Raising Awareness About The Anti-Sex Trafficking Movement
I submitted this post to Feministing.com’s community page, it was not approved.
I’ve decided to join the efforts to expose the motivations of the “anti-sex trafficking” movement which uses an “end the demand” approach to the sex-work industry. They say that as long as prostitution is seen as “acceptable” there will be women and children victimized by it. Because it’s too difficult (they say) to combat the actual abuses that may happen in a decriminalized or regulated industry, it’s more sensible to “end the demand” (which we all know has worked wonders for the Drug War). The practice of “ending demand” means shaming and imprisoning those who do not conform.
Today I’m writing about Linda Smith, former Republican Congresswoman, a social conservative who founded Shared Hope International, an “anti-sex trafficking” organization that now makes policy recommendations on how governments should legislate the sexuality of women. A couple weeks ago Ms. Smith spoke in front of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs pushing her “women are natural victims” and “nobody normal chooses to be a dirty whore” and “dirty women make men want to fuck kids” bullshit. The text of what she said is linked further down, but first you should read the bold parts of this excerpted description of her time in congress:
Smith considered herself a liberal Democrat until a large business tax hurt her enterprise. She then converted to conservative Republicanism. In 1983, she entered elective politics by defeating an appointed Democratic incumbent in a special election for a seat in the Washington state house of representatives. “I didn’t have a clue what it would be like,” Smith said. “All I knew was I wanted change. I didn’t like what was happening. I certainly didn’t understand the political system.”
In 1986, Smith beat another appointed Democrat to win election to the state senate—and swing it to GOP control. In the upper chamber, she successfully opposed the Children’s Initiative, a tax hike earmarked for welfare programs and schools. She also carved out a reputation as a religious conservative who opposed gay rights and gay adoption laws. Unable to move campaign finance reform and tax relief through legislation, Smith sponsored two major ballot measures. In 1992, Initiative 134, which slashed campaign spending and amounts from big contributors, passed the Washington legislature. A year later, Initiative 601 passed, requiring voter approval for all tax increases. Smith considered the latter her greatest triumph.
In September 1994, Smith made her first campaign for Congress, entering the race in early September […] (representing Washington State) Republican businessman Timothy Moyer initially challenged incumbent Democrat Jolene Unsoeld, but he dropped out in late August. Smith managed a write-in campaign with less than three weeks to go before the all-party primary— [...] Smith became Washington’s first candidate ever to win a congressional nomination as a write-in. In the general election Smith ran on her record as a ballot initiative specialist, and as an anti-abortion, tax reform, and campaign finance reform candidate. She had strong support from a network of followers drawn from the ranks of anti-environmentalists and the Christian right.
Smith’s base, referred to sometimes as “Linda’s Army,” encompassed a variety of conservative populists: anti-tax groups, government reformers, gun owners, and property rights advocates.
She voted to support much of the “Contract with America” in an attempt to overhaul the scope and function of government. She was consistently rated one of the most conservative House Members in the 104th and 105th Congresses, voting against gun control and environmental legislation, perceiving the latter as a threat to property rights. She viewed homosexuality as a morally unfit “inclination” and also opposed using Medicaid to fund abortions for victims of rape and incest—telling The New Republic that “We don’t kill children because the father is a jerk.
Several months into the 105th Congress Smith declared her intention to forgo a re-election bid to the House in favor of joining the 1998 Senate race against Democrat Patty Murray, then considered a vulnerable incumbent. Smith won the GOP nomination after an expensive contest against Seattle multimillionaire Chris Bayley, setting up just the third woman-versus-woman Senate race in U.S. history. Gender provided only a background issue, since both candidates were so distinctly split with Smith opposing nearly every issue that Murray embraced: affirmative action, tighter environmental restrictions, abortion rights, trade with China, and increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. (Smith lost to Murray)
After Congress, Smith returned to Vancouver, Washington, where she started a nonprofit called Shared Hope International. Smith’s group sought to buy women and children out of sex-slave status and end all forms of human trafficking. By early 2002, the organization operated 19 homes in India, Nepal, and Jamaica, accommodating up to 300 people.
Source, pdf page numbers 216 (actual document page numbers 757 as the doc seems split into multiple parts.)
So, now that you know all that, on Oct 21 2009 Linda Smith in her capacity as Shared Hope International founder spoke in front of the “House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on International Organization, Human Rights and Oversight”:
Shared Hope International has provided the resources and assistance to found seven holistic Villages of Hope, providing a substitute family and home to the victims of sex trafficking in India, Nepal, Fiji, Jamaica, the Netherlands, South Africa and the Dominican Republic. Currently, five of the seven Villages of Hope continue this critical restoration work abroad. These safe homes include the Women’s Investment Network (WIN) which brings training and education to the women living in the Villages of Hope and other women living on the margins of their communities. Once defiled, many women no longer have a home to return to and become permanent members of the Village of Hope families.
[... egregious conflation of sex-work industry with child sexual exploitation]
The severity of trauma bonding keeps them bound in these situations, but cultural and official inability to see them as victims and the continuing use of terminology such as “child prostitutes” prevents entire cultures from perceiving the victimization, failing to prioritize the pursuit of demand reduction as a solution to this particular form of violence against women. In 2005, Shared Hope International received funding through the U.S. Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to undertake a comparative examination of the sex trafficking and sex tourism markets with an eye toward identifying demand reduction strategies in four diverse countries: Japan, Jamaica, the Netherlands, and the United States. What we found was that demand is driving the markets and thriving due to the culture of tolerance that exists globally for the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls.
