Human Trafficking Feminist Issue essay

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Theory -- Approach Linkage

Human trafficking in Vietnam: Article critique

Although no region of the world is immune to the problem of human trafficking, in certain areas the crime is particularly acute. In Asia, the ratio of trafficked persons relative to the rest of the population is even higher than it is worldwide, with 3 victims per every 1,000 inhabitants, and that is only of the persons who are known to be trafficked (Duong 2012: 48). There are also a likely very high percentage of trafficked persons who are not detected by any legal agencies at all. "The exact number of victims of human trafficking, therefore, is likely to be much higher" (Duong 2012: 49). The majority are likely thought to be women, specifically women in the sex trade. With this in mind, Duong (2012) offers a gender-based analysis of trafficking, with a focus upon Vietnam. Vietnam is often called the 'hot spot' of human trafficking in Asia (Duong 2012: 49).

Critique of literature review

The literature review of Duong's article provides an overview of the profile of this very complex crime. It is estimated that 8,000 women gone missing were trafficked while another 11,000 women were abducted as victims of the illegal bride trade to China. The nature of human trafficking appears to be expanding into Vietnam beyond the usual sources such as the sex trade and conscripted labor. Many women have been taken and forced to become pregnant so they can have the babies sold to wealthy foreigners; others have been exported to China which has a notable deficit of women because of its one-child policy, where they are forced to marry against their will. There is even an illegal organ harvesting trade (Duong 2012: 49). Duong conscripts a variety of statistics to support his analysis, using diversity of sources to address deficits in the literature. But his analysis would have been improved had he named these sources directly (many are merely referenced by abbreviations and are difficult to find in his bibliography.

Duong conducts a review of international laws regarding trafficking, specifically how international bodies have responded to trafficking such as the UN. "Up to the end of 2009, the UN Protocol 2000 has been signed by 117 countries" and a variety of international organizations have attempted to stem the flow of human trafficking, including the IOM; ILO; UNIAF; UNIFEM; Human Rights Watch; and Global Alliance against Trafficking in Women; Save the Children; and Coalition against Trafficking in Women (Duong 2012: 50). However, although the issue of trafficking may be garnering a great deal of additional attention in the international community, creating an effective, coordinated response to deal with the issue has been challenging and has not prevented the rise in numbers of persons being trafficked. The difficulty of measuring the number of persons trafficked and also the sources of it (whether trafficking for forced labor is underreported, versus the focus on the sex industry) has also caused controversies about what are the most appropriate remedies to take.

Views of prostitution, sexual exploitation, and the victimization of women has affected some feminist responses to trafficking. Some feminists support the legalization of prostitution, stressing that this would make it easier for trafficked women to be detected and also that women have the right to autonomy over their own bodies. Opponents of legalization stress that there can be no consent given the pressures women often feel to sell their bodies (economic as well as physical) and the difficulty of policing the industry (Duong 2012: 50).

Ultimately, what emerges in the literature review is that there has often been an inconsistent response to trafficking. While everyone agrees that trafficking is a violation of human rights and evil, the precise way of measuring it and remedying it remains controversial.

Critique of methods research design

To study the modern phenomenon of trafficking, the small, East Asian country of Vietnam is used as a case study. War and natural disasters have ravaged the economy of Vietnam, making it an ideal location for trafficking. It should be noted that there is a commitment to equality in the Vietnamese constitution: "Vietnamese women have equal political, economic, cultural and social rights to men. The Vietnamese state has been taking gender quality and gender development as main tasks among national development goals" (Duong 2012: 52). However, despite these affirmations of women's political equality, women only make up 30% of the government and women are at a profound economic disadvantage when compared with their male counterparts. Women have little economic power and tend to work in low-wage occupations. "Among manual workers, the gender wage gap is 35% in favor of men… in Vietnam the female labor force comprises of 5% in management positions, 10% staff and officers, and more than 80% workers directed toward production activities" (Duong 2012: 55). Women are extremely poor, overworked (they usually shoulder the burdens of childcare and caring for the elderly) and voiceless. The feminization of poverty makes women ripe material for trafficking.

Both sexual and labor-related trafficking is common. "Women and children are trafficked from rural and remote areas to urban areas to work in restaurants, hotels and bars or to sell lottery tickets or polish shoes, with some facing forced labor or forced prostitution"( Duong 2012: 56). Women have also been trafficked to be forced brides and forced surrogate mothers. As is typical in many contexts, women are lured with the promise of good money for legitimate work, only to fall into the hands of traffickers. There is often a blurred line between labor and sex trafficking, as women conscripted into domestic servitude may be forced to perform sexual favors.

The case study of Vietnam is useful because on one hand Vietnam is representative of nations where trafficking is common but there are also idiosyncratic characteristics of Vietnam as a nation. For example, many formerly trafficked women become traffickers themselves. Also "one-third of trafficking cases involve three victims or more, while 1.42% involves seven victims" (Duong 2012: 56). The presence of China so close to Vietnam makes the nation particularly desirable as a source of forced brides, more so than others. "The above characteristics make human trafficking in Vietnam to be quite distinguishable from human trafficking in the other countries worldwide in the nature of crime, and therefore, require specific measures to be solved" (Duong 2012: 56). Although Vietnamese trafficking's nature as a 'gendered' phenomenon has been disputed by some (there are allegations that the number of males conscripted into forced labor has been under-counted) the strong emphasis on trafficking females in the sex trade, for brides, and as surrogate mothers has caused the major legislation in Vietnam devoted to fighting the sex trade to have a specifically female designation: The Vietnamese National Action Program against Trafficking in Women and Children (the VNAP) is the name of the actual agency used to enforce the protocols of Vietnamese Law on Preventing and Combating Human Trafficking. But it should be noted that the language of both the program and the law seeks to protect males who are trafficked, despite the fact they are presumed to be in a minority (Duong 2012: 59).

Critique of results

Duong (2012) is hampered to some extent in his ability to draw conclusions because even the Vietnam government itself is not fully able make definitive statements about this criminal activity in the underground economy. He presents evidence to suggest the 'gendered' nation of trafficking and the feminization of poverty in Vietnam is a strong argument in favor of the idea that women are disproportionately affected and a feminist view of the phenomenon is warranted, although that could merely be that these facets of the underground economy are simply better-known. Also, Vietnam itself may have more women and girls trafficked from it but that is not necessarily representative of…[continue]

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