Headlines read Hookers rescued against their will and Rescued cybersex girls bolt DSWD office. The stories are from the Philippines, but they are not the first of their kind to reach mainstream news outlets. And they are not amazing exceptions to the rule, as everyone who works in helping projects knows.
The argument against raiding sex venues is not that all the workers are happy because sex work and free markets are just grand. The argument is that US policy, which threatens countries with losing aid if they don’t do enough to stop trafficking, promotes ham-fisted policing – cowboy raids that rush to pick up women selling sex and arrest their exploiters. Threatened countries use well-publicised raids to say to the US, See? We are doing what you want. We are stopping human trafficking and rescuing victims, so don’t cut off our aid. Which works, if you look at how the Philippines’ ranking improved in this year’s lame TIP Report.
So why aren’t more campaigners against prostitution and slavery concerned when women resist rescue? Is it so hard to understand that resistance doesn’t mean they love their jobs or are not being exploited by anyone or were not treated badly by their parents? All we really know it means is that they don’t want to be rescued like this. Over and over, researchers have documented how such women simply prefer their present situations in these brothels to other options – forceable internment in rescue homes being at the top of the list. Similar stories have come from other countries: Chinese women in the Congo, Bangladeshis in India.
Details of the cybersex-girls’ escape include:
Fifteen girls, rescued by police and National Bureau of Agency men 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. . . – ABS.CBNnews.com, the Philippines, 5 July 2011
Details from hookers rescued against their will include:
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 CIDG Women and Children’s Protection Desk head . . . “They kept cursing us, and tried their best to escape.” . . . Chief Supt. Samuel Pagdilao Jr., 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. Philippine Daily Inquirer, 29 June 2011
That should be a clear enough cause-and-effect relationship for anyone to understand!
–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist