NEW YORK: On Saturday, July 28, AF3IRM NY’s Summer School on Women’s Activism (SSOWA2012) continued its four-part session with an afternoon spent on examining the traffic of women for labor and sex purposes. Rosalia Abreu and Rosemary Almonte led the intense discussion, with both students and AF3IRM members contributing to a comprehensive examination of the two modern phenomena.
Calling this “modern day slavery,” Ms. Abreu showed how the US was not exempt from sex trafficking; approximately, 17,000 women are brought into the US for sexual exploitation. A higher number of children – around 300,000 – are at risk annually from internal trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation; this was a sizeable percentage of the 1.2 million children trafficked every year globally.
Ms. Almonte, on the other hand, listed the work where trafficked labor can be found: domestic servitude, food service industry, sweatshop labor, hotels, nursing, nail salons, teaching, construction, begging and agriculture. For women, the boundary between labor and sex trafficking can be tenuous, as women trafficked primarily for labor are often vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation.
Among the forms of control used both with sex/labor trafficking victims are : financial as in debt bondage, family obligations; control of the victim’s money; isolation from relatives and ethnic/religious communities; isolation from public; confiscation of passport and other travel/identification documents; threats of violence; threat of authority (deportation, imprisonment).
A lively discussion ensued after the presentation as participants wrestled with such issues as:
· choice versus decision and the issue of “agency”
· what language to use to remove stigmatization of victims yet illuminate the intolerable circumstances of these practices
· the role of families and communities in the persistence of these phenomena
Both Ms. Abreu and Ms. Almonte emphasized that labor/sex trafficking are demand driven, “that demand drives supply.” Among demand factors are a) demand for cheap labor; b) changes within the domestic sphere, like the need for two incomes; c) high profit potentials. These impact populations who become the supply because of a) poverty; b) political instability/conflict; c) illusions of a better life elsewhere; d) absence of local safety nets; e) absence of job opportunities; and f) status of violence against women and children.
Trafficking has to be seen in the context of globalization, including such institutionalized trafficking as guest or temporary workers programs and “internal outsourcing and subcontracting,” by whichcorporate operations are farmed out to third party labor recruiting agencies – the newest anti-union corporate method to destroy job security and corporate accountability.
The presenters also pointed out that this global and national system of exploitation is maintained through militarism – the topic for coming Saturday’s class. The discussion on militarism will link foreign policy to the local policing of neighborhoods, with the participation of a speaker from Cop Watch.
AF3IRM NY is also developing a training module on Men Understanding Feminism, which hopefully will contribute toward breaking the cycle of patriarchalism and masculinism transferred from generation to generation.
For information on the SSOWA and other training conducted by AF3IRM NY, please contact NY Chapter Coordinator Minerva Arias at email@example.com.
To start an AF3IRM chapter in your area, contact Leilani Montes at firstname.lastname@example.org.