Siddarth Kara’s personal journey around the globe and into the seedy world of human trafficking and the sex trade presents a view on this social injustice that it seems few others on earth could convey. His explanation of the problem, the causes, and his proposed avenues to aid are written in a way I would classify as effortless – until I read that his book was rewritten 4 times before its publication. It seems fitting that even the author went round and round looking for a way to approach the issue of sex trafficking. Perhaps we could all take a rewrite of our opinions on the issue of human trafficking and forced prostitution. I suggest we start in our own back yard.
A recent trip from Tallahassee to Atlanta up I75 boasted numerous billboard advertisements for Peach Spa, Thailand Spa, etc. According to Mike Paluska, a reporter in Atlanta, the metro area has a major problem with sex trafficking (2011). For the last few years agents and law enforcement have been doing what they can to eradicate the problem. In 2008, local county police and sheriff’s departments raided 8 massage parlors, making arrests for such crimes as “keeping a house of prostitution” and “sexual battery” (Ramati, 2008). However, activist organizations like Sex Trafficking Opposition Project (S.T.O.P.) point out that few arrests are targeting the traffickers themselves (2008).
Understanding the gravity and severity of sex trafficking is exactly the intent of Kara’s book. The author explains in elementary detail each factor involved in the explosion of the sex trade during the 1990’s. He lays out the economic, societal, and political environments present in each part of the world that fueled this fire of modern day slavery (Kara, 2009). The “historic factors [that] helped promote sex slavery [are] namely: extreme poverty, severe gender bias, and acute minority disenfranchisement” in each region where the slaves originated (p. 25).
Kara provides an actual plan-of-action on the governmental and political level, as well as writing a section on what one person can do (p. 41-43). But, of course, the solution is not easy. Kara states:
Global efforts are already underway to remedy these issues, but I fear that too many of them rely on the consistent action of governments and institutions with interests that run counter to the measures required to redress the severe inequalities in the contemporary capitalist system.
(2009, p. 42)
And his fears may perhaps be founded. Researcher and feminist theorist Kimberly Williams writes about the correlation of sex trafficking discussions of the Senate and House during the late 90’s and the similarly-timed discussions of US failure in Russian economic policy. Apparently, the 1997 raid of a brothel in the Washington, D.C. area which contained sex slaves from Ukraine and Russia came to the attention of then-Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone, who introduced a resolution on the floor of the US Senate in 1998 “denouncing the transnational traffic in women for sex work and domestic labor” (Williams, 2009, p. 2). However, Russia received most of the legislator’s attention as the country of origin for human trafficking, and therefore became ‘the villains” of the entire discussion (p.12). Williams’ research finds:
In effect, the causes of sex trafficking were largely associated with the political and economic chaos throughout the NIS, particularly in Russia, that had, according to the US Congressional anti-trafficking narrative, enabled a few corrupt (male) politicians and government officials to amass enormous wealth at the expense of their fellow Russians, predominantly women and children.
(Williams, 2011, p. 12)
Williams concludes that the problem of human trafficking for sex slavery became wrapped up in a capitalist, post-cold-war debacle of Congressional diplomacy. Perhaps this is why Siddarth Kara’s “Business Chain Analysis of Sex Trafficking” depends so heavily on awareness campaigns and prosecution at the criminal level (Kara, 2009, p.204). Laid out like a business plan, Kara suggests we attack sex trafficking globally in exactly that way.
Reading the many accounts of survivors so respectfully gathered by Kara is enough to incite the urge in me. Adopting item #1 of Kara’s one-man plan, I will pass this book on to every thinker and activist I know. Considering the close proximity of this modern day slavery to my very home – this is an issue that cannot continue to be ignored.
Kara, S. (2009). Sex Trafficking: Inside the business of modern slavery. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Paluska, M. (2011, January 27). Customs Agents: Sex trafficking major problem in Georgia. CBS Atlanta. Retrieved from http://www.cbsatlanta.com/news/26643356/detail.html
Ramati, P. (2008, June 27). Update: 13 arrested at 8 Bibb massage parlors. Macon.com. Retrieved from http://www.macon.com/2008/06/27/389661/update-13-arrested-at-8-bibb-massage.html
Sex Trafficking Opposition Project [S.T.O.P.]. (2008). General website. Retrieved from http://www.stopsexslavery.org/index.html
Williams, K. (2011). Crime, Corruption and Chaos, International Feminist Journal of Politics, 13(1), 1 — 24.