The root and solution to human trafficking

(Philippine statement delivered by Ambassador Teddy Locsin Jr., Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations, at the panel discussion on “Stop Trafficking in children and young people: a dire need to find sustainable solutions”, in commemoration of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30, 2018 at Conference Room 8, UN Headquarters, New York)

“The World Day Against Trafficking is a day we mark with loud indignation over a crime that is marked by silence; a day we mark with action—that is to say a complicit silence and action long delayed. And, we submit, unfocused. Although this is changing as this well-attended forum shows.

“Today we recognize the victims of human trafficking whose sufferings are redressed firstly by silence; by doing the victims the favor, if you will, of keeping secret the identities of victims; as much to shield them from shame and harm, as—one suspects—to shield those who prey on them. So much so that brave women and girls have stepped forward to give faces to men’s greatest crime against the most helpless and deserving of their protection. Faces like those of our mothers, our wives and our daughters—and even of our small sons.

“That is the favor we do them: to speak in generalities so the particular victims are spared “disgrace”, in quotes, because of the nature of the crime they suffered. A crime that, in the course of its repeated perpetration, the perpetrator believes the victim comes to enjoy. Lie back and enjoy it, one diplomat said. If this were not the case, we might put faces on this disgrace to the male gender of the human race; because only women are its victims and never its perpetrators. In some countries and societies, the victims are killed out of a twisted sense of the honor wholly absent in that society.

“No wonder a crime so easy to detect, and so much easier to stop and punish than any other, escapes punishment time and again; however large the scale in which it is committed. For as long as power in the world is held mostly by men, and the forces of law and order are staffed and directed by men, for so long will a crime—uniquely male in its commission, and uniquely female in its victimization—NOT be suppressed. And the reason is: this is a crime that answers to the male basic instinct for sexual violation.

“It is no wonder that every spurious root has been attributed to this crime; except the only root that is truly attached to it; the root that draws the nourishment for its perpetration in the male desire to violate and indulge the native cowardice of the gender to pick on the helpless. And so we hear of the social and historical roots of the sex trade, as if it was a phenomenon that just occurs; rather than the repeated and deliberate misdeed of men.

“It has been called “the world’s oldest profession,” like it was a job rather than a violation of the most basic human right to physical safety and personal honor. As Ashton Kutcher said here at the UN, if prostitution is the oldest profession, then why don’t we hear our daughters tell us proudly, “Daddy, when I grow up, I want to earn a living lying naked on my back and opening my legs. To which Ivy League college should I go to get it right?”

“Another alleged root is poverty, as though want is enough to make a young girl willing to be sexually abused by dirty old men and dirtier young men; as though women are so easy they will trade for a daily wage that which so deeply involves their personal honor and puts at such deadly risk their physical safety—indeed that which trashes what they keep for the love of their life: the gift of a promise of another life from their loved one.

“The logical scientific solution derived from this historic-economic-sociopathic premise is that the only way to combat the sex trade is, holistically, to raise living standards all around so that women and girls will not succumb to letting themselves be traded. This solution will take forever to even get started. Did not Jesus Christ say that the poor shall we always have with us? This solution is an insult to our intelligence. No. SDGs by themselves will not stop human trafficking for sex; there will just be more money for the commodity.

“The solution is clear to the clear-eyed; and dim to the dimwitted: it is to get the traffickers by any means efficient; because it is easy to track the movement of their bulky cargo to ports and coastlines, and trace the route of their trade to the ports and in first class entertainment centers and seedy red light districts of every city in the world.

“And by means permanent so they do not return. As Dostoevsky wrote in Crime and Punishment, “As a dog returns to its vomit so a murderer to the scene of his crime.” But of course that is unthinkable because of the human rights of the traffickers; rights they do not technically violate when they subject their victims to a life of violence and humiliation. Only states and regular armies and security forces can technically violate human rights but never traffickers who are untouchable on that score. In fact, in failing to achieve the SDGs, it is state actors again who are to blame; and not those who take advantage of the failure of that undertaking. And even if the biggest supply of human trafficking comes from conflicts started and continued by non-state actors as in the Middle East, Africa, East and Southeast Asia.

“Imagine if you will that we expanded the categories of culpability for human rights violations to include non-state actors like syndicates and terrorists who first violate the commodities they trade, as if to test the quality of the goods before passing them off to the customers. Most violations of human rights in most parts of the world are committed by non-state actors today.

“Now imagine, if you will, harnessing the power of the state to the suppression of non-state violators of human rights in human trafficking. The ferocity we expect from soldiers and security forces shall be directed exclusively at those who prey on the weak—rather than on the weak as human rights advocates complain. If you can’t change armies, take them as they are and turn them on the enemies of the human race. That would work. But where would men get their satisfaction?

“Here finally would be a jihad and a crusade about whose righteousness all men of goodwill cannot disagree; because we all love our children, we all honor our wives, and venerate our mothers. For their sakes and the sake of their gentle gender, there should be nothing we will not do.

“Over 20 million people are trapped in sex trafficking, with over 2 million children traded, misused, and thrown away like used toilet paper. I think these figures are grossly understated. [Ms Rani Hong, a child trafficking survivor, CEO Rani Voice, puts the figure at 40 million children trafficked. She was abducted at the age of seven in South India; she is married to a nine-year old trafficking survivor.]

It is the biggest and fastest growing industry in the world, outpaced only by the illegal drug trade. (THOMSON REUTERS, a data technology concern focused on financial crimes, confirms the lucrativeness of the business. Human trafficking is the third largest criminal revenue generator—a $150 billion industry, a participant added during Q&A—there are more slaves today than when it was legal, he said. THOMSON will coalesce with Rani Voice in the common fight. Human trafficking, among other organized criminal activities, is a deterrent to huge but responsible foreign investments, citing a $100 billion offer pending a clean up of the government. Thank you to THOMSON REUTERS who emphasized the other aspect I failed to mention: greed. The cost of doing business is too low for a business so lucrative, he points out. Punishment does not fit the crime is how I would put it. But I would stand by my short-term solution because in the long term more victims will be violated in their bodies, broken in their spirit and ruined in their lives than we should tolerate in the short and long term. My perfunctory and punitive solution would make the cost of doing this business almost unacceptable; at least that is my hope.)

“The only difference (between human trafficking and the drug trade) is that the commodity sex-traded is each the size of a human being, whereas the commodity in the drug trade can be as small as a sachet and indistinguishable as baby powder. Therefore, the only reason the first is so much harder to prevent, stop, punish and eradicate is that law enforcement mostly turns a blind eye because men want it. For as long as it is men who have most to do with the suppression of this trade, it will not be suppressed.

“The roots of human trafficking for sex are not historical, social, economic, cultural or any other generality: the root is male sexual hunger—as insatiable as it is varied in its taste for victims; who must, however, all share one characteristic: that they be women and girls—which is to say helpless and therefore that much more pleasurable to abuse. The same craving that nourishes the trade, caters to the other face of this instinct: the cowardice that marks most men. This is why medals of valor are so rarely awarded. Thank you.”







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