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Trafficked and Silenced: How Mainstream Trafficking Discourse Stifles the Voices and Shapes the Stories of Victims Dr Ramona Vijeyarasa Sydney 11 February.

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Presentation on theme: "Trafficked and Silenced: How Mainstream Trafficking Discourse Stifles the Voices and Shapes the Stories of Victims Dr Ramona Vijeyarasa Sydney 11 February."— Presentation transcript:

1 Trafficked and Silenced: How Mainstream Trafficking Discourse Stifles the Voices and Shapes the Stories of Victims Dr Ramona Vijeyarasa Sydney 11 February 2015

2 Paper in context Based on research conducted in Ukraine, Vietnam and Ghana as well as secondary literature More detailed findings published in “Sex, Slavery and the Trafficked Woman: Myths and Misconceptions about trafficking and its victims” (Ashgate, 2015) 2

3 Outline 1.Methodology 2.What are the three main trafficking archetypes? 3.How has the “suffering victim” been analysed in other contexts? 4.How does this apply in the context of trafficking and how can we dispel these archetypes? 3

4 Methodology Conducted fieldwork: Ukraine; Vietnam and Ghana Involved questionnaires completed by returned victims housed in shelters or accessing NGO or government reintegration support Interviews with experts from UN agencies, government authorities, international organisations, donors, development banks, NGOs 4

5 Methodology 104 completed questionnaires and 50 key informant interviews 5

6 A note on the evolution of trafficking discourse 6 Dominant focus on sexual exploitation. Stereotypes are pervasive Appearance of alternative approaches Lack of empirical evidence to defend alternative approaches Ongoing focus on sexual exploitation and persistence of stereotypes

7 Three Mainstream trafficking archetypes 1.The naïve woman 2.The inviolable man 3.The innocent women i.e. perpetrating male 7

8 Mainstream trafficking archetypes: The naïve woman A Nepalese girl, Chamoli ran away from home with her boyfriend to India at the age of 16. It was only when she arrived in the city of Poona that Chamoli discovered her boyfriend’s intention to sell her to a brothel (Balos, 2004: 137; Coomaraswamy, 2000: ¶12). 8

9 Mainstream trafficking archetypes: The inviolable man Women are “more vulnerable than men to being trafficked” (Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies, 2007: 6). Trafficking “has its roots in gender politics and sexual inequalities, linked to widespread economic poverty” (Poudel and Carryer, 2000: 74). There is a “gender imbalance in human trafficking”. Women “often have no individual protection or recognition under the law, inadequate access to healthcare and education, poor employment prospects, little opportunity to own property” as well as “high levels of social isolation. All this makes some women easy targets for harassment, violence, and human trafficking” (US Department of State, 2009: 36), all at the hands of men. Dearth of literature on the trafficking of men (see Surtees, 2009 on trafficking of men from Ukraine and Belarus and Horwood, 2009 on irregular migration of men from East Africa and the Horn to South Africa). 9

10 Mainstream trafficking archetypes: The good woman Both trafficking and prostitution as “highly gendered systems that result from structural inequality between women and men on a world scale”. She continues by noting how “[m]en create the demand and women are the supply” (Hughes, 2006: 10). Significantly less recognition is given in the academic literature to the female perpetrator. While it is a norm to hear references to the “madam” in literature on sex work (e.g. Bernstein, 2007; Ward and Day, 2006; Dandona et al., 2006; Wahab, 2002; Thu Hong, 1998), the female trafficker is not often discussed. 10

11 Mainstream trafficking archetypes: The good woman The human trafficker is a young carpenter who moves from the Red River Delta to Lào Cai province to work for small wood processing factory. He has the gift of the gab, so he is very persuasive...During the time he is working in the factory, he meets and falls in love with a girl from Giầy ethnic minority. He tells her family that he will take her to his home village to introduce her to his family. In fact he has taken the girl to China and sold her to a prostitute house (District level government official, Department of Social Evils Prevention, Lào Cai, 1 October 2009). 11

