In this paper
the author is exploring interlaced impact, which war, militarism and globalization connected changes, as macro processes, have on sex trafficking in women. Sex trafficking to, through and from the Balkans is analyzed as one of the best examples of cumulative effect of all above-mentioned macro processes. The analyses includes both immediate and long-term impact of ethnic conflicts and militarisation of the region as well as the impact of changes connected to transition from communism in both the Balkans and other parts of Eastern Europe. Special emphasis is put on Serbia, UN administered territory of Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Bulgaria. The author is looking at interlaced influence of different political, economic and military factors on both criminalisation and victimization processes and their gendered character. An additional aim of the paper is to critically assess the role played by international community in fighting the problem of trafficking in this part of the world.
Key words: sex trafficking, ethnical conflicts, militarism, globalization, the Balkans
"The coffee bars springing up in Bosnia bear a chilling resemblance to these wartime rape houses, but the war is now a silent one...Those who cause trouble are easily disposed of. Last year, the naked bodies of two women were found in a river near Arizona Market. Both bore the marks of mafia-style killings - hands tied behind their backs, feet bound to concrete. Tape over their mouth was marked "Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.” The symbols of protection had been used to stifle their screams. Their identities are impossible to trace."
Kate Holt, “Captive Market,”
The Sunday Times Magazine, February 18, 2001, 51.
Uneven distribution of wealth has always been among the main generators of sex trafficking. However, only in the past several decades has sex trafficking become a global problem. As Dutch researcher Sietske Altink observes, “more and more countries are joining the ranks of sending countries and increasing numbers are becoming target countries.”
Economic hardships and their consequences for women create a potential supply of workers for the sex industry. But this "supply" would never be used for sex trafficking purposes without the creation of demand.
The increased demand for women as sex objects is evident within both post-communist and developed countries. In the 1980s and 1990s sex trafficking of Eastern European women became more attractive for traffickers than trafficking in Asian women, because of shorter distances and consequently fewer expenses and risks, which led to bigger profits. Further, trafficked Eastern European women are more attractive to white Western male consumers since they fit better their racial, educational, and gender expectations (e.g. they are mainly white, educated, and ready to obey). Thus, “we need to understand how global capitalism creates conditions for women to sell sexual services at far better rates of pay than the sale of another form of labor.”
War and militarism particularly influence sex trafficking in women. Their impact is mostly connected to specific war and post-war situations, but sex trafficking may also be the consequence of the very presence of military in the region, regardless of whether there is war going on or not. Thus, the impact of militarism on sex trafficking is not necessarily connected to war, although war may produce militarist cultural ideals about gender which increase the vulnerability of women to socio-economic factors that lead to sex trafficking.
Moreover, examples from recent history show that the expansion of prostitution due to the extended presence of military forces has long-term consequences on the development of sex trafficking on both local and global levels.
The impact on sex trafficking of war, militarism, and social changes due to the transition from communism have been explored separately and without taking into consideration their interconnections. Moreover, the problem of trafficking in women from former communist countries has mainly been considered as a threat to destination countries.
Less is known about trafficking within post-communist countries, especially about the Balkans as one of major destinations for trafficked women. The one sided approach to the problem has had significant negative consequences on policing and treatment of illegal migrants in general, and victims of trafficking in particular. “Fortress EU” syndrome, together with narrow human rights approaches and the overlooking of broader structural causes of trafficking led to “instant” and mostly punitive solutions, which are not efficient either in terms of deterrence of offenders or in terms of protection of victims. The recognition of the role of international community in sex trafficking in peacekeeping areas is at the earliest stages.
The main aim of this paper is to explore the interlaced impact which war, militarism, and political and economic changes, have on sex trafficking in women. I focus my analysis on sex trafficking to, through, and from the Balkans because it exemplifies the cumulative effect of these macro processes. My analysis considers both immediate and long-term impact of war as well as the impact of changes connected to transition from communism in both the Balkans and other parts of Eastern Europe. I will look at the intertwined influence of different political, economic and military factors on both criminalization and victimization processes and their gendered character. An additional aim of the paper is to critically assess the role played by international community in fighting the problem of trafficking in Eastern Europe.
