Saturday, April 05, 2003

Sex slavery and freedom of contract,5744,6165092%255E2702,00.html§ion=current&issue=2003-04-05&id=2963
(link via )

According to Phelim McAleer, the Financial Times (UK) Bucharest stringer, sex-slavery, at least as it concerns Eastern European women, is a myth – the women are no different from any other voluntary economic migrant from an impoverished backwater. Apart from that – an obvious fact, but still one that McAleer could have pointed out – the women are working in the West illegally.

And there’s the rub. Women from the poorest places on earth may indeed possibly aspire to a rewarding career as a prostitute in the West – but they have no financial means to make such a dream happen. Apart from the cost of passage, forged documents will often need to be obtained. In practice, the latter is likely to be a mere value-adding exercise anyway, as the only logically possible financier of the woman’s passage will be a local criminal with deep connections in the destination country. In other words, even if the woman is the straightest, purest sort of economic migrant at the outset, she will be bonded to organised crime in the process of achieving her dream.

Which brings up what is euphemistically called the “contract”. In essence, this is a more-or-less arbitrary sum, set high enough to make the woman a slave for as long as she is economically useful, and yet low enough for the woman to hold out some feint hope that she may one day be a free agent. (To serve tolerably as a prostitute, having such a glimmer of hope would be quite important.)

The Australian newspaper has been running an investigative story on the trafficking of sex slaves for the past three weeks, updating it more or less daily. Yet the story remains depressingly the same today as when it first broke. Today’s angle – Natalie O'Brien and Elisabeth Wynhausen “Bureaucrats ignored reviews sex slave sting” (no URL) – reinforces the policy of hardline, almost-complete apathy that the Federal Police and Immigration Department have both adopted on the issue; c.f:,4057,6240811%255E1702,00.html

Today’s article quotes a former Australian Federal Police officer who makes some good points. At least some of the trafficked women arrive as children – as in 12 years old, rather than 17 years and 11 months. Further, with the shopfront brothels they work in being matters of public record, tracing the perpetrators of the trafficking should not actually be that difficult. Hence, this particular instance of bureaucratic apathy is not simply a scandal petite; it is a cover-up of the highest order.

Never mind the Tampa (and a host of other dubious-ities that Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock has been intimately involved with). This is a simple, clear-cut issue of organised crime apparently acting with governmental fiat. Ruddock should immediately resign, and an inquiry should thereafter be launched, with a view to getting rid of the corrupt officials who logically must be currently mandating sex trafficking.

My personal concern here is not mainly for the welfare of the women who are trafficked (although of course that is an issue for me) – the mere fact of the existence of apparently-untouchable organised crime groups permeates, and degrades every aspect of my life and rights as an Australian citizen.

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