Trafficking & The Sex Industry: Where do you stand?

The Economist’s ‘Where do you stand?’ advertising campaign, which consists of a series of juxtaposed posters with opposing arguments on contentious issues, has delved into the sex industry, asking “Prostitution: Crime or Business?”.

One of the arguments on the poster, which can be found sprawled across the walls of London underground stations, reads as follows:

“The idea that most prostitutes are victims of sex-trafficking is nonsense. In a recent study of migrant sex workers in Britain, only 6% said that they had been deceived or coerced into selling sex.”

Certainly not mincing it’s words is it? STOP THE TRAFFIK is, of course, an anti-trafficking campaign and decidedly not an anti-prostitution campaign. The complex debate surrounding the legality of prostitution is not one that STOP THE TRAFFIK is involved in.

But, the advert’s suggestion that the extent of sex trafficking in Britain might be exaggerated is inevitably going to incur the wrath of the STOP THE TRAFFIK blog.

I could, at this point, unleash a torrent of academic findings, statistics and studies which would contradict the survey quoted by The Economist. I would begin with some insistent data which would demonstrate the ‘real’ scale of the sex trafficking trade in the UK. I would continue by presenting a piece of scholarly research which would indicate that sex trafficking has a nation-wide impact and is certainly not confined exclusively to large, urban centres, but is actually a phenomenon which could touch every town, every street in the country.

And I would probably conclude by recapping how all these numbers had ‘proven’ that the proportion of sex workers in the UK who have been trafficked into the country is significantly higher than government reports or this billboard suggest.

As you will have gathered, this isn’t the approach I’ll be taking. Many a newspaper article or TV debate has descended into a tedious trudge through a statistical quagmire, whilst the women and girls actually affected (however numerous) remain voiceless.

The truth of the matter is that neither we, nor anybody else, can proclaim with certainty how many victims of sex trafficking end up in the UK or indeed anywhere else. STOP THE TRAFFIK shares a widely held belief that what we know about the secret, unseen operation of sex trafficking is probably only the tip of the iceberg.

What’s clear, however, is that a cursory flick through most regional newspapers will yield advertisements for brothels offering ‘new girls every week’.

What’s clear is that there is a quietly consistent drip-feed of news stories telling of the latest discovery of trafficked women and girls, horribly exploited. Read about one of the most recent here:

What’s clear is that absolutely no-one is claiming that this horrific criminal activity doesn’t happen.

So instead of adding our voice to the shouting match of journalists and self-proclaimed ‘experts’, we’d rather act to ensure it stops. Our Active Communities against Trafficking (ACT) groups work to increase understanding of the problem in their local areas, and create an environment where it is harder for traffickers to hide themselves and their victims. Read here about how an ACT group can make your community more traffik aware:

Have a look at the ‘Freedom Ticket for Life’ campaign website to find out what STOP THE TRAFFIK is doing to protect vulnerable woman and girls in trafficking hot-spots.


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