Below is information about Human Sex Trafficking in India, Nepal, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, Asia and Guyana in South America
Human trafficking: exaggerated numbers?
|If media reports are to be believed, there would be no young girls left in Nepal. RAJASHRI DASGUPTA and LAXMI MURTHY find accurate media coverage on trafficking of women and children lacking.|
|Posted/Updated Thursday, Jan 29 11:14:43, 2009|
InfoChange News & Features, January 2009
Today, more than ever before in history, people are moving across the world in search of better opportunities of life and livelihood. Made easier by faster and cheaper means of transport and communication, migration for employment, and its linkages with development as a phenomenon, occurs in most societies the world over.
As global capital moves, so must global labour. In South Asia, the movement of persons in search of greater employment opportunity is usually from the poorer regions, rural areas and less developed regions and countries, to the more developed. With growing urbanisation, availability of services as well as the opportunity to earn cash income, rural migrants are drawn into the big towns and metros. Many argue that people move from labour surplus-low wage areas, to labour shortage-high wage areas. In some cases, migration is also due to political instability and religious persecution.
In 2005, the five major South Asia labour-sending countries (India,Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan) sent over 1.5 million migrant workers abroad legally. India sent 549,000 migrants;Bangladesh 253,000; Nepal 184,000. The number of migrants deployed rose in each country by 2007; for instance, according to Migration News 2008, the number of Indians deployed was 800,000, the number of Bangladeshis 833,000.
Remittance by migrant workers is said to be a major pillar that supports the economies of some countries. In 2007, the five majorSouth Asia labour-sending countries received $40 billion in remittances, led by $27 billion in India, $6.4 billion in Bangladeshand $1.6 billion in Nepal. Most South Asians earn about $200 to $400 a month in the Gulf oil-exporting States.
Globalisation, and the phenomenal economic growth in some parts of India, have resulted in complex patterns of migration across borders in the region. According to a 2006 report of the International Labour Organisation, women are increasingly migrating, and now account for half the international migrants. However, media coverage of trafficking of women and children, migration and sex work is confused and inaccurate. The media wrongly uses the terms ¿sex work¿ and ¿trafficking¿ synonymously, perpetuating stereotypes and stigmatization, and contributing to the violation of women¿s right to free movement and livelihood options.
If media reports are to be believed, there would be no young girls left in Nepal. Oft-quoted figures such as 5,000-7,000 Nepali girls being trafficked across the border to India every year and 150,000-200,000 Nepali women and girls being trapped in brothels in various Indian cities, were first disseminated in 1986, and have remained unaltered over the next two decades. The report that first quoted these statistics was from the Indian Health Association, Mumbai, written by AIDS Society of India secretary general, Dr. I S Gilada, and presented in a workshop in 1986. Subsequently, a version of this report was published as an article in The Times of India on January 2, 1989. To date, the source of this figure remains a mystery. Unfortunately, such a lack of clarity is more the norm than the exception when it comes to reporting on trafficking in women and girls.
Not surprisingly, figures about the same phenomenon differ vastly. For example, the news report, ¿Majority of girls trafficked are minors¿, Indian Express, Guwahati, March 9, 2007 cites the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as estimating that 150,000 people are trafficked within South Asia. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that between 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked across borders. The news report quotes estimates by the same organisations, that between 5,000-10,000 Nepali women are trafficked every year to India for purposes of ¿commercial sexual exploitation¿, with an estimated 40,000-200,000 women and girls from Nepal working in brothels in various cities across India.
However, another report, from a different news agency, IANS, ( India Abroad News Service) that appeared in The Tribune onOctober 24, 2007, quoted the UNODC chief, Gary Lewis, as saying that 5,000-15,000 women and children are trafficked to India fromNepal. Where does the truth lie? Or do 5,000 women this way or that not matter at all?
With the right safeguards in place to protect women without infringing on freedom of movement, migration can be profitable and strengthening, and women should not be discouraged from exercising this right. However, domestic laws, as well as regional laws and policies in South Asia, have not kept pace with these population movements. Security concerns, as well as political upheavals and internal conflict in most of the countries in the region, have also prevented the development of a comprehensive migration policy.
The lack of easy avenues to migrate, has resulted in a plethora of illegal activities and organised crime in the business of getting people/labour across borders. Trafficking for the purpose of debt bondage, child labour, organ trade, begging, sex work and mail-order brides are only some of the more glaring manifestations. Smuggling of persons across the border, through dangerous means, albeit with their consent, is another outcome of the lack of safe migration opportunities. Further problems arise because of the common perception that all movements of women (especially across borders) are forced, and mainly for the purpose of prostitution. This also leads to the conflation of ¿prostitution/sex work¿ with ¿trafficking¿, with these terms wrongly being used synonymously.
Stigmatisation and the perpetuation of stereotypes by the media add to the violation of human rights of each of these categories of persons: migrant workers, trafficked workers and smuggled workers. Within these categories, women are more vulnerable; gender discrimination and violence makes women soft targets of trafficking, while traffickers thrive on vulnerabilities. However, due to these vulnerabilities and risks, all women who migrate are lumped (in popular perception, the media, laws and policies) with children in need of protection. Such a protectionist approach often ends up violating women¿s right to free movement, to livelihood options, and choosing a country of residence.
Globally, anti-trafficking initiatives have stemmed from a crime-control perspective, rather than a human-rights perspective. Thus, the focus tends to be on stamping out a vice through stringent laws and effective enforcement, in order to rid a society of a social evil. Such an approach dwells little on the lived realities of women, their complex situation, and their human rights which might get violated in the process of vice control. The media has tended to mirror and reinforce this view, rather than focus on safe migration for individuals and their families.
Media coverage on issues of trafficking of women and children, migration and sex work over the years has been far from ideal. In the first place, issues of migration and trafficking do not receive adequate coverage in mainstream media, and the quality of
coverage is also a major concern. Moreover, misinformation, alongside commonly held myths, overridden by the prevailing morality, contributes to media coverage of these issues being shoddy and lacking in a factual base. Further, when journalists are unable to recognize and put aside their own prejudices and biases, they are unable to tell it like it is. The attempt to sensationalize the issue, and draw more attention, is also perhaps one contributory factor to ¿spicy¿, but confused headlines and reports.
