Sex Trafficking

“In my thirty years as a journalist I’ve come face to face with scandals, corruption, greed and crime of all kinds. I’ve seen tragedy of monumental proportions – the desperation of famine, the ravages of war. I’ve witnessed the loss of life and hope in the Middle East and Africa – in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Iran. Yet never before have I been as struck by the senseless disregard for human dignity as I have been these last two years while researching this book [on the new global sex trade].” (Malarek 2004)

This article looks at sex trafficking. For simplicity and clarity, it mostly refers to women, although children, men and transgendered people are also trafficked. The consequences for children are invariably even more devastating.

What is sex trafficking?

“Human Trafficking is modern day slavery. It is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel another person to provide labor or commercial sex against their will, and it is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world. The Renaissance Male Project believes that men are complicit in this crime when they purchase sex because they create the demand – allowing others to exploit women and children for profit.” (Renaissance Man Project, 2010)

Sex trafficking is human trafficking for the exploitation of prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation. Human trafficking is frequently confused with people smuggling (in which a payment is made to transfer a person across a border illegally) and migration (which means a person moves from one country to another by legal or illegal means). What differentiates human trafficking from people smuggling and migration is trafficking’s coercive nature and that the person is exploited on arrival, often through debt bondage, which is a recognised form of slavery. In fact movement across an international border is not an intrinsic part of human trafficking. Under international law human trafficking is a human rights violation and not an immigration issue.

The United Nations adopted the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (sometimes called the Palermo Protocol) in 2000. It was ratified by the UK on 9 February 2006. Article 3 provides the internationally agreed definition of human trafficking:

(a) “Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;

(b) The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used;

(c) The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in persons” even if this does not involve any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article;

(d) “Child” shall mean any person under eighteen years of age.

Key points to note are:

  • The key element is its exploitative nature rather than the movement of people.
  • The notion of abuse of power or a position of vulnerability implicitly recognises trafficking as an issue of sex, race, caste, nationality and class and covers situations where the person has no real alternative but to submit to the abuse involved.
  • The definition acknowledges that much trafficking is for the purpose of the exploitation of prostitution and that the exploitation of prostitution and trafficking cannot be separated.
  • The definition separates out the exploitation of prostitution from forced labour because the harms are of a different nature.
  • The definition makes it clear that consent is not relevant – because consent is never relevant to a human rights violation.

The clause on consent is important because it is a common misconception that if the woman knew she was going into prostitution, she had implicitly consented and therefore was not trafficked. The protocol makes it clear that the deception can be about the conditions as well as the type of work. She may have known she would be involved in prostitution but she expected to live in a nice flat, make good money, have two days off a week and work out of a bar where she could choose her clients. She did not expect to be locked up, have her passport confiscated, have to work seven days a week even when she has her period or was sick, or to be debt-bonded.

A common argument by those who oppose the Nordic Model is that its proponents conflate prostitution with trafficking. However, the Palermo definition makes it clear that the essential feature of trafficking is third-party involvement in the exploitation of another. As Catharine MacKinnon says, “trafficking is straight-up pimping”. When we consider that most women working in prostitution have a pimp – a third-party who exploits their prostitution – it comes as no surprise that Sigma Huda, UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking 2004–2008, observed that “prostitution as actually practised in the world usually does satisfy the elements of trafficking” (quoted in MacKinnon, 2011).

“Slavery is internationally defined as the exercise of powers of ownership over a person. When pimps sell you for sex to johns who buy you, and you want to leave but cannot, you are a sex slave by international legal definition whether you have ever been beaten or crossed a border. That women who are pimped are exercising “agency” as independent entrepreneurs is a fantasy of privilege.” (MacKinnon 2011)

Most cases of grooming of UK girls and young women into prostitution fulfill the definition of sex trafficking, regardless whether they have been moved from place to place.

Unfortunately misconceptions about what constitutes human trafficking abound. For example, a 2013 study commissioned from Eaves by the London Mayor’s office suggests that in order to be considered internal trafficking, the victim must be transported from one city or area to another (Bindel et al, 2013, page 56). The study also uses the term “trafficked into prostitution” which suggests a fundamental misunderstanding that the exploitation of prostitution is an intrinsic part of sex trafficking. This is particularly concerning given Eaves’s longstanding work with victims of trafficking. Similar and related misconceptions abound elsewhere. For example, a 2013 study by the Slavery Working Group has the statement that “prostitution and modern slavery […] can be mutually exclusive.” Ignorance about the irrelevance of consent is also widespread. Such misreadings of trafficking cloud the understanding of its true nature and contribute to the underestimation of its incidence.

The Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, which has been signed and ratified by the UK and in implementation since 2009 uses the same definition of trafficking as the Palermo Protocol.

How does sex trafficking work?

The process obviously varies. Trans-national trafficking typically has several stages, something like this:

  1. Recruitment – Sometimes women and girls are kidnapped or abducted or sold by their families; others are coerced or deceived, and their poverty, lack of awareness of the dangers, and desperate hope for a better life are taken advantage of; some are recruited through newspaper adverts for job opportunities abroad such as nannies and waitresses; some are lured through mail-order bride agencies; some are tricked by friends or acquaintances.
  2. Transport – The trafficker arranges passports and visas (sometimes forged) and travel. The victim may be accompanied on the plane and she may be primed about what to say when passing immigration control. If her passport and/or visa are forged, she is even more vulnerable on arrival because she is there illegally. Sometimes she will be auctioned on arrival in the UK in scenes reminiscent of the slave trade in America and the Caribbean (Evening Standard, 2007).
  3. Breaking in – The traffickers break the victim’s resistance and show her that she is their property and has no choice but to comply. This is typically the most violent period and the woman may be beaten and gang raped. The traffickers may threaten to harm her family members back home, they may blackmail her by threatening to send sexually explicit photographs or films to her family.
  4. Debt-bonded prostitution – The victim is told she owes the trafficker a debt (sometimes called a “contract”) to cover the passport, visa and transportation. In fact the debt bears no relation to the actual costs and is invariably vastly inflated. Her passport is confiscated and she is told she must “work” to pay the debt and typically provide between 500 and 1,000 “free services”. She cannot refuse customers, sex acts or sex without a condom, she must work long hours, “service” 20 or even 30 punters a day, often seven days a week. She is unlikely to get to keep any of the money she earns. The trafficker may arbitrarily increase the debt at any time or as punishment for resistance. The debt-bonded stage is likely to go on for months and physical and psychological violence are common but may lessen over time as the trafficker’s control is established. He may even show her some “kindness” and she may develop Stockholm Syndrome – so that the coercion is not obvious to outsiders and, in order to survive, she may not even acknowledge it to herself. The trafficker may “sell” her to another pimp, who then demands further debt-bonded prostitution to cover the cost of buying her.
  5. Post-contract – Some women do not reach the post-contract stage because they die or are killed or are detected as illegal immigrants and deported. Those that do reach the end may want to leave the country or do further prostitution to make some money for themselves. Given all that has gone before, this can hardly be considered a “free choice” and typically she will have to turn over 50-75% of her earnings to her pimp. If she returns home, she is invariably in a worse situation than when she left – she still has little or no money, but now she is also deeply traumatised by her experiences, often infected with HIV, and stigmatised by her community. Many women return only to be trafficked again. Others find their options may be so limited, the damage and stigma so great, that they become traffickers themselves (Hughes, 2000).

The same trafficker(s) can be involved through the various stages or she may be “sold” or “transferred” from person to person.

There are obvious differences in the process when the trafficking is of women in the UK. Frequently it is then based on a grooming process but kidnapping is not unknown.

What is debt bondage?

Debt bondage is a recognised form of modern slavery and is prohibited by international law. The United Nations definition of debt bondage is as follows:

“The status or condition of a debtor arising from a pledge by the debtor of his or her personal services or of those of a person under his or her control as a security for debt, if the value of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied toward the liquidation of the debt or the length and nature of those services are not respectively limited and defined.” (United Nations General Assembly 1957: Article 1).

Marinela’s story

Marinela was a sex trafficking victim. At the age of 17 she was kidnapped in rural Romania, transported to England, forced into prostitution and held as a sex slave. She eventually escaped when the Shangri-La brothel in Manchester was raided by police. Initially arrested for prostitution-related offences, she was later recognised as a victim of sex traffickers Bogdan and Marius Nejloveanu, who were eventually convicted and received long jail sentences. The following is an edited extract of a report in The Observer (6 February 2011) about her story.

