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Will the Real Sex Slave Please Stand up?

Author(s): Julia O'Connell Davidson Reviewed work(s): Source: Feminist Review, No. 83, Sexual Moralities (2006), pp. 4-22 Published by: Palgrave Macmillan Journals Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3874380 . Accessed: 19/01/2013 06:08
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83 will the real sex slave please stand up?


Davidson Julia O'Connell

abstract
This paper critically explores the way in which 'trafficking' has been framed as a problem involving organized criminals and 'sex slaves', noting that this approach obscures both the relationship between migration policy and 'trafficking', and that between prostitution policy and forced labour in the sex sector. Focusing on the UK, it argues that far from representing a step forward in terms of securing rights and protections for those who are subject to exploitative employment relations and poor working conditions in the sex trade, the current policy emphasis on sex slaves and 'victims of trafficking' limits the state's obligations towards them.

keywords
trafficking; sexual slavery; sex work; forced labour; irregular migration

feminist
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2006 Feminist Review.0141-7789/06$30 www.feminist-review.com

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will the real sex slave please

stand up?

Overthe past decade, a range of governmentaland non-governmental actors have displayedgrowingawarenessof, and concernabout, the fact that the sex industrycan be a site of various(and sometimes extreme) formsof exploitation and abuse. Withinthis, particularconcern has been focused upon phenomena described as 'sexual slavery'and as 'traffickingfor sexual exploitation', and in dominant anti-trafficking discourse, two assertions have been so repeatedly made that they have acquiredan almost mantra-likequality. The first is that humantraffickingis taking place on a massive scale everywhere. is Trafficking describedas 'a $7 billiona year business' involving of tens of thousands women and childrenannually:'No one now disputes that traffickingtoday has reached alarming proportions, the magnitude of which affects many countries as countriesof origin,transit and destination points' (Javate de Dios, 2002: 1). The second is that trafficked persons are victims of modernslavery and should be treated as such, a statement that is now as likely to be made by government ministers as it is by spokespeoplefor Non-Governmental (NGOs) Organizations that lobby on the issue. and the fact Giventhe undisputedand alarmingmagnitudeof the phenomenon, that for at least the past five years, many international agencies and governments have given high priority and devoted extensive resources to of people who have to find that the number combatingthe problem,it is puzzling been identified as 'victims of trafficking' (VoTs)and assisted as such is very small. The UKis a case in point. In 2000, a HomeOffice reportestimated that every year, anywhere between 140 and 1400 women and girls were being trafficked into prostitutionin Britain,and recommended that the police should pay particularattention to off-street prostitutionwheretrafficked women and girlswereespecially likelyto be held (Kellyand Regan,2000). Newlegislationhas subsequentlybeen introducedto tackle this supposedlygrowingphenomenon,a special Home Office funded project (the Poppy Project) has been set up to and variouspolice forces have workedclosely withthe immigration supportVoTs, authorities to identify and rescue women trafficked into the sex industry. these measureswere However,if those involvedin designingand implementing sincere in their belief that hundreds of womenwereannuallybeingtraffickedinto Britainfor purposesof sexual exploitationand in their desire to assist them, they must surely be disappointedby the results. In 2003, the LondonMetropolitanPolice Clubsand Vice Unit and immigration service officers found 295 immigration offenders in the course of regularroutine visits to massage parloursand saunas in London, of whomonly four or five were identified as VoTs and referredto the Poppyproject.The rest were deported (or removed',in UKimmigration 'administratively service-speak). In the same year, the Poppy project also received the grand total of 15 referrals from other
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agencies, and had in all 24 womenin their facilities. Raidson indoorprostitution establishments in other areas have yielded similarlylow numbersof VoTs.Upon of traffickingvictims numbers contact withthe authorities,the huge and growing into 'illegal immigrants' in need of protection have a habit of transmogrifying who must be summarily deported. For undocumented migrants in the sex sector, being identified as potentially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation often appears to mean exposureto additional risks ratherthan an opportunity to access rights and protections. And more generallyit seems that despite the extensive attention paid to rights violations in the sex industryand a raft of new international protocols and declarations, national laws, and policy initiatives designed to combat such abuses, very little progresshas been made in terms of promotingor protecting the human or labour rights of those who prostitute. Thispaperexploresthe relationshipbetweenthis lack of progressand the current policy emphasison sex slaves and traffickingvictims. It drawson on-going ESRCfunded research' and focuses primarilyon the UK, though the same basic argument could be made in relation to policy and practice in many other countries.

slavery,

modern slavery and trafficking

To describe humantraffickingas 'nothingless than modernday slavery', as UK SolicitorGeneral Harriet Harman 2005), is International, recentlydid (AntiSlavery a powerfulpiece of rhetoric.Takenliterally, however,it bringsus onto difficult philosophicaland political terrain,for scholars have always struggledto cleanly demarcate autonomyand slavery, and free and unfree labour, as oppositional categories (Brace, 2004). Theproblemis that even whenunderstoodas defined in the SlaveryConvention of the Leagueof Nations(1926), whichstates that slavery is 'the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers are exercised', slavery implies a package of attaching to the right of ownership unfreedoms,not all of whichare uniqueto slavery.Some of the powersattaching to the rightof ownership can be and often are also exercisedovergroupsthat are not socially imagined as 'slaves', such as wives, children, employees, and Davidson,2005). professionalathletes (Patterson, 1982; Brace, 2004; O'Connell if we are concernedwith slaveryas a formof labourexploitation,there Certainly, is no clear line between it and 'free' wage labour. Slaveryhas always stood at one pole of a continuumof exploitation, shading off into servitude and other forms of exploitation, rather than existing as a wholly separate, isolated phenomenon(Lott, 1998). Thequest for a sharp line between slaveryand freedom persists in contemporary accounts of 'modernslavery', however.So, for example, in his book Disposable People: New Slaveryin the GlobalEconomy,KevinBales begins by noting that
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1 The study focuses on the markets for migrant domestic and sex workers in the UK and Spain, and includes interview research with those who own or manage sex sector establishments and indirectly employ migrant sex workers, as well as with individuals who buy sex.

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'NewSlavery'is a phenomenon quite separate fromotherformsof oppressionand labourexploitation: to get by, receiving just enough Having money wagesthat barely keepyoualive, but it is not slavery. havea hardlife, maybe calledwageslavery, Sharecroppers butthey are not slaves.Child is terrible, but it is not necessarily labour slavery. (Bales,2000:5) New Slavery,accordingto Bales, also differs from what has traditionallybeen understoodas slaveryin a number of senses. It is not a conditionthat is linkedto an excluded legal or political status, it does not necessarily entail natal alienation, it is not a permanent condition,ethnic differencesare not relevantto the NewSlavery,and the NewSlaveryis not a feature of a different or separate 'mode of production'- surplus is extracted from the New Slave's labour in essentially the same way that it is extractedfrom non-Slaves.ForBales, the New economicrealmin whichpeople can be Slaveryis part of a shadowy,unregulated treated as 'completelydisposable tools for makingmoney' (2000: 4). It is the dark and lawless underside of globalization. And because it is impossibleto distinguishNewSlaves fromwage slaves either throughreferenceto their legal or social status, or to the way in whichsurplusis appropriated by a dominantclass, Bales is left insisting that New Slaverydiffers from wage slavery because it is about 'the total control of one person by another for the purposeof economic exploitation' (2000: 6, emphasis added). No matter how hard the life of wage slaves, they are not completelycontrolledby anotherperson.Thewage slave can, by implication,make choices. This notion of 'total control' is a fragile hook on whichto hang the concept of slavery. In fact, using this definition, many'OldSlaves' wouldnot count as 'New Slaves' -not all slaves in slave societies of the Caribbeanand America,for instance, were completely controlled by their legal owners - some were in a position to engage in a autonomous trading (including the trade of sexual services), and/or to engage in a range of different types of resistance (Beckles, 1989; Lott, 1998; Geary, 2004). And setting up an opposition between 'total control'and 'choice' begs the questionof howmuchchoice, and choices between what? If debt - either real or fictional - is used as the meansto controla worker, is this complete controlor does the debtorhave a choice about whetheror not to complywith the demandsof the persons/he is indebtedto? Does an opportunity to quit representa 'choice' even whenit carrieswith it a riskof beingreportedto the immigration authorities and deported? A similarset of philosophical the concept of and definitionalproblemssurround and more all the heated because different are 'trafficking', boundarydisputes for verydifferentreasonsand as a problem agencies and groupsidentifytrafficking have very differentpoliticalagendas with regardto the issue. While governments' interestin trafficking in concernsabout irregular is primarily immigration grounded
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and transnational interestin the phenomenon crime,humanrightsNGOs' organized is often based in broaderconcerns about 'modernslavery' as defined above. feminist abolitionist groups such as CoalitionAgainstTrafficking Meanwhile, in Women view traffickingas central to, and emblematicof, the increasing (CATW) of female sexualexploitation(Raymond, abolitionists globalization 2001). Feminist hold that it is impossiblefor womento consent to prostitute, since prostitution and objectifies women. Prostitutionis therefore a form of slavery, dehumanizes and since nobodycan elect to be a slave, all prostituteshave been traffickedinto their condition(Barry,1995;Jeffreys,1997). Until recently, there was no international agreement as to the proper legal definition of trafficking. Following much debate between those with a political stake in the issue, in November 2000, the UNConvention AgainstTransnational Crime was adopted by the UNGeneralAssembly,and with it two new Organized protocols, one on smugglingof migrantsand one on traffickingin persons- the Protocolto Prevent,Suppressand Punish in Persons,Especially Women Trafficking and Children. In the latter, traffickingis defined as: Therecruitment, or receiptof persons,by transfer,harbouring transportation, meansof the threator use of forceor otherformsof coercion, of abduction, of of of the abuseof power or of a position or of of vulnerability fraud, deception, the giving or receiving of payments or benefitsto achieve the consentof a person controloveranother of exploitation. having person,for the purpose Exploitation shallinclude, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others orother forms of sexualexploitation, forcedlabour orservices, orpractices similar slavery to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. TheProtocolis held to have redefinedthe internationalstandardof traffickingin the sense that it allows for the possibility that people may be trafficked for purposes other than exploitation in prostitution, and it is further said to 'establish new standards with respect to protecting the rights of trafficked persons' (Pearson, 2002: 16). The TraffickingProtocol entered into force in December 2003. By2004, it had been signed by 117 countries,manycountrieshad made efforts to bringtheir national laws in line with it, and all governments are being urged to do so not only by supranationalpolitical bodies such as the Councilof Europe,but also by both feminist abolitionist and humanrights NGOs involvedin anti-traffickingcampaigns. At the same time, however, the Trafficking Protocolhas been subject to extensive The Protocol definition of the term critique. 'trafficking'does not describe a single, unitaryact leadingto one specific outcome, but ratherrefersto a process (recruitment,transportationand control) that can be organizedin a variety of ways and involve a range of different actions and outcomes. Trafficking,like traditionalunderstandings of slavery,comes as a package, and there is roomfor dispute as to which particularactions and outcomes, and in what particular
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combination,should be includedunderits umbrella.Thisproblemis compounded by the fact that many of the constituent elements identified in the Protocol definition of traffickingthemselves present definitional problems(there is, for example, no international consensus regarding the definition of 'sexual exploitation', or indeed of 'exploitation'), and by the fact that the abuses that come underthe umbrellaof 'trafficking'can vary in severity, generatinga and continuum of experienceratherthan a simple either/or dichotomy(Anderson O'Connell Davidson,2002). Of particularrelevancefor this paper,the fact that the Protocolis framedwithin the Convention on Transnational Crime,and packagedwith a Protocol Organized on smuggling, reflects a preoccupationwith 'illegal immigration'as part and parcel of a supposed securitythreat posed by transnationalorganizedcrime as opposed to a concernwith the humanrights of migrants(see Beare, 1999;AMC, and O'Connell 2005). Takentogether, the 2000; Anderson Davidson,2002; Kapur, a line of demarcationbetween and neat assume trafficking smugglingprotocols oppositional categories of migration voluntary and consensual versus and non-consensualmigration- an assumptionthat researchshows involuntary to vastly oversimplify the systems and processes that facilitate irregular migrationin the real world,and fails to recognizethe complexityand variety of social relations between irregularmigrants and those who benefit directly or indirectlyfrom their exploitation (see, for instance, Parrenas, 2001; Agustin, 2002; King,2002; Andrijasevic, 2003; Lutz,2004). And crucially,the Trafficking Protocolis problematic froma humanand migrants'rightsperspectivebecause it attaches special significance to situations in which abuses at the point of destination are linked to the use of force or deception within the migration process. State Parties are not being requiredto meet new and higherstandards with respect to protecting the rights of any migrantperson who is subject to deception, force and exploitationwithintheir borders,but only with respect to those who have also been cheated and exploited withinthe migratory process. on Thislatter problemwas implicitlyrecognizedin the reportof an Experts Group in Union which in the 2003, European Trafficking HumanBeings convened by actually notes that forced labour is the crucial element of the Protocol, and states that 'policy interventions should focus on the forced labourand services, forced sexual services, slaveryand slavery-likeoutcomes of trafficking including - no matter how people arrivein these conditions- ratherthan (or in addition to) the mechanisms of trafficking itself' (EuropeanCommission,2004: 53). Welcome as this statement is, it does not entirely resolve the problems mentioned above. The concept of 'forced labour' itself presents definitional and Rogaly,2005). Indeed, as the InternationalLabour problems(see Anderson Office (2005: 8) recent report on forced labour in the global economy acknowledges,'the line dividingforced labourin the strict legal sense of the term from extremely poor working conditions can at times be very difficult to
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distinguish'. And even if such definitional problems could be resolved, the TraffickingProtocol would remain a highly selective instrumentwith which to address the general problemof forced labourbecause, framed as it is withina that flow fromthe Convention on transnationalorganizedcrime,the interventions and/or organized offences Protocolare necessarilyonly triggeredby immigration criminal activity. As argued below, this means they inevitably focus on an extremelylimited and narrowpart of the problem.