Facts, lies and statistics
One of the pre-requisites for dealing with this problem is the availability of accurate data from reliable sources. Media coverage on trafficking of women and children clearly reveals scanty and unverified data. Often, data is cited without quoting the source, and even when sources are quoted, the data is varied and contradictory. What is of more concern is that inaccurate ‘facts’ are regularly recycled in the media in the face of evidence that reliable data is scare. Discrepancy in agency reports is particularly significant, because the same report is picked up by publications across India, almost assuming the status of ¿fact¿.
There are conflicting statements given out on these issues by organizations such as the UN and the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau). One such instance is about the main region from where the majority of women are trafficked. Nepal, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal are variously quoted, with these reports finding their way into the press. Another such glaring dichotomy is evident in that a Press Trust of India (PTI) report quotes Malini Bhattacharya, member of the National Commission for Women,India, calling human trafficking a “kind of international terrorism”. Yet, the same news item says that it is estimated that 90% ofIndia¿s sex trafficking is internal. The usual stereotype in press accounts is of equating trafficking with prostitution, as evidenced by the “selling girls for prostitution” reported from various police stations in the country. Further, by mentioning ¿girls¿, it is not clear if it actually means minors, or whether ¿girls¿ also includes adult women. Such ambiguity does not enable an accurate assessment of the problem.
Very little data is available on the actual implementation of the anti-trafficking law, and convictions arising out of this. A rare report can be found on nepalnews.com date November 2, 2007(¿5,000 sex workers in Valley: A study¿). According to this report, “About 7% out of the total of 2,210 prisoners are serving jail terms in the Kathmandu valley in cases related to human trafficking. Most of the imprisoned male traffickers are from Sindhupalchok, Nuwakot, Dhading and Makawanpur districts.” However, no source for this data is quoted.
Recycling unverified data
The analysis of newspaper clippings and electronic clips revealed that published data tends to make the rounds of media outlets. Even if the data is not attributed to any reliable source, it is quoted repeatedly. The following is one such example:
The Dainik Bhaskar (Hindi), New Delhi, of January 14, 2007, in a report titled ¿Deh vyapar ka karobar ek lakh karod ka¿ (Flesh trade to the tune of one lakh crore) contains some interesting facts and figures:
1. After drugs and arms trafficking, trafficking in children and women is the next biggest money-spinner in the world.
2. These women and children are used in the sex trade, and the business amounts to 10 billion dollars annually.
3. India shares 1/4th of this booty.
4. In India, 1 crore women are trafficked, and 1 lakh crore rupees change hands.
5. In Mumbai, the women involved in sex trade goes up to 1 lakh.
6. In India, there are 500,000 women from Nepal andBangladesh.
7. Every year, around 10,000 women from Nepal, and 7,000 women from Bangladesh are trafficked to India on the promise of employment and better marriage prospects.
8. Most of these are below 16 years of age.
9. The girls from Nepal are sold for Rs 2000-60,000.
10. According to the Centre for Development and Population Activities, 200 women are added to the sex trade in Indiaeveryday.
A point to note is that the source for the data for points 1 through 9is attributed to “various human rights agencies and NGOs” without naming them.
Significantly, these statistics were quoted in two news reports on major TV channels in India: The report ¿Tackling Trafficking¿, aired on NDTV 24×7 on December 4, 2007, while reporting the newly launched Ujjwala scheme, quotes the Dainik Bhaskar data, but no primary source. Similarly, a report on Doordarshan on the same day (December 4, 2007) on the Ujjwala scheme, also quotes the same Dainik Bhaskar figures. Journalists must be alert to the process of recycling data without checking original sources, especially when the data thus quoted is contradictory.
Getting off the beaten track
The majority of the reports that appear in the media can be called hand-out journalism – either from official sources, press releases, or NGO publicity materials. Rarely did any of the stories explore new angles, or break new ground in exposing the roots of the problem, nor did they suggest innovative solutions to the problem of trafficking in women and girls. A few articles did attempt to highlight little-known facts, such as the extremely low conviction rate for the crime of human trafficking (¿5,000 sex workers in Valley: A study¿), the lack of training for police (Sreyashi Dastidar¿s ¿Never too young to be sold¿ in The Telegraph, Kolkata, October 15, 2007). But these continue to be rare, illustrating the need for more analytical and investigative reporting of these issues.
This critique of coverage in print, online and electronic media must be read in the context of the crucial role played by the media. The media can also provide a platform for healthy debate and airing divergent views. However, if the media takes it upon itself to play either moral guardian, or police mouthpiece, it is hardly likely that this will generate an informed debate. (Rajashri Dasgupta is an independent journalist based in Kolkata.)
Cambodian Marriage Law, Foreign Men Over The Age Of 50, Banned From Marrying Cambodian Women
The fight against human trafficking is supposed to be about protecting the basic human rights of those who are perceived to be victims. Unfortunately the result of over zealous and fear mongering politicians, media and independent agencies are often counter productive. In March of 2011, the government of Cambodia introduced a racist and discriminatory policy outlawing marriages with Cambodian women and foreign men over the age of 50.
When asked to comment on the newly introduced law, Cambodian government officials stated that “We are preventing fake marriages and human trafficking”. So in an effort to protect basic human rights, they use a tactic of racial and age discrimination. In addition to the age limit, there is also a monthly income requirement of 2500USD for foreign men under the age of 50. There is no mention of what happens in the case of a 50 year old foreigner wanting to marry a 45 year old Cambodian bride, presumably this would be illegal under Cambodian law.
If you’re a Cambodian woman, you have, effectively been denied the right to freely choose a spouse as enshrined in international human rights law. Head of the Licadho human rights group comments “This is discrimination against women because they will not be allowed to marry men who are over 50 … while Cambodian men can marry any foreign woman they choose,”
It is illogical to think that this policy will have any affect on human trafficking, those who are involved in the sex trade likely have no intention of marrying anyone. The fact that anyone supports these kind of policies is appalling! Human rights advocates that are involved in the fight against human trafficking should appose these kind of policies that take away a woman’s right to choose her partner.
Tuesday 2 November 2010
How NGOs are adopting a missionary position in Asia
A sex-worker rights activist in Thailand tells Nathalie Rothschild about the reality of the prudish, neo-colonial anti-trafficking industry.
