very time-consuming I guess, you have to build a real network for this to be possible. I think it is possible. But for many potential clients this would cost too much time, so there must be other ways.

Perhaps there are certain brothels where they take care of these things? For instance, making sure no prostitute enters the brothel who is forced?

The sad answer is NO!!!! Not according to a research by criminologist Frank Bovenkerk and others. I quote from their report: 'Loverboys' of modern pooierschap in Amsterdam [‘Loverboys’ or modern pimphood in Amsterdam] (2004)
(translated from Dutch)
Page 60-61:
A representative of the luxurious club-business tells us that in his segment only independent women can work who really know what they’re doing. He will initiate them, supplies them with all kinds of information about work and health and explains the terms. If they come with pimp-type (immigrant) boyfriends, he will try to get rid of the situation and not to incite aggression: ‘I will not employ her because she doesn’t realise where she’s heading’. Girls who work under duress are unprofessional. He doesn’t want controlling men in his place who are receiving money and he doesn’t want to be disturbed by men who repeatedly call their girls with a mobile phone. No, these girls could better go to window-prostitution, because there they can make more money by the conveyer-belt type of work [typical of window-prostitution] and the young man can supervise his girlfriend better.
We don’t rule out that entrepreneurs in the prostitution-business really don’t know that she works for a pimp. And indeed: some of them stand firm. But the girls we interview have to chuckle about it. The doorkeeper of the club of which we spoke the aforesaid owner, knows very well who is waiting outside. They assure us that they very easily can get started in all sectors of prostitution, and that the entrepreneurs know damn well that they work for a pimp.
So the clear answer is, sex operators do nothing to stop pimps and human traffickers. Lets look for other ways.

-I have tried to compare the characteristics of victims of human trafficking with the characteristics of prostitutes in general. Unfortunately, information about victims of human trafficking is present but not of prostitutes in general. I had to search the client-reviews on the website to search for characteristics of prostitutes. I mainly look for ages and nationalities. Unfortunately I didn’t do it really thoroughly. For instance, I didn’t note down per prostitute what was the period when she was observed. But the largest segment of prostitutes were observed in 2005 and a smaller group in 2002-2004. But that causes few problems nonetheless. You can now look what are the differences and similarities between the prostitutes described on and victims of human trafficking like they are described by the Foundation against Trafficking in Women. If it’s true that certain groups of victims are underrepresented then it could be that also in reality there are relatively fewer of them. The problem only is then that you have to assume that victims like they are registered are representative of the victim of human trafficking. That is probably not true because you cannot easily separate the voluntary from the forced prostitutes, there probably is a more gradual transition. I have the strong suspicion that the characteristics of the victims like registered at the Foundation Against Trafficking in Women don’t give a representative picture of persons in general who you could describe as victim of human trafficking. What strikes me is that in the media-articles and in many studies which describe victims of human trafficking by far most victims didn’t know that they would work in prostitution, and they were also subjected to lots of violence. The reality in the field is that probably the large majority of the prostitutes who fall under the definition of human trafficking actually knew that they would work in prostitution.
You could also wonder if the prostitutes reveal their real ages and nationalities to the customers on For instance, it is known that in the nineties many Russian prostitutes worked with forged Polish passports to circumvent the visa requirements (see the report "Mensenhandel vanuit Centraal- en Oost Europa", 1997 by the IPIT and IRT Noord en Oost Nederland).

The end result of this method is that when you take all the statistics literally, then you must conclude that:
1. The percentage of the prostitutes who are victims of this crime probably doesn't reach the 10 percent.
2. That Latin American and Thai prostitutes are far less often victims of human trafficking than the rest of the prostitutes.
3. That most Eastern European prostitutes are from Poland and the Czech Republic and that these prostitutes are far less often victims of human trafficking than the rest, and that among the Eastern European prostitutes this crime relatively often occurs among Bulgarian and Romanian prostitutes.
4. That Dutch prostitutes relatively far less often work in window prostitution, that Dutch forced prostitutes predominantly work in window prostitution, and that Dutch prostitutes in other forms of prostitution than window prostitution are far less often forced into prostitution.
5. That most African prostitutes are from Ghana, that a minority is from Nigeria, and that among African prostitutes forced prostitution predominantly occurs among Nigerian prostitutes.
6. That there is no evidence that forced prostitution occurs more often or less often in the illegal segment of prostitution than in the legal one.
7. That foreign prostitutes who are forced in prostitutes are more or less evenly distributed across all segments of prostitution, and that Dutch forced prostitutes predominantly work in window prostitution.
8. That many prostitutes are relatively old (30+). On the contrary, many registered forced prostitutes are younger than 30. Registered Dutch forced prostitutes only in rare cases are older than 30 and many times are younger than 25.