Shortly after arrival in England Marius Nejloveanu gave her a ferocious beating for refusing to have sex with men. ‘He beat me up and forced me to sleep with him – anal sex. It really hurt. He was pulling my hair and hurting my back. Sometimes he would bang my head right on the corner of the door. That really hurt.’

Eventually Marinela relented and she was taken to a brothel masquerading as a sauna. She could not speak a word of English. When the first ‘client’ booked her she wanted to say ‘no’ but could not. She wanted to explain her predicament, tell the man that she was trafficked. Instead she cried, hoping that the man would take pity on her. He did not. None of them did.

On her first day she made £300, enough to support her family in Romania for six weeks, but was forced to surrender every penny. ‘After a month I was making £500 a day, but if I wanted a cigarette or bar of chocolate I had to ask.’

Daily shifts lasted 12 hours, 10pm to 10am, seven days a week. Sometimes she would be obliged to have sex 12 times with different men. Punters paid £40 a session, of which half went to Nejloveanu and half to the sauna or massage parlour where she was imprisoned. Most of the men were white or Asian, some were drunk, a few violent.

‘There was one guy and I didn’t want to do what he asked me. So he beat me up because he was drunk, pulled my hair and slapped me like this.’ She pretends to wallop the side of her face so hard her head jerks back and her tongue lolls out. ‘But they just take the violent men outside. Nothing ever happens to them even if I am really hurt.’

She said the trauma never went away. ‘Even if they stink, you have to sleep with them – it was so horrible. Can you imagine how I was feeling? I was supposed to be in high school, not in England sleeping with men and making money for criminals.’

Those who ran the saunas were instructed not to let Marinela go outside, often for days at a time. She made one escape bid. That precipitated one of her most brutal beatings by Nejloveanu: ‘I got punched, a knife in my head, my hair was pulled until it came out.’

Shangri-La has since ‘closed’ but it reopened under the name Infinity, with an identical telephone number. Its website lists 36 girls, divided into categories from ‘busty’ to ‘blonde’. When asked if 30 minutes for £40 included sex, a female receptionist said: ‘I can’t say on the phone because it’s against the law, but it does include a massage and full personal service’. (The Observer, 6 February 2011)

The market for trafficked women

“A newly-qualified doctor from Ukraine came to England to practise medicine. But the money Dr Oksana Ryniekska thought she’d make wasn’t rolling in. So she […] became a trafficker. Instead of setting up a clinic, she set up a brothel over a dry-cleaning shop and trafficked in nine young women from her homeland. Ryniekska told her victims she would get them visas so they could learn English. But the only English they learned was the sexual terminology required to understand and service their steady stream of ‘johns’. In just eight months in 1998, before being busted in an undercover sting, the doctor raked in more than £130,000.” (New Internationalist, 2007)

As we saw in the previous section, in 2010 Marinela earned her trafficker £500 per day. That’s not untypical: trafficking for sexual exploitation is a very high-profit and low-risk endeavour for traffickers. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates the global profits from sex trafficking is 99 billion US dollars annually (BBC, 2014). The illegal trade in women is much less risky than the illegal trade in arms and drugs. The profiteers are transnational criminal networks that prey on the “dreams of women seeking employment and opportunities for the future” (Hughes, 2000). Everywhere that these criminal networks operate, they threaten the welfare and status of women as well as the social, political and economic well being and stability of nations.

The money generated by sex trafficking does not bring financial prosperity to the local communities where the women are “recruited” or where they are enslaved. The women often end up with nothing and any money they do earn comes at enormous cost to their physical and emotional health and standing in the community. The money made by the criminal networks does not stay in poor communities or countries. Much is laundered and used to buy legitimate businesses and property in wealthy areas and those at the top of the criminal networks become powerful figures in the legitimate business community. They use that power to attempt to block legislation that would hinder their activities and often fund groups – such as the International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW) – that lobby for legalisation. The IUSW is a recognised branch of the GMB trade union (Elliott 2009).

The sex trade in the UK creates the demand for women that the crime networks fill. Trafficking exists to meet the demand for women who are sold to men in brothels, massage parlours, bars and on the street all over the UK. New supplies of women are continuously required because women get used up physically and emotionally, men demand “fresh faces” and local women who actually do have other viable choices seldom choose to work in prostitution.