to catch

a victim?

I was recently asked to speak at a conference on trafficking. In the e-mail of told me that he was 'very keen to have at invitation, the ConferenceProducer least one presentationon the issue of what happensto the victims of trafficking once they have been caught by the authorities'. Doubtlessthe wordswere not chosen, but nevertheless,I felt this mixtureof language,the idea of intentionally catching victims, spoke volumes about the limitations of dominant antias a crimecontrol traffickingdiscoursefroma humanrightsperspective.Framed and prevention issue, 'trafficking' has been presented as a phenomenon Thisnot only orchestratedby ruthless,transnationalorganizedcriminalnetworks. forms to presentmeasuresto preventirregular makes it possiblefor governments of migrationas though they were simultaneouslyanti-traffickingmeasures, but to contain illegal also means that the authorities chargedwith a responsibility deemed to be frontline migrationand combat organizedcrimeare simultaneously actors as regardsrescuingVoTs.It is implicitly,sometimes explicitly, assumed involvedin a that by casting a net to catch immigration offendersand individuals with associated criminal such set of activities as those prostitution,drug specific the authoritieswill also catch victims. and people smuggling/trafficking, running, aside, for the moment,the problemsand conflicts of intereststhat may Leaving arise when police and immigration officials are expected to catch offendersand to note that the watersfished bythese actors are extremely victims,it is important limited. The package of violations covered by the UN Protocol definition of (violence,confinement, coercion,deceptionand exploitation)can and 'trafficking' do occur within legally regulatedas well as irregular systems of migrationand and withinlegal as well as illegal systems of migrationinto private employment, households.(For some extremelydisturbingexamples of forced labourinvolving migrantworkerswho entered the UKthroughperfectly legal channels and were legally employed in the formal economy, includingin the public sector, see whohave been subjectto abuse and Anderson and Rogaly,2005). Andyet migrants are not likelyto be caught by police exploitationwithinlegal systems of migration or immigration officials. Indeed, for migrantworkersin most sectors in the UK, there is no authorityvested with the duty and powerto check that they are not their exploitationis linkedto beingexploited,and if they are, to discoverwhether the use of force, debt or deceptionwithinthe migrationprocess.