Perhaps this gives clues to clients how to avoid forced prostitutes. But obviously, these conclusions are based on an oversimplification.

-Furthermore you could search for studies which describe a fairly large number of prostitutes in general, and then look which of these prostitutes were forced and look what their characteristics are. Unfortunately this is not well possible because researchers then possibly only review the prostitutes who have the time to be interviewed. And that possibly are not the prostitutes who are forced because they simply don’t have the time. Such researches won’t give a reliable image. Examples of such researches are:

-Er gaat iets veranderen in de prostitutie [Something’s going to change in prostitution](2000, Liesbeth Venicz, Ine Vanwesenbeeck)
-Sociale positie van prostituees in de gereguleerde bedrijven, een jaar na de wetswijzing [The social position of prostitutes in the regulated prostitution businesses, one year of the the amendment] (2002, Ine Vanwesenbeeck, Mechtild Höing, Paul Vennix)
-De sociale positie van prostituees 2006 [The social position of prostitutes 2006] (2006, Helga Dekker, Ruud Tap, Ger Homburg)
-Hoe (ex)prostituees zich zelf redden — Een onderzoek naar de (afwezigheid van) hulpvragen [How (former) prostitutes fend for themselves — A study into the (absense of) aid requests] (Ine Vanwesenbeeck, Sietske Altink en Martine Groen, 1989)

The last mentioned report (Ine Vanwesenbeeck, Sietske Altink en Martine Groen, 1989) states that:
(translated from Dutch)
On page 11:
For a large group of women the lack of will, wish or possibility to ‘tell their story’ must be hold as decisive for the fact that we didn’t speak with them.
A more or less explicit ‘prohibition’ (by pimp, boss or colleagues) should certainly not be excluded. Illustrative of this is the fact that we have spoken with no women whom at the time of our recruitment have worked under coercion or under very strict restrictions and/or were imposed very heavy restrictions on communication. All women whom we have spoke with about such experiences, had already left this situation behind them.
The first mentioned report (2000, Liesbeth Venicz, Ine Vanwesenbeeck) states that:
(translated from Dutch)
On page 21:
Ever since our fieldwork it already became clear that prostitutes who worked under coercion of third persons didn’t want to cooperate with the interview. It is therefore not surprising that the number of prostitutes that indicate not to work totally voluntarily, is low. Three quarters of the respondents find it completely their own choice to work in prostitution during the last year. For approximately a quarter of the respondents it is not completely their own choice, but for 11,4% it is for the largest part. As a factor which limits their own choice they mainly name financial reasons. Only prostitutes who have recently stopped indicate that they worked (for the largest part) not out of their own free will, but forced by third persons.
But now, something very strange has happened: the aid organization TAMPEP who helps migrants prostitutes in several European countries has also interviewed prostitutes. Look at their report “TAMPEP – analysis – the first year: 1993/1994” on pages 12-13:
In The Netherlands a positive response to our desire to interview the migrant sex workers was registered in 95% of the cases.
Even in those instances where the migrant sex workers were under the direct control of pimps, no major difficulties were noted either for the collection of interviews or for direct contact with the migrant sex workers. If the pimps asked for an explanation regarding the presence of a TAMPEP team worker or the reasons leading to such a prolonged contact with their women, an explanation was provided regarding the role of the TAMPEP worker, their task and the concept of cultural mediation. The fact that those who conducted the interviews were also permanent project workers represented a great advantage in accessing closed circuits and other precarious situations marked by organised crime and exploitation of vulnerable sex workers. In the presence of health workers active within the context of an official European prevention program, it is rather more difficult to close doors and implicitly admit that one is obstacling access to information on, among other things, correct condom use. In addition, as we have already described in previous sections, the influence and authority of brothel owners in The Netherlands is still a force to be reckoned with in the dynamics of relations with pimps and traffickers. Prohibitions, threats and intimidations carried out against TAMPEP workers would isolate pimps from the protection and authority of the Dutch brothel owners. This balancing counter-force to the possible negative attitude of pimps and traffickers was either absent or of very limited import in the other two member states in which TAMPEP was operative. In Italy and Germany it was necessary to establish more direct and personal contacts with third parties who controlled the work places of the migrant prostitutes because their influence on them is much more strong than in the Netherlands. These attempts required time and energy and ingenuity. In many cases, the TAMPEP worker had first to perform some practical interventions among the target group in order to be able to start the interview. In the Netherlands, pimps and traffickers are often guests who reside within the brothels and in this sense their position is completely different: they must be that much more careful in their efforts to conceal themselves and reduce unwanted attention.
This is an absolute miracle to me!!!! This proves that aid workers for some reason are much better able to make contact with prostitutes, even when they are forced. But TAMPEP also hint that they maintain cordial ties with human traffickers!! That is very unorthodox at least!