We all know that there is a big sex industry in south-east Asia. In fact, it often seems that sex is the only thing we hear about in reports from this part of the world as the media peddles salacious stories about ‘sex tourism’, ‘ladyboys’, virgins for sale and girls tricked into prostitution. But in recent years another kind of trade has boomed there: the anti-trafficking industry. And local sex worker rights activists tell me that this industry is a far bigger problem for them than punters looking for sex or company.
Today, there are hundreds of non-governmental organisations in Cambodia alone working to ‘rescue and rehabilitate’ sex workers. Local sex-worker representatives even claim that there are more anti-trafficking activists than there are genuine trafficking victims.
Indeed, last year an audit of the USAID Counter Trafficking in Persons project reported that in 2009 the Cambodian government convicted just 12 people of trafficking offences. As for trafficking victims, the audit concluded that it was beyond the scope of the five-year project – initiated in 2006 with a budget of $7.3million – to establish ‘baseline data’ on the numbers of victims.
Andrew Hunter from the Asia-Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) tells me that there are NGO-run women’s shelters across Cambodia that rely on funding from donors like USAID and that they use ‘lurid stories of sexual abuse to raise money. It’s kind of pornographic in a way – but it seems making up stories of the enslavement and sexual degradation of women raises more funds.’
The USAID report explained that other organisations and researchers had also failed to establish just how many trafficking victims there are in Cambodia. One of the obstacles identified was that ‘Human trafficking victims may be unaware, unwilling, or unable to acknowledge that they are trafficking victims, so it is difficult to reach them…’
For Andrew, saying that women are unwitting victims – even if they vehemently deny it – is tantamount to denying ‘the idea that women have agency’. (Ironically, the anti-trafficking industry is to a large extent made up of self-described feminists. But feminists have traditionally fought for women to be regarded as autonomous, free-thinking individuals, not as clueless victims.)
As for enforced prostitution, Andrew says that ‘women (and men) generally take up jobs because they need to earn money’ and the same is true for sex work. ‘The fewer skills you have, the less choice you have, but many women do choose sex work.’
‘Large numbers of sex workers in Cambodia are former garment workers’, Andrew continues. ‘They find conditions in the sex industry better than in the garment factories. In fact, a few weeks ago, Cambodian garment workers organised massive strikes demanding higher wages– and sex workers were on the picket lines supporting them.’
Yet a recent BBC documentary claimed that thousands of young girls are being sold into sexual slavery in Cambodia and that prostitution is not something women take up voluntarily.
The documentary was presented by Stacey Dooley, who made her television debut in the 2008 BBC series Blood, Sweat and T-shirts, in which six young British ‘fashion addicts’ toured factories and slums in India. Up until then, Dooley had been interested in little more than clothes and makeup, but now she goes around the world investigating topics such as the use of child soldiers and child labourers in the developing world.
In her report from Cambodia, Dooley hardly has a dry-eyed moment. As Alang, an 18-year-old prostitute, tells Dooley her story (she was sold to pimps by her aunt at the age of 12) the young Brit weeps uncontrollably. After waiting nine hours to accompany police on a raid to ‘bust some brothels’, Dooley starts crying because the cops fail to catch any pimps. And so on. She also visits an impoverished widow whose youngest daughter attends activities organised by the Sao Sary Foundation. This is an NGO which runs lessons for rural children whom they’ve identified as being at risk of falling prey to traffickers.
Andrew has heard it all before. ‘The idea that large numbers of women are sold into the sex industry by their families is based on a premise that poor people are stupid, ignorant and naive – not to mention cruel.’
‘Yes, this kind of thing used to happen’, Andrew tells me, ‘in the period after the civil war when Cambodia started “opening up”’. During the time of the UN peacekeeping operation in 1992-93, women from rural areas started going to cities to find work, but were often forced into degrading situations. But as women went back to their villages and told their relatives of their experiences, people started to learn, explains Andrew. ‘The same is true all over south-east Asia. Ten years ago, when sex workers in Cambodia were crying out for assistance on this issue no one was interested. So they formed their own unions to fight for their rights as workers. Since anti-trafficking money became available, however, suddenly every NGO is worried about “rescuing sex workers”.’
The anti-trafficking industry boomed in the early Noughties, when then US president George W Bush launched the ‘war on trafficking’ as a ‘soft power strategy’ to accompany the global war on terror. However, the thinly veiled agenda was to abolish any form of sex work. Funding to organisations that ‘promote, support, or advocate the legalisation or practice of prostitution’ was suspended.
In addition, two years ago, the Cambodian government passed the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, drafted with the support of UNICEF. As researcher Cheryl Overs has shown, it criminalises ‘almost all social and financial transactions connected to sex work, whether they are abusive or consensual, fair or unfair’. According to Andrew, this has had devastating effects, driving sex workers onto the streets where they are more vulnerable and into karaoke bars where they are not allowed to carry condoms.
In her documentary, Dooley also meets a young girl who was tricked into prostitution at the age of 13 and has suffered horrific abuse, including being forced to drink alcohol mixed with crushed glass. Andrew says this kind of abuse becomes more likely when the sex industry is driven underground and sex workers cannot organise to protect their rights.
Moreover, ‘many of the agencies working with “trafficking victims” in fact illegally detain sex workers after they have been rounded up in police raids. I have met sex workers who have been held against their will for up to three months in so-called shelters.’ Andrew tells me that many shelters are set up specifically for ‘protection cases’ – ‘young girls taken by NGOs from villages in order to hide them from traffickers’. So, in order to prevent young girls from being taken away from their families, NGOs take them away from their families… ‘Usually, they teach them things like sewing and in that way offer ready-trained workers for the garment industry, where women are indeed exploited and paid paltry wages.’ Also, ‘there are plenty of US-backed DIY-NGOs in Cambodia who want to save young girls, offering them bible study dressed up as literacy classes.’ This is a missionary position indeed.
Over at Dooley’s blog, there is now a lively discussion going on, with Cambodian activists and researchers refuting some of the claims made in her documentary. Others are appalled at Dooley’s patronising tone. Indeed, she speaks to the Cambodians she meets as if they are children, looking at them with puppy eyes as they tell her of their hardships and explaining, in simple, clearly enunciated English (even though there were translators in the film crew) how she would do her best to help them and how she feels their pain.
For Dooley, who confesses she is a bit of a prude and has never met a prostitute before, the red light districts of Cambodia are understandably overwhelming. It’s hard for her to imagine that anything other than ‘brothel busting’ could be the answer to the exploitation some girls experience. But good intentions and sympathy can do a lot of harm. Dooley may want to show that she understands poor people’s desperation, but, in the end, she comes across as a wide-eyed, ignorant, well-heeled westerner wanting desperately to Do Something. She lectures and hectors everyone from western men to Cambodian police for failing to help girls in need.