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Although the UN Protocol is often praised for having broadened the international definition of trafficking such that people moved for purposes other than exploitation in prostitution can now be recognized as VoTs, in practice, the sex sector still remains the primaryfocus of most countries' 'anti-trafficking' efforts. However, identifying VoTsin the sex sector requires the authorities to distinguish between forced labour and extremely poor working conditions, and this is no easy task. Before looking at how police and immigration officials in the UK imagine this distinction, I will briefly illustrate the extent of the problem with examples of employment relations and working conditions in just one form of prostitution in one city, London.

the spectrum of working conditions and employment relations in 'working flats' in London
In November 2005, Gavril Dulghieru, a Moldovan living in London, was convicted for conspiracy to facilitate illegal immigration, misuse of stolen credit cards, forgery, money laundering and conspiracy to traffic for prostitution and sexual exploitation. The women he trafficked worked 20-hour shifts in brothels in Park Lane, Mayfair and Soho, were fed only one meal a day, and charged for the use of cutlery: Theywereforced to have sex with up to 40 men a day for as little as ?10 a time to pay off ?20,000 debts each - the price for which they were 'bought'. Theywere charged rent, and subjected to fines if they refused anal or unprotectedsex or a client was not attracted to them... One 23-year-old described how she had to pay ?300 per day to live locked in a shared basement and her captors threatened to kill her family. Likemanytraffickingvictims, the computergraduate was lured to Britainby promisesof a respectable, well-paid job in a hotel or restaurantbut ended up in a brothel: 'I believed they would kill my family,' she told the court. 'I thought I hadn't a way out of this situation. I didn't think I had a life in front of me. I wantedto escape but everything was locked. Wewere locked up all the time. I was told I need to go with clients and I needed to do sex with them. I felt very bad. The first time I wasn't able to talk afterwards'. (Cowan,2005) The 23-year-old quoted above conforms closely to popular understandings and images of a VoT. She was tricked into travelling to the UKwith the promise of 'respectable' work, she was locked into a building and forced (both through the use of death threats against her family and through demands to repay a debt) to provide sexual services, and she was psychologically devastated by the experience.

