Please read this New Yorker piece. It’s very informative, and the details it highlights are tragic, heroic, devastating, dirty. You might cry. I kind of did. I’ve read and listened to so many of these stories over the years, but they still make me blubber.
One of the things to remember about human trafficking, and I’ve said this before and will say it again: many people are betrayed into it. And women are often just as complicit as men (this piece mentions a “she-pimp” who operated in Dubai, for example). It’s also true that many people enter the sex-trade aspect of human trafficking knowing that they will be prostitutes. But that makes them no less deserving of help, no matter WHAT anyone says (and seriously, another person who will make the opposite claim to my face might get bitch-slapped). It’s also important to note how trafficking relates to other phenomena: widespread corruption, particularly within law enforcement, is just one example. Too many times, when we talk about trafficking, we reduce it to the rape, the humiliation, the dehumanization. Obviously, these things are as real and as horrible as those on the outside can imagine, and sometimes more so. But this is not the whole picture. Financial motives must be discussed. Networks must be mapped. The psychology of the perpetrators and their enablers must be probed.
This is why I like the New Yorker piece by William Finnegan: he speaks about the practical side of trafficking as well as the emotional side. Far too many writers and activists and agitators just don’t want to “go there,” I have noticed. We don’t want understand this phenomenon from all angles, because we fear that in doing so, we might somehow legitimize it. But that’s not what usually happens, and it’s not what I see in Finnegan’s piece at all. Understanding something is not the same as excusing it.
Sure enough, Finnegan mentions s e x work. He doesn’t do a whole lot of editorializing on the subject, but I think it is rather counter-productive to repeatedly conflate s e x work and trafficking. Obviously, the phenomena do overlap, but that doesn’t mean that they are always one and the same. At the very least, not in my opinion. I suspect Finnegan might agree, or he may not. Either way, this is a great piece.
On a random note – Stella Rotaru’s name reminds of pop-star Sophia Rotaru, except, you know, with a job that saves lives (although Sophia is no slouch herself – by reputation a very charitable and intelligent woman).