Yes, Dooley is a ditzy young woman who got a gig with the BBC by fluke, but she perfectly epitomises the neo-colonialist streak to anti-trafficking. Documentaries such as hers only help portray developing world countries like Cambodia as places of vice and beastliness on the one hand, and ignorance and innocence on the other; as places filled with people who need to be rescued and civilised.
My guess is that Cambodians could do without such ‘help’ and that British television viewers could do with some programmes exposing the dubious interests and machinations of the anti-trafficking industry in south-east Asia and beyond.
Nathalie Rothschild is commissioning editor of spiked.
reprinted from: http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/9843/
Philippines – GOVT SEEKS SOURCE OF SEX TOURISM / US ENVOY APOLOGIZES, ASKS PHL TO REFINE ANTI-TRAFFICKING LAWS
MANILA, OCTOBER 8, 2011 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla – Malacañang wants to know from US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. (photo) the source of his information when he revealed that 40 percent of male foreigners fly to Manila primarily for sex tourism.
“Apparently, he claims to have some basis. That’s the reason why he issued such a statement. What we want to know is where that basis came from,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told a press briefing yesterday.
Filing a diplomatic protest at this point would be premature, according to him, because the Philippine government has to ascertain first the veracity of the information that the American envoy got.
“It’s already speculation at this point if we want to file something when we don’t even know yet the basis of the claim of Ambassador Thomas. So, we would like to ask the good ambassador, again, the basis of his statement,” Lacierda said.
More than anything else, the Palace official said they were “more curious than offended” with Thomas’ surprising remarks, precisely the reason why “we wanted to know and ask from them the basis for their statement.”
“We will wait for the response of Ambassador Thomas,” Lacierda said.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima denied the claim of Thomas that he got his data from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
De Lima said it is not their duty to ask foreigners if they were sex tourists.
“As far as DOJ is concerned, there are no such records. The DOJ does not collect statistics on sex tourists. Because, in the first place, like Secretary De Lima said, we don’t go around asking them if they are sex tourists,” Lacierda said, quoting De Lima.
“So, there’s no statistics to that effect and Secretary De Lima, in fact, wrote a letter to Ambassador Thomas to ask the good ambassador the basis for his claim,” Lacierda said.
Nonetheless, they are leaving such matters to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). “After receiving that particular explanation, we’ll leave it with the DFA to decide on the best course of action.”
Thomas has rejected calls for him to apologize for his remarks that 40 percent of male tourists in the Philippines are only after sex with local women and children.
“I’m not going to apologize. I will never apologize for trying to combat child sex. I will never apologize for trying to combat children being forced to labor. I will never apologize for trying to help children in Smokey Mountain,” Thomas said in an interview in his Forbes Park residence in Makati City recently.
He maintained that he based his assertion on records on the sex trade and child trafficking culled by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents working with the National Bureau of Investigation.
Thomas drew flak for his comments from some politicians, including Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Sen. Miriam Santiago.
US envoy apologizes for sex tourism story By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) Updated October 08, 2011 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines – US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. has apologized for his remarks that 40 percent of male tourists visiting the Philippines come only for sex tourism, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said yesterday.
Del Rosario said he received a text message from Thomas who expressed regret over his statement at a forum last month that should not have been made without supporting data.
“I am sending you a response expressing regret for my comments. I should not have used the 40 percent statistics without the ability to back it up,” Thomas said. “I regret any harm that I may have caused.”
Del Rosario received the message in Hanoi while attending the 7th Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation between the Philippines and Vietnam.
He said Thomas has been working closely with the Philippine government in addressing the challenge of human trafficking in the country.
Lawmakers challenged the data on sex tourism cited by Thomas and said the American envoy should back up his statement with solid proof.
Thomas’ statements were challenged by various sectors that included Malacañang and the Department of Tourism.
Thomas, however, earlier said he would not apologize over his remark about prostitution in the country and stressed he was only telling the truth when he cited the statistics.
Article Link: http://www.newsflash.org/2004/02/hl/hl111154.htm
WHY ARE WE ASKING FOR EVIDENCE OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING?
The government and the United States are not reading from the same page when it comes to human trafficking. Every year in which the United States grades Guyana’s anti-human trafficking efforts, there is a diplomatic row over the grade mark.
This year is no different, and the subject minister has made it clear that while there has been an improvement in Guyana’s ranking, the report is nonsensical. We have heard that before.
The government must know by now that these ratings and rankings are really tools by which the United States seeks to control internal policies of governments. So we have a human trafficking index which if it reaches a certain threshold can invite sanctions against the defaulting nation. There is also a transparency index which measures the openness of the economy. If the government were tomorrow to decide to ban all public contracts, thereby removing the risk of corruption, it would still be accused of lacking transparency.
Some governments, of course, simply ignore these reports produced by agencies of the United States. Venezuela, for example, does not care two hoots about what the United States has to say about human trafficking in their country. If the United States wants to impose sanctions on Venezuela, that country knows that it can withstand these measures and retaliate with it own sanctions.
Guyana does not have the same liberty. Some of our leaders are concerned that instead of just trade sanctions, Guyana may be subject to visa sanctions and this will affect them. So that when the first Human Trafficking Report came out, Guyana was afraid of US sanctions and so rushed to pass human trafficking legislation.
It seems, however, that Guyana and the US are not on the same page when it comes to human trafficking, or rather, Guyana is not aware of some of the things that constitute human trafficking.
Instead of therefore asking the US to produce the evidence of incidents of human trafficking, the Guyana authorities should recognize the broad range of activities which can be considered as human trafficking.
If someone brings an interior resident to work in the city and that person complains about exploitation, that can be taken to be human trafficking.
At present, there are number of females working in bars in Guyana, and often these women are subject to harassment. Some men try to put their hands up these girls’ skirts. This is not only sexual abuse, but human trafficking.
There are women from the city who provide sexual services in the mining districts. Some of them may pretend that they are businesswomen, but never quite reveal the true nature of their business. This too can be human trafficking.
Guyanese women who are taken to Suriname to work and end up having to sell their bodies just to survive are considered as human trafficking victims. Even if you go voluntarily, once you are providing sexual services you may end up being considered as a victim of human trafficking.