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A second exampleof working relationscomes froman conditionsand employment interviewwith a woman, 'Pat', a former sex workerwho runs three 'walk up' brothelsor flats in Soho, indirectlyemploying nine sex workers, only one of whom is a Britishnational. Pat does not actively recruit workerseither in the UKor the migrationof abroad, and so has no involvementin facilitating or arranging the sex workers she employs. Instead, womenlookingfor work(who may or may not be acting under duress from third parties who arrangedtheir migration) telephone or knockon the door and ask to be taken onto her books.Theflats are Day open for business 24 hoursper day, every day of the year except Christmas and Newyear's Day, and the sex workers work12-hourshifts on a rostersystem. Onlyone woman at a time works in each of the flats, which means that on average, every workeron Pat's books takes on between four and five shifts per week, and so worksfor somewherebetween 48 and 60 hours per week. As it is illegal to directly employa sex worker,Pat's workersdo not receive a set wage to pay Pat ?350 for everyshift they work- a per shift. Instead, they are required sum whichin theorypays for the rental of workspaceplus other services supplied by Pat (advertisingthe brothel,employinga maid to take phone calls and clean the flat, provision of food, tea and coffee, also items necessaryto their worksuch as tissues, clean sheets, uniforms,and finally safety precautionssuch as CCTV). whilethe relationshipbetween Pat and the sex workeris, in this sense, However, ratherthan an constructedas a contract betweentwo independententrepreneurs employmentrelation, it is Pat who sets the rates for services and lays downrules concerningworkingpractices, and so, in effect, exerts close control over their work rate. Walkup brothels in Soho cater primarily to the demand for cheap, sexual services. Pat's which is based on extremelyshort quick pricingsystem, time units, reflects this. The cheapest service available at ?20 is either penetrativesex in the missionary position or oral sex for 10 minutes. If the client wants both penetrativeand oral sex in his 10-minuteslot, it will cost him ?25; if he wants oral sex plus penetrativesex in a position other than missionary,it will cost him?30. Thenext time unit is 15 minutes,then 20 minutes,then 30 minutes, and then to the highest possible unit, 1 hour, which costs ?120 for oral and penetrativesex. Anal sex costs an additional ?100, and the prices for oral sex without a condom,and for ejaculatingoverthe worker's breasts or bodyare also much higher(?140) regardlessof the unit of time. If all the clients that arrivedduringa shift wereto ask for the cheapest service, then in orderto pay Pat the shift fee of ?350, a worker wouldneed to service 18 clients before even beginningto earn for herself. And if she continued on to service a further17 clients, she would- like Gavril forced prostitutes Dulghieru's - in effect be havingsex with a large number of men for as little as ?10 a time. In practice, many clients do ask for more expensive services, and/or can be persuaded to spend more on extras, and sex workersrely in particularupon regular customers who tend to spend longer with them and request more
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expensive services. Indeed, Pat claims that during a 12-hour shift, workers regularly gross ?700, so that they usuallytake home ?350 per day. Andyet it is the case that her workerscould, on bad days, experience a strong clearly financial pressureto engage in acts that they might otherwiserefuse, and that potentially carry serious health risks, such as anal sex, or oral sex without a condom. As we only interviewedPat, and not any of her workers,it is not possible to say to pay off debts whetherany of the migrantsshe indirectlyemploysare working with research but other incurred of the migrantwomen migration, during process some are (see that that it is in the sex likely working industry suggests such to need The for debt, repay 2003; Agustin, 2005, example). Andrijasevic, especially if combinedwith the pressureto pay for accommodationin London, and to supportdependantsback home, could thus operate as strong pressureto continue to workfor Pat, also to accept a volume of clients and to provide services that the workerwould not otherwiseagree to. A third example comes from an interviewwith 'Ava',another formersex worker who runs a 'workingflat' in the East End of London, and offers indirect to 11 sex workers,six of whomare Britishnationals. Theflat is open employment workthe 11-hourshift between 11 am and 10 pm, and each day, two sex workers to the womenwho time full offer Ava does not, therefore, employment together. as manyhoursper week as Pat's workfor her (though they may end up working flats or since some of them are also indirectlyemployedin otherworking workers, massage parlours). Like Pat, Ava does not actively recruit workers- women approachher for work- but as noted in relation to Pat, it is possible that the to pay off debts to third parties non-Britishnationals she employsare working if who arranged their migration. However, this were the case, the women concernedwouldnot be exposedto the same degree of exploitationas those who but does workfor Pat. Avaprovidesall the servicesthat Pat providesherworkers, not charge them a session fee for so doing. Instead, each worker's takings are worker is not the that means This split equally between Ava and the worker. forced to shoulderthe cost whentrade is slow, and it is not possible for a worker to end up owing money to the house at the end of a session, as it is in establishments that operate the session fee system. Ava sets the prices for services, and they are set at a similar level to those in Pat's Soho walk up. unlikeat Pat's, there is no 10-minutefee and the price structureand However, of low price relation is not designedto encouragea highthroughput employment trade. Ava's 'house rules' are also distinctive, leading to different workingpractices. Ava does not permit her workersto provide any services without condoms, indeed, this rule is importantto the way in which she markets her flat in her internet advertisingas a clean, safe place to buy sexual services. Furthermore, she actively encouragesthose who workfor her to refuse to provideservicesthat
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they do not feel comfortable about providing. She explained that she tells workers that it is wrong to assume that they will lose business if they do not agree to anything and everything clients request, saying: If anything, it's the other way around,the less you offer, the busieryou can be. There'sthe safety aspect of it, and also the fact that then the guys can look at you and think, 'Well,what she does offer, she must like, because she feels free not to offer what she doesn't like'.

Ava does not have a high turnoverof staff. In fact, several of the womenwho workfor her have been with her for a number of years, somethingthat doubtless testifies to the fact that the working conditionsand earningsopportunitiesshe providesare good relative to other similar establishments.

will the real sex slave

please

stand

up?

