A true trafficking story when so many others are not – not true that is –
This is a resent story told to me by a friend who will remain nameless for obvious reasons of discretion regarding her identity. I doubt anyone will know who she is, but maybe – and I try to respect that when women confide in me. I will call her “One” since it is my first report like this. (Expect the next report of this type to be about “Two” and so on.) This is One’s trafficking story.
One is a very vivacious smiling sex worker, but an older one in her mid 30s. I had not seen her for several weeks when I passed by her normal place to work. But last week she rushed up to me with a big smile and asked if I missed her. I had to admit that I did. In fact I was worried about her, not that violence is the issue here. It isn’t. But I missed her – her smile, her interest in me.
One of the biggest difficulties of having sex workers among your circle of friends is that they are often very nice people who disappear without saying goodbye. People who bring some happiness to our often lonely lives just move on to be with their families or to work in a different place. The list of people I miss with no goodbye gets longer each year. Thankfully One did not stay in that group of lost friends.
And of course the question then changes. I asked where she has been lately. So many other bogs would say that “she was trafficked” but that form of language is part of the problem. To use the passive verb tense as if something happened to her against her will and she was somehow helpless, not part of the action as the passive verb form implies. Women in sex work aren’t helpless, although the most extreme feminists like to portray women in just that way. This is so common it is hard to find the proper grammar.
I say this: One “was NOT trafficked”. She was told about an opportunity and took it. She decided. That is no different than if you hear about a part time job in another country paying a lot of money if you can just get away for a couple weeks to do it.
One normally works in Pattaya Thailand as a sex worker of course. She heard about a sex work opportunity in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Visas for Thais who go to Malaysia are limited to 28 days. One joined several other Thai women in Bangkok and took a van on a long ride to Kuala Lumpur – about a 15 hours, I think. Maybe the van driver got money from both the women and also whomever they were delivered too. And why not? He deserves his pay appropriate to the risk he took.
One had the 28 day visa. These women checked into a specific hotel and stayed in their rooms almost constantly before taking the van back to Bangkok. The hotel provided room service meals but One was not locked in and she had her passport. Men came to that hotel and looked at a “menu” in the lobby with pictures of the women staying at that hotel. Some would call this a “brothel” but it had all the trappings of a hotel and other people did stay there too. Men could pick their favorite woman from this menu, call her up on the house phone and talk. Then he paid at the front desk and went to her room. These women split the price with the hotel. The hotel deserves to get paid too appropriate to their risk.
This is a classic example of real international sex trafficking. Please note, no one was kidnapped, raped or abused. No one does anything they aren’t already doing. No one is doing anything they don’t want to do. All the women, like One, were older than the average age of sex workers back in Pattaya or Bangkok, not young and certainly not children.
One was disappointed with how it turned out. She thought she would make more money. She said some girls made a lot of money, more then she did. She did make money to take home with her, just less than she expected. (One, by the way, has no breasts to speak off and is trying to talk me into paying for implants. She thinks that is her professional handicap.)
According to the most recent change to the definition of trafficking which added “deceived” to the list along with “coerced” and “forced,” One was officially trafficked because you can claim she was “deceived” since she made less money than she thought she would. This is exactly the manipulative way that definition is used. Maybe she should call the trafficking police, but jobs often disappoint in this way. By adding “deceived” to the definition of trafficking anti-trafficking NGOs can have a new wedge to get the disappointed women to agree to say they were trafficked. Remember America is always begging countries around the world to find more victims. Adding “deceived” to the definition of trafficking victims provides that new tool to convince sex workers they will benefit from claiming to be a victim.
Otherwise One had no complaints. It was an adventure. In the course of my jobs I have traveled to Calgary, Frankfurt, Vienna, Dallas, and other places and it was always exciting to take a trip, even if I was there to work. The same for these women.
I asked One if she would do it again. Her answer was an immediate “YES!”
And One’s story is a far more realistic example of international sex trafficking that any sad, dreary sob story you will hear elsewhere from people who want your donation to keep telling their exaggerations.