Also the Scharlaken Koord based on De Wallen have no problems contacting forced prostitutes (in the manifesto Uit het donker opgelicht [Illuminated from Darkness] (2002) it is said that more than half of the prostitutes contacted by the Scharlaken Koord handed over all their earnings to their pimp).

The four reports I mentioned are not representative of prostitutes in the Netherlands in my opinion. It is striking that in the first two mentioned reports many prostitutes indicate that they pay taxes. In the second report that’s two third of the prostitutes, in the first report it is one third. The reality is that probably only a small percentage of the prostitutes pay taxes. Therefore I believe that the researchers have mainly interviewed the more emancipated prostitutes. Look at this report "Handhaving prostitutiebranche door politiekorpsen, belastingdienst, arbeidsinspectie en UWV/GAK" [Enforcements prostitution branch by police forces, tax department and UWV/GAK] (2002, ES&E, Pauline Naber, Léon van Lier)
See page 24: 921 prostitutes were registered at the tax department, only a small fraction of the total number of prostitutes (some 20.000-30.000 on a yearly basis).
In the second mentioned report it is also true that the net response is relatively low; a number of brothels have been approached in that study and only a third (29%) at the end cooperated, and of those brothels only a couple (2) prostitutes cooperated. It is estimated that per brothel some 5,5 prostitutes work there on a daily basis (see the first profeit-studie from 1999 by Visser and others). I therefore believe that the net response is only some 11%.

The third mentioned report (about the social position of prostitutes in 2006) had a higher response. 3,54 prostitutes cooperated per approached brothel (354 prostitutes per 99 brothels). But of the businesses that were approached only 34% cooperated (see page 9). So I estimate that even for this study the net response really is only 22%. Of this group 37 percent (see page 29) made a declaration at the tax department. It must be said though that in this sample the nationalities and ages of the prostitutes have some very strong resemblances with those of the prostitutes I researched on the website (around the period 2002-2005).

-What could be done is to study a random group of prostitutes and ex-prostitutes among a wide range of sectors and then to research a certain subgroup of prostitutes (like the Dutch) and then select the prostitutes who had been forced in the past (assuming that you don’t interview forced prostitutes) and then look in which sector that was. From such a distribution that follows you could draw some conclusions. This way you could find a representative image of the victim of human trafficking. You’ll get a lot more women in view who otherwise would drop out of the picture in case you would study statistics of the Foundation Against Trafficking in Women, or when you study media articles. You can now also decide for yourself which prostitute is forced and which one is not, depending on the definition you use. You can compare that data with the characteristics of all prostitutes in the Netherlands as a whole. For example, when it turns out that all prostitutes in the researched subgroup have worked in the escort then you could draw the conclusion that outside the escort coercion doesn’t occur. Unfortunately you need quite big samples to really get statistically significant results, because by far not all prostitutes you interview have been forced in the past. I think about a 1000 prostitute who you need to interview. And you would have no idea about how large forced prostitution is as a whole, you only know the proportions.

There’s only one study which actually made such an analysis, it’s the fourth report I mentioned (Ine Vanwesenbeeck, Sietske Altink en Martine Groen, 1989). The drawback is that this study mentions such information on the side without many details (PS: among the mainly Dutch prostitutes they interviewed, violence occurred much more often among window prostitutes, and much less often among prostitutes working in clubs).

-If you want to know how large the scale of forced prostitution really is you could exclusively target women who have worked as prostitutes in the past but don’t do that anymore now. You could ask them if they had been forced and then you could ask when that happened and how long that happened, and also how long they have worked independently as prostitutes. Using this data you could calculate roughly for a certain period in the past when these women worked how many actually have been forced on a given moment during that period. I mean a calculation like this:
[The number of ex-prostitutes who have been forced in the past] / [The total number of ex-prostitutes] * [The average number of years the forced ex-prostitutes have been forced] / [The average number of years the forced ex-prostitutes totally worked]

I unfortunately never found a report which has done that.