Feministabolitionist groups like CATW have lobbied very effectively in national and internationalpolicy-making circles to get 'sex trafficking'onto the political agenda as a huge and growingproblem,and one that involvesthe enslavement and torture of 'prostituted' women and girls. The campaigningmaterials they producereflect their vision of 'the prostitute' as object, victim and slave. They feature graphicdepictions of the violence and harmassociated with 'the rapelike sex acts of prostitution'(Hughes2000: 3) - testimonyfromwomenand girls who have been violentlybeaten and raped by pimps, and/or torturedby sadistic clients, lists of physicalillnesses and psychologicalconditionssufferedby women in prostitution, images of trafficked women as puppet-like objects or slabs of meat, or even as decapitated heads packaged as sex toys. These images of in anti'bodies in pain: pierced, bleedingand defenceless' have been reproduced trafficking materials created by more mainstreamorganizations,such as the for Securityand InternationalOrganization for Migration and the Organization in and awareness in information and campaigns Cooperation Europe, government on trafficking(Aradau,2004: 264). wheremembersof CATW and otherfeminist abolitionistsconsiderthat it However, is impossiblefor a womanto consent to sell sexual services, and that all migrant women in prostitution(indeed, all female prostitutes, whethermigrantor not) are thereforeVoTs deservingof protectionand assistance, politiciansand policymakerstend to be rathermore selective in their view of who is and is not a sex slave. In most countries,to stand any chance of being identified and assisted as a VoT in the sex trade needs by the authorities, a migrantwomanor girl working to demonstratefirst that she did not choose or consent to workin prostitution, and second that she has undergonegreat physical suffering. In the US, for VictimsProtectionAct of 2000 makes variousforms of example, the Trafficking protection available to victims of 'severe forms of trafficking', but access to
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these protections is restricted, and 'relies heavily on the distinction between 'innocent victims' of forced prostitution and 'guilty sex workers' who had of the fact they wouldbe performing sexual labor'(Pearson,2002; foreknowledge see also Chapkis,2005: 57-58). This distinction has much wider currency (Doezema, 1999, 2002; Harrington, 2005). And even wherethe law does not rule out the possibilitythat a woman could have agreed to migrate into sex work but subsequentlyfound herself exploited and unable to escape her situation, the status of VoTis by no means automatically given to those who have been subject to the abuses listed as constitutive of 'trafficking'in the UNProtocol. Instead, to be recognizedas a VoT,they will need to demonstratethat they have been subject to very specific types of abuse, in particularto rape and/or other forms of extreme physical force. TheUK is a case in point. TheAsylum and Immigration Bill2004 states that a personwhofacilitates travel to or withinthe UK is guiltyof the criminaloffence of trafficking if an individualso facilitated: 'is the victim of behaviourthat contravenes Article 4 of the Human Rights Convention(slavery and forced labour)',or 'is subjectedto force, threats or deception designedto inducehim(i) to provideservices of any kind;(ii) to provideanotherpersonwith benefits of any kind, or; (iii) to enable another person to acquire benefits of any kind'. since the legislation, like the UNTrafficking However, Protocol,fails to provide clear guidelineson the degree of deceit, the type and degree of force, or the type of threats that must be present in orderfor a personto qualifyas a VoT,police and immigration officers must use theirjudgementto decide whetherwomenand girls picked up duringroutinevisits and raids are or are not VoTs. Ourpreliminary officers in the UKsuggest interviews with police and immigration that uponcontact withthe authorities,womenneed to immediatelyreporta very particularset of experiencesto qualify as a VoT.Forinstance, asked how she could tell if someone picked up duringa raid on a massage parlourwas or was not a VoT,an immigrationofficer answeredthat duringtheir initial interview (which is usually very brief and held in an interviewroom in a police station), women are questioned about their routingon the way to the UK,whetherthey knewwhat kind of workthey would be undertaking, whetherthey had workedin the sex trade back home, and whetheran agent was involvedin their migration into sex workin UK.And: If theysay that theywerebrought hereagainsttheirwill,or theyweresold from in one country in another,or that they'renot on to prostitution prostitution to leavethe building orthat theyaren'tgivenfood,that would allowed obviously tell youthey weretrafficked. Policevice unit explainedto me that in an officer fromthe Metropolitan Likewise, his experience,the majorityof migrantsex workers in indoorformsof prostitution in London are economicallyexploitedby the ownersof such establishments;many have been deceived about earningsand working conditions;and most are working
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to pay off debts incurred in migration. However, he continued, very few are forced and controlled through means of physical violence or its threat, and it is only rarely that indoor sex establishments are actually run by the same person or people who have recruited the women and/or arranged their entry into the country. In his view, it follows that very few are VoTs. The fact that police and immigration officers in the UK are looking for a very specific constellation of abuses, namely one involving conspiracy to facilitate illegal immigration, plus prostitution forced by means of physical violence or its threat, plus false imprisonment, is further demonstrated by events surrounding a recent raid on a massage parlour in Birmingham. In October 2005, police executed a human trafficking warrant in a massage parlour (named Cuddles) in order to rescue a number of foreign nationals who were believed to be subject to forced prostitution therein. Police and immigration officers removed 19 women from the parlour. Those who could prove that they were legally present in the UK(most of whom were Lithuanian, and so EU citizens) were then released. The conditions under which they were working in Cuddles were not investigated further. The six who could not prove they were legally present in the country were detained and asked, in interviews conducted by male officers and lasting in some cases a mere 17 minutes, how they had travelled to the UK,and how they came to be working in Cuddles. On the basis of their answers, the officers involved decided that they were not VoTs, and two days later, they were transferred to an immigration detention centre to await 'removal'.2 Claudia Aradau has observed that the images of bodies in pain routinely used in anti-trafficking campaigns function: 'as a strategy of dis-identification... As trafficked women have been subject to cruelty, their undeniablesuffering at the hands of traffickersmakes them extraordinary,beyond ordinaryidentifications with illegal migrants and prostitutes. Where their trajectorymight have coincided with that of a migrantor prostitute, suffering is redeeming.Traffickedwomen are dis-identified from categories of migrants, criminalsor prostitutes by the emphasis on raw physical suffering' (Aradau,2004:257) Likewise, it seems that physical suffering is the litmus test for police officers and immigration officials involved in sorting VoTs from undocumented migrants working illegally in the sex sector. The threshold of 'victimhood' is, in other words, set very high, and who is going to question this threshold? Not governments that currently place a high priority on being seen to be tough on immigration. And the that are most vocal in anti-trafficking campaigns are hostages to their own NGOs rhetoric. Feminist abolitionists have insisted that violence is an inevitable and ubiquitous feature of the 'sexual slavery' that is prostitution (Weitzer, 2005) and have called on governments to act against 'sex trafficking' on grounds that migrant women and girls in prostitution are routinely subjected to rape, beatings,

2 All six would have been 'removed' four days later had it not been for extensive lobbying with regard to their case. Eventually, the six were interviewed by Poppy Project workers, who identified two of their number as VoTs.