Sex Trafficking in the Balkans: Scope and Directions
The expansion of sex trafficking in women from Eastern and Central Europe, which coincided with the end of the Cold War, affected the Balkans significantly and in various ways. The Report of International Organization for Migration, for example, shows that, even more than a decade after the end of Cold War and several years after the end of the war in the former Yugoslavia, it is evident that trafficking in the Balkans is still significant problem affecting growing numbers of women and children.
Moreover, the Balkans are not a transit and sending region only, but also one of the major destinations for trafficked women as well. International Organization for Migration estimates that up to 500,000 women are forced to work as prostitutes in Europe. The same source suggests that “120,000 women and children are being trafficked into the European Union each year, mostly through the Balkans.”
Some estimations for the UK suggest that more than 70% of women working in brothels in Soho are from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, with women from the Balkans making large part of them.
Although the Balkans are not a homogeneous region, they have traditionally acted as a crossroads between East and West, an area where Eastern and Western influences meet. Thus, the geographical position of the Balkans predestined it its role as a crossroads for different illegal channels. This makes trafficking in women (as well as other forms of transnational crime) in the Balkans a particular case in comparison to both Western countries and other parts of Eastern Europe. As a consequence, factors which contribute to trafficking in women from, through and to the Balkans, are connected with the ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and with the transition from communism in Eastern Europe, as well as with the broader processes of militarization and globalization of the region.
Sex Trafficking During Ethnic Conflicts
Ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia have contributed significantly to the vulnerability of women to sex trafficking. Although only sporadically mentioned in works on wartime sexual violence, sexual slavery and sex trafficking are strongly connected to war rapes and forced prostitution. Moreover, methods used for bringing women into rape camps and brothels are extremely cruel and humiliating. News about women held in sexual slavery appeared as early as in December 1993 in the article “Shame in Bosnia,” written by well-known British journalist Roy Gutman and published in Newsday. Gutman reported about Sonja’s Kon Tiki brothel in Sarajevo, where Muslim women were forced into prostitution and held in sexual slavery by Serbs. This report also showed the complicitous role of UN soldiers in Bosnia, who were regular “clients” of women held as sex slaves, and who did nothing to protect them. Moreover, survivors of nearby prisons testified that they saw girls who were forced in UN vehicles and driven to unknown destinations.
Further, during the first trial dealing exclusively with sexual violence before the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, testimony was heard that in the Bosnian town of Foca “women and children, some as young as 12 years old, were detained and raped, vaginally, anally and orally, subjected to gang rapes, forced to dance nude with weapons pointed at them, and even enslaved.”
Recently, a former Serb soldier has been arrested by NATO troops for his alleged role in enslaving Muslim girls for sexual exploitation. He is accused of effectively running a brothel for Serb soldiers against the will of Muslim women.
Additionally, the final report of the United Nations Commission of Experts revealed other cases of Muslim women kept as sexual slaves by Serbs, and abductions of Serbian women who where held in sexual slavery in brothels run by Croats in Croatia. Finally, the Albanian mafia largely used the refugee crisis during the Kosovo conflict and NATO intervention for trafficking Albanian and Roma women from Kosovo to Italy and other Western countries.
Although sex trafficking that was closely connected to ethnic conflicts stayed mainly within borders of war-affected and neighboring countries, it contributed to the expansion of prostitution and made good basis for these countries to become attractive destination for trafficking in women from other parts of Eastern Europe. As well observed by noted American feminist author Katherine MacKinnon,
'The spectacle of the United Nations troops violating those they are there to protect adds a touch of the perverse. My correspondent added that some UN troops are participating in raping Muslim and Croatian women taken from Serb-run rape/death camps. She reports that ‘the UN presence has apparently increased the trafficking in women and girls through the opening of brothels, brothel-massage parlors, peep shows, and the local production of pornographic films.’
