I’ve not been posting very much for a combination of reasons to do with being slightly blocked on the novel for a few days, trying to decide the way forward as to protesting the anti-trans stuff in the Equalities bill, working quite hard, the weather sucking and giving me vague SAD, watching The Wire finally and being generally quite busy.

HOWEVER Avdedon asked me to post a couple of links so that she doesn’t have to go looking for them. There’s Nick Davies’ piece here and an attempted rebuttal of it by Rahila Gupta on Comment Is Free.

Nobody is arguing that the trafficking of sex workers does not happen, or that it is in any way other than a very bad thing indeed. What Davies is arguing is that it does no one any favours to trade in statistics so dodgy that they might as well be called lies, and basing a call for new laws on them. This becomes especially worrying when Government are funding NGOs, which come up with research that lets Government do what individual ministers are minded to do, ministers who then get praised in newspapers by journalists with strong links with those NGOs.

Dodgy dossiers and the culture surrounding them gave us the Iraq war and the war on some drugs. They are an intrinsically bad thing even when the cause they support is one to which people are sympathetic for good reasons.

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About rozkaveney

Middleaged, trans, novelist, poet, activist
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15 Responses to

  1. viggorlijah says:

    I don’t know enough about the legal implications here but to illustrate for adoption trafficking where I do know what I’m talking about and sex work statistics – it’s an illegal activity. There is no way to get solid statistics and research except through extrapolation and estimates that are then merged to come up with reasonable numbers. You look for a consensus of stats, and the UK *does* have human trafficking.

    The other bit is the definition. Under the UN definition, and under American laws, what happened to my children doesn’t count as child trafficking that can be classified and prosecuted. The single biggest foreign child trafficker in Cambodia, despite all the testimonies, couldn’t be charged because there were no good laws that applied in her case, and so they got her on visa fraud instead.

    Both of those articles are people who’ve made their minds up and aren’t interested in accuracy.

    • rozkaveney says:

      I think that’s amazingly unfair to Davies who goes out of his way to back his views up with figures and analysis.

      • viggorlijah says:

        Selectively picked ones. I was just talking to a statistician last week who we’re hoping to hire short-term to work on the three years of data we have, about tracking child trafficking numbers in Cambodia and Vietnam, and the huge diversity depending on how you decided definitions, who did the reporting, the questions – he wants to say the laws are wrong and here’s why, and he picked data that fit his views.

      • rozkaveney says:

        No, he has taken the figures regularly being cited in order to justify new laws and demonstrated, very clearly, that they were to a remarkable extent pulled out of the air, or from the backsides of politicians like McShane and McTaggart. It is not being selective to demonstrate that the other side has simply made their figures up.

      • viggorlijah says:

        I’ll go for him using the figures cited to show that they’re not reliable, but he doesn’t then ask why not, what is happening, why are reliable numbers hard to get here. Instead he says it must all be a giant lie, which is baby plus bathwater time.

      • rozkaveney says:

        A giant lie does seem a good workable hypothesis in the circumstances. Actually, though, Davies accuses people of applying wishful thinking to the original figures, and then inflating them further to an extent that is almost random. It is not so much malice, or self-promotion, as a belief that certain things must be true.

        Admittedly, I have my own reasons for supposing so, inasmuch as I have form with some of the players here, which can be seen as a source of bias, or alternatively, as confirmatory evidence.

        I’ve known Liz Kelly to be extravagant with the truth after various encounters with her on other issues. I worked very closely with Fiona McTaggart in her pre-government NGO days and know her to be only too prepared to swallow those versions of reality that suit her ambitions and her projects; I really don’t think she is a liar so much as someone who is capable of intense self-delusion even for a politician. I don’t know Dennis McShane nearly as well, in spite of the fact that I was at school with him when I was very young.

        Let’s be clear again – human trafficking is a great evil, whether it be to provide victims of sexual slavery or domestic servitude. In order to decide what to do about it, we need accurate figures – a first step to that is getting rid of doubtful ones.

      • viggorlijah says:

        I’ll take your word for them – I know twits like that who take stuff and blow it up to make their own worldview ‘win’.

        However, I know people who have done the data and are sincere and hardworking and the difficulties involved, and that sex trafficking exists, both in the developed and developing world, and that sex work is ideologically polarizing and – people I trust, people I have worked closely with who are soundly based in reality and looking for truth, not an agenda, say that sex trafficking exists in the UK.

