Just recently I had the opportunity to speak at an event on Kings Campus. This event was organized by one of my peers and we were having a discussion on Idle No More (www.idlenomore.ca), and after the event we had an opportunity for attendees to ask us questions or converse with us.
At one point I was congratulated on my opportunity to present at Flaunting It 9 (an undergraduate conference on main campus). My paper was chosen for this conference and I am speaking on “Human Trafficking and Indigenous Women in the 21st Century.” At the moment I announced this, I was immediately asked about what I thought of the recent article in the Metro newspaper on human trafficking in London which cites that one in five (1:5) sex workers are trafficked (read article HERE). I read this article before this young man had asked me about my thoughts on this and I knew well in advance how to answer this.
In addition to this, when people ask me what my thoughts are on human trafficking the first thing I ask them is “where do you think this problem comes from?” Almost everyone has no reply or no response, and I get it, they are probably not used of receiving that type of reply. They are probably confused with the term human trafficking too.
The current research that is being done in London ON on this subject is quite questionable. I am not saying that is shouldn’t be done or that those who experience victimization or exploitation should not have their experiences examined or investigated to further enhance the services available to them. What I am saying is that the research that is currently out there should not be blanketed on all those who are doing sex work.
That statistic that I quoted earlier is the one major issue I have with the discussions around human trafficking in London ON. This statistic was taken from the recent research done at My Sister’s Place (MSP) which is a social service agency that provides social supports, referrals and other services to women struggling with a range of issues including mental health, addiction, poverty, homelessness, and violence (Orchard et al 2012). The methodology states that “over half of the 100 women who come to the agency daily have taken part in the sex trade” and this statement is problematic in itself because how do the researchers conclude that over 50% of the women who enter MSP on a daily basis are have taken part in the sex trade? One possibly cannot determine this upon simply looking at an individual and one cannot determine if another has partaken in the sex work by a simple conversation–unless of course they asked every single women at MSP “are you in the sex trade?” upon entering. This was not the case as the data they collected only involved 33 semi-structure life histories and they only spoke with 23 women and of those 23 women, four categories of sex work emerged. Of those four categories, it was discovered that 4 of the 19 women who did sex work were forced whereby forced is defined as kidnapped, pimped, or coerced by a criminal organization. I find the sections dealing with human trafficking in the Criminal Code of Canada quite excessive. If the women were kidnapped/pimped/coerced, then there are already sections in the CCC to deal with those offenses.
In addition to this, the research indicated that there was an overrepresentation of Aboriginal women (25% interviewed but make up for 1.5% of London’s population. They do not account for this overrepresentation with being connected to the effects of colonialism (not once is this mentioned) and they ignore the fact that London is surrounded by some of Canada’s largest First Nations.
Much of the media’s focus on human trafficking in London has been focused on this research that was released last October 2012. However, to say that 1/5 women in sex work are being trafficked is not generalizable to sex workers in London ON. The research gathered their participants from an already vulnerable population and due to this fact, it is quite a reality that you are bound to find someone who has been exploited or victimized. As I stated earlier, I am not saying that this work shouldn’t be done. I am just saying that we have to be careful how we apply research to a specific population in a specific region. To say that 1/5 sex workers are trafficked in London is questionable.
Not only is this statistic questionable, but so is the suggestion that trafficking does happen in London. In the metro article, the police officer is quoted as saying that no charges for human trafficking have been laid and that these charges mostly end up as charges relating to assault and extortion.
Perhaps future research should include an accurate representation of sex workers in London and not just the most vulnerable and most visible. If the research being done on sex work is going to affect sex work, then the voice of all sex workers need to be included. Also, as a young Indigenous woman, I am tired of researchers that discuss Aboriginal women but the discussion remains lost or buried in the population being investigated. This was the case in this report since Aboriginal women and their experiences were only discussed briefly in the methodology section.
I thought I would write a brief blog post on this topic since it is coming up a lot in my life at the moment and since I will be presenting my paper on the topic this coming Friday. If you have any questions/concerns, please do not hesitate to leave a comment or contact me via twitter or Facebook.
Have a great day all!
- Metro Article: http://metronews.ca/news/london/583628/violence-against-women-learning-network-addresses-human-trafficking-at-london-forum/
- LFpress Article discussing street based sex work and where the research report was first published: http://www.lfpress.com/2012/10/11/zeroing-in-on-londons-sex-trade
- Research report: http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/916/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13178-012-0097-y.pdf?auth66=1365102306_45602200f0d487f42c607b7e558d6bc1&ext=.pdf