Sex Trafficking after Ethnic Conflicts
Post-war militarization and the large presence of international organizations further contributed to the growth of sex trafficking in the Balkans. As the report from the Conference on Trafficking, slavery and peacekeeping, held in 2002 in Turin, Italy, suggests,
'The combination of the end of hostilities and the arrival of relatively rich peacekeeping operation personnel drove the hasty establishment of brothels and, in turn, founded the links between UNMIK
personnel and trafficking syndicates. Within this observation lies the most significant challenge, then, to the peacekeeping operations in regards to trafficking - the fact that peacekeepers are often part of the problem.
In 1999, Human Rights Watch uncovered brothels “filled with women scattered throughout Bosnia.” Women told Human Rights Watch interviewers that they had been sold from brothel owner to brothel owner, placed in debt bondage, threatened, and beaten. One year later, the United Nations report on trafficking in Bosnia confirmed the widespread abuses. The UN identified 260 nightclubs throughout the country, while the estimate given by NGOs is that the number is as high as 900, with between four and 25 women in each nightclub.
The May 2000 HRW Report documented significant local police, international police, and some Stabilization Force (SFOR) complicity in trafficking in women.
Also, according to local NGOs, 50 per cent of clients are internationals, mainly soldiers from SFOR, and at least 70 percent of all profits from prostitution are estimated to come from internationals, who pay different rates and spend more money in bars than local men. A similar situation exists in Kosovo, where three higher-level police officers have been recently repatriated for suspected involvement in trafficking.
Serbia, because of its better economic situation at the beginning of 1990s, was for some time one of the main destination countries within Eastern Europe. However, later on Serbia became mainly a transit country, both to neighboring territories where the raging war brought a large military presence, and to Western Europe. Women from the Ukraine, Russia, and Romania make up the majority of women trafficked through Serbia. They are most often used as prostitutes in Serbia for some time and then sold further, mainly through Montenegro to Italy. A similar situation exists in Macedonia. Although the economic situation in Macedonia was difficult throughout the transition from communism, its geographic position, large presence of NATO forces, and strong Albanian mafia contributed to it becoming one of the main transit countries for many trafficked women.
Women from Bulgaria, the Ukraine, Mongolia, Moldova, Romania, and Albania prevail among women trafficked to or through Macedonia. From there, women are trafficked to the Middle East and Western Europe, mainly via Greece. Serbia and Macedonia are often transit countries for the trafficking of women from other East European countries to Kosovo, as well. According to the IOM's Kosovo data, more than a half of women whom IOM assisted entered Kosovo from Serbia, and about a third of them entered from Macedonia. Also, women sometimes enter Kosovo from Albania.
Women are usually sold three to six times during their journey to Kosovo.
However, after Kosovo's introduction of tough laws against trafficking in 2000, the trafficking of women from Kosovo to and through Macedonia also became prevalent.
War, Transitions from Communism, and Global Capitalism: Factors Contributing to Sex Trafficking to, through, and from the Balkans
Women's vulnerability to sex trafficking is the result of consequences which structural changes in post-communist and war-affected countries produced in the everyday life and gender identities of both women and men. Thus it is not possible to understand the wave of sex trafficking of women from Eastern and Central Europe without taking into account both macrosocial and micro social and individual risk factors which either predispose or trigger violence against women.
Similarly, research on this new slavery by noted British sociologist and antislavery activist Kevin Bales, shows that it flourishes in societies under stress and in extreme poverty. Bales posits that “existing power structures are overturned and a battle breaks out to fill the power vacuum. Economies that had been stable, though perhaps poor, are replaced by haphazard development and exploitation. And, as we have seen, in the absence of law, greed can overwhelm human rights.”