-And furthermore you could rely on descriptions by prostitutes about their colleagues. What do they know about their colleagues? How many are forced? Where do these forced prostitutes work? Unfortunately it turns out that prostitutes often don’t know that themselves. A large number of them even deny the existence of forced prostitution.
The Norwegian Cecilie Hoigard and Liv Finstad studied street prostitutes in the eighties in Oslo (see the book “Backstreets: Prostitution, Money And Love”, 1992). They also asked prostitutes about pimps among their colleagues. They received mixed results, some said that nearly all prostitutes had pimps. The researchers themselves found out that in reality only a few women had partners you could characterize as pimp (so no violence, manipulation or multiple women who work for them)

-You obviously could also ask the same thing to other persons who are in contact with prostitutes. Like clients, cops or aid workers. Or the butcher on the corner. I especially view information by aid workers as very reliable. Many prostitutes who would not accept researchers do for some reason allow aid workers in. Aid workers see and hear a lot of things. Above all the eye witnesses generally can see things that are overlooked by researchers who take random samples. Unfortunately several sources could be very contradictory. But this could be because prostitutes could differ a lot from each other, per area, per brothel or per time period for example. It is important to look what is the source and to which group of prostitutes the observations are related.

There are many eye witness reports. I could draw some conclusions from these reports. Some of these support the conclusions from the statistical analysis I mentioned earlier, others contradict these conclusions. The conclusions are that:
1. Many prostitutes consented into working in prostitution, but are exploited. Probably the "consented-but-exploited" group is much bigger than the "did-not-consent" group.
2. Ninety percent of the Eastern European prostitutes in window prostitution are reported to be in the power of pimps, and most are exploited.
3. Latin American prostitutes are reported to be very independent, with the notable exception of Brazilian prostitutes who form a large minority among the Latin American prostitutes.
4. There are many more eyewitness reports pertaining to window prostitution compared to other forms of prostitution. Many eyewitness reports in window prostitution are from import players like policemen and aidworkers. Eyewitness reports in other sectors of prostitution are very anecdotal and fragmented.
5. Many window prostitutes in general are reported to be forced. Perhaps even most window prostitutes are forced.
6. There seems to be a drug and alcohol problem in the Dutch sex industry. However, it must be admitted that many prostitutes interviewed in recent evaluation reports seem to refute this.
7. Many prostitutes seem not to have the complete right to refuse clients and cannot completely decide their working hours. This is also less clear because for instance the statements of the Red Thread (which are negative) contradict those of prostitutes interviewed in evaluation reports.
8. Eye-witness reports indeed seem to suggest that forced prostitutes are generally younger women, but according to some sources there are also some older forced prostitutes.

-In the case of prostitutes you have to take into account the fact that they could lie about their situation. For instance, in the report of Geetanjali Gangoli about prostitutes in India (2001, “Prostitution as Livelihood, ‘Work’ or ‘Crime’?”) it is being said that:
During the course of my fieldwork, I found however, that while many women start off by telling stories of coercion and violence, once a relationship is established, the stories often change. As a paper on sex-workers in a South African mine points out, people’s stories of being tricked into sex-work were remarkably similar, almost a part of a script. However:
“… the objective veracity of people’s accounts is not the most important or interesting feature of the life histories. What is more important is how people reconstruct and account for their life choices, given that these accounts reflect the social identities that play a key role in shaping people’s sexual behavior. In this context, the main interest of these stories of origin lies in the role that they play as a strategy for coping with a spoiled identity …” [uit: Catherine Campbell, Selling Sex in the Time of AIDS: Identity, Sexuality and Commercial Sex-work on a South African mine. Social Science and Medicine. Volume 50 (2). 2000.]
On the other hand, the Christian aid workers in the manifesto Uit het donker opgelicht [Illuminated from Darkness] (2002) on the contrary say that (translated from Dutch):
We as aid workers know that the women as a first response always say that everything goes fine and that her profession poses no problem, until we gain deeper contact. Then the poignant causes often come to the surface.
Prostitutes could give a more positive image of reality. A former victim says in an interview: Vrouwenhandel/retourtje Kiev-Amsterdam [Trafficking in Women/Round-trip Kiev-Amsterdam] (Trouw, 2002, Ruth Hopkins, translated from Dutch)
She came knocking at the police bureau Warmoesstraat and, on the recommendation of the police, reported against the people who exploited her. “I have given them the living address, the license number and the working address of Olga, everything. Because I was afraid of reprisals of the Yugoslav I said that I knew that I would come to work in prostitution.”
-And obviously you also could combine the different sources. If a certain sector within prostitution is well described by eyewitnesses and you know that a lot (or not a lot) of victims of human trafficking work there, but you know a lot less about other sectors, but a distribution is known about victims of human trafficking over several sectors, than you could draw some conclusions. But then you must start from the assumption that the distribution is really representative.

