Today, I am so so angry! I am currently writing this project for my human rights class that examines the human trafficking in the former Soviet Union, with a focus on female sex workers. The subject is absolutely horrible, because as trafficking implies, there is a certain element of coercion involved at one stage or another; i.e. these women are forced to become sex workers or cannot leave it. At different points in my literature I have encountered the correlation between trafficking and militarization.
Now, I don’t know about you, but this connection is completely new for me. I have, not without an idealist influence, believed that peace-keeping forces are stationed at their various posts to protect the local people, and all other people that may be there voluntarily or non-voluntarily.
Apparently, this has been a naïve belief on my part. In fact, much of the literature I am reading for my project touches upon this apparently widespread knowledge that trafficked women and other sex workers are frequently used by soldiers and other voluntary workers. This happens either through a straightforward exchange of money and sexual favours, i.e. prostitution, or by the soldiers or voluntary workers or NGO-employees acquiring a “girlfriend.”
There is also evidence in the literature that trafficking increases once a military base is established in a war zone. This is because the soldiers apparently expect to have women to have sex with. They cannot control their carnal desires during their service, so they use what is handy, the women in close proximity. Sex trafficking and prostitution therefore become lucrative businesses in the area around military bases.
You might think that love can actually happen in these situations, and I do not doubt that. But let me just point out once again that these soldiers et cetera are there to protect these people they are in relationships with. Usually these are women (my literature focuses only on women, so while it might happen to male sex workers too, I have no evidence of that) who are living in poverty, or at least relative poverty, who are often also deprived of their civil rights in one way or another, whether they are actual trafficking victims or have chosen to enter into the sex work business. These people are in a dependency situation, looking for a way out. Once they have been used, they can be left behind like used commodities, going back into povery while the men go back to their home countries, enjoying all the civil liberties and comforts of a consolidated democracy.
There is another point to this as well. You, as a tax payer, is essentially paying for these men to use and abuse the women in the destinations they are sent to. They are there, usually, on orders from national army forces, usally paid by governments which uses the tax revenue: you pay them to send these men and women here. As for NGOs and voluntary workers, although they are private organisations usually (always in the case of a Non-Governmental Organisation), they are supposed to be the channels that protect people against states whose primary motivation is national goals. These organisations are supposed to be for everyone, regardless of nationality, gender, sexuality etc. Obviously, in these cases, they fail to be that.
This upsets me greatly. It upsets me because the people supposed to protect these women, the protectors, are the ones that the women need to be protected from. It is not an excusable practice. No, you do not have to have sex. No, you are not on an equal basis - these women will always be in a dependency situation towards you because of socio-economic factors. And no, I am not okay with this.
If you are a Swedish-speaker, this documentary on the UN peacekeeping forces in Kongo-Kinshasa is highly informative. If you are not, but you have access to academic journals, I suggest ‘Trafficking Women after Socialism: To, Through and From Eastern Europe’ by Gail Kligman and Stephanie Limoncelli. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, skip to the part on trafficking and militarization.
Have a nice weekend!