      • rozkaveney says:

        As I have said several times, I don’t dispute that, and nor does Nick Davies – the question is the extent, and the Poppy crowd, for example, have asserted that there are scores of thousands, which seems unlikely, and that public policy needs to reflect that assumption.

      • coalescent says:

        he says it must all be a giant lie,

        Where? “Somewhere beneath all this, there is a reality. There have been real traffickers” seems to say the opposite, in fact.

      • annafdd says:

        I take it you mean “trafficked” in the sense of “forced into prostitution”.

        Yes there are. Few but important. As there are people who are forced into semi- or outright slavery, like the cocklepickers and so on, in jobs that do not involve sex, and therefore receive a lot less pity. And it is helping these people that should be a priority: not deciding that they must be stopped doing Immoral Things.

        As is becoming clearer and clearer to me, prostitution is a much better prospect for a lot of people than other kinds of jobs. A lot of women are choosing it because it pays better, the working conditions are better, and the amount of abuse they are subjected to is better, than in other available jobs. And they should be free to make that choice, and protected to do so.

        Deciding that they *all* have to be victims because We Know Better is paternalistic and disempowering. And, and this is important, it obscures the plight of those who are actually victimised.

      • coalescent says:

        Er … I’m not sure what my comment ended up saying that I didn’t intend it to say, but I agree with all of this! To the extent that I know about the issue, anyway.

      • viggorlijah says:

        There was a great a-hah moment for me recently when we were talking with some street sex workers in PP about work, and what alternatives they have. Almost none of them – no-one in PP I’ve spoken to, although I know some people in developed places that have chosen sex work voluntarily – wanted to be sex workers as the work’s dangerous and degrading (Cambodian sex workers are not reviled openly, but it’s a major shame factor).

        Childcare. They were married with kids, and a factory job or other regular job with equivalent pay meant they would have to find someone to look after a child or two during the day. They were often defacto single parents because of addiction of the husband or he travelled for work or had abandoned them, appearing only very occasionally – so a good job still meant less pay at the end of the day because there would be no-one to take care of a kid. Street sexwork was at night when they could get cheaper childcare or have a neighbour watch their kids, etc.

        There were other factors – getting money daily as opposed to once a month, being forced to pay off exorbitant debt and the pimps/brothel owners providing low interest loans, having poor health so they don’t have the stamina for another job, or having so little education, they couldn’t manage a regular job.

        The emotional impact of sex work is just huge. It isn’t the same as a service job, it’s frontline and intimate. Providing real alternatives makes the choice fair, but right now, sex work isn’t a positive job except for the elite minority who have other real viable choices, like a university graduate who would rather do this for high profit than a decent living wage. That’s a fair choice, and it’s *rare*

      • rozkaveney says:

        It’s precisely because street level workers have all sorts of needs that can be addressed – needs that also impact on other impoverished women who have not made the same choices, but might – needs of which the funding of affordable child care is one – that the question of statistics becomes important.

        If fallacious statistics send legislators haring off in the wrong direction, and funding solutions to imaginary levels of real problems, other less glamourous bits of work will not be done.

      • There’s a timing problem here. Davies tracks the exaggeration back to the last century, when the researched figures were imprecise, and the possible upper limit highly speculative, and yet the media and politicians have consistently taken upper limits as the “true” figure, and then even said that they may be low.

        If the measures taken, by Parliament and Police, have done anything, how can we know? If we believe the old 4000 figure, which is a very rough high-end total, we can think that 3000 now is an improvement. But that old set of figures was so imprecise that the reality then could have been only 2000, and the improvement from different policy and policing has just vanished.

        In my more cynical moments, I wonder if politicians pick the scare-end of the possible range so that they have a better chance of their actions looking as though the improved the situation.

        The liars will mess us up on a lot of other things, and the pattern of lies that Nick Davies has revealed is important. So is arguing about just how big the lie is in this case.

        I don’t know about the work you do. I’m reluctant to challenge your claims, though I can see a potential for confusion in the various definitions of “trafficking”.

        Are you happy to see your work reported by liars?

    • viggorlijah says:

      Seriously, reading these comments is hilarious. Thank you for the links!

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