Conclusion: when you assume that many window prostitutes are forced, this must be also true for other forms of prostitution. Namely, when you look at the way victims of human trafficking are distributed across different sectors of prostitution, that more or less reflects the distribution of prostitutes in general (except perhaps for Dutch prostitutes).

-The size of human trafficking is difficult to express in numbers. Essy van Dijk used a very clever mathematical trick to calculate the number of victims on a yearly basis (in the year 2000).
See the report mensenhandel in Nederland in section 5.2 (page 59, translated from Dutch)
(…) How large the willingness is among the victims to report the crime could approximately be established by relating the number of victims of human trafficking during a period to the number of reports during the same period. Now it turns out that in the period 1997-1999 671 victims have been reported at the Stichting Tegen Vrouwenhandel (STV [Foundation Against Trafficking in Women]) and that both in the present study as well as in an earlier assessment of the NRI (see section 3.3) during the same period 161 reports of human trafficking have been registered. This would mean that approximately a quarter of the victims of human trafficking (24%) reports the crime. Now the registrations of both institutes are an underestimate because not all victims are reported at the Stichting Tegen Vrouwenhandel (Van Dijk and De Savornin Lohman, 2000) and not all reports at the NRI, but in each case this forms an indication of the willingness to report. (…)
See page 124:
(…) Because only a small segment of the offender(s) are being apprehended, the real number of victims is obviously higher. How high can be — very carefully — approximated by combining a number of facts. This way it is estimated that 75% of the illegal prostitutes apprehended by the police are immediately sent home to their country of birth before an investigation into human trafficking can be started (Van Dijk and De Savornin Lohman, 2000). In section 5.2 it is calculated that the willingness to report could be 24%, that means that of all discovered victims 24% are found willing to report the crime. This should mean that behind the 203 reports in the year 2000 3.383 victims could lie hidden. [in a footnote: {(203 x 100) : 24} x 100 : 25 (25% versus 75% deportations)] This number is disputable, but does give in any way an indication — probably an underestimate — of the whole size of the problem. (…)
She makes a logical error. First of all she didn’t take into account the non-illegal victims of human trafficking. They are not expelled. Secondly she seems to assume that three quarter of all illegal prostitutes are expelled by the police before they could report the crime to the police. In reality a lot of illegal prostitutes are never discovered, and therefore not expelled. Thirdly, she doesn’t take into account the women who were already victim of human trafficking at the start of the year. And Fourthly, she didn’t take into account the fact that many foreign victims also have worked abroad and thus many victims circulate into and out of the country.

But I believe she is warm. I will make an attempt myself. Take the number X. I call X the total number of victims that release themselves from the human traffickers from the begin of the year until the end. This number tells nothing about the number of victims present during each moment or on a yearly basis. There’s a darknumber of victims which didn’t set themselves free and I assume that the number of victims at each moment is directly proportional to the average number of years that a victim is forced to work. I state that when on each moment there are a number of Z victims, and the average number of years a victims is forced to work is Y, then each year some Z/Y=X victims release themselves from the human traffickers. That is, the number of victims on each moment is equal to X times Y, that is the number of victims that free themselves during one year multiplied by the average number of years that a victim works.

When I know X and Y then I can therefore calculate the number of victims present on each moment. But then I have to make one extra proposition. Not all victims are always in the Netherlands. Victims often enter the Netherlands while already working in forced prostitution, and vice versa they leave the Netherlands while in forced prostitution. When I assume that these two flows exactly neutralize each other and each victim neatly reports the crime in the country where she freed herself of the human trafficker, than this doesn’t have any influence on X, Y and Z. Now I will look if X and Y are known.