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imprisonmentand torture. They are thus hardly in a position to challenge governmentsto lower the threshold of victimhood. Indeed, the immigration official or police officer who has read nothingabout prostitutionsave the horror stories that are presented as typical by groupssuch as CATW (stories featuring locked in with rooms burned and variously girls filthy cigarettes, slashed with razorblades, whipped,punched,drugged,etc., etc.) may perhapsbe forgivenfor assuming that where there is no evidence of this type of physical assault, no who define rightsviolations have taken place. Equally, anti-slaverycampaigners modernslaveryas a condition in whicha personis totally controlledby another personare not well placed to challengethe authoritiesto workwith morecomplex readingsof terms like 'force', 'deception', 'coercion'or 'exploitation'.

the opposite

of sex slavery?

Feministabolitionists are emphatic that all prostitutionis sexual slavery. This formof modernslaveryhas no opposite in the shape of freely chosen sex work.It follows that the victim of sex slaverycannot alter her status as victim and slave by successfully strugglingfor recognitionof her human, civil or labour rights withinthe sex industry,only by being rescued or freed from her condition as a prostitute. This position has been subject to extensive and powerfulcritique by other feminist scholars and activists who emphasizewomen'scapacity and right to act as moral agents within prostitution, and who argue that abuse and exploitationin the sex sector is intimatelyconnectedto the fact that sex workers are rarely afforded the civil and labour rights enjoyed by other citizens and workers(Alexander,1997; Bindman,1997; Chapkis,1997; Nagle, 1997; Kempadoo and Doezema, 1998; Kempadoo,1999). But internationalpolicy debate on 'trafficking'and forced labour in the sex sector is not generallyinformedby a visionof what mightconstitute the opposite of sex slavery.This is partly because humanand child rights NGOs that actively lobby on the issue, as well as many politicians, often assume that the dispute between abolitionists and sex workers'rightsactivists can simplybe left to one side whilethe real problemis discussed (the idea being that everyonecan agree that sexual slavery is wrong, and we should therefore focus on this area of consensus rather than being drawn into an apparently insoluble moral and political debate about prostitution). It is also because religiouslyinspiredand feminist abolitionists together comprise a very economically and politically powerfullobby, one that few can afford to offend. So, for example, the ILO's recent reporton forced labourmentionedearlierdiscusses 'trafficking and forced sexual exploitation'and not forced labourin the sex sector, and focuses heavily upon the situation of those women and girls who have been deceived into prostitutionand on the role of 'powerfulorganizedcrime groups' in controlling the sex industryand orchestrating'humantrafficking'(ILO,2005: 52). Indeed, though the report estimates that 'forced commercial sexual exploitation'
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represents11 per cent of cases of forced labourin the contemporary world,and contains muchthat mightbe relevantto efforts to secure basic humanrightsfor those working in the most exploitativesegments of the sex industry,it does not the sex sector to the same kind of analysis as that applied to other subject sectors. This,it may be assumed, is because the ILO needs USfundingto develop its global alliance against forced labour, and such funding would not be werethe ILO to so muchas use the term 'sex work',let alone sketch forthcoming out a vision of how best to protect sex workersas workers. recent review of prostitution (Home Meanwhile,in the UK,the Government's Office, 2004, 2005) spoke only to the condition of children,young people, and drug users in prostitution, and those forced to prostitute throughthe use of physicalviolence. Otherthan some recent hints that it may considermeasuresto allow two or three sex workersto work together in indoor prostitution, the Government has entirelyfailed to addressthe situation of those womenand men who do regardprostitutionas a form of workand whose vulnerability, where it exists, arises preciselybecause they are denied rightsand protectionsas workers under existing prostitution law, and in the case of undocumentedmigrants, because of their irregular status. immigration Inshort, 'sex slavery'has come to the fore of policyattention, but its opposite in the formof prostitutionas workremainslargelyinvisible.In commenting on this, I do not wishto suggest that the rightsof those who sell sex can be assured and the sex industryabove groundand regulatingit like protected by simplybringing any other sector. Indeed, there is no reason to suppose that merelyextending existing labourlaw to coversex workwouldautomaticallysafeguardthe interests of the most vulnerable - see Blackett's(1998: 1) analysis of how, despite workers their inclusion under general forms of labour regulation in most countries, domestic workers 'remain fundamentally invisible', because most legislative enactments and agreed labourstandards do not address the specificity of the employmentrelationshipbetween domestic workerand employer.Andso far as domestic work is concerned, additional problems arise from the fact that employersare often interested in migrants because they are 'less demanding, moreflexible concerning are often hours';that migrantdomestic workers working in a 'precariousposition because of insecure legal status in the host country'; that for manywomen, domestic workis often the only way to find employment abroad and to escape poverty in their own country;and that 'unionizationof domestic workersis fraughtwith obstacles' (ILO,2005: 50-51). Thesepoints are also relevantto the sex sector, and highlightvery real dilemmasas regardscalls for closer state regulation of that sector. For many migrantswho trade sex, becoming visible is more likely to mean being deported than it is to mean securingrights and protectionsas workers. Some sex workers'rights activists hold that such problemscould be solved by and grantingprostitutes'the rightto travel across state and national boundaries
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3 It is also worth noting that some people who prostitute actively wish to live and work in a world outside civil society, untrammelled by state controls and bureaucratic and regulations, entirely free to make individual decisions about the kind of contracts they enter into. Such people may be in favour of decriminalising but prostitution, would not necessarily wish to find themselves fettered by the same kind of regulations that protect (but also constrain) workers in other hazardous work sites.