One of the main consequences of social changes is the sharpening of social differentiation between a small part of very rich and a large part of poor people, with an almost disappearing middle class. This has important consequences in the creation of new masculinities and femininities as well as in the emergence of different models of family and class relations.
On the one side there was the rise of traditional hegemonic masculinity, while on the other, multiple marginalized masculinities arose as well. Complementary to them are what Robert Connell terms emphasized and marginalized femininity.
Connell identifies “hegemonic masculinity” and “emphasized femininity” as the culturally idealized forms of gender in a given historical setting. These forms, as further elaborated by James Messerschmidt are “culturally honored, glorified and extolled at the symbolic level in the mass media.”
“In Western industrialized societies,” Messerschmidt continues, “hegemonic masculinity is characterized by work in the paid labor market, the subordination of women and girls, heterosexism and the driven and uncontrollable sexuality of men.”
Connell posits that emphasized femininity complements hegemonic masculinity through compliance with men's desire for titillation and ego stroking and acceptance of marriage and childcare. On a mass level it is “organized around the themes of sexual receptivity in relation to younger women and motherhood in relation to older women.”
The example of the Balkans very tellingly shows how women a combination of war, economic transition, and globalisation-related factors pushes women into sex trafficking, thus illustrating the connection between sex trafficking and social processes. Traffickers make use of the existing market demand and the women's need to find jobs. In that process development of a market (neoliberal) economy plays a major role both by enhancing disparity and inequality between countries and by creating demand for women as sex objects. Disparities and inequalities influence the channels of migration in general, and the channels of trafficking in particular: they are the consequence of
"the world economic order, of the distribution of wealth among nations and the exploitation of persons by others."
Thus trafficking channels go from developing countries to the industrialized nations and not vice versa. Micro social expressions of macro social factors, such as transition from communism, war, and globalisation, serve as strong push factors for women's migration, their employment in the sex industry, and their vulnerability to sex trafficking.
The probability of becoming a victim of trafficking is greater for younger women, since young women are more often identified by themselves and by potential recruiters as sex objects. This is connected with the changes in gender images about sexuality, which are best mirrored in the explosion of beauty/fashion magazines and pornography in post communist societies.
As noted Bulgarian feminist historian Krassimira Daskalova says, "the message conveyed is that beauty is the most valuable female 'asset' and that every woman should try to make herself sexually attractive to men and to become a source of men's pleasure.”
Media re-constructed the traditional opposition between men's sexual needs and women as passive sexual objects and men's property, which is further used to justify violence and blame the victim .
At the same time, global mass media reinforced this trend through the circulation of stereotyped gender images “deliberately made attractive for marketing purposes.”
As noted British sociologists and criminologists Ian Taylor and Ruth Jamieson demonstrated, economic processes connected to globalization, such as rapid liberalization of trade and economy across the world, led to an increase in the role that sexuality plays throughout the public culture.
In addition, vulnerability to sex trafficking is connected with marginalization and hopelessness related to the difficulty of economic, war-related, family or similar situations. Both women's desperate state because of their difficult situation and their efforts to find a solution or exit from it contributes to their inaccurate perception of risks, and to the failure to anticipate danger. In the Balkans, we find foreigners and desperate local women who suffer short and long-term consequences of war: they are both pushed into sex industry. As Peter Von Behtlemfavy of the IOM states, “the number of illegal prostitutes from the Balkans, where close to a decade of war has wiped out many ordinary jobs, has tripled if not quadrupled from 1995 to 2000.”
Socio-economic changes in the everyday lives of both women and men in post-communist countries (e.g. unemployment and/or loss of previous social positions and privileges) play an important role in precipitating their involvement in prostitution as pimps, and in trafficking as recruiters or traffickers.