The estimates of how long victims of trafficking in women are exploited on average range widely from 3 months to little more than a year. The report “Mensenhandel vanuit centraal- en Oost-Europa” [Human trafficking from Central and Eastern Europe] (IPIT & IRT Noord en Oost Nederland, 1997) estimates that Eastern European victims of human trafficking are put to work on average for a relatively short period, about three months, and rarely longer than a year. In the research of the EU ("Research based on case studies of victims of trafficking in human beings in 3 EU Member States, i.e. Belgium, Italy and The Netherlands" [2001], among whom Ruth Hopkins and Jan Nijboer have cooperated) 80 foreign victims of human trafficking in the Netherlands have been interviewed (see page 290):
The average time between departure in country of origin and entrance at reception centre is a little more than 1 year and 3 months. However this average is strongly influenced by one victim who entered the reception centre some 18 years after she left her home country. Without this victim, the average time between departure and entrance is about one year.
Using the stories of victims of human trafficking in the media, from books and on forums I managed to make an estimate of the period the victims have been under the control of their pimp(s). From a sample of 114 cases where such a period is mentioned, I can derive that on average this number must lie between 1,3 and 2,2 years (1,72±0,44, the error margin is obviously very big). At then end I’ll use my estimates, because the estimate of three months is based on only the Eastern European victims, and the estimate of 1 year and three months only on the foreign victims. I will use one correction for my estimates; Dutch victims are probably overrepresented in this number. It is based on 57 Dutch victims and 54 foreign victims (and some cases of which the nationality was unknown). The average time the Dutch victims were exploited was 2,25 (±0,65) years. For foreign victims this is 1,17 (±0,60) years. That is a significant difference. This poses a problem because it is actually not known how many of the victims are Dutch. In latest figures from 2005 and 2006 of registered victims (released by the Foundation Against Trafficking in Women - see their website this percentage fluctuates around 25%, this was much lower in earlier years. Victim support organisations in 2000 came into contact with 608 victims of whom 138 were Dutch (see the first report of the Dutch national rapporteur on human trafficking on page 50, table 4.2). I take the guess that this reflects the reality. If I use this correction then I arrive at an average of 1,42 (±0,49) years that victims of human trafficking are exploited. So Y is now known. I must add that in this case I make the assumption that Y is constant at all times.

Now I need an number to calculate the number of victims that released themselves from the human trafficker during a year. I use a segment of the calculation used by Essy van Dijk, but without the extrapolation of the illegal prostitutes. In the year 2000 there were 203 reports made by victims of human trafficking. For other years there are only numbers known of the reports who are referred to the Public Prosecution Service. In the Fifth Report of the Dutch Rapporteur on human trafficking (Dutch version), there were 91 reports and witness statements made by victims in 2000 which were referred to the Public Prosecution Service (see table 5.2 on page 143). That is very different from the 203 mentioned by Essy van Dijk, but I believe that's because not all reports made by victims were included. During the period 2001-2004 this number averages 199 per year, so not very different from 203. Unfortunately also the number of witness statements were also included so these numbers are not really comparable. Only the Foundation against human trafficking ( gives some extra clues about the number of reports, but only for those victims who were reported at the foundation. For the years 2003-2006 there were 157,5 reports on average per year (see their 2006 report on their website). But this must be a lot more in reality, many times it was unknown if the victim made a report. But lets focus on the 203 reports in 2000 and assume that this number is also more or less true for other years.

I see it like this, there are 203 victims of human trafficking who have released themselves from the human trafficker and then have reported the crime. Essy van Dijk estimates that a quarter (24%) of the total number of victims reports the crime and the funny thing is that in my media-analysis also approximately a quarter (51 of 234 cases) report the crime. But perhaps that estimate is too high, because obviously the victims who come forward are also the ones who tend to report the crime, on the other hand it could be too low because of not all cases it is known if the victim reported the crime. By the way, it seems to be the case that foreign victims are much more eager to report the crime (in 36 of 116 cases = 31%) than Dutch victims (in 15 of 118 cases = 13%). According to the second report (2003) of the National Rapporteur on human trafficking (on page 64) various police officials involved in the fight of THB (among others from PPM/dNP) and the Foundation for Support and Reception of Prostitutes (Stichting Hulpverlening en Opvang Prostituees – SHOP) assume a readiness among these victims to report an offence of 5% to 10%.

But when I assume that 24% (±3,23) is the right number then I arrive at 203 * 100 / 24 = ~846 (±114) victims of human trafficking in 2000 who released themselves from the human trafficker. Now also X is known. Also in this case I have to add that I assume that the percentage of the victims who report the crime is constant.

