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22 November 2013

Trafficking unveils ingrained violence against women

Trafficking unveils ingrained violence against women

This week has seen three women rescued from 30 years of slavery in a London house. During a time where Britain's efforts to confront human trafficking are deemed 'in a state of crisis', it is vital for the Church to understand the phenomenon's heavy overlap with gender inequality.

Human trafficking feeds into many avenues, but overwhelmingly into the area of sexual exploitation, which accounts for 43 per cent of those trafficked globally. Some 98 percent of those individuals are women and girls. The link between human trafficking and prostitution has been well proven, demonstrating that human trafficking cannot be reduced unless demand for prostituted persons and sexual services is simultaneously addressed.

Leaving the debate on legalisation of prostitution aside, it is essential to question how demand for sexual services is nourished in our society, and to understand the deep roots of gender inequality beneath the surface. Such roots of inequality can be seen in the increasingly popular pole dancing fitness-clubs for example. Although advertised as simple ways to keep fit, pole dancing contributes to an atmosphere where women are seen as disposable sexual objects which feed men's desire for sex, and where violence against women is acceptable. Recently in Swansea, understanding of pole dancing's link to the sex industry led to the disbandment of some university fitness classes. This link can be made to lap dancing and strip clubs, where the image of sexualised women and girls is promoted, and a culture of male sexual fantasies and desires are encouraged and fed.

In the past five years there has been a rapid expansion of lap dancing and strip clubs in the UK, causing an increase in demand for sex purchase and contributing to causal factors behind human trafficking. These are not simply entertainment venues, but very much part of the sex industry, as a recent law for tighter licences has reflected. Although there is a rule which prohibits physical contact, the high performer-to-customer ratio fosters competition for male attention, causing rules to be broken for more money, as well as pressure to provide extra services in more private booths. Clubs can also house sex shops and sex cinemas. As long as the sexualisation of women and girls and violence against them continue to be legitimised through these streams, we cannot expect the scourge of human trafficking to take a blow. Human trafficking for sexual exploitation exists because of a demand.

One simple way we can walk as radical abolitionists today is the promotion of equality and respect in every area of our lives. This involves living out and demonstrating healthy relationships to those around us, while where possible, taking action to discourage the increase in activities which promote sexual demand and actively devalue women and girls.

Visit www.restoredrelationships.org to find out more about violence against women and the promotion of healthy relationships.

Please contact Jim at j.stewart@eauk.org for information regarding a forthcoming conference in Wales on violence against women.

Emeline Makin, public affairs and advocacy policy assistant, Evangelical Alliance Wales.