The words of one prostitute illustrate this vividly:
'Many pimps would not work in prostitution if the economic situation were better. If they were employed. Many of them are not criminals like in the Western countries. They are unhappy people who are not able to find a job. Sometimes, they live from the prostitution of their wives, girlfriends and daughters. Sometimes, they do not earn anything for several days. Poverty is common for pimps. There are a few who have a network, good car, etc, but the majority live only on the prostitution of their wives or daughters.'
Labor distribution among people involved in trafficking is strongly gendered so that among recruiters (who get the least profit
) women participate in equal measure as men, while men dominate in higher places in the hierarchy. Also, poor and powerless men are usually subordinated to those who have leading roles within the mafia. Thus, the place which men hold within economic structure usually determines the role they have within sex industry business as well, as street pimps, brothel owners, traffickers or clients. Whatever their economic position, and whether women identify themselves as sex objects or are identified as a such without their consent, they are always subordinated to men. Although men can be subordinated to women in the hierarchy of sex trafficking, women are never at the pinnacle of the hierarchy. Although there are differences between feminine roles (e.g. women involved in trafficking, street prostitutes, call girls, victims of trafficking etc.) and subordinated masculinities, masculinities are always hegemonic in relation to femininities. As a result of both economic hardships and changes in normative heterosexuality, both women and men are attracted to jobs within the sex industry and involve themselves in sex trafficking. Thus, both women and men tend to secure economic survival as well as social standing for reaffirming gender and gender roles.
War helps to generate sex trafficking in a number of ways. Unemployment, poverty and lack of prospects in general influence both supply and demand for prostitution and trafficking. Desperate women easily become vulnerable to false promises and deception, as well as to different forms of violence. Traffickers exploit the fact that many persons are in vulnerable situations, undocumented and separated from their families. Refugees are especially vulnerable, both while fleeing from war zones and while in exile. The most commonly victimized groups were Kosovo, Albanian, and Roma refugee women.
Apart from their desperate situation as refugees, they were also culturally vulnerable since once raped either by Serb forces in the war zone or by traffickers while fleeing it they knew that their families would never accept them back. Thus, they became involved in sex trafficking much more easily than rape victims and women from less patriarchal societies did in peacetime.
As British feminist researcher Liz Kelly points out of Bosnia, one of the most common routes into the sex industry is rape, which makes women “unmarriageable.”
Within male-female relationships, rape corresponds to the behavior of conquering troops toward occupied territories.
But women’s bodies can become a battlefield on which men communicate their rage to other men as well, because women’s bodies have been the implicit political battlefields all along.
As a consequence, raped women bear the message that “their ” men were not able to protect them as well as that they are worthless as “property.” Consequently, armed conflict makes survival of raped women even more precarious.
When a huge international army is also present, as in the case of Bosnia, newly created demand for sex workers cannot be met by local women, trafficking of foreign women from poor post-communist countries supplements the supply. According to some sources, there is evidence of foreign women working as prostitutes in Bosnia and Herzegovina as long ago as 1993.
In the post-war period, the demand for sex work further increases with the arrival of peacekeeping troops and the private military companies that accompany them, and large numbers of international organizations.
In addition, in international protectorates such as the BiH- and UN-administered territory of Kosovo, where the government and law enforcement is under complete control of the international community, large international police forces and armies of administrative workers are present as well. As examples of the Philippines, Okinawa and Thailand show, there is danger that the wartime and post-war increase in prostitution will be transformed into peacetime institutionalization of the sex industry.
The sex industry develops and the vulnerability of women to sex trafficking increases with the building of military bases. Although otherwise international presences may be temporary in the region, prostitution and related trafficking in women may become a long-term problem in the Balkans solely in connection to the emergence of new military bases.
For example, in Kosovo, Camp Bondsteal, is one of the largest military bases in Europe.