I therefore estimate that at any moment (in 2000) there were X * Y = 846 * 1,42 = 1201 (±445) victims of human trafficking in the Netherlands.

When you want to calculate the number of victims on a yearly basis then you have to add another X to this number. Then the number will be 2047 (±498) victims on a yearly basis. But when you take the circulation of the victims between the Netherlands and abroad into the equation than this number will get higher. The National Rapporteur on human trafficking in the Netherlands says in her fourth report (on page 23) in table 3.13 that in 44% of the human trafficking cases in the period 2000-2003 the victims were also put to work outside the Netherlands, this percentage is 51% for cross border human trafficking and 23% for domestic human trafficking. It is not known how much of the time they were outside the Netherlands, in other words, you don't know the flow and that could make a big difference. When you take the gamble that 44% of the victims of human trafficking in one year enter the country and a group of the same size has also left the country, then you can add to the estimate on a yearly basis the number X * Y * 44/100. And then you can stretch the total number to app 2600 (±540) on a yearly basis, but this is just a gamble.

Obviously these numbers are merely best guesses. If you would assume that the victims are exploited for three months on average then the number would be 200 at each moment and 1300 on a yearly basis. If you assume that the victims are exploited for 2 years on average the number would be 1600 at each moment and 3100 on a yearly basis. And if you additionaly would also assume that the willingness of the victim to report the crime is only 10% then the number jumps to 4000 at each moment and 8000 on a yearly basis. And if it was 5% it would be 8000 at each moment and 16000 on a yearly basis.

But even if you could calculate the number of victims of human trafficking then you must realise that it is plausible that there’s a gradual transition between a situation of human trafficking and voluntary prostitution. So even when you could say that “10 percent” of the prostitutes are victims of human trafficking, that doesn’t mean that the other 90 percent are voluntarily in prostitution. It could be that many prostitutes turn over a large percentage of their income to their pimps, and little is left over for themselves, but still “choose” to be in such a situation because in their country of origin they could be in an even worse situation. For instance, in the report "Illegaliteit, onvrijwilligheid en minderjarigheid" in de Nederlandse prostitutie een jaar na de opheffing van het bordeelverbod" [Illegality, involuntariness and minority in Dutch prostitution one year after the lifting of the ban on brothels] by Goderie, Spierings en ter Woerds from 2002 it is said on page 59 that (translated from Dutch):
It seems to be the case that there is a sort of scale running from severe forms of human trafficking (gross deception and severe forms of violence) to lighter forms which almost fall under people smuggling, be it that it concerns work in prostitution. Prostitutes from outside the EU in the last mentioned case by definition don’t feel themselves victims of human trafficking. Working in prostitution in the Netherlands could also be a rational decision. It could even be an emancipatory decision (economic independence, gender change of transsexuals, ). There are big individual differences of the situation where prostitutes are in and the extent of deception, violence and coercion they are confronted with.
Alright. You can compare the numbers I mentioned (1200 victims at each moment and 2600 on a yearly basis) to what is known about the total number of prostitutes in general. On a yearly basis there are supposed to be some 25.000 prostitutes, [source: "Mobiliteit in de Nederlandse prostitutie" (1999, Lucie van Mens)]. And according to the mr A de Graafstichting the number should be 12.500 prostitutes who work on a daily or weekly basis (see the article 'Betaalde liefde' by Marieke van Doorninck in "C.V. Koers", February 2000, page 6 and further). Well, if these numbers are true then on a yearly basis and on a daily or weekly basis some 10% of the prostitutes are forced into prostitution (but these are only the worst cases).


Sorry, not yet a solution!!!

The problem here is the gradual transition. Things are not black and white, there's a lot of grey. So, where do you draw the line? What is voluntary, and what is forced?

Perhaps it's possible to avoid the extreme cases by only visiting Dutch prostitutes in a club who are older than 30, or by visiting Dominican and Colombian prostitutes, but then you avoid only the extreme cases. The milder cases of forced prostitution are less clear.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Quality Labels

Hey, it actually seems if a dream is coming true. There's actually a serious report now about quality labels for the prostitution industry in the Netherlands.
(watch out, it's on a porn site)
A pilot study on the development and the feasibility of introducing European quality labels in the prostitution sector in the Netherlands (By Dr. Conny Rijken and Linda van Krimpen)

I'm reading through it....