In just a few short years trafficking in women and girls has become a
gigantic and lucrative import-export international enterprise. This
supply side, trickle down industry brings much needed foreign currency to
poor countries, and escapes stock exchange jitters and obtrusive
taxation. Previously limited to a few entrepreneurs, its profits and
services have now expanded to benefit many layers, both private and
public, of the international patriarchal structure.
Last year in Thailand alone, trafficking 600,000 women and girls brought
5 billion dollars into the country.
The women and girls, the commodity, are invisible. There are millions of
them with no identity, no international laws to protect them, no one to
reclaim them. Their passports are confiscated by the traffickers upon
arriving in countries they may never have heard of. Sold or leased by
catalogues, on videos, or "sight unseen", they are "parked" in centers to
allegedly work as maids, telephone operators, mothers helpers. Eighty
percent will be seriously physically abused. No statistics are yet
available for the psychological abuse. So little are they valued that
they are disappearing in greater and greater numbers; from slow death of
AIDS in every country, cut up and thrown in the rivers of Thailand,
cyanide injected in Burma, beaten to death in Kuwait, shot in Brazil,
strangled in the United States, their death is the end of the morbid
circle of despair and abuse they dance daily.
Every woman begins this journey believing that she is going to find
decent work and a better life. "Human Rights" and "Economic Investment
in the People of Third World Countries" are concepts that do not include
women. Women are over half of the global population but according to a
U.N. report own less than one-hundredth of the world's property and
receive one-tenth of the world's income.
In South America, sorted out, hand picked, packaged, they are sent from
Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador through transit in Mexico and various
points in the Caribbean before being directed to the U.S., Canada or
Western Europe. From Brazil, their trip is shorter as they fly directly
to their final destination in Spain or Italy. In Asia where the business
began to take off during the Vietnam war, the Philippines feed into
Australia, Japan, the U.S., Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Taiwan,
Hong Kong, Singapore and the Netherlands. Thailand exports to the U.S,
Taiwan, the Netherlands and does a great deal of domestic business.
South Korea deals exclusively with Japan. Nepal ships to India,
Pakistan, Kuwait and the Emirates. Indonesia deals with Saudi Arabia,
the Middle East and Western Europe, while Sri Lanka concentrates on the
Middle East and Western Europe. Bangladesh is holding its own in Kuwait,
the Emirates and neighboring India. In North Africa, Morocco and Algeria
service France and Saudi Arabia. Ethiopia prefers to deal with Italy.
Zaire, Angola, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal do not export beyond Western
Europe. Finally, Russia, although new at the "game" is eagerly breaking
into the U.S., Western Europe and Japanese markets.
A few weeks ago an international relief agency reported that 100,000
young women and girls from around the world are unaccounted for.
International law enforcement agencies reacted by stating that the figure
was extremely conservative.
The Who's Who of international finance gathered in Washington D.C. to
attend the annual meeting of the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund. They advised developing nations to favor
entrepreneurship, seen as central to rapid economic expansion. As stated
in their report: "business needs a framework…one that protects property
rights, facilitates transactions, allows competitive market forces to
determine proceeds and wages, and lets firms enter and exit".
Adding a new dimension to "servicing the international debt", trafficking
in women has become the latest entrepreneur-based 'people power" export
to attract hard currencies. Along with the selling of drugs, infants,
blood, and healthy body parts, the selling of women and girls has become
an integral part of an out of control world market economy.
Many countries do not engage in trafficking in women. However, the
latest World Bank report states that more than one billion people live on
less than one dollar a day. Absent an international outcry against the
profitable practice of selling girls and women, how many more countries
will join in?
As winter approaches, the birds gather in Southern Europe. Millions of
them fly in search of the warmth of the sun, all the way to the other
side of the Mediterranean Sea where, exhausted, they collapse on the
sand…straight into the widely cast nets of hunters.
This article was first published in the October '92 issue of the National
NOW Times, the newsletter of the National Organization for Women. Mr.
Clinton was elected to the presidency the following month. In an
economic world order dominated by his Administration, the international
trading of women has reached extraordinary proportions. Resting almost
exclusively in the hands of organized crime - a fact discussed openly and
publicly in official circles, international financial institutions and
establishment media - the enormous and ever-growing illegal profits it
generates represent a large sector of the international economic system.
Labeled "dirty" because of its illicit nature, this money is first
laundered through "off-shore" banking institutions and then introduced
into the legal and regulated financial structure, under the watchful and
indulgent eye of government agencies.
As easily predicted, Russia has indeed unloaded their powerless human
merchandise over the planet, selling millions of their women to all
corners of the world, flooding the streets of Western and Central Europe,
in aggressive competition with Asian exporters. In the United States,
the market for such live products is thriving and legal, conducted by
catalogues and videos advertised in otherwise respectable press outlets.
There was no "international outcry" as hoped. The reverse took place
instead when governments began to coordinate strategies to bring order to
the lucrative operations. A few of them have joined forces to actually
promote the worldwide legalization of prostitution which, in turn would
automatically legalize the buying and selling of women. The United
Nations is cooperating. Last June, a U.N. Committee did not hesitate to
"order" the Chinese government to" allow" their women to sell themselves,
an obvious if perhaps unintended defense of the flesh merchants regularly
put to death in that country.
In the United States, the effort to legalize prostitution globally is led
by "The President's Interagency Council on Women", an arm of the U.S.
Department of State. Mrs. Clinton is the Honorary Chair of the fifty or
so Council Members, Secretary Albright is Chair and Secretary Shalala is
Past Chair. When questioned about the attempts to force legalization in
China, Miss Shalala seemed irritated that the subject could even come up
and asked, in reply, if anyone present would not rather "talk about
Among the well-known women listed as Council Members are Lieutenant
General Claudia Kennedy, Ann Lewis ( Counselor to President Clinton) and
Audrey Tayse Haynes ( Chief of Staff to Mrs. Gore and Special Council to
the Vice-President). General Kennedy, the highest-ranking woman in the
history of the United States Army, just retired. She recently made
headlines when she revealed that she had been sexually harassed by
another United States General in 1996.
Conservatives in the United States have been at the forefront of the
harsh struggle to prevent the legalization of prostitution. NOW and
other feminist groups with close ties to the Democratic Party and to the
Clinton White House have remained passive, projecting an image of
anti-legalization activism through the occasional press release,
toothless in-house resolutions and strident declarations while giving
full political behind-the-scene support to the Administration. The
fraudulent posture, which provides the perfect cover for the trading of
women to flourish, continues to be given credence by a politically
partisan media reluctant to reveal the connections between trafficking,
crime syndicates and the highest levels of the political and financial
power apparatus, additionally hostile to credit conservatives for
anything involving the defense of women.
Except one. Joseph Farah, CEO and editor of World Net Daily, became the
first American editor to recently publish the work of Charles Smith, an
investigative reporter who writes frequently on issues of national
security. Tearing open the veil surrounding the horror, Mr. Farah sat
the tone for the serious journalistic standards that have been oddly
lacking on the issue, at least on this side of the Atlantic.
(Former NOW International Director)
September 1, 2000