Traffic jam: where are all the bonded hookers?

Finally, a major paper has bothered to deconstruct the mythical numbers that are bandied about to justify the UK government’s idiotic conflation of sex work with sex trafficking.

The fact that raids on over 800 brothels didn’t net any traffickers doesn’t mean that there isn’t anyone in the UK selling sex against their will. But (I’ve said it before and in today’s Guardian I say it again) trying to wipe out the sex trade completely only makes things worse for the minority who are forced into it.

There is little one can do to change the minds of those who object, viscerally, to the commodification of sex. And the numbers will always be open to dispute, as they are with any illegal activity. But a lot of good researchers have spent a lot of time and effort trying to get a handle on trafficking in the sex trade — you can find excellent references here and here, and there’s a pretty good discussion thread over at Badscience. It’s like the massive, hidden HIV epidemic in the Middle East — if we haven’t found it after two decades of looking, maybe it really isn’t so massive after all.

For those who don’t have time to read the whole Guardian article, I’ll pull one key quote from a cop:

The head of the UK Human Trafficking Centre, Grahame Maxwell, who is chief constable of North Yorkshire, acknowledged the importance of the figures: “The facts speak for themselves. I’m not trying to argue with them in any shape or form,” he said.
He said he had commissioned fresh research from regional intelligence units to try to get a clearer picture of the scale of sex trafficking. “What we’re trying to do is to get it gently back to some reality here,” he said.
“It’s not where you go down on every street corner in every street in Britain, and there’s a trafficked individual.
“There are more people trafficked for labour exploitation than there are for sexual exploitation. We need to redress the balance here. People just seem to grab figures from the air.”

**UPDATE** The Guardian has published more interesting contributions to the debate, including the opinions of people who sell sex for a living.

With Halloween coming up, and in contrast to the hysteria around migrant sex workers, I offer this seasonal celebration of migrant pumpkin pickers in Canada, courtesy of Ickaprick.

This post was published on 21/10/09 in Ideology and HIV, The sex trade.

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  1. Comment by Kevin Burctoolla, 21/10/09, 02:50:

    Denis McShane MP is the pervert of counterknowledge

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