sobota, 07. marec 2009

Trafficking women and forced prostitution: some conclusions and thoughts after a book presentation

Mary Kreutzer and Corinna Milborn published in March 2008 their book "Merchandise Women. On the traces of Modern Slavery from Africa to Europe" ("Ware Frau. Auf den Spuren moderner Sklaverei von Afrika nach Europa.").
On Friday, the 6th of March they presented it at the Red Dawns-festival; telling about how they came to the idea to make such a book, about the talks they had with different people, about the problem of trafficking for prostitution in general and about how this problem is linked with racist European politics and more specifically how it is linked with Austrian politics.
The idea for the book came to the authors because they got into touch with Joana Adesuwa Reiterer, a Nigerian actress who is living in Vienna. Her personal story is linked with the issue of trafficking because when she followed her husband to Austria she had to recognize that he was a trafficker. Instead of joining him she talked to the public, finishing the silence around the topic of trafficking and forced prostitution, and founded a NGO which offers advice and help to concerned women. (links below)
The book "Ware Frau." presents the special topic of trafficking which leads towards forced prostitution and the trafficking of Nigerian women to Austria. It doesn't seem that special anymore considering that forced prostitution brings a lot of money and is one of the main versions of trafficking and: most of the Nigerian women in Austria seem to be concerned by trafficking.

the setting which makes trafficking possible and profitable
One important thing talking about trafficking is that we are talking about a way making migration possible. we are talking about an illegal way to enter a country.Because migration is often seen as only an economic issue and migrants are devided in "good" ones and "bad" ones. There are the ones who can somehow get a visa or even a passport because their skills, their "human capital" promises to increase the financial standard of a country. Bad ones are the other migrants: those, who just have reasons to leave their countries or those who even haven't reasons beside that they want to live in another country. The selection between good and bad works with the terms "legal" and "illegal". But it isn't exactely as simple as that. Illegalised migrants may be said to ruin countries, may be put, in the public discourse, into the role of "bad" migrants. But not every illegalised migrant should really go. Economy lives through and with the aspect of illegalised working persons. For example migrant domestic workers make it possible for western European women to participate in the market of paid work.
The possiibilities of legal migration from Africa to Europe, more concrete: from Nigeria to Austria, are low.

you can not stop migration
But: migration is a fact. It happens. And if it can not happen legal, it happens illegal.
Trafficking is a result of refusing the right for the freedom of global movement.


women as concerned persons, women as victimizers:
some thoughts about a feminist point of view

During the presentation of the book it became more and more clear, how complex and complicated the issue of trafficking is and also the different roles overtaken by different persons and including different amounts of power.
Trafficking which leads to forced prostitution is a well organized system:
First you have got the ones who are called traffickers, the ones who anyhow managed to make it to another country and , if to manage somehow to survive or if to make profit out of it, started to fetch persons from their fromer home country and then forcing them into illegal jobs where they have no rights, no possibilty to reclaim them.
Then there are those persons, who are organizing the prostitution in the countries where people arrive. The persons who are also making profit out of the whole trafficking thing. And: In that case, for Nigerian women came with traffickers to Austria, it's mostly women who are doing the job of the pimp; they are called "madams".
Then you have the prostituted women themselfs and the clients.
This system is running with money.
Because leaving Nigeria isn't easy anyhow trafficking persons, bringing them out of Nigeria and to an European country, is a well-paid "job". And there are no ones who have the power to really help you, if you have just arrived and have to recover that the demands of the traffickers are nearly impossible to achieve. So when the trafficker brought the women to, in our case, Austria, he (mostly it's men) tells her that she would have to pay for her journey- and that is an amount round about 40 000 euro. What means that the women, are more and more forced into prostitution, because that's the job the trafficker offers them and so, because they don't have any papers or even a working permission, it's the only possibility to earn money and to break free from the trafficker circle. women and their families are threaten with psychological and physical violence.
But it's not "only" the amount of money they have to pay for the journey the women has to pay to the trafficker and the madam, they also have to pay for things like a bed, something to eat and "working stuff" like condoms.
It nearly seems impossible to pay back such a huge amount of money. But it isn't totally impossible.
One way to make more money than with prostitution is to get involved into the business of trafficking yourself, to start as a trafficked and forced into prostitution woman, exploiting women by yourself. One common way to do this is becoming a madam.

So that's a real difficult fact, also if you try to have a look on it out of a feminist point of view.
Telling the cruel story about trafficking connected with forced prostitution women are mainly put into the position of victims: they are the victims of the traffickers, of the pimp and of the clients. There seems to be no perspective to find a way out of the circle of dependencies, force and violence. Only to earn enough money.
In one way, you could regard the madams as a prove that the victim-position of women aren't that straight as they may be prentended to be. Madams could be seen as women who are changing their situation, managing to get out of forced prostitution and into a position with much more power.
But, if you have a close look at the different aspects of trafficking and changing power positions within the trafficking-system, it's totally clear that becoming a madam can't be really seen as a feminist self-empowerment. Still, as a madam you're not autonomous and free in what you're doing, you're still depending on traffickers, on men. And with the strategy to climb higher in the hierachy of trafficking it's not possible to quit it all, you're still moving within the same circle. And that's clearly a male-dominated, women exploiting circle. Sexism is a main part of its structure.
But further on it's important to don't look as the women who are becoming madams as bad victimizers who don?t give a shit for women solidarity. It's no use in moralising, it's necessary to have a look at the circumstances.

So, what could be ways out of forced prostitution?
Changing the circumstances is necessary. To make trafficking, trafficking for forced prostitution really impossible, it's absolutely necessary to change laws or more: change the view on migration. It's necessary to establish a global right of movement.
But unfortunatley it seems obviously that we aren't close to reach that aim until now.
So we can see the thing Joana is doing by supporting trafficked women, bringing the topic into the public, as a self-empowerment, an anti-racist way to fight against the problems of trafficked women.
And, one step for sure, out of the silence which makes forced prostitution and trafficking so non-existing, is to know first of all about it.

here is a link for a short film telling about the book "Ware Frau.", it's mostly in German, but includes also some English spoken interview phrases:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=et5XoPs8q0k

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