Definition and Dynamics of Sexual Exploitation & Trafficking

Some definitions of exploitation are:

  • The act of utilizing something in an unjust, cruel or selfish manner for one’s own advantage
  • Exploitation involves a persistent social relationship in which certain persons are being mistreated or unfairly used for the benefit of others.
  • Utilization of another person or group for selfish purposes.
  • Taking advantage of an individual or situation for one’s full benefit

 Definition of Trafficking in Persons

‘Trafficking in Persons’ shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of 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.

Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
[December 2000, The Palermo Protocol, the United Nations defines trafficking in article 3.].

The SA Foundation purports that any kind of prostitution IS sexual exploitation. Whether the young girls end up on the streets voluntarily or not, they are still being abused and exploited for the benefit of others – both the customers and the pimps, brothel owners or escort agency reps that arrange their sale.

The Dark Truth

The sacredness of life is on the decline everywhere. Human slavery is insidious and prevalent. It has been with us throughout the centuries, only becoming truly socially unacceptable in the last part of the 20th century.
Yet today, it has changed faces and surfaces at an alarming rate in our own neighbourhoods with unfortunately very little opposition. As recently as the year 2000, World Vision reported that there were 300 million women and children who were sexually exploited and trafficked world wide.

How does society contribute to the existence of sexual exploitation?

  • Lack of knowledge
  • Laws that favour customers, pimps and traffickers
  • Willful ignorance: Choosing to minimize the situation by promoting the idea that the young women are just out for a fast buck
  • Denial: “It’s not my problem and couldn’t happen to my kids”

Statistically it is proven that 80-90% of young girls involved in the sex trade industry have a family history of sexual abuse. In addition, 60% of them are involved with the ministry and are in foster/group home placements. Why is this important to know? Because while not all girls that are sexually abused end up selling themselves on the streets, we do know that each and every girl out there suffers from some form of self-esteem issue that allows her to begin to see herself as an object, a thing to be sold and traded.

Some of the ways that young girls end up in the sex trade is through the recruitment of pimps

Pimps are skilled at seduction and are on the lookout for vulnerable girls. Such girls are the ones with lower self-esteem, with family and/or peer problems, and that appear shy and submissive. Once spotted, pimps employ strategies not unlike methods used to recondition soldiers in prison camps: a honeymoon period of “wooing” occurs, with pimps’ spending money on the girl, taking her to nightclubs and other “sophisticated” parties, making the girl fall madly in love with him. Next comes the part where he starts isolation tactics, pulling her away from family and friends – creating a rift between them and her. Then he employs tactics of fear – usually fear that she will lose him or displease him, and sometimes even fear of physical violence to her and to her family. To keep his approval she will likely turn a few tricks like he asks, and thus receive lavish praise from him.
At this point his work becomes relatively easy, as her behaviour of turning tricks will severely damage her fragile self-esteem and she will begin to see herself as a “whore” or “hooker”. She quickly becomes convinced that she is worthless, and is utterly grateful that her boyfriend, now pimp, even wants to be around her. She will willingly hand over all of her money, and put up with violence and abuse just to keep in relationship with him.

Young girls and women that are trafficked into the sex trade have different stories, but the end result is the same: the dehumanization and victimization of those helpless to change their circumstances.

In countries like Nepal young girls end up in the brothels of India and elsewhere because they are tricked by traffickers into believing they are being taken to carpet factories or other types of employment for work. Sometimes even false marriages are arranged for these girls to be able to sell them into the sex trade. Once deposited at a brothel owner’s doorstep, the girls are beaten and raped into submission, and then begin the grueling work of having sex with twenty to forty customers per day. They are not free to leave and are only discarded when they either become too old and unattractive (about mid-twenties), or contract a deadly disease such as HIV/AIDS. When rescued from or kicked out of a brothel, the caste system in that part of the world forces the young women to begging for food on the streets. There are few programs offering hope and healing to these girls and their children.

In Eastern European countries young girls are tricked into the international sex trade by traffickers that pose as boyfriends or model agency representatives, and they are shipped Western European or to North American countries where they are kept under lock and key to service customers of brothels. Their families are threatened; they are beaten and abused beyond belief. Anyone trying to escape is often made an example of by severe beatings and/or death. When international police raid such a brothel, there are again very few places for these young women to go for long-term recovery and healing.