“The most crucial factor in determining where trafficking will occur is the activity of traffickers. Poverty, unemployment, inflation, war and lack of a promising future are compelling factors that facilitate the ease with which traffickers recruit women, but they are not the cause of trafficking. Many regions of the world are poor and chaotic, but not every region becomes a major supplier of women trafficked into the sex industry. Traffickers take advantage of poverty, unemployment and a desire to emigrate to recruit and traffic women into sex industries. Women, in large numbers, do not make their way across borders to enter prostitution, nor do they traffic themselves or organize themselves en masse to travel internationally to enter prostitution. Women do not voluntarily put themselves in situations where they are exploited, beaten, raped and enslaved. Without recruiters, traffickers and pimps, trafficking in women would not exist. […]

If prostitution were a desirable, rewarding, lucrative job, traffickers would not have to deceive, coerce and enslave women to get them into and keep them in the sex industry.” (Hughes, 2000)

Legalisation of prostitution is sometimes promoted as the solution to sex trafficking. However, evidence shows that legalisation actually results in more trafficking and more involvement of organised criminal networks (Cho et al. 2013).

How many women are sex trafficked in the UK?

It is difficult to know exactly how many women are trafficked in the sex trade in the UK because the women are silenced, the traffickers are dangerous, misperceptions about the nature of trafficking are widespread, and not many agencies are counting. When data is collected, it is usually inadequate and most trafficking goes unrecorded. For example, research by the Anti Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG) has shown that when trafficked persons present at police stations for assistance, they are frequently told that their problem is not a police matter and they are sent away without help or even being recorded (ATMG 2013). This section provides data from Project Acumen a police-led research study and the 2013 NRM statistics. Although inadequate in various ways, these show that sex trafficking is widespread in the UK and that there are thousands of victims at any one time.

Project Acumen

In 2010 the police led Project Acumen, a research initiative that attempted to establish the prevalence of trans-national trafficking in the indoor sex trade in England and Wales. The study did not look at trafficking of children, UK nationals or on-street prostitution. The results are an estimate rather than definitive. They used a restrictive definition of trafficking and erred on the side of caution and so the figures are unlikely to be overestimates. Of the estimated 30,000 women involved in off-street prostitution in England and Wales, there were an estimated 17,000 migrants, of whom they concluded:

  • 2,600 were trafficked. of whom about 2,200 were from Asia, primarily China and 400 from Eastern Europe.
  • A further 9,200 were “vulnerable to trafficking” by factors such as their culture, lack of English and local knowledge, and control by pimps. This group almost certainly included additional victims of trafficking according to the study’s definition. However, using a definition closer to that in the Palermo Protocol, most if not all of these women could be considered victims of trafficking.

Overall 11,800 women, two thirds of the estimated 17,000 migrant women, met the criteria for trafficking or “vulnerable to trafficking” – this is more than one third of all the women involved in indoor prostitution in England and Wales. (Jackson et al, 2010).

There is also increasing evidence that trafficked women and girls, particularly those from Romania, are involved in on-street prostitution (Bindel et al, 2013).

National Referral Mechanism

In 2009 the UK set up a National Referral Mechanism (NRM) to identify and support victims of trafficking and to provide a mechanism for capturing data on its prevalence in the UK. This was part of the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. The figures for 2013 show that 725 people were referred as trafficked in the sex trade, of whom 691 (95%) were female and 144 (20%) were children. These figures do not include other types of trafficking (such as domestic servitude and labour exploitation) which, for women and children, often include sexual elements. The figures are likely to be significant underestimates because the mechanism is not compulsory, there are a limited number of organisations that can use it, most trafficking does not come to the attention of the reporting organisations, and as we have seen, when it does, it is often not recognised as such.

The following table shows the relevant 2013 NRM statistics. Notice that the figures show a considerable increase compared to the previous year, 2012 (NCA 2013).