12 The suffering victim in other contexts: Agustín and Brown Laura Agustín: “[i]t has long been recognised that people who are considered “victims” or “deviants” are likely to tell members of mainstream society what they believe they want to hear” (2004: 6). Agustín: “many make their present circumstances appear to be the fatal or desperate result of a past event” (2004: 6). Agustín refers to the comments of one Dominican research participant, who said, “[a]fter all, if we were forced to be what we are now, we cannot be blamed for it” (2004: 6). 12

13 The suffering victim in other contexts: Agustín and Brown Wendy Brown: “totalizing descriptions of women’s experiences that are the inadvertent effects of various kinds of survivor stories” (2005: 92). The porn star who feels exploited “invariably monopolizes the feminist truth about sex work”, while sexual abuse and violation occupy what Brown refers to as the “feminist knowledge terrain of women and sexuality” (Brown, 2005: 92). “…confession is the site of production of truth” and what results is a tendency “to reinstate a unified discourse in which the story of greatest suffering becomes the true story of woman” (Brown, 2005: 92). Suffering is a requirement 13

14 Dispelling trafficking’s archetypes: The rationale and voluntary victim …many of them are aware, to a certain extent, of the risks when they set out on their adventure (A. Bruce, former Chief of Mission, IOM Vietnam; Head of Regional Office for Asia, IOM Bangkok, 21 September 2009). From the point of [a] trafficker, why would I kidnap somebody if I can just offer a job to someone and they gladly agree and go with me? (O. L. Kustova, Legal Adviser, Law Enforcement Section, US Embassy to Ukraine, 2 September 2009) 14

15 Dispelling trafficking’s archetypes: The rationale and voluntary victim In data collected from Ukraine, in 67.3% of cases, the respondent’s mother was aware of the decision to leave Ukraine; fathers were aware in one-third of cases. In only 4.8% of cases, no individual related or known to the victim was aware of the respondent’s decision to leave Ukraine. Such responses contradict the suggestion that these victims were kidnapped, abducted or otherwise unexpectedly coerced to leave Ukraine and, moreover, show that there was a level of pre-planning for this potential movement. 15

16 Dispelling trafficking’s archetypes: The rationale and voluntary victim Rosanne Rushing (2006): “The family’s perception of daughters as a source of reliable remittances and community norms supporting youth migration contribute to promote the migration of daughters to the cities” (Rushing, 2006: 481). Rushing: parents “expect their daughters to remain in the city indefinitely as a secure source of income”, many women stay despite exploitative conditions and a desire to return home (2006: ). Busza’s study – of Vietnamese women undertaking commercial sex work in Cambodia – stated that they were “ashamed” of sex work and that it was “bad work”, yet reported pride (Busza, 2004: ). 16

17 Dispelling trafficking’s archetypes: The male victim Based on data from Belarus and Ukraine in which male victims accounted for 28.3 per cent and 17.6 per cent of the IOM assisted caseload respectively between 2004 and 2006, i.e. around 685 trafficked men (Surtees, 2008: 9). Only 14 male respondents in my survey data. 17

18 Dispelling trafficking’s archetypes: Where are the male victims? 18 Government and civil society intervention No shelters for men Non gender- neutral response Focus on child trafficking Focus on sexual exploitation

19 Dispelling trafficking’s archetypes: The female perpetrator Empirical evidence for the male trafficker? o Erin Denton: Of 191 incidents of human trafficking that were reported in international electronic media over a 6 month period, the gender of traffickers was not mentioned in 32 per cent of cases (2010: 18). The role of female traffickers? Sometimes they are used as success stories. This woman says, ‘I was there. I earned a lot of money. I purchased an apartment for my parents or myself. It is easy. Do not worry’. (Olena Kustova from the US Embassy in Ukraine, 2 September 2009) I would say that according to Ukrainian legislation, for instance, a woman who has children can request the court to reduce her sentence or release her because no one can care for her small children. Sometimes traffickers take these into account and pick up recruiters who can later be released because of these circumstances (Olena Kustova from the US Embassy in Ukraine, 2 September 2009) Wei Tang: Female Melbourne brothel owner convicted of slavery offences under Australia’s Criminal Code 19

20 Concluding remarks 20 Need for methodologically sound evidence to dispel archetypes Provide an environment conducive to “story telling” “that is neither confessional nor normative in a moralizing sense” Ensure victimhood is not denied where narrative does not conform


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