to obtain workpermitson the same basis as other immigrant workers' as well as 'sex work to the same kinds of that amenable have by making regulations reducedharmto workers worksites' (Alexander, in... other sometimeshazardous 1997: 93). However, this overlooksthe complexand variableways in whichthose who trade sex position themselves in relationto 'prostitution'.At present, much sex commercetakes place in an unregulatedunderground, or an 'economy of makeshifts'that stands outside civil society understoodas 'a social, culturaland ethical system made up of the market, the legal system and voluntary associations to promotethe welfareof the community' (Brace, 2002: 334). Thisis one of the reasons is certainly whyprostitution stigmatised, but it is also one of the reasons why those who are excluded from civil society - including undocumented migrants,as well as runaway teenagers, drugaddicts, and so on often turn to it as a means of survival.And it is by no means clear that they would wish to be incorporatedinto civil society as a 'sex worker',even if this option was open to them.3 Moregenerally,there is little cause for confidence in the state as an ally in any struggle to protect the rights of those who trade sex (Chapkis,1997; O'Connell without state regulation, a policy Davidson, 2003). And yet decriminalization approach advocated by some feminists and prostitute activists, is hardly an attractive alternative, since it endorses 'the sort of minimal regulation on wouldapprove'(Shrage, 1994: 83). I do not, industrythat even MiltonFriedman believe that there is a single, neat and easy policyresponseto prostitution then, that will protect all those who trade sex. However,I do believe that policy debate on forced labourin the sex sector cannot be bracketedoff from debate on the more general regulation of that sector, any more than the issue of 'trafficking' can be treated in isolation from the more general phenomenon of migration. In the absence of debate on the specificity of sex work,the details of labour standards that should be applied to the workof regulation, and the minimum prostitutes, and on what constitutes an unacceptable level of 'exploitation' withinprostitution(self-exploitation as well as by an employer),it is dangerous to talk about forced prostitutionand sex slaves. Forwithout some agreement on the standards and normsthat should apply, it is impossibleto say which side of the line separatingforced labourfrom extremelypoorworking conditions women like those workingfor Pat fall on, and therefore impossible either to take steps to assist them as victims of forced labour, or to identify strategies for improving their situation as 'free' workersundertaking'poor work'. If we for numberof clients per day that a sex cannot, example, identify a maximum worker can be expected to service, a minimumpayment per sexual service provided,a maximumnumberof times that a sex workercan safely agree to provide anal sex, and minimumstandards with regard to other health and safety issues specifically associated with sex work, then there is no way of
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distinguishingbetween the three employers described earlier except through reference to the use of physical force. Inthe UK, the currentimmigration regimeand the absence of labourstandardsin the sex sector combineto leave many irregularmigrantsin a position whereby they have little choice but to accept extremely poor workingconditions and highly exploitative employmentrelations. They can expect (in theory if not in practice) nothing more from the state than to be protected from an employer who locks them into a building,and/or rapes or beats them or threatens to kill their family. Such a very low standard of nothingness effectively equips employerswith a carte blancheto make whatevercontractsthey please with sex workers,and perhapsthe most remarkable thing about the sex industryis the fact that there are actually some employers,like Ava, who attempt to raise the standardbeyondthe extraordinarily basic minimum that they should requirement not use physical force against their employees. Far from representinga step forwardin terms of securingrights and protectionsfor those who are subject to exploitativeemploymentrelations and poor workingconditionsin the trade sex, the currentpolicy emphasison sex slaves and VoTs limits the state's obligations towardsthem.

acknowledgements
I am grateful to the Economicand Social ResearchCouncil,whichfunded the researchon whichthis paper is based (AwardNo. R000239794),and to Bridget Anderson,who co-holds this award and with whomthe ideas presented in this paper have been developed.

author

biography

Davidsonis Professor of Sociologyat the University JuliaO'Connell of Nottingham. She has been involvedin researchon variousaspects of the commercial sex trade since 1993, and is currentlyworkingon an ESRC-funded project exploringthe marketsfor migrantsex and domestic workersin the UKand Spain. She is the authorof Prostitution,Power & Freedom in the Global (Polity, 1998) and Children Sex Trade(Polity, 2005).

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