A similar situation exists in Bosnia, where the irony is that Arizona Market, established by peacekeeping forces after the war to foster trade between Serbs, Croats and Muslims, has grown “into five square miles of sinister black facade, where women from the former Soviet Union and elsewhere in Eastern Europe are sold to the highest bidder.” The Market is situated near the towns of Brcko and Tuzla, which boast “one of the highest concentrations of the international police force created to establish law and order in Bosnia, one of the largest American army bases and one of the biggest UN-administered aid packages of the post-war years.”
Lawlessness, corruption, and social disorganization have a serious impact on the increase of sex trafficking in war-affected areas as well. The negative impact of war on the functioning of the criminal justice system and the absence of the rule of law in general have precipitated an increase in crime, including particularly the increase of violent and organized crime. This further has led to the complicity of the criminal justice system in different forms of organized crime, with male police officers either directly involved in trafficking in women or turning a blind eye on it. One important factor in this is the high level of prejudices among criminal justice officers about victims of sex trafficking; they often treat them as criminals rather than as victims.
In Serbia, the international isolation during the regime of former president Milosevic meant the severing of ties with Interpol, other international organizations, and other countries' police forces. This contributed to human trafficking.
However, the links between traffickers “extended beyond the usual boundaries of ethnic hatred in the Balkans. Criminal Serbs, Montenegrins and Albanians collaborated closely to transport the victims and share the profits.”
After the war, the wartime infrastructure of the mafia was easily transferred into postwar crime and it was able to smuggle large numbers of illegal immigrants into the country.
An important factor which facilitates sex trafficking is the development of organized crime, which is under the significant influence of globalization.
The confluence of these two forces has enabled the development of the sex industry, which is “based on and perpetuated by prevailing unequal socially and culturally defined gender and power relations.”
Immigration laws and policies in destination countries, including policies on migrant labor, migration, and prostitution, and corrupt officials in sending, transit, and destination countries, further contribute to the development of sex trafficking merely by making organized crime possible.
As observed by noted Dutch anti-trafficking activist Marijan Wijers:
'While on the one hand the number of women seeking employment opportunities abroad has grown, on the other hand many destination countries, and especially the EU, have put in place more restrictive immigration policies, thereby further decreasing the opportunities for legal migration even when there is a demand for labor in the informal sector. The result is a growing gap between official policies in destination countries and day-to-day practices. This is where organized crime comes in, filling the gap that official policies leave.'
The Balkans, with their large presence of international administration, organizations, police, and military forces, the attendant confusion in jurisdiction, corruption, and inefficient and biased law enforcement system, and its short distance from the post-communist countries with large supplies of desperate women, is an ideal destination for traffickers wishing to avoid risks and unnecessary expenses. Moreover, women from other East European countries usually do not need visas to get to the former Yugoslavia, which make traffickers’ tasks even easier. When recruiting women, organized crime relies largely on myths about Western countries which exist among women in post-communist countries. Although some women are aware that they are to stay in the Balkans, “knowing that the region is home to a population of highly paid, unaccompanied men from military forces, international aid organizations, the United Nations and private military firms,” many are actually expecting to get to the West.
Thus false promises of high earnings and an easy life in the West are used as a main motivations for enticing women into the sex industry in the Balkans.
The retraditionalisation of cultural images about sexuality further reinforces socio-economic and political factors connected to the transition between communism and globalization as factors contributing to prostitution, migration and sex trafficking.
This means that in post-communist societies media re-constructs the traditional opposition between men's sexual needs and women as passive sexual objects and men's property, which is further used to justify violence and blame the victim. The presentation of sexuality has shifted from images of women and men as asexual or partly sexual beings (in communism) to images of hegemonic masculinity and subservient femininity associated with traditional opposition between men's (uncontrollable) sexual needs and women as passive sexual objects. This discourse is largely influenced by imitation of Western images of sexuality. As Messerschmidt points out, in Western industrialized societies “hegemonic masculinity is currently established through an alleged uncontrollable and insatiable sexual appetite for women, which results in a 'naturally' coercive 'male' sexuality.”
