Sex trafficking has become politicized social issue that has been incorporated into government policies, legislations and law enforcement practices. Ronald Weitzer (2007) attributed this to the efforts brought upon by a moral crusade group against sex trafficking. However, Weitzer (2007) claims that the social construction of prostitution and sex trafficking are problematic, unsubstantiated or demonstrably false. Summary
Weitzer (2007, 448) stated that “moral crusades are one of the forces responsible for transforming (putative) conditions into ‘problems. ‘” Weitzer (2007) held that moral crusades believe they are a righteous enterprise which are both symbolic and instrumental in their goals. He further stated that these crusades “seek to generate public concern about a problem” and elicit from political officials to intensify the punishment for offenders or to criminalize acts which were previously held legal (Weitzer, 2007, 448).
Moral crusades describe and typify the most shocking examples of victimization, casting the problem in highly dramatic terms “to alarm the public and policy makers and justify draconian solutions” (Weitzer, 2007, 449). Weitzer (2007, 449) claims that “a key feature of many moral crusades is the imputed scale of the problem (e. g. , the number of victims) far exceeds what is warranted by the available evidence. ” Weitzer (2007) defined abolitionist feminist as those who argue that the sex industry should be entirely eliminated.
Abolitionist believe that the sex industry treats women as objects from which the oppressive treatment of women is apparent. Weitzer (2007) noted, however, that the mainstream feminist organizations are far less active in the debate against the abolition of the sex industry. He gave examples of organizations that are against anti-prostitution campaigns. He explained that these organizations conduct research on trafficking and provide assistance to individuals involved in sex work.
Instead of condemning sex work, these organizations provides empowerment of workers and reduces the hard that may come upon sex workers by providing condoms, counseling and other support services. Weitzer (2007) explained that moral crusades against prostitution based their claims on studies conducted by the activists or on an ideology that states that prostitution is immoral, threatening marriage and family and are oppressive to women. Abolitionist feminist claims that prostitution is by definition evil, inherently an institution of male domination and exploitation of women.
Religious proponents claim that the campaign against prostitution and sex trafficking fits with evangelical concern for sexual integrity as sex is supposed to be reserved for marriage and that the moral fabric of culture will be damaged when sex becomes commerce. Abolitionist feminist also claim that it not simply that violent incidents occur in prostitution and sex trafficking but that prostitution is in itself a form of violence (Weitzer, 2007). They claim that “the sexual service provided in prostitution is most often violent, degrading and abusive sexual acts” (Weitzer, 2007, 451).
However, Weitzer (2007) held that the prevalence of violence in prostitution and sex trafficking could not be confirmed. He explained that the population of sex workers is unknown so as to use a random sample for research and that researches rely on “convenience samples” that the researchers were able to access. Because the claims were based on unrepresentative samples, Weitzer (2007) explained that generalizations could and should not be made. Moral crusaders also claim that “customers and traffickers are the personification of evil” (Weitzer, 2007, 452).
While customers brutalize the women, traffickers are said to be involved in organized crime and sexual slavery. However, Weitzer explained that buy sex for different reasons and that while some of them may no doubt act violently, only a small minority of ‘clients’ mistreat prostitutes. There are also claims that sex workers lack agency. Abolitionist feminists claim that sex “workers do not actively make choices to enter or remain in prostitution, and there is no such thing as voluntary migration for the purpose of sex work” (Weitzer, 2007, 452-453).
As such, moral crusade against prostitution and sex trafficking suggest that “legislation must not allow traffickers to use consent of the victim as a defense against trafficking” (Weitzer, 2007, 453). However, Weitzer (2007) explained that researches concerning worker agency on the sex industry show that there is a variation in the degree to which sex workers feel exploited and those empowered and in control of their working conditions. Studies also suggest that significant number of migrants have made conscious decisions to relocate for sex trade.
Weitzer (2007, 453) explained that voluntary migration is motivated by “economic incentives, desire for an independent lifestyle, and dissatisfaction with rural life and agricultural labor. ” Studies also show that most women had been working as prostitutes prior to relocation. Friends, acquaintances and even family members are said to be the ones to recruit the women who are aware of the work and from which only a few would consider themselves to be sex slaves. Weitzer further explained that sex workers usually return to their brothel as quickly as possible whenever they were “rescued” by raids.
Weitzer (2007, 454) concluded that “there are multiple migration trajectories and worker experiences, ranging from highly coercive and exploitative to informed consent and intentionality in part of the migrant. ” Weitzer also criticized those who claim that prostitution and sex trafficking are inextricably linked stating that prostitution is the work while sex trafficking is a means of accessing a new market for prostitution. While prostitution may be the goal of sex trafficking, Weitzer is quick to refute that not all prostitutes have been at one point been trafficked.
Morale crusades claim that the magnitude of prostitution and sex trafficking has greatly increased in recent years. However, Weitzer (2007) held that the figures presented by moral crusades are incredibly elastic and typically unverifiable. He further stated that “there are no reliable statistics on the magnitude of trafficking” (Weitzer, 2007, 455). His conclusion was based on the findings of the US General Accountability Office (GAO) who were “critical of the prevailing figures, which are replete with ‘methodological weaknesses, gaps in data, and numerical discrepancies’” (Weitzer, 2007, 456).
The GAO also reported that the “U. S. government has not yet established an effective mechanism for estimating the number of victims” of sex trafficking (Weitzer, 2007, 456). Weitzer (2007) claimed that despite the conceivable number of sex-for-sale transactions over the Internet, it is impossible to determine whether such advancement has substantially increased the amount of prostitution. However, he is quick to state that the increase in sex trafficking in some countries are apparent, attributing it to the declining living standards.
Morale crusades held that the legalization of prostitution and sexual trafficking “would make the situation far worse than it is at present” and is detrimental practically “by magnifying all the problems associated with prostitution and increasing the amount of trafficking,” and symbolically “by giving the state’s blessing to a despicable institution and condoning men’s exploitation of women” (Weitzer, 2007, 456). They claim that the “legalization of prostitution sends the message to new generations of men and boys that women are sexual commodities and that prostitution is harmless fun (Weitzer, 2007, 456).
However, Weitzer reported that researches indicate that under the right conditions legal prostitution can be organized in a way that enhances workers’ safety and job satisfaction. Nevada’s legal brothels, for example, “offer the safest environment available for women to sell consensual sex acts” (Weitzer, 2007, 458). The same is true in brothels Netherlands and Queensland where prostitution is legalized. Furthermore, Weitzer (2007, 457) concluded “legal prostitution may help reduce trafficking due to enhanced government regulation and oversight of the legal sector. ”