Another question: Are we making the best choices to help abused women and punish abusers of women in ways that are consistent with our traditional concept of justice? Or do we do as we damned well please internationally, letting our emotions trump justice?
I think that is a very good question.
Some will say that by creating a new category of crimes called “trafficking” we can make enforcement easier and make penalties more severe.
The United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons program seems to agree. And that seems noble enough on its face. Surely media has taught us how horrible those traffickers are, so send them all to jail like we do drug dealers! Right? We can insist all countries fill for profit prisons as we have done in the USA.
Some people – like me – will say that in the USA we often think of criminal justice as being high on our list of freedoms. By justice I mean fair trials, appropriate sentences, proper representation, and open evidence against us if we are accused. Isn’t that the way you think of justice in America? Most do!
But the demands the USA makes on other countries include speeding up enforcement and prosecution of crimes if we call them trafficking.
Not if they think of them as trafficking, but if the USA calls them that. This can very easily result in lower standards of guilt and will draw in many innocent people. Oppressive countries can use the State department demands as their excuse to use new trafficking laws to attack dissidents, minorities, and especially people with irregular immigration status – and they do.
The US State Department wants to see results.
Like any other business or profession the State Department has a program. There are real people in relevant departments within State with a vested interest in showing results, big results. Countries – hat in hand – go off to beg the State Department to not reduce their TIP tier based on their numbers. How many “traffickers did they arrest? How many are in jail now? Results!
Real Justice Moves at its Own Pace – –
There are reasons the justice systems moves at a particular speed. If law and order is meant to be a fair system how can demands from the US Department of State make a claim that this is an improvement. I doubt it would not be considered an improvement in the USA.
And some people will ask why penalties must be more severe than they have been in the past. Every crime that is now called trafficking is a traditional crime relabeled as being trafficking. All trafficking crimes also still exists as normal, traditional crimes. If I kidnap you I might be subject to a prison sentence of 10 years. But if there is any way this kidnapping can be linked to a definition of trafficking, no matter how etherial that link may be, suddenly it is a trafficking case. This new age crime might require 20 years in prison for the same crime that has always been 10 years before. Countries know that this kind of change to their laws makes the United States happy. They remain our friend. There is a certain amount of hyperbole in saying that as it is surely not that simplistic, but the principle is accurate.
This question becomes even more difficult from an ethical point of view when we discover – as I have – that many people branded as victims do not consider themselves to be victims at all. There is an old sports expression, “No harm, no foul,” that might apply here. But in many cases the person assigned to be the victim does not have any say about what is going on. Victims are infantilized. Their opinion rarely counts.
In another post I talk about several men who have received life sentences in the Philippines for questionable interpretations of trafficking laws seemingly to appease America’s international War on Trafficking. The women they were supposed to have trafficked are their biggest defenders.
I suggest to you that sometimes it seems like it is the trafficker who is the victim. I guess this idea amounts to collateral damage in the War on Trafficking when we get it wrong. But we do get it wrong and it is often wrong because America wants results, proof we sent the bad guys to jail and saved young girls. Someone over at State might be an Ambassador before long. But should he be proud of himself. Ethics is always personal.
Of course if you read more posts here you will quickly see the entire issue of trafficking is more complicated, more nuanced than media teaches you it is.
I suggest to you there is a conundrum apparent in America’s international interest in what they chose to call trafficking. This form of justice being forced onto countries around the world is in conflict with what many of us – meaning Americans again – instinctively think of as our concept of criminal justice. True or not for us these days, we like to think one of our freedoms as getting justice right, at least most of the time. Our interest in trafficking and our demands on other countries to find victims threatens our traditional concept of fair criminal justice.
Personally I like real justice not impinged by demands from other countries!
I suggest to you that other countries agree.
That’s my opinion. What do you think?
On a related note regarding criminal justice in America,
I highly recommend this excellent book – –
The Divide, American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, by Matt Taibbi.
Named one of the best books of the year. It is clear from this expose that many Americans cannot expect the kind of criminal justice we often think we have coming. The wealthiest people are home free and the poorest people are not safe from “criminal justice” while standing in front of their own home. This book is off my subject of understanding trafficking, but it surely is a well documented explanation of how the poorest people are controlled by police action.
I have often said that trafficking laws, like visas and fences, are one more way to control movement of people all around the world. Modern application of police power in America can also be said to be the same, a way to control poorer people. It is a slippery slope when these things are accepted rather than challenged. As inequality of wealth grows, the wealthy will feel the need to control all 99% of us poor people. Trafficking laws are the leading to this change to our freedoms.