Thus, this kind of normative heterosexuality is based on power relations and, consequently, it defines masculinity “through difference from, and desire for, women. Therefore, normative heterosexuality is not only a major structural feature for understanding gender, but for understanding masculinities and crimes committed by men as well.”
In addition, Connell makes clear that in a contemporary world, stereotyped gender images are “deliberately made attractive for marketing purposes.”
These new images about sexuality influence women's vulnerability to sex trafficking by widening the gap between cultural expectations and the possibilities for achieving them (e.g. beautiful woman/sex object as an ideal as well as expensive beauty products, clothes etc.). At the same time, these images operate through feeding the myth that working in the sex industry is an attractive job (e.g. “pretty woman syndrome”).
Cultural images of women as sex objects became a strong contributing factor for neutralizing and glorifying the seamy side of trafficking and prostitution abroad. But new gender images in post-communist countries media are part of much broader cultural tendencies associated with rapid liberalization of trade and economic activity across the world, especially with “market liberalism,” as the “reorganization of economic and political life around the sovereignty of the citizen as a consumer.”
These cultural tendencies include the colonization or commodification of sexuality, which is now playing an increasing role in the public culture of market societies throughout the world.
Instead of a Conclusion: Policy Changes between Requests, Needs and Limits
At international forums held over last several years, international organizations often have addressed the sex trafficking problem in connection to changes of communist regimes in Eastern and Central Europe. This has led to changes in national laws and policies. However, law and policy implementation, on both the European and UN level, are only rarely based on serious research of the problem of sex trafficking, let alone the exploration of its connection to structural violence. As a consequence, the international community has often imposed unrealistic expectations on poor and war-affected countries of the Balkans, which are accused of being bridges for illegal migration into Western Europe. This overlooks the fact that these same countries are without their own resources and power, or that they are even governed by the international community, like Bosnia and Kosovo. Moreover, hypocrisy and imperialistic approaches to the problem of trafficking often is present in both Western immigration policies and in the international community’s requests for changes of laws and policy regarding human trafficking in general, and in the Balkans in particular. For example, the pressure of the international community toward post-communist countries to undertake decisive (mainly repressive) measures is in obvious contradiction with global processes which generate structural violence on the world level, leaving no room for appropriate protection of victims, let alone for the prevention of violence. In addition, the urge for changes in post-communist countries is an obvious contradiction to rather slow, inconsistent and partial changes undertaken by EU countries themselves which mostly take into account only the interests of the prosecution and ignore or minimize the needs of victims.
As a consequence, policies which disregard global causes of violence against women are extremely visible in sex trafficking. Even feminism is misused for the creation of fragmented images and solutions, which has restricted the problem of violence against women to the interpersonal level of male-to-female relations. This is what British feminist scholar Peggy Watson called “a kind of American state feminism for abroad.”
The consequences are short-term reintegration and repatriation programs, based merely on victim’s willingness to cooperate with the prosecution without being offered comprehensive protection, as well as insensitive deportations and revictimisations of trafficked women.
Cold War ideological, legal, economic, and political constructions of a “pure Europe” versus demonic Others are now transformed into “discourse concerning the lack of democratic features of Eastern European societies and doubts about their capacity to change into ‘civil society.’”
Thus migrants are constructed as cultural, ethnic, and religious Others, and the responsibility for illegal migration and trafficking in women is put on the Eastern European countries of origin. This is well articulated in US State Department’s provision of sanctions against the authorities of 23 states from the “blacklist” of states which do not make sufficient efforts to act in accordance with U.S. legislation. This amounts to pure exhibition of imperialism and neocolonialism, particularly in light of the significant efforts made by the government of the Balkan countries to curtail sex trafficking. In this way, leaders of global capitalism and militarism seem to hide their own (structural) responsibility for massive sex trafficking.
