Wednesday, January 11, 2006

This 'fuss' about rape

Mary Dejevsky has today commented upon the 'fuss there has been this year about the trafficking of women', which, as she concedes is 'quite right'. Unfortunately, to get the whole of the article online you have to pay for it, but you can also access her wisdom in today's Independent. (I was being sarcastic when I said 'wisdom'. Did you notice?)

She refers to the recent case in which five men were convicted of trafficking women for forced prostitution.
young women were lured to Britain with the promise of sightseeing or bar-work, locked up for weeks on end, forced to service a dozen men a day and paid nothing at all for their pain.

Note the use of the phrase 'forced to service' rather than the more appropriate 'repeatedly raped', and the flippant comment about payment. Since when does payment make rape acceptable? What on earth has payment got to do with this?

[This has] generated an entirely predictable outcry against the oppression of women, the wickedness of men and the base immorality of prostitution.

'The oppression of women'. Perhaps the outcry is 'predictable' because the oppression of women is a reality, and one that must be tackled? In my view, women who are imprisoned and raped are being oppressed, and a world in which such abuses are carried out on a large scale (or indeed on any scale) is one in which women are most definitely oppressed.

'The wickedness of men'? Well, I've not heard anyone cry out that because of this they believe all men are somehow wicked. That certainly was not the reaction of myself or of any feminist I know. I can't help but feel that Dejevsky is appealing to the lowest common denominator in proclaiming that people who question the abuse of women are somehow condemning the entire male sex. What I have heard is that johns who 'have sex' with trafficked women are now liable to prosecution for rape; in other words, they are now required to take responsibility for their actions, and the role their actions play in the trafficking business.

The 'base immorality' of prostitution? Some of us see a system which sells and abuses female flesh as being immoral. We're kind of weird like that.

Am I alone in becoming just a little exasperated with tear-jerking stories of virginal East Europeans tricked into prostitution for the delectation of foreign men?

I sincerely hope you are alone in such callousness.

But how innocent and gullible does a girl have to be to follow an older man who promises a free tourist trip or well-paid waitressing work beneath the bright lights of London, Paris or wherever?

Firstly, Ms Dejevsky, people who are poor and desperate, as well as unknowledgable about the West, may well believe these people when they offer them a chance. It is the promise of capitalism after all, that if one seizes 'opportunity' and works hard enough that one will 'make it'. Secondly, since when was naivete or innocence a crime, and since when was rape and imprisonment a punishment for crime? Nothing a rape survivor has done/ thought makes the crime against her any less of a crime, and indifference to her suffering because of her perceived naivete is unforgivable.

the word should surely have got out to every last god-forsaken village in Lithuania, Romania and Moldova

'God-forsaken'? I can't help but detect a note of contempt.

Dejevsky then suggests that the reason 'the word has not got out' was due to the governments of the countries she mentions, who had failed to warn their young women. This may well be true, and is a good point. But then she goes on to explain that

not all these girls are necessarily victims in the common sense of the word. For some, there is a trade-off that is more or less acceptable between a more prosperous or exciting life of prostitution abroad and a life without prospects at home.

According to Dictionary.com, a victim is someone 'who is harmed by or made to suffer from an act, circumstance, agency, or condition' or 'who is harmed or killed by another', or 'who is tricked, swindled, or taken advantage of'. If a woman comes to the UK in order to work in the sex industry, and is then locked up and raped and beaten, how is she any less of a victim? Women are people with rights. Prostitutes are people with rights. What is done to her is abuse. What is done to her is inhuman. What is done to her is a crime. Perhaps Dejevsky's 'common definition' of victim is somewhat different to that which the dictionary and I understand it to be?

[the Home Office Consultation paper] deals with human trafficking in all its forms. This includes men, women and children smuggled from every impoverished part of the world to feed the seemingly insatiable appetite of our economy for cheap labour.

As it should. Human trafficking is a brutal, worldwide 'business' that is fed by the greed of the wealthy nations. But,

by focusing on the plight of women smuggled for prostitution [campaigners are] pandering to moral prejudice and dealing in titillation.

There you have it. Don't complain about the rape of women kept in captivity, because you are merely providing entertainment. Don't call attention to one particular abuse of human rights, because by neccessity you are somehow diverting attention from all the other abuses of human rights. It is 'moral prejudice' to be concerned about these things, rather than human decency, and the sexual abuse of women, as always, is a punishment for the victims' 'naivete' or lifestyle choices.

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