The Guyanese authorities have to therefore understand what the United States considers as human trafficking and decide what action they will take.
In some instances, they have to drop the pretence that persons are not being prostituted in Guyana. It is public knowledge that there are private clubs in Guyana in which Brazilian women strip naked, dance around a pole and provide sexual services. This is public knowledge and some of these places are frequented by some prominent businessmen, unknown to their marriage partners.
It also rumoured that there are orgies at private residences and joints, also said to involve foreign women who are paid for their services. These things are also part of human trafficking as defined by the United States, and therefore if the Guyanese authorities are serious about improving human trafficking, they would ensure that laws are passed outlawing some of the lewd things that are taking place at these private clubs, many of which are open to the public and therefore not fully private at all.
The activities of some of these private clubs are degrading to our women, and it is strange that none of the women’s activists or groups have called for these joints to be shut down.
But just the mention of casinos and there is an uproar from sections of the society who seem to give the impression that they do not know about the pole dancing and striptease and prostitution that is happening.
Wake up Guyana! Take action against human trafficking before the United States shuts this country down!
On September 15, 2010, truck loads of armed personnel from the Philippine National Police raided four bars in the entertainment district of Angeles City, reinforced by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (headed by the Philippine Department of Justice), and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Two hundred sixty-eight bar employees—managers, mamasans, cashiers, waitresses, and bargirls, including three of our interviewees—were placed in detention for one week. Tala (an interviewee) contacted us upon her release with the news of the raids.
In addition to the detentions, as a result of the closing of these four bars some 300 other workers were displaced from their jobs, and everyone involved with provisioning the bars, cleaning the bars, washing uniforms, and recycling bar trash were out of a job or lost sales.
Officials said the raid was to “rescue” victims of “trafficking,” a claim as admirable as it is bogus. Our field interview data, available on this blog and presented in detail below, clearly show that young Filipinas work in these bars of their own volition, for reasons that make sense to them. We find no evidence whatsoever of human trafficking in the entertainment district of Angeles City.
This raises the question of why the Philippine authorities would conduct an anti-trafficking raid in a place where trafficking does not exist. Perhaps they were ignorant about the Angeles City bar scene. More likely they wanted to prove they are cracking down on what the U.S. State Department, The United Nations, and anti-trafficking organizations are convinced is a global problem.
Hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. aid to the Philippines hangs in the balance.
The Political Context of the Raid
Philippine Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, whose office supervises the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, stated in a news conference the day after the raid, “They rescued last night more than 200 trafficked persons from 10 establishments. Many of the victims are minors.”
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported:
De Lima . . . said the owners and managers of these establishments would face charges. “This is a breakthrough in our anti-(human) trafficking initiatives,” De Lima said.
GMA News.TV reported on its website:
De Lima, who assumed office last July, had instructed . . . the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking to step up efforts to combat human trafficking. The Philippines is in danger of losing some $250 million in aid from the US State Department if it does not improve the prosecution of trafficking syndicates. . . . The US State Department’s 2010 human trafficking report retained the Philippines’ “Tier 2 watch list” rank, indicating that the country “does not fully comply with, but is making significant efforts to meet” the agency’s standards.
Others Filipinos didn’t see the raid as a rescue of trafficked girls. According to the Philippine news agency, ABS-CBNNews:
Some relatives of the bar girls complained that the women were illegally arrested.
Authorities responded that the detention was not illegal, because the girls had been rescued, not arrested, so in a sense the fact that they were forcibly detained was somehow different.
An official from the raiding team, however, clarified that the raids were part of a ‘rescue’ operation. “There’s no illegal detention because the minors and victims were rescued by the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and not under arrest. Only those involved with the transactions constituting trafficking in person were arrested,” a text message from the official stated.
The Angeles City municipal government knew nothing of the pending raid. Municipal officials were not notified in advance of the raid. When the raid took place the mayor of Angeles City, Edgardo Pamintuan, was in the United States on official business.
The mayor and owners of various Angeles City bars have contested the government’s story, expressing concern about the damage done to the city, as well as to the enterprises and their employees. They disputed the allegation that the bars employ underage girls, and questioned the government’s statistics on prostitution.
The official Angeles City website, angelescityonline.net, said in an article titled, “Meeting Between Mayor and Bar Owners Regarding Recent Raids in Angeles City,”
The purpose of the meeting was for Pamintuan to address the very serious issue of the raids conducted by national law enforcement authorities over at some bars in Fields Avenue and the consequent damage to the image not only of the nightlife strip’s businesses but of the whole of Angeles City as well.
The mayor referred to the meeting between (Philippine) President Aquino and US President Obama this week, as well as Obama’s campaign against human trafficking in line with the UN 2015 Millennium Development Goals, as part of the cause of such oppressive attention from national government agencies . . . It must be stated that the keen participation of the Philippines in Obama’s campaign and in the furthering of the Millennium Goals for developing countries has very recently gained by way of President Aquino some $434 million from USAID.
Pamintuan claimed that the recent raids . . . were incited by the US and even the UN, were beyond his control.
Another important issue that bar owners raised was the release of the employees of Forbidden City, Dirty Duck and Club Camelot. A total of 12 girls from these bars are still detained in Precinct 174, ostensibly “rescued” after being declared minors by a hastily-conducted dental check-up. All while the girls were able to present valid IDs and documents declaring them legitimate workers. Some of the detained individuals apart from the 12 alleged minors are employed as cashiers, bartenders, waiters and waitresses – clearly having nothing to do with human trafficking and unworthy of such charges.
The problem goes further than the detained employees, however, as the three bars have no way to help even their other employees numbering close to 300, who have been out of a job since the bars were closed.
Angeles City has always been hounded with “bad press” for harboring a “red-light district.” However, Pamintuan himself insisted that our city’s nightlife entertainments pale in comparison to other “fun” cities like Las Vegas and Pattaya. Unfortunately, however, the stigma of prostitution is particularly felt in the Philippines, and outsiders who do not understand the inner workings of Angeles City are prone to make erroneous and tragic assumptions about its image as a tourist city.