This hypocrisy is especially evident in the Balkans. Accusations against the Balkans always exaggerate the lawlessness and corruption of local police while overshadowing the role of the international community in both the creation of demand and in the administrative chaos in this part of the world. The fact that in Bosnia and Kosovo the legal and administrative power is in the hands of international community so that no law can be passed or enforced without approval or supervision of international government and police is usually ignored. Similarly, the corruption of international police, which directly encourages sex trafficking either through using sex services of trafficked women, profiting from sex trafficking, or by obstructing anti-trafficking actions of local police, are also largely disregarded.
Thus, the fact that a huge amount of Western tax payers’ money is spent just on the sex industry in the Balkans is usually hidden from the eyes of the (Western) public. Or, to put it in the other way, the large amount of money paid for the international presence has destroyed the infrastructure and rule of law in the Balkans, and has ended up in the pockets of the members of the cruelest mafia in the world.
This criticism of international policy toward sex trafficking is not intended to absolve Balkan countries or local men of responsibility. It is rather an attempt to look at the problem of sex trafficking in the contemporary world in holistic way. As well observed by feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe, “we need to widen our lens considerably to fully understand militarized prostitution,” by including different local and foreign men on the list of those whose actions may contribute to the construction and maintenance of prostitution around military bases and other places with a large military and police presence.
In addition, in order to reduce violence against women, as Santos observed, “in militarism prostitution, one sees the heightened integration of classism, racism, sexism, and imperialism.” Further, “whereas militarism goes in the world, so too goes prostitution.”
Changes are necessary on all levels of society: in social conditions, patriarchal gender roles, stereotypes about immigrants as well as in economic and legal institutions, nationally and internationally.
Structural violence contributes to gendered interpersonal violence both by causing it and by preventing society and victims from confronting it effectively.
Therefore, it is not surprising that in spite of positive political changes and efforts made by civil society and women's movements, few substantial legal and institutional reforms have directly addressed violence against women in post-communist countries. A significant obstacle even in more developed post-communist countries is the obvious lack of material resources. Expansion of neoliberal capitalism, deepening of the gap between poor and rich countries, and the dependent development of post-communist countries do not promise much chance for a strong welfare state in the near future.
The costs of economic change are very high, especially in poorer and war-torn countries.
A dramatic decrease in the standard of living and an increase in uncertainty, overall fluidity, instability, and war victimization have led to continued sex trafficking over the last decade. In addition, the European Union’s fear of illegal migration and the reluctance of the international community to address the causes rather than the consequences of sex trafficking make arriving at a solution extremely difficult.
Both factors are important reasons why even those changes which have been achieved in the Balkans did not produce the expected results in terms of increased safety for women who suffer from sex trafficking.
To borrow words from noted US sociologist Susan Cunningham, “if the society's structural dynamics continue to produce violence, anti-violence policies and programs are bound to fail.”
The same may be applied in explanation of the causes of failure of most of anti-trafficking programs so far, and especially of those in the Balkans and other post conflict societies. This explains the failure of most anti-trafficking programs to date. Only by critically addressing and eradicating structural violence can we address the critical problem in sex trafficking in the Balkans and other post-conflict societies.
About the author:
Vesna Nikolic-Ristanovic, Ph.D., Serbia and Montenegro, is professor of criminology at Faculty for Social Education and Rehabilitation,Department for Prevention and treatment od social disorders, Belgrade University. She is president of the Victimology Society of Serbia, editor in chief of Temida, Serbian Journal on Victimisation, Human Rights and Gender, corresponding editor of Feminist Review (UK) and member of Advisory Board of Contemporary Justice Review (USA). She is the member of the Counsil on Gender Equality of the Government of Serbia. She has been publishing largely on victimisation, war, violence against women and truth and reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia. Her most important works include: Women, violence and war , ed.(CEU Press, 2000), Social change, gender and violence: post-communist and war afftected societies (Kluwer, 2002), and "New wars, Global Governance and Law”, Hart, (ed) forthcoming in 2006.
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