One law for the lion and ox is oppression. – William Blake
Concepts based in reality tend to be specific; the terms used to describe those concepts are for the most part unambiguous, and tests can be designed to determine if some object or phenomenon falls into the sphere delineated by the term. But politics is based in emotional manipulation, not reality; those who invent political agendas want them to be as vague and elastic as possible so that any person or thing opposed by those behind the agenda can easily be fit into the paradigm without having to redesign it and risk triggering skepticism in those who are to be led. “Human trafficking” is just such a framework, which is why it should be rejected by thinking people everywhere. It’s true that some people use it to mean one very tight, clear-cut concept, but they are a small minority among the millions who use it to mean nearly anything they want it to mean. Today we’re going to look at the various people and actions which are routinely crammed into the “human trafficking” circus tent; some people use the term to mean only some of these things, while others use it to mean others and some use it for any and all of them, and there’s never any way of knowing what any given speaker is thinking.
All of the following are referred to as “human trafficking” by one group or another:
1) Women crossing borders to work without proper documentation.
2) Transporting people across a border illegally.
3) Transporting undocumented immigrants within a country.
4) Providing forged papers or otherwise facilitating illegal migration.
5) Helping migrants to find someone who can transport them or otherwise facilitate migration.
6) Recruiting people to work in another country, whether honestly or dishonestly.
7) Lending money for migration, whether at a fair rate or a usurious one.
8) Hiring undocumented migrants, whether knowingly or unknowingly.
9) Helping undocumented migrants to find work.
10) Giving advice to undocumented migrants on any issue involving transportation, employment or avoiding “authorities”.
11) In countries with some legal form of prostitution, hiring any foreign sex worker.
12) Performing any illegal form of sex work.
13) Owning any kind of illegal or semi-legal sex business, even where no coercion exists.
14) Patronizing any kind of illegal sex business.
15) To prohibitionists, any kind of sex work at all, or running or patronizing any sexually-oriented business, even where such businesses are legal.
16) Under some legalization and criminalization regimes, providing work space, living quarters or transportation to prostitutes even if they are working legally.
17) Under the Swedish model, hiring a legal prostitute.
18) Interacting with an underage prostitute in any way other than reporting her to the police.
19) Abducting someone into an exploitative situation, except under color of law; if police or members of “anti-trafficking” NGOs lie, trick, intimidate, rob, beat, torture, chain, transport, cage and rape sex workers it is referred to as “rescue” rather than “trafficking”.
20) Marriage brokering.
21) Arranging surrogate motherhood contracts.
22) “Sex tourism”, even if the sex seller is not a full-time prostitute or receives gifts instead of cash.
23) Anything a prosecutor can shoehorn into the local law, including kidnapping or attempted rape.
I’m sure there are others, but that’s all I can think of at the moment. Similarly, “trafficked persons” can mean any of the following:
1) Voluntary migrants who cross borders to work illegally on their own or with the assistance of peers.
2) Voluntary migrants who cross borders to work illegally, with the assistance of smugglers or other facilitators; whether these contracts are fair or openly exploitative by Western standards (yet often no worse than those of some legal American businesses), and whether their recruitment methods are honest or dishonest, are immaterial to the “trafficking” paradigm.
3) Voluntary migrants who cross borders to work legally, but then become “illegal” through some kind of change in condition and continue to work illegally, with or without the help of facilitators.
4) Voluntary adult sex workers, either domestic or foreign, with or without management of any kind.
5) Women who come into a country on valid visas and then do sex work on the side or leave the exploitative and woefully-underpaid (but legal) work they came in to do for the higher wages and vastly better conditions of sex work.
6) Female gang members of any age who do any kind of sex work.
7) Underage sex workers of any kind, with or without management, coercion or even transport.
8) People who are tricked or abducted into some kinds of exploitative labor.
9) Surrogate mothers.
10) Women who enter arranged or “mail-order” marriages.
11) People who have sex with tourists in exchange for cash, gifts or expensive entertainment.
And all of the following are referred to as “human traffickers”:
1) People who provide transportation or other facilitation to voluntary illegal migrants, whether their arrangements are fair or exploitative, mutually beneficial or coercive.
2) People who trick or abduct others into exploitative work without government permission to do so.
3) Migrants who help or give advice to other migrants.
4) People who hire undocumented immigrants.
5) Husbands or other adult male companions of female migrants.
6) Brothel or escort service owners under criminalization regimes or legalization regimes which prohibit such businesses; to prohibitionists, all brothel or service owners.
7) Pimps, including non-exploitative ones.
8) Anyone without a badge who transports any illegal sex worker from one place to another.
9) Under criminalization or the Swedish model, any client of a prostitute.
10) Under some legalization regimes, two or more prostitutes who work together for safety.
11) Couples who hire surrogate mothers.
12) Tourists who have sex with locals.
Yet, all of these things are supposed to be described by one paradigm, and that one is commonly referred to as “slavery” by many of its proponents; they also tend to claim that “trafficking” is controlled by vast criminal cartels despite a total lack of evidence for such a far-reaching conspiracy. This is like calling everything from a tricycle to the space shuttle a “ship”; the term is so vague, so flexible, so nonspecific that the listener cannot be sure what the speaker actually means when he uses it…which is exactly what those who promote the hysteria want.