The A21 Campaign recently shared these stats via twitter:
52% of traffickers who recruit victims are men, 42% are women and 6% are teams. #ShockingTruth
Setting aside the fact that trafficking statistics are hard to nail down due to the nature of the trade, there is a sad truth embedded in this tweet. In a dog eat dog world, women are exploiting other women.
On the streets of Las Vegas, Hispanic women hand out promo cards with naked body parts of other women, with a phone number people can call “for a good time.” I tried to make eye contact with the women handing out cards, but it was impossible. They had likely been pushed into a job like this out of financial desperation.
As outlined in the documentary, It’s a Girl, in India and China women are killing their own babies based solely on the fact that they are female. The cultural and legal pressures of having a girl have created an environment in which mothers not only kill or abandon their own daughters, but urge other women to do the same.
While we were in Amsterdam, we met a young woman who, despite being a trafficking victim herself, began to threaten, abuse, and train “newer” girls at the demand of her pimp. In some cases, once a girl begins to “lose her value,” her trafficker will hold out a carrot that is hard to resist:
“If you bring ten new girls to me, I will let you go.”
Around the world, there are some women who are fighting to legalize or fully decriminalize prostitution, even though it promotes gender inequality by creating a culture in which men view women as commodities. These regions often end up being hot spots for trafficking and exploitation. Every woman in the sex industry I have spoken with is against sex trafficking and wishes for it to end. However, the industry they promote can end up inflicting harm on other women. Men are conveniently silent on the issue, happy to let women fight the battles on their behalf.
We also must remember that women are not immune from the lure of money. Sometimes women exploit other women for the same reason as men do – the money is just that good.
The way that women treat other women reminds me of how child soldiers are sometimes forced to shoot their own families, or prisoners of war are forced to carry out torture on fellow countrymen. Exploiting or hurting a person in our “tribe” strips away pieces of our humanity and assaults our identity.
The exploiter and the exploited are both enslaved.
I have never been forced to make a bad choice because of poverty. I have never been pressured by cultural norms to kill my baby simply because it is a girl. I have never had the promise of freedom held before me in exchange for luring others into the sex trade. I don’t know what it is like to find my identity in how much sex I can sell.
And so the statistic that 42% of traffickers are women humbles me and saddens me. I am humbled because for some reason, I have been given a life in which I have not had to make such difficult decisions. I often wonder what I would do if faced with such circumstances. What does justice look like when I am not worthy to judge?
But as I stand humbled, I am also saddened. Everything in me longs for women to stand in solidarity with other women, in compassion and with courage.
I usually like to wrap up my blog posts in a nice little bow, with some food for thought and possible solutions. But sometimes I stand at a loss. Sometimes I think I just need to allow myself to be sad, to mourn a world where human beings prey on each other.