Exploitation Type Female Male Total 2012-13% Change
Adult Sexual Exploitation 563 18 581 53%
Child Sexual Exploitation (non-UK national) 78 10 88 11%
Child Sexual Exploitation (UK national) 50 6 56 155%
Total 691 34 725  

There are many criticisms of the way the NRM process has been implemented. After referral, a decision is made as to whether to accept the person as a victim of human trafficking. There is concern that the victim’s immigration status inappropriately influences the decision. For example, in 2012, over 80% of EU/EEA nationals received positive trafficking decisions but only 20% of third country nationals did. In addition, there is evidence of poor decision making:

“From an analysis of 40 NRM rejection letters issued by the Home Office, ATMG found reason to doubt the findings of the Competent Authority in 36 i.e. 90% of the letters. In particular the Competent Authority showed that it sometimes misunderstood the definition of trafficking; it sometimes misunderstood the effects of trafficking on the victim; it focused on small inconsistencies in the victim’s account to question the credibility of the whole account, it rejected claims because of a lack of corroborative police evidence and rejected claims on the basis of trafficking being ‘historic’.” (ATMG, 2013)

ATMG concludes that the key provisions of the Council of Europe Convention are misunderstood by the UK government, the NRM mechanism is flawed, including that there is no appeal procedure, and victims are not getting the correct assistance. There are numerous cases of victims not being identified correctly and as a result being detained and deported as illegal immigrants or prosecuted and convicted of prostitution-related and other crimes they are forced to commit while trafficked. There were a disproportionately low number of convictions of traffickers compared to the increasing number of potentially trafficked persons. There are a number of reasons for this, not least being that human trafficking is not designated a priority in the target-driven world of policing and that it is generally considered an immigration matter (ATMG, 2013).

The demand for trafficked women

“Look, men pay for women because he can have whatever and whoever he wants. Lots of men go to prostitutes so they can do things to them that real women would not put up with.” (Punter quoted in Farley et al, 2009)

Marinela earned her trafficker £500 per day, day after day, because a very large number of men in the UK were prepared to rent her for sex. If men had not been prepared to pay for her “services” the main incentive for trafficking – its vast profits – would disappear.

The police continue to spend vast resources policing women involved in prostitution, particularly those in on-street prostitution. Typically this simply serves to trap the women ever deeper into prostitution. If they are trafficked, the pimp adds the fine to her “debt” and this prolongs the “contract” and otherwise she has to continue in prostitution to pay the fine and the conviction makes getting other work hard, if not impossible. Far fewer resources are spent policing the men who buy them. As Sigma Huda pointed out the majority of prostitution as it is actually practiced does in fact meet the definition of trafficking.

Most men are aware on some level that most of the women in prostitution have been coerced and/or trafficked. However, this does not serve as a disincentive for many men. In 2009 Eaves conducted a study of 103 men who buy sex. Below are some excerpts from the report. Not one of the men said that they declined to use a woman whom he was aware had been coerced and/or trafficked (Farley et al, 2009).

“Of the men interviewed, 55% believed that a majority of women in prostitution were lured, tricked or trafficked. Thirty-six per cent said they thought that the women in prostitution they used had been trafficked to London from another country. […]

Twenty-five per cent of the men had encountered a woman in the sex industry who they believe was forced into a brothel, massage parlour or another type of prostitution. Some of the men described pimps as abusive, controlling, opportunistic, coercive and violent. They described beatings and forced addiction. ‘Pimps get their money and abuse them. They have no respect for them at all. They treat them virtually like dogs.’ One man explained, ‘Some are really made to or forced – like raped – and they find there is no other hope for them. Some are being held hostage and in a brothel, not all of them but in situations where she is looking to get out. I felt a little bit guilty when I was in saunas and massage parlours.’ […]

Despite their awareness of coercion and trafficking, only five of these 103 men reported their suspicions to the police. They feared a loss of anonymity, especially fearing their families’ discovery of their use of prostitutes. One interviewee said that he did not report his suspicions because he assumed that ‘the authorities are involved in it as well’. Another ‘rang Crimestoppers to report a flock of 14-year-old Russians were working in North England but they said it wasn’t their patch’. […]

Some men understood the dissociation necessary to perform prostitution, using some of the same negative words that women have used to describe their experiences of prostitution: ‘they are trying to blank their minds,’ ‘disconnected,’ ‘attempting to switch off or distance herself,’ ‘empty,’ and ‘hurry up, and get the fuck out of my head.’ Other negative words that the men used to describe how the women might feel included ‘disgusted,’ ‘miserable,’ ‘dirty,’ ‘hatred,’ ‘scared,’ ‘physically and mentally painful,’ and ‘relief that I’m not going to kill her.’” (Farley et al, 2009)

It is clear that the suffering of the women involved does not deter many men from buying women for sex. The consensus of the men interviewed in the study was that the only thing that would deter them would be if there was a real risk that they would get “into trouble”, such as being placed on the sex offenders’ list, fined, or that their families or employers would be informed.