Without a buyer of commercial sex from a trafficking victim, there would not be a market. Thus the report and accompanying awareness documentary was titled DEMAND. This demand is the single greatest reason that violence against women will not cease in any culture.
[more egregious conflation of sex-work industry with child sexual exploitation]
In all locations, a tolerance for the commercial sex industry and the demand for younger victims were driving the recruitment and trafficking of girls.
— go ahead and read her entire statement here. It really sounds pretty swell, she tells a couple of victim’s stories, and you’d think she’s a bona fide altruist really concerned about abused kids – if you didn’t already know how often she voted against funding services for women and children. Ironic?
No, it’s not irony, it’s Prostyletizing. It’s the same shit it was 15 years ago when they pushed the “contract with america” and it’s “compassionate conservatism” and it’s “faith-based charities”. Their goal is federally approved and funded proselytizing to enable fundamentalist christians who have historically kept women oppressed and victimized in the name of God (see the Patriarchy) to be able to paint themselves as champions of women’s rights who only want to “rescue” and “protect” women and children “especially”.
Linda Smith is not unique in the world of “Anti-Sex Trafficking” activists, most of the organizations swaying political policy are similar to hers, with roots in fundamental christian religion and socially conservative ideology. Are these the type of people you want calling the shots when it comes to the legislation of anyone’s sexuality? I sure as hell don’t, though I admit I’m a total whore. I’m not buying the “women and children especially” crap they keep shoveling towards us, I never did, and I consider myself lucky to have become a sex worker because if I hadn’t – I might just buy that bullshit.
Yes, child sexual abuse is horrible, terrible, must be stopped and the same is true for sexual violence committed against women – but these evangelical christian organizations have decided that the most productive way to handle that is to end the “demand” instead of focusing on the actual reasons why children end up on the street or women are brutalized. They exploit the stories of these children to get funding for their proselytizing, but that’s not all – there is a component of these movements that actually wants to make these children (and women) the property of their parents (or husbands) and grant parents full rights of control and discipline. Those “property laws” supporters? - research the “parental rights movement” for more information on that. Here’s an interesting tidbit: http://childrens-justice.org/petition-6-online.htm - Children’s Justice ay? Sounds swell. Except the actual title of the bill was the “Uniform Parental Rights Enforcement and Protection Act”.
These groups are in favor of parents owning their children – quite literally – and they want legal sanctions that will allow them to “rescue” their children from “exploitative situations”- and their definition of “exploitive situation” is where the problem lies. Making it super clear – they want women’s sexuality controlled. They’ve been listening to feminists and they know the language we speak and they are using it to get our support for their oppression of us. They are rolling back laws in Europe and restricting prostitution and they are fighting efforts to decriminalize here in the US – and this is NOT BECAUSE THEY CARE ABOUT WOMEN AND CHILDREN – this in ONLY because they fervently believe in the biblical teaching that Men should have dominion over all, and that fathers and husbands are the only TRUE owners of Women and Children. That’s patriarchy defined.
I ain’t makin’ this shit up, I promise you. And this is not meant to be an indictment of anti-trafficking efforts – it’s just a heads up that the organizations who’ve been recommending and shaping policy for the last 10 years or so aren’t at all acting in the best interests of the women and children they claim to care about.
1) On page three of this pdf from Shared Hope International it says that they “conducted assessments of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in the following locations:
Las Vegas, NV
Baton Rouge/New Orleans, LA
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
San Antonio, TX
Salt Lake City, UT
Buffalo/Erie County, NY
Fort Worth, TX
2) Linda Smith’s organization Shared Hope International is profiled in this heavy-on-religion article. At the bottom is a bit of separate text, here is only a small part of it:
She recalls a book that Rep. Tom DeLay circulated detailing which special interest groups had financially supported which candidates in the election. The Texas congressman decreed that no group should receive an audience before a House committee until they contributed cash to the party.
“Something inside of me said, ‘That’s just not right.’ But he was in my Bible study,” Smith said of DeLay. “I wrestled with it a lot, but I just was not a part of that whole organization.”
Such resistance to the partisan game, the very attribute which landed her in Washington, may well have triggered her demise. Smith won reelection in 1996 by just 113 votes with little to no campaign help from party leaders. Two years later, she lost badly in a bid to take over a Senate seat.
“I was probably a pain in the rear to some of them,” she now admits. “But I was elected to not raise taxes and not take special interest money.” Given the GOP’s situation now, might the party have been better served to follow her example?
Smith is careful not to denigrate her colleagues. She defends many of her fellow Republican 94ers, who remain in Congress and boast solid conservative voting records, Kansas’ Sam Brownback, Virginia’s Frank Wolf, and New Jersey’s Chris Smith among them: “I don’t take a swat at Congress, because I would hit these wonderful men.”
Smith’s departure from politics has allowed her to fight sex trafficking at Shared Hope International in accordance with her conservative principles. She has avoided building dependency on government funds, using Department of Justice and State Department grants for some investigative projects but never day-to-day functions.
And ok, 3) NOW WATCH THIS if you are impatient, forward the clip to 3:30 – but the first 3.5 mins are good too.
Tom Delay? Northern Marianas? Human Trafficking? WOW.
If you watched the clip you learned that Tom Delay is the number 1, top-dog trafficker, he implemented the trafficking into the Northern Marianas, and blocked efforts of Congress to put a stop to it. For money. Is Linda Smith going to push for him to be prosecuted? Or is she a hypocrite? I know which answer my money is on.
(writing this has emotionally exhausted me – thank you for reading it)