The social science theory of feminism is one of the core theories that can help us understand the social issue of people trafficking. Feminism is a collection of movements which work towards equality between men and women in all aspects of life. There are three strands of feminism which are consisted of, Liberal feminism, Marxist feminism and Radical feminism.
Marxist feminism is comprised from the idea that capitalism is the root of women’s oppression, and thus feminist move towards dismantling capitalism in order to liberate women. Radical feminism focuses on the theory that patriarchy is a system of power which shapes society into a complex of relationships, based on the hypothesis that ‘male power’ oppresses women (Turner, 2006).
Finally, Liberal feminism emphasises equality between men and women through political and legal reform, which is the most relevant strand of feminism in helping us understanding the social issue of people trafficking, as there are many debates about the political and moral plans in supporting our understanding of such an issue, and also our approach towards it. Furthermore, feminism plays a very important part in understanding and solving human trafficking as feminists bring this social issue on the international agenda.
The definition of human trafficking can be best described in the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children article three, “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. (Schloenhardt, Beirne & Corsbie, 2009, pp. 28 – 29).
One of the main differences between human trafficking and human smuggling is mainly the fact of exploitation, people being trafficked usually have had no free will in their decisions. Although the Protocol may have a definition for human trafficking, there is no set answer to the definition of this issue, as there is no universal nature. There are many factors that lead to this exploitation, a few of the main ones includes, economic instability, vulnerability, lack of education from family and birth order (Blackburn, Taylor & Davis, 2010, p. 08).
Furthermore human trafficking is linked very closely with sex trafficking as women and sometimes men are trafficked into the country for the sole purpose of sexual exploitation. One of the big issues faced with the social issue of human trafficking is the lack of statistics and data that can be gathered about this issue, mainly based on the fact that many cases go undetected and thus there isn’t sufficient evidence for further investigations (Schloenhardt, Beirne & Corsbie, 2009, p. 30).
Moreover, difference sources of information have wide differences in the estimates of people trafficked in Australia, for example the government would state several hundred persons are trafficked into Australia each year, however advocacy groups and non government organisations state several thousand (Schloenhardt, Beirne & Corsbie, 2009, p. 224). As stated before, feminism is a theory that is strongly used in understanding the issue of human trafficking, however within the feminism movements, there are activists who have different perspectives about sex work, which to an extend broadens our views of human trafficking.
This includes the Neo-abolitionists, organisations like the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) who believe that sex work is gender based violence, and women are forced to be sex workers, not by choice. However on the other side there are the pro sex workers and alliances such as Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) who believe that women have a choice to be sex workers, as sex work is a legitimate form of labour. Although there are some differences, many similarities still appear that highlights the main beliefs of feminists.
Such as within the anti-trafficking strategy, pushing for decriminalization of prostitution, as this can cause many issues, discussed further on in the essay (Lecture, SLSP1000: Problems and issues in social science: Sex trafficking, presented on 2nd May 2011 at The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Dr Sanja Milivojevic). When dealing with a social issue such as human trafficking, complexities within approaches to solving the issue is always present.
The political approaches to the issue are implemented by the government, and also appear to be a positive outcome for trafficked people, but there are always possible hidden agendas. Furthermore during times the government implements laws and legislations without the personal interest of the trafficked in thought. However theories such as feminism allow us to also approach the issue in a moral aspect, and understand a broader perspective.
In the United States of America, in 2000 the Palermo Protocol was adopted in hopes of addressing the issue of human trafficking, and soon after many other international and regional strategies were created to fight trafficking (Lecture, SLSP1000: Problems and issues in social science: Sex trafficking, presented on 2nd May 2011 at The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Dr Sanja Milivojevic). Furthermore the United States and other countries of the world adopted the 3P paradigm, which is a framework to combat contemporary forms of slave labor.
The P’s stand for, prevention, usually the methods revolved around raising public awareness for the source and destination countries, in order to inform and educate them about human trafficking. Protection, this revolved around protecting the victims of trafficking, also in the United States under the Trafficking Victims Protections Act 2000, governments have a responsibility to provide identified victims of trafficking to remain in the country, work and obtain service.
Finally, prosecution involves the prosecution of the traffickers. Except, how accurate could the government be in preventing trafficking, if there is not much solid evidence to help improve the flaws within the anti trafficking strategies? Furthermore a lot of victims of sex trafficking have to be sought out, as they will not come forward of this injustice on their own (Maltzahn, 2001), thus locating these women in order to solve the social issue is proved to be more difficult.
