New York City
Thank you for Debbie Nathan’s “Oversexed” [Aug. 29/Sept. 5], on human trafficking. She presented a balanced and rational view of a phenomenon that has been wracked by sensational presentation and used for political ends. Trafficked people are disserved by sensational depictions of their plight: Women are presumed to be sexualized victims, while trafficked men and women not in the sex industry–building our houses, picking our food and sewing our clothing–are rendered invisible.
In New York City, anti-trafficking funds given to law enforcement are spent almost exclusively on the vice squad, practically precluding any discovery of trafficking outside the sex industry, despite the fact that what may have been the largest trafficking case here involved deaf peddlers. Nathan clearly illustrates the inherent problems of neglecting the large number of industries into which workers are trafficked.
MELISSA DITMORE, Research Fellow
Center for the Study of Women and Society
Debbie Nathan and The Nation deserve praise for spotlighting the issue of modern-day slavery. What is puzzling is the criticism of the Administration for allegedly focusing on sex trafficking at the expense of forced-labor trafficking. There is ample evidence that sex trafficking is the largest category of modern-day slavery in most countries, including our own. Your criticism comes despite the State Department’s recent Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which clearly focuses on forced-labor trafficking as well as sex trafficking worldwide. Of the fourteen countries placed on Tier 3 (the lowest ranking) on the 2005 TIP report, six countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, North Korea and Burma) earned this poor ranking primarily for trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation.
Also disturbing is the article’s sympathetic treatment of prostitution as “sex work,” even though recent research shows that the vast majority of women engaged in prostitution are routinely harassed, raped and assaulted and want to escape.
The author implies that because Gloria Steinem and Chuck Colson are working together to help pass antislavery legislation that includes sex slavery, the legislation is questionable. Here’s another explanation: Steinem and Colson agree that the United States should lead a twenty-first-century abolitionist movement. That’s what President Bush and Secretary Rice have been doing. While praising the President may embarrass The Nation and shock its readers (as well as the President), the praise is merited.