The men in the study all knew that the current laws are not enforced. One man suggested that the reason for this is that the men who make and police the law themselves use women in prostitution. Why would we expect male politicians, judges and police officers to make, prioritise and enforce laws against prostitution when they themselves, as men, are personally benefitting from prostitution?

Challenging the demand

After extensive campaigning by women’s groups, the Policing and Crime Act 2009 created a new offence (in Section 53A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003) of paying for sexual services of a prostitute subjected to force, threat or any other form of coercion, regardless where in the world it takes place or whether the punter is aware of the force, threat or coercion. The maximum penalty is a level three fine. In the first year of operation there were 40 prosecutions under this law, the following year (2011-2012) this had dropped to seven and in 2012-2013 there were eight (CPS 2013, p56). I could not find a record of how many of these prosecutions resulted in convictions.

There are thousands of victims of trafficking in the UK and each victim has hundreds of “clients” each year. Suppose we take a conservative figure that there are 10,000 women who fulfil the criteria of being subject to some form of force, threat or coercion and suppose each of these women has 200 “clients” a year (almost definitely an underestimate, but some of them will visit more than one woman). This makes a total of 2,000,000 potential offenders. And in the last year they prosecuted eight. Eight! What is this but a powerful statement that the establishment has nothing but contempt for the rights of trafficked women in particular and for the rights of all women in general?

To prove that the woman has been forced, threatened or coerced to meet the “beyond reasonable doubt” test of the criminal court requires significant policing resources. But the offence itself carries a relatively low maximum penalty – a level three fine. The police are unlikely to invest sufficient resources to police this crime when the penalty is so low and it is not considered a priority in the target-driven policing strategy.

So it seems that the concession to the coalition of women’s groups and individual women who pressed for this change in the law contains a fundamental contradiction that ensured it would be ineffective. Did the lawyers who drafted it laugh at their cleverness in fobbing off those uppity feminists so effectively?

This then is another argument for the Nordic Model, in which buying sex is made a crime per se, regardless whether the prostituted person was coerced or not. This makes the offence much easier to police and gain convictions – which in turn makes it possible to actually enforce, so that it acts as a real deterrent. This in turn reduces the demand that drives the traffic in women and children for the exploitation of their prostitution.

In Sweden the maximum penalty is six months in prison although a fine is the norm in practice. The Swedish lawmakers balanced the need for the penalty to act as a deterrent with the need to make it low enough that it would facilitate convictions. The feminists proved themselves pragmatic.

Conclusion

 “Men are drip-fed through media, religion, sport, family, culture, porn, prostitution and TV to devalue, exploit and stereotype women and girls. Men are in denial about the level of violence against women.” (New Statesman 2014)

“Karl Marx was one of the first theorists to explain that ideology is not a free-floating set of ideas, but rather a coherent system of beliefs that are purposely and carefully created by the elite class to promote their interests. Using their ownership of key cultural institutions, the elite then set about distributing these ideas until they become the dominant ways of thinking.” (Huffington Post 2014)

Sex trafficking is a very serious human rights abuse and is a form of slavery; it is very widespread in the UK with thousands of victims; and the UK has an international obligation to tackle it but is currently failing in that obligation. The UK could go much further towards meeting that obligation without changing the law as currently enacted by some simple measures such as:

  • Making the recording, policing and prosecution of trafficking offences a high priority.
  • Training all frontline officers in the police, housing, social services and health care in the reality and prevalence of trafficking and how to recognise victims and respond to them appropriately.
  • Training CPS lawyers and prosecuting advocates and judges in the complexities and realities of human trafficking.
  • Ensuring that that immigration status does not cloud decisions about whether people are victims of trafficking.
  • Ring-fenced funding for high quality services for victims of trafficking.
  • Ending the policing of women in prostitution and transferring the money saved into high quality support and exit services for all those in prostitution.
  • Appointment of an independent Rapporteur on Trafficking with statutory powers to request data, to examine trends and recommend strategy.

The Coalition Government has introduced a Modern Slavery Bill. This has been criticised by Anti-Slavery International as being inadequate in a number of ways. We call on the UK government to listen to the criticism and amend the bill accordingly and to ensure that it implements the spirit and the letter of the Council of Europe Convention.

We also call for an implementation of the Nordic Model as the best way of reducing the demand that drives this heinous crime.

References

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