Furthermore studies in Britain have shown that when detained, only a few women testify, and the rest usually are asked to be deported back, fearful that their exploiters would believe evidence was given against them, and thus could proceed with threats made to the victims and their families (Maltzahn, 2001). Unlike the United States, Australia uses the 3D framework, detention, deportation and disempowerment, which has be ridiculed for governments acting out of self interest, and ridding of the burden of illegal workers in all forms.
Also, in Australia some women who are detained for entering Australia illegally, are victims of sex trafficking, however the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) do not ask the detainees if they were trafficked instead of smuggled (Malzahn, 2001). In relation to the problem, even if the women were asked, a few would admit to being trafficked, not knowing that they are victims of a serious social issue.
Based on the idea that a lack of education leaves women and children not knowing what they have gotten themselves into, as a lot of women are either tricked into the exploitation, believing they were going to work in retail industries and such. In addition, the government’s system of sending the women back to their home country is a very large flaw, as sending them back without knowing if they were the subject of a crime, simply subjects them to being trafficked again, if not to be a social outcast (Malzahn, 2001).
In contrast to the government’s solution of ridding of the detainees, and preventing future traffickers, the social theory of feminism allows for this issue to be seen from a more non – positivist point of view. As feminists obviously do not view prosecution as their main priority but instead focuses on offering support for the women who had suffered violence, this broadens our understanding of the issue as we view it from a non political view (Malzahn, 2001).
Adding to the role feminism plays in this social issue, although human trafficking usually victimises women, it shows the ability of women to take a lead in the struggles of the inequality of the world, and even put gender issues to the top of government agendas. Furthermore, feminists have raised much awareness of this social injustice, and pushed governments to enforce legalisation (Heredia, 2007, p. 311). For example, it was feminists like Josephine Burtlet that pushed for the first international instrument again the ‘white slave trade’ (Heredia, 2007, p. 12).
In addition, there are many complexities that occur when researching the subject of human trafficking. One of the main factors is the strong focus on sex trafficking, and the lack of focus in the other forms. Also, there is a limited focus on the men who are effect by sex trafficking and other forms of exploitation. However, adapting the feminist view towards this issue, feminism primarily believes in the equality between men and women, and thus expands our thinking perspective on that fact that not only women are exploited but also men.
The main complexity of researching human trafficking is the access to victims, proper research cannot be accomplished if victims are not willing to share their story of how they were exploited, thus making it difficult to prevent future trafficking from happening (Lecture, SLSP1000: Problems and issues in social science: Sex trafficking, presented on 2nd May 2011 at The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Dr Sanja Milivojevic).
In an attempt to combat human trafficking, there are certain patterns in Australia that can be noticed, for example the profiles of victims are usually, women, and the majority of women are usually from South East Asian countries. Based on research, most victims are promised employment in Australia, however whether or not victims knew they were surrendering themselves to sex work is not clear. Furthermore it has been research that upon arrival to Australia women are usually expected to work off the debt they have accumulated in coming to Australia, having to work a certain amount of jobs (Schloenhardt, Beirne & Corsbie, 2009, p. 2).
It has also been stated that offenders are usually organised criminals, and ethnically based, however these stereotypes can lead to more harm than good, as they provide an inaccurate understanding of what governments should be looking out for. Referring back to the impact that feminism has on the understanding of this social issue, it is evident that the approach of feminism impacts strongly on the possible improvement research methods of people trafficking.
The feminist empiricist approach to researching social issues violates empiricism in a way as androcentrism seeps into the social research (Smith, 2010, p. 313), and thus a more effective form of research would be in a non positivist view (Choo, Jang & Choi, 2010). Using methods of research such as ethnography, will allow for social scientists to understand the whole story of victims to people trafficking, and thus have a deeper understanding of the issue.
Furthermore, if legal sex workers were to be present while talking to victims of sex trafficking, it could prove to be a source of comfort for the victims, as they can relate to a certain extent (Maltzahn, 2001). Moreover, interviewing can be used as a research method to gain a greater insight into the issue; also interviews can be conducted two ways, either formally or informally, based upon the victim. Thus, the theory of feminism can help us understand the social issue better, as it gives us a broader view of ways we can approach solving this issue and understanding it to the best we can as outsiders.
In conclusion, the core theory of feminism has proven effective in aiding to understand the social issue of people trafficking. As the majority of people being trafficked are women, and thus, the support behind solving and understanding this issue is much related. Furthermore, feminism broadens the perspective on ways to view the victims and forms of research, such as ethnography and interviews, approaching from a non-positivist perspective, allowing for a greater comprehension of the issue.
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