Trafficking in women
The scope of the presentation on the trafficking in women
The main scope of the presentation is to outline the main theoretical perspectives of feminists on prostitution generally and prostitution in the context of sex-trafficking. I will consider some states to examine their legal provisions regulating prostitution (Israel, Sweden and the Netherlands) and I will focus on the international instruments covering trafficking in women. Then, the presentation will concentrate on the position of the UN office for drugs and crime in combating human trafficking and lastly it will examine the dichotomy of forced and voluntary prostitution in context with trafficking.
Theoretical and policy perspectives of feminists on prostitution generally and on the prostitution in context of trafficking in women
In generally, there are two feminist theories on prostitution itself and prostitution in the context of the trafficking in women; the structuralist perspective and the individualist perspective.
Structuralist perspective (represented by radical approaches of Catherine McKinnon, Andrea Dworkin and Kathleen Barry) endorses the view of prostitution as modern-day-slavery and submission of woman to man. As stated by McKinnon (1993) “women are prostituted precisely in order to be degraded and subjected to cruel and brutal treatment without human limits”.(p.13) Thus, such a view necessarily considers prostitution as a form of trafficking in women where the consent of the woman as a “victim” to the prostitution is not important. In her book, Kathleen Barry carries out the view of the prostitution as form of slavery, well documented by the physical and psychological abuse and domination which fit to the definition of slavery.2 The structuralist perspective (abolitionist approach) is represented by feminist organisation such as Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (hereinafter CATW) which denies the acceptance of prostitution as sex-work and prostitute as sex-worker with all rights applicable to her as to the employee. According to Janice Raymond of CATW, “if women in prostitution are counted as workers, pimps as businessmen, and buyers as customers, then governments can abdicate responsibility for making decent and sustainable employment available to women.”3 The important element of such concept is the responsibility of the state to support the education and to enhance the employment opportunities for women to ensure their worth and moral status. Structuralist approach thus not only suppresses the realisation of the individual self-determination of a woman and her choice to decide over her body but also further sets the state into the position of being the “social worker” responsible for a woman’s well-being and her moral status.
Individualist perspective (liberal approach) defends the possibility of consensual prostitution with legalization of sex-work by labor law, compulsory medical check-up, employment law and it strictly differs prostitution or sex-work from trafficking which necessarily involves element of coercion or force. The organisations representing such concept are the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women and Network of Sex Workers Project. The concept defends the right to self-determination, right to work, right to self-expression of the prostitute and the right of women to consent to commercial sex. It highlights the necessity to protect the labor and human rights of sex-workers by not putting them out of the scope of the provisions of law, but by regulating sex-work by law through ensuring some special rights evolving from the particular features of the sex-industry.4 In the context with the trafficking it calls for the definition of trafficking in women covering the prostitution based on coercion or force.
The negatives and positives of abolitionism (structuralist approach) and individualism (legalization) towards prostitution and the trafficking in practice of Sweden, the Netherlands, and Israel
As pointed out by Hila Shamir in her study5 of three countries in the context of their legal regulation of prostitution and trafficking, there are some positives and negatives of both, the abolitionism and individualism.
 McKinnon, C., (1993). Prostitution and civil rights . Michigan Journal of Law and Gender. 1, 13-32.
2 Barry, Catherine,(1979) Female sexual slavery. 14
3 http://www.brandeis.edu/projects/fse/Pages/traffickingdebate.html accessed on 21 of November 2006
4 World Charter for Prostitutes Rights published by International Committee for Prostitutes Rights in Amsterdam in 1985 envisages rights and freedoms such as the right to protection against fraud, coercion and abuse, the right to proper working condition, the right to unemployment insurance, the right to self-employment, freedom to association, the freedom to travel, the right to the same tax regulation as other workers etc.; > http://walnet.org/csis/groups/icpr_charter.html accessed on 20-th of November 2006.
5 Janet Halley, Prabha Kotiswaran, Hila Shamir, Chantal Thomas,(2006). From the international to the local in feminist legal responses to rape, prostitution/sex-work, and sex trafficking: four studies in contemporary governance feminism. Harvard Journal of Law and Gender. 29, 336-419.