During the open forum, Agnew cited an article which claimed that 75% of 500 interviewed workers in Angeles City bars are underaged. He added that this misinformation is a ‘disgrace’, and the real number would be under 2% which could be brought down much more through better screening by the issuers of IDs by the city hall. Pamintuan agreed, citing his own experience with being presented with outrageous figures of prostitution and human trafficking in the Balibago tourist belt by supposed authorities in the national government. He also added that, apparently, Angeles City is considered second only to Manila in engaging in the trafficking of persons.
“It’s really beyond me, what happened, because they got all their facts wrong,” said Pamintuan.
On September 28, 2010, Philippine President Benigno Aquino proclaimed that he’s taking a tougher stance on human trafficking and expected more arrests “soon.” The fact he was in the United States from September 20—26, 2010, and that he managed a brief meeting with U.S. President Obama during his stay, should not be considered coincidental.
What is Human Trafficking and How Prevalent Is It?
The Trafficking Protocol, adopted by the United Nations in 2000 and signed by 117 countries, defines trafficking as:
The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth [above] shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth [above] have been used. . .
This broad definition may not hold up to strict legal or logical analysis. The essence of it seems to be that trafficking occurs when a party or organization recruits individuals through coercion or deception into an enterprise that benefits from their labor or services.
The Protocol is especially concerned with the coerced or deceptively acquired labor of women and children, with children being defined as anyone under 18 years of age. It requires signatory nations to enact laws making it a criminal offense to attempt, participate in, or direct others to engage in such activities.
The UN Protocol is but one expression of pervasive contemporary publicity about trafficking. The concept of trafficking has entered our modern consciousness. Everyone these days seems at least vaguely aware that something called “trafficking” is going on out there, and it’s bad. Trafficking is written up in newspapers and weeklies. It is talked about on television talk shows. Lurid stories are retold. Movies are produced. Numbers of trafficked women and children are bandied about. Groups are formed to eradicate it. Governments mobilize.
Despite the angst, we know little about the real extent of trafficking on a world-wide basis. Estimates fluctuate wildly. The United Nations estimates that 700,000 to 4 million women and children are trafficked around the world for purposes of prostitution, labor, and other forms of exploitation every year. The U.S. State Department estimates that 12.3 million adults and children were trafficked in 2009. We get the picture of a vast slave trade, run by international mafias, seizing and dealing and transporting people all over the world.
How reliable are these numbers? Curiously, certain agencies of the U.S. government and the UN themselves, the very bodies engaged in policing trafficking, have serous questions about our trafficking statistics and the research methods that generate them.
The U.S. General Accountability Office says in its 2006 report HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Better Data, Strategy, and Reporting Needed to Enhance U.S. Anti-trafficking Efforts Abroad:
The U.S. government estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 persons are trafficked across international borders annually; however such estimates of global human trafficking are questionable. The accuracy of the estimates is in doubt because of methodological weaknesses, gaps in data, and numerical discrepancies. For example, the U.S. government’s estimate was developed by one person who did not document all of his work, so the estimate may not be replicable, casting doubt on its reliability. Moreover, the quality of existing country level data varies due to limited availability, reliability, and comparability. There is also a considerable discrepancy between the numbers of observed and estimated victims of human trafficking. The U.S. government has not yet established an effective mechanism for estimating the number of victims or for conducting ongoing analysis of trafficking related data that resides within various government agencies.
For at least two years the UNESCO Trafficking Statistics Project in Bangkok has dedicated itself to finding and tracing every trafficking statistic in circulation back to its source. According to David Feingold, past International Coordinator of the HIV/AIDS & Trafficking Projects of UNESCO, “Very often, we found no source or a source that provided no methodology.” He further states, “One must constantly ask the question, ‘How could this number be derived from any source?’”
The US General Accounting Office critique goes further, saying the government has no idea what their anti-trafficking programs are doing:
the U.S. government has not established performance measures or conducted evaluations to gauge the overall impact of anti-trafficking programs abroad, thus preventing the U.S. government from determining the effectiveness of its efforts or adjusting its assistance to better meet needs.
Clearly there is a huge disconnect between the stated goals of anti-trafficking organizations, the U.S. State Department, and the UN on the one hand, and the actual impact of their efforts on the other. There is also a disconnect between the intensity of the concern about human trafficking and what is actually known about its global prevalence.
Are These Girls Trafficked?
To get a perspective on trafficking in Angeles City, let’s hear from some of the people who are directly impacted by this policy – the bargirls themselves, the young women in supposed need of rescue.
The following are verbatim transcriptions of what seven of our interviewees told us in late 2009, about a year before the raid, when we asked them about the circumstances of their arriving in Angeles City to take up bar work. We offer this information in detail, so the reader can decide for himself or herself if these women fit the definition of trafficking quoted above. The names of the girls and bars are aliases. We report what they had to say word for word as they told it to us.
(Recording 091017_001) Tala is 33 years old. She has been working at Paradise Bar since she was 29. She was living with her parents and son in her home province when a girl friend approached her to see if Tala wanted to accompany her to Angeles City to find work.
So, when you came to Angeles, Tala, first time, it was because of your mamasan, right? She was from your village in (her province)? She recruited you?
No. My mamasan she is not totally hired but she have brother there in (province). Then my friend… You remember the waitress name Alexa?
She go to my house. She said, “Tala, you like we go to Manila, Angeles?” I said, “What’s that?”(She said) “It’s a bar.”
What was the name of it?
No, the bar’s name.
Did you know where Angeles City was?
No, I don’t know but my friend she’s telling me about here (Angeles). Then we go to my mamasan’s brother, he talk like that. Supposed to be the brother of my mom (mamasan). He don’t hire us because Alexa and me is old. That time I was twenty-nine year old.
Is that when you came here? You were twenty-nine?
Then I said… Then the brother talk to my mamasan. “Belinda, three (two) girls here need job. But they’re old. Twenty-nine and her sister (friend) same.”
Then I said, “Please, I need job, I have child.”
Then the brother, “Okay, I talk to my sister.”
The sister said, “You look first the body of the girl.”
So the brother look my body. He said, “Your body is okay, and Alexa.” Because I’m not fat.
I said, “Please kuya, I need job. I don’t have husband. I have son now.”
Then he said, “Okay.” Then next day then the brother said, “Okay, you bring your clothes.”
I thought we wear only… not bikini. He don’t tell me that we wear bikini. Only shorts like this. Then he (unintelligible). Then okay, I bring clothes. Next day we come here, take ship, ship three nights, two nights. Then when I look, I arrive February… No, March… February 5? I arrive here February 2006. My first job is dancer. I dance Dragon, Dragon Bar.
(Recording 091022_006) Selina, a dancer at Paradise Bar, is 23 years old with no children. She has a teaching degree, but hasn’t been able to raise money for her teaching board examination, because she sends nearly everything she makes to her parents to pay for schooling for her younger siblings.
Her cousin and sister were working at Paradise Bar before Selina started. Her parents supported her decision to travel to Angeles City to work in the bars. She is a cherry girl (virgin) so she does not have sex with customers.
… so my cousin Leila (who worked at Paradise Bar), she came in our place, and I talked to her that I want to go with her in Angeles to find a job…
She bring me here. That’s the reason why I’m here.
When did you come here?
Last February, 2009.
How do you like being at Paradise (Bar)?
I like Paradise because sometimes I forget my problems, my family problems, because I like the shouting of the girls, you know many people. They come there, the customers, you’re talking with the customers, you enhance your English with the customers. Then, as a cherry girl, I can’t go out with the customers. Only bar hopping. That’s all.
Do customers ask if they can barfine you?
Yes, there’s a lot. There’s a lot of customers. There’s one customer, he wants to buy my cherry with the 50,000 (pesos), but I don’t like.
Yeah, but I don’t like because I don’t love him. I prefer my cherry for the man I love.
And do you have any idea where you might find this man?
I don’t know. Maybe at Paradise. I’m still searching as of now. I hope I can find the right guy for me, because some of our neighborhood they get work in a bar, they have a good life now. They look like a princess when they come there in our town because they married with a foreigner like you, then their husband bring (them) there in the USA to get work so they can send money for their family. They can build their own houses, so when you go in your place you’re just like a princess.
You say you went to college?
Yes, I was the… I graduate for teacher, but I decided to work in a bar.
Are you saving money?
As of now, not yet, because my money is always send to my family. Because my father… We have bad weather in our place, so my father cannot go in the sea (and) catch fish… That’s why my family they depend on me only. All my salary I send to them.
But before I came here I was talking with my family, my father and mother. They said, “It’s up to you. Make your own… You make your happy,” like that.
Were you telling them that you’d be working in a bar in Angeles?
Oh yeah. All of our neighbors there in our place working at the bar.
As of now, so I have any there in Angeles, I’m happy! Because I can buy whatever I want because I have money now. Then I can eat whatever I want, because I have money.
Tell me more about Paradise. You were always a waitress?
Yes. Paradise is a good bar. It’s a nice bar. Their rules and regulation is very good.
(Recording 091022_001) Jhean, a virgin, who’s full interview is presented elsewhere in this blog, came to Angeles City from her home in the province of Samar at age 18, right out of high school. She came with her cousin, who proposed the idea.
Because I came from a poor family. Broken family. Yeah. That’s why I want to work. My family. Coz my mother have sick. She have a seizure. And then I want to help. And then my siblings, also.
So finding a husband is your main goal?
No, ah, I want to help my family also. Because, you know, if I work in Samar, maybe the available work, the available saleslady, house maids, and then the salary is so cheap. Two thousand (pesos) in one month. Here in Angeles one week I can earn money, 3000 in one week. Or 4000 sometimes. In Samar, my god, one month 2000 only one month, my salary, if I work there, saleslady or housemaid.
That’s why many Filipina in Samar, some girls come here. Samar girls. Because . . .because earn money here is easy.
So it’s well known among girls in Samar that there is employment here, in bars?
Oh, they marry foreigner. And then they go back to Samar. They come build house, big house. Yeah. In Samar many a lot of big house. Filipina marry a foreigner.
So the girl and the foreigner move together back to Samar and build a nice house?
Yeah. And marry.
And you saw that before you came here? You observed and knew about that?
Yeah I saw. I think the Filipina girl she is lucky. Like that. She is lucky. . . Because Angeles well known in Samar. Very well known. And then, some girls, some Samar girls, wanted to go there. Yeah.
(Recording 091115_002) Olesia is 27 years old, a virgin, and is a waitress at Knights Lady Bar. She has never before had a boyfriend because of strict and conservative parents. She initially came to Angeles City to stay with her sister, a cashier at Savory Bar. Olesia held several jobs in Angeles City—petrol station attendant, money changer, and hamburger maker for vending machines. One day she talked with her sister about getting a job in a bar.
My sister she told me, “Why you don’t working in the bar?” Then I said, “I’m scared.”
Why did your sister say that? Did your sister work in a bar before?
She’s a cashier in Savory Bar before.
So, your sister said, why don’t you work in the bar?
And you were scared.
Yeah. Then she said, “Why you scared?” (I said) “Because I’m cherry to a foreigner (laughing). I don’t know how to speak English. That’s why I’m scared.” Then she said, “Why don’t you study English? You read a book.”
So what was the first bar you worked at here?
In Knight’s Lady.
How did you get the job?
Because my sister she know the mamasan. Then she recommend to her to find me a job. Then the mamasan she give me a waitress in Knight’s Lady. That’s why I’m here.
(Recording 091114_001) Reyna is 29 years old. She has one child from her previous Filipino boyfriend. The child is cared for by her mother in her home province. She was working in a cell phone shop in Manila when a friend suggested she get a job in Angeles. After two weeks working as a waitress in a hotel, she decided that working in a bar would be more lucrative. She applied directly to the management of Knight’s Lady Bar and was offered employment as a waitress. Within three days she met a British man and stayed with him for two years. During this time she continued to work sporadically at Knight’s Lady, even though she was receiving money from the father of her child and her British boyfriend.
And then she said, “Much better you work in a bar and it’s much better you go to Angeles.” And then I decided one day that, oh, much better that I go there, and I work here for money…
Because Reyna applied directly to the management of Knight’s Lady, she has no mamasan. She answers directly to the bar manager. She tells us why she likes her boss.
Why I like him he’s so very nice guy. Not the same with the other guys, other managers… And some of the management, they kick you out of the bar if you don’t have lady’s drinks, or you don’t have barfine for one month. But he, never. And he takes care of the girls.
(Recording 091012_003) Analyn is 23 years old. She says there are few jobs in her home province, and wages are very low. She came to Angeles City with her daughter to visit a friend. Because her husband had run off with another woman, Analyn needed to find work. She applied to two bars in the entertainment district of Angeles. Analyn begins the interview by talking about the work situation in her home province.
