Trafficking in Women and Prostitution Dissected
I am coming back to my journal after a long hiatus of over two months during which I was busy in the field and rarely approached my computer. One of the most shocking statistics is that South Asia is both the biggest source and destination of women and girls trafficking in the world. Mainly for prostitution. This has made me think about this problem and also do a bit of reading to try and find out why trafficking and prostitution are so widespread throughout the world.
There is one main pull factor and one main push factor responsible for trafficking of women and girls and both are related to the kind of anti-people development that is taking place in India and in the world as a whole.The pull factor is the need for women sex workers in urban areas where there are innumerable men of all classes living without their families in pursuit of employment of one kind or another. The push factor is the extreme poverty in rural areas where there are few employment opportunities. Both these situations have arisen because of centralised modern development which concentrates investment and development in urban areas to the neglect of rural areas. Even in the developed nations there is tremendous internal migration as people have to move around in search of employment. There is also the question of why some women have to do sex work. Well this is something embedded in the history of patriarchy. The feminist historian Gerda Lerner in her classic "Creation of Patriarchy" has shown from her readings of archaeological and textual research of the pre-historic times that women were subordinated even before the creation of private property. When a tribe won a battle against another it found that it was easier to abduct and imprison the women than the men. The level of technology of weaponry at the time was such that it was very difficult to keep men imprisoned for a very long period of time. With women, however, things were easier as they could be made pregnant within a matter of weeks and thereafter once they bore children then they would naturally stay on. This is what led to the subordination of women even before the emergence of private property. The family system came later with the development of private property when it became necessary to identify male progeny to hand down inheritance to private property. This further strengthened the patriarchal system. Then with the beginning of urban civilisation the phenomenon of men having to live without families in cities emerged and so the need for some women to do sex work in cities so that the overall family system remained intact and was not threatened by men without families wanting to satisfy their sexual urges. Over thousands of years as the economic and social systems have become more and more centralised the demand for sex workers has gone on increasing and so has the poverty in rural areas.
Thus, the problem is a complex one that cannot be solved just by empowering women alone. Feminists have questioned the hypocritical sanctity given to family as an institution which reinforces patriarchal oppression of women and development radicals have questioned the centralised development system which oppresses the vast majority and also devastates nature. So there has to be a change in the social, economic and political systems that create a huge demand for sex work in urban areas on the one hand and also increase poverty in rural areas on the other.