What ever crushes individuality is despotism, no matter what name it is called. - John Stuart Mill
Imagine this scenario: you’re at work one day; maybe it’s a job you really like, maybe it’s one you just tolerate because it’s better than the alternatives, and maybe it’s one you hate but keep working at because the money is good and you’ve got bills to pay. So you’re just minding your own business, dealing with customers or whatever, when suddenly a bunch of armed police thugs smash the door down, start pointing guns at everybody, arrest your customers and boss, handcuff you and your fellow co-workers and shove you into a van. While this is going on you notice that there are some people with the police who are dressed in plain clothes and appear to be foreign. The police eventually lock you and your co-workers in a cell and one of the foreigners then tells you all that you’ve been “rescued” from your job because the business owner was “exploiting” you. Now, if you hate your job in the first place you might even agree about the exploitation bit, but you’d probably still be pretty angry about being arrested and scared half to death by the goon squad’s commando tactics. And even if you did hate the job, how do you think you’d feel when the foreigner told you that they didn’t have any comparable work lined up for you, but that you would soon be transferred to a “rescue home” for an indefinite period of time and while you were there you would be taught to sew so you can be forced to work in a sweatshop at less than a tenth of your previous salary?
Don’t answer yet; now imagine that some of your coworkers who liked the job begin to protest, and are told that they don’t know what they’re talking about, that you’ve all been “programmed” to think you were working voluntarily but you “really” weren’t no matter what you remember. You are informed that your “exploiters”, meaning every customer and member of management (including the cool manager who buys pizza for everyone on Fridays and the nice old man who always tells you about his grandchildren) are evil monsters who are going to prison for decades and that you are expected to testify against them in a kangaroo court; if you refuse you will be sent to a “deprogramming” facility where you will be psychologically tortured until you agree to say whatever your “rescuers” want. In the meantime, nobody is allowed to call friends or family to let them know where you are, because the “rescuers” have no way of knowing which of you are “brainwashed” and you might call gangsters or something. Finally, sometime in the next few days, you find out the whole thing was cooked up as a publicity stunt to please a foreign government (the one the foreign “rescuers” came from) in order to seal some kind of political deal. How do you think you’d react? Obviously you’d be angry, probably furious. You’d probably join with the others in demanding a lawyer, transportation back to work and an apology, and if a reporter or social worker was sent in to talk to you you’d probably give her an earful in hopes of raising a public outcry. You might even join in a riot to overpower your guards and escape.
Well, for many women in a number of countries (including The Philippines, India, the Republic of the Congo and the United Kingdom) this isn’t just a theoretical question because it’s happening quite often, and as you might suspect these women are pretty angry about it – often angry enough to become violent, just as you or I might be in their situation. I’ve mentioned before that the rescue industry has become a major social problem in many developing countries, especially in the Far East; if you think I’m exaggerating with the above scenario take a look at this protest video from the Asia-Pacific Network of Sex Workers, then read on to the following examples which, as happens so often, came to my attention through Laura Agustín’s blog of July 12th.
The first of the cases is from the Philippines, May of 2009 and is unusual in that the “rescued” women were not actually prostitutes but operators for a paid “cybersex” service; apparently the reporter thought this sounded a bit too benign, so he referred to it as a “cybersex den”:
Fifteen girls, rescued by police and National Bureau of Agency (NBI) men [on April 23rd] from a cybersex den operated by two Swedish nationals, have escaped from the Department of Social Welfare Development office in Cagayan de Oro City…after mauling the duty security guard. The girls then flagged down a passenger jeepney and forced its driver to bring them away from the DSWD office…Senior Superintendent Noel Armilla…of the…Police Office, said the girls would not be charged or arrested because they are not facing any charges. Armilla, however, said they would have to locate the girls because they would need them to testify against two Swedish nationals and four Filipinos, who have been arrested for allegedly operating the cybersex den…
It takes some serious doublethink to be able to use the word “rescued” in conjunction with arresting and confining non-criminal adult women against their will. Nor is their violent reaction unusual, as we can see in this story from India, last October:
…sex workers rescued on Wednesday and sent to a shelter in the city began a violent clamour last morning…At 9 am, all 21 sex workers stomped out and created a ruckus. They broke off the grill and engaged in a fight with the management. “The rescued sex workers began insisting on going back…” [the shelter manager] said…”In major raids, initially such things happen…In an earlier raid, when 46 girls were brought, the same thing had happened…They are programmed to lie, so we don’t have correct information about them…They even lie about their origin.”
“Lie” in this context obviously means “tell us things we don’t want to hear.” Then there was this report from January 1st of this year:
Police from China flew to the Democratic Republic of Congo in November…They found 11 Chinese women who had been promised decent jobs in Paris by traffickers but ended up working in a Chinese-owned karaoke bar in…Kinshasa…After a joint raid by Chinese and Congolese police…the women decided to stay…saying it was easier to make good money there than in China…”They make 100 US dollars for receiving one guest – half of the money goes to their boss and they keep the other half”…the women…were [also] able to take cheap goods from China to Africa after visits home and sell them for big profits…
Yes, you read that correctly: the “trafficked sex slaves” made more per client than German brothel girls, could go home at will and were allowed to conduct side-business as well. The horror! The most recent episode was again from the Philippines, reported June 29th:
A hundred female sex workers…and five foreigners were arrested, in raids on three night clubs in Angeles City Tuesday night…“The women don’t really consider it a rescue,” said [the NGO manager] who led the raids. “They kept cursing us, and tried their best to escape”…She said she assumed that some of the rescued women were below 18. “Or they were taught to say they’re 18,” she said…the successive raids in Angeles City’s red light district bolstered the US government’s recognition of the Philippines’ commitment to combating human trafficking. The Philippines has been taken off a watch list of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report and elevated to Tier 2, a category of countries that do not fully comply with anti-trafficking standards but are making efforts to do so…
The total disregard for these women’s autonomy is deplorable; the few underage ones (if there were any) are said to be so stupid that they can’t even think of passing themselves off for 18 without being “taught” to say it, even though every teenager in the West can think that up all by himself. This story is at least honest about the real motives of the Filipinos, though; these women were “trafficked” from their workplaces into jail due to U.S. pressure; their wishes were ignored and they were treated like commodities, handed over as gifts to the U.S. State Department like slave-girls given by a local king to the Roman governor.
One Year Ago Today
“The Numbers Game” is a column about why women in general and escorts in particular lie about our ages and weights, and the effect this has on both the business and the male brain.