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Submission to the APPG on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade (UK)

Last week, TTRP made a submission to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade.

An All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) occupies a strategic and effective position within the Parliamentary system.  An APPG is cross-party, with a minimum number of Parliamentarians from Government and the official opposition, and cross-House, made up of both peers and MPs.  These groups are not funded by Parliament.  APPGs do not have any powers to compel witnesses or submissions.  Groups can have a number of staffing options – some have no dedicated staff, others utilise external consultants with specialist skills and some, like the APPG on Prostitution, have their secretariat functions performed by external NGOs.  In this case Care, a Christian NGO, which declares itself to be:

… a well-established mainstream Christian charity providing resources and helping to bring Christian insight and experience to matters of public policy and practical caring initiatives.  CARE demonstrates Christ’s compassion to people of all faiths and none believing that individuals are of immense value, not because of the circumstances of their birth, their behaviour or achievements, but because of their intrinsic worth as people.  CARE is represented in the UK Parliaments and Assemblies, at the EU in Brussels and the UN in Geneva and New York.

The APPG on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade has a website, though it contains limited information about the Group’s work.  The purpose of the Group, as set out in the Register, is to:

raise awareness of the impact of the sale of sexual services on those involved and to develop proposals for government action to tackle individuals who create demand for sexual services as well as those who control prostitutes; to protect prostituted women by helping them to exit prostitution and to prevent girls from entering prostitution.

Gavin Shuker (Lab) is Chair; Claire Perry (Con) is Treasurer and; Fiona McTaggart (Lab) is Secretary.

The inquiry took the form of an online questionnaire, though the background to the inquiry and the questions asked can be found here.

Our full response can be accessed here.

Infantalising gender in anti-human trafficking policy: demand change

This week, we contributed to The Migrationist’s blog, in recognition of EU/UK Human Trafficking Day.

Included within the European Union Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016, announced in June of this year, are five priority areas, the second of which is: prevention of human trafficking including the reduction of demand. To its credit, the strategy attempts to include all forms of trafficking. In an effort to target “consumers and users of services, corporate social responsibility, codes of conduct, business and human rights and initiatives aimed at eliminating human trafficking from the supply chains of businesses,” it goes beyond the sex industry to include agriculture, construction and tourism.

Noticeably, several statements released by NGOs accompanying the announcement of this strategy were keen to emphasize the importance of undertaking a gender perspective by policymakers in future strategy initiatives. For instance, Equality Now “urges a strong focus on addressing the demand for trafficking which would also send a powerful message that the poor and disadvantaged are not for the exploitation of those with greater means.” While the European Women’s Lobby “has long maintained that the only effective way to counter human trafficking is to address its roots in gender inequalities, notably demand for prostitution”. Even the celebratory film festival scheduled for the EU Anti-Trafficking Day unabashedly acknowledges the focus on sex trafficking. So much for a holistic perspective on anti-trafficking initiatives. (more…)

Human trafficking discourse: the value of economics

Categorizing the movement of trafficked (and exploited) persons through the language of economics has become a fashionable way to digest the complex nature of human trafficking. The prelude to almost any introduction to human trafficking generally goes like this: trafficked people come from sending or source countries, occasionally make their way through transit countries and end up in destination countries, although a specific country can be assigned more than one designation. “Supply” and “demand” are terms generally reserved for trafficked persons; so a “source” country “supplies” trafficked people, a “destination” country is where there is “demand” for the labor or services conducive to exploitation or trafficking.

A great deal of research has been devoted to investigating the specific routes a trafficked person might take and/or analyzing locations on the basis of being a point of supply or demand. As trafficking is an incredibly profitable business, it may seem logical to borrow language from the world of finance and economics; importantly this discourse has successfully influenced research and current policy development.

Clearly, knowing about where people come from and where they end up is crucial in addressing human trafficking, specifically in developing indicators and risk assessments for populations likely to be trafficked in a given source country and the conditions under which they may be trafficked to a given destination country. Activists have also used this language in a call to public action through educational initiatives and legislative changes designed to heighten public awareness and accountability. But, as the field of anti-trafficking develops, how appropriate is this framework? Why has it been so readily absorbed into anti-trafficking advocacy? And to what extent has it constrained policy decisions? Arguably, trafficking rhetoric has stalled in an oversimplified, unimaginative economic discourse; the continued use of this reductionist language potentially ignores the ongoing, flexible nature of trafficking not only as a business, but as a research framework affecting subsequent policy interventions. (more…)