Then, uh, poor province. No work. Hard to find work there. You can find a work but not enough for your family. If you have family, not enough.
So you come to Angeles?
I don’t know this place before but my friend tell me that, “Come here. Okay, come here. Just a visit only. Just a visit.” Then I don’t know what kind of work she have work here. Then, “Okay, I will come there. Only one week I stay here.” (Her friend said,) “Okay.”
Then, she’s the one telling, “I am the one providing your food (during) your stay with me one week,” she said. Okay. Cause I guess I have only (enough money) for my first back-and-forth so, Okay.
Then after one week she don’t like me to go… She don’t like me to go home in province. But I already have one daughter before. Just last 2007.
And she was with your mom in province? Your daughter?
No, she live with me. We live together. Together with my friend.
So how did you get to work at Paradise Bar?
Uh, because of problems (laughing). No more choices. Last 2007, when I come here, I don’t like this kind of job. But because I have my daughter, then my husband going crazy (unintelligible)with another girl, so I don’t have choice. What can I give food for my daughter? Then, I don’t like to ask for my friends I need like this to buy milk, to buy food, like that. So even I don’t like that kind of job, I go applying alone. And my friend didn’t know that I applied before to Paradise (Bar), because she’s working in Dragon (Bar). Then I applied in Paradise, then Angel Club.
Why not Dragon?
I don’t like.
You applied in Angel Club?
To be in big shows?
Yeah. Angel Club before not already open. They are not yet finished the building. Then they need three hundred girls, dancers, then one hundred…
Yeah, dancer only. Then one hundred, more than one hundred waitresses, mamasans, clerk, checker, like that. Then they notice what (that) I have reason why I am applying with that bar, with the bar. So, they like you. Then…
Did you work at Angel Club?
No. Because I need to… We need to wait one week for the interview. So, after Angel Club I go to Paradise, applied again. Then Mommy Arlene (mamasan) says, “Okay, yeah. If you have uniform, white and black skirt, you can work.”
(Recording 091024_001) Finally we hear from Mommy Michelle, who’s complete interview also appears on this blog. As a mamasan she’s responsible for hiring girls to work in her bar. Is there any evidence that she does it “by means of threat, or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud” or anything else that defines trafficking in the UN protocol?
Mommy Michelle took a hiatus from bar work, worked for a while in a sewing assembly job, then started up as a mamasan again in 2008.
So how did you recruit girls?
I let my mother. My mother is staying in (part of greater Manila). So I told her that I want to work as a mamasan again. Because I know, I don’t have any choice, I’m tired of being a sewer, of working as a sewer. So my mother said that, “OK, if you want girls, I will get some girls here for you.”
At that time my mother came with seven girls with her.
How did she get the girls?
Yeah, telling them that if you want to work in Angeles City, in the bar.
I told my mother just to tell them the truth. Not to say that they’re just waitresses, tell them they are dancer, they will go with the customer. But no Filipino customers. Foreigners customers.
So, they came here to work.
So some of my girls just come and apply. Apply here to work. We were two mamasans in here before. The other one was just quitted last April.
So your mother found you the original seven girls. You told her to tell them the truth about what bar life was like, what they’d be expected to do, the costumes they’d wear, going with customers . . .
I told her, before she gets some girls for me. I don’t want you to tell them lies, I told her. Tell them straight that they will work in a bar, that they will go with the foreigners customers, and they will wear . . . before we were wearing two piece. Bikini and bra. We just changed the costume.
OK. If it’s ok to them. If they’re interested to work.
You must have seen some of your girls come and go. Then you have to replace (them). Is that hard to do?
Sometimes it’s hard, but they just come to apply, so . . . It will be the replacement of the girl who goes with the foreigner or lady.
I see signs all over town “Mamasan Wanted!”
With girls, yeah. Because some girls are capable of going another bar, another bar. When they don’t like again, then go somewhere they like. They will be moving to another bar. They don’t like it there they go to another bar. That’s what they are doing. Looking for a bar it feels them comfortable. Sometimes there are bars that are not comfortable for them. So of course they will leave. Yeah.
Human Trafficking in Angeles City
These interviews offer us a view of Filipinas like Analyn, Tala, and Rehna and the others as making rational, free decisions about how they want to run their lives.
They declare they have choices. They choose whether or not to leave the bar with a particular customer. They choose what they will or won’t do in both inside and outside of the bar. Indeed, they choose every day whether or not to continue working in their bar or any bar at all. All of our interviewees held prior jobs—factory worker, fish cleaner, seamstress, money changer, hamburger-maker, baby sitter, clothes washer, fish peddler, secretary, shop-keeper, retail clerk. One thing they have in common is that each of them chose on their own to leave these jobs to go to Angeles City to work in the bars. They are often encouraged by friends or relatives. In Tala’s case she actually pleaded with her subsequent mamasan’s brother to accept her—“Please kuya, I need job. I don’t have husband. I have son now.”
The girls say they make good money working in the bars, better than they could make elsewhere. Some report that they have fun working in a bar. They meet new people. They improve their English. They are buoyed by the possibility that they’ll meet a partner and helpmate, something that occurs more often than one might think.
If you asked them, they would surely reject the notion that they are trafficked, probably in dramatic language.
As Mayor Pamintuan observed, the government “got all their facts wrong.”
The Philippine government isn’t entirely to blame for the injustice dealt to the bars and bargirls of Angeles City on September 15. The United States government and the UN, pushed and provoked by anti-trafficking groups, are equally culpable.
They are the ones who burden aid packages with trafficking-conviction stipulations, without having any idea, as the GAO and UNESCO reports state, of the extent of the problem or the repercussions of their policy.
So what if the trafficking numbers for the Philippines are inaccurate, as they probably are? What if the Philippine government has difficulty finding actual traffickers? What if there are few traffickers? After all, no one knows how many there are. Might not the authorities then be tempted to shoot a sitting duck to keep aid money flowing?
Ironically, if this is the case, then the parties behind this raid—and Philippine, U.S., UN, and the anti-trafficking organizations as well—may be guilty of perpetrating what they claim to be combating. When government forces rolled in to Angeles City on the night of September 15, 2010, here’s what they did: they used force, the threat of force, and abuse of power to abduct, move, receive, and harbor people to exploit their services as “rescued victims” for vast monetary gain in the form of millions of dollars of foreign aid.
Which sounds a lot like human trafficking.