Dr. Ludgera Klemp and Pia Bungarten
On International Women's Day on 8.3.1993, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation invited Dr. Lea Ackermann, Annabelle Gambe and experts from the field of politics and the relevant ministries to discuss strategies to combat sex tourism and trafficking in women. Causes and effects of organized trafficking in women and of sex tourism were discussed.
On International Women's Day in 1988, 63 women members of parliament from all political parties had raised the issue of trafficking in women for the first time in a debate at the Bundestag [Federal Parliament], calling it a grave violation of human dignity and of the human rights of women.
The call to afford the women affected better protection by implementing measures under criminal law and industrial law led to new legislation being passed in 1992. According to the latest legal definition, trafficking in women is deemed to have taken place when someone "for personal gain influences another person and induces her to take up or continue prostitution in full knowledge of the fact that she is hard pressed and in an exingency." Similarly anyone "who influences a person in full knowledge of the helplessness caused by her being in a foreign country to induce her to sexual acts" is also punishable under the law. According to this amendment to the articles concerning traffic in human beings of 1992, it is no longer necessary to prove "recruitment for gain" to be able to initiate criminal proceedings, it suffices for the perpetrator to "have influenced someone for personal gain." Anyone who influences a woman in full knowledge of her helplessness can be prosecuted under criminal law even if at the moment of recruitment the helplessness arising from the stay abroad is not yet relevant.
Following this amendment, the legal uncertainty of the authorities when judging offences of trafficking in human beings is expected to decrease and the possibilities for effective criminal prosecution should increase.
There is a close link between trafficking in human beings and prostitution. Trafficking in women often begins with a shady matrimonial agency arranging a marriage for foreign women. Dr. Lea Ackermann is co-author of the study "Context and extent of trafficking in foreign girls and women". Using examples she shows how women who were brought to Germany by marriage bureaus are kept dependent because they do not speak the language, are sexually abused and often forced into prostitution. In this way brokering of marriages turns into trafficking of human beings.
What causes women to take the high risk of an arranged marriage in a foreign country is often sheer economic necessity and a lack of prospects in their home country. For the same reason, the number of women in many countries who are turning to prostitution is rising. Often as girls they were forced to leave school because their parents were unable to pay the school fees. In many cases their husbands have left them. And so the question of whether women become prostitutes of their own free will is hypocritical. It ignores the fact that under the conditions of extreme poverty which affect women to a greater degree there can be no real free choice because the silent force of poverty drives women into prostitution.
The problem is now being heightened by the dramatic rise in child prostitution. The Human Rights Commission of the United Nations estimates that over 1 million children each year are forced into prostitution. In order to mitigate this problem, the German legal provisions were tightened so that people using child prostitutes in other countries are now subject to prosecution in Germany.
When discussing the causes of the sexual exploitation of women and children it is essential to look at the power relationship between North and South, men and women, adults and children. The "rich world" is contributing to this trend in two respects: first, because millions of men from the "rich world" take part in sex tourism. There is little point in treating these men as pathological since they are usually perfectly normal men who only make use of their male privileges and perfectly normal institutions of our society: marriage, prostitution and tourism. Secondly, competition and protectionism on world markets, debt burdens and the inevitable pressure to earn foreign currency have led to new forms of development strategies which discriminate against women. In her paper, Annabelle Gambe analyzes modernization and development strategies which discriminate against women and points out structural conditions which have led to an internationalization of the prostitution and marriage markets.
The tourist industry is an important economic factor for many developing countries. In Kenya, for example, tourism is the most important source of foreign exchange, ahead even of tea and coffee exports. Nevertheless, there are not enough jobs to go round. Tourism is seen as a development strategy, and women are used in the hard competitive world of international business. Growing prostitution markets exist in the Philippines, Thailand, Kenya, Ghana, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Poland and Romania amongst others.
Thus, the problem of prostitution affects women in the Third World to a particularly acute extent. The discussion has shown how criminal networks have developed, which engage in trafficking of women and children as if they were commodities, importing them from the so-called Third World or using them in their own countries. They are treated as people with no rights.
A further problem is that in Germany marriage and friendship agencies are not obliged to register their businesses. They have to notify the authorities but not to seek a license. The trading regulations of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia now contain provisions for checking out businesses, allowing the authorities to look into their activities. But the estimated number of undetected cases is high: many marriage agencies have not registered their activities as businesses but run them privately.
It has become clear that there is a great need for counselling of the professional groups which come into contact with the problem, starting with local police forces and judges and including the staff of the trade supervisory authorities. They often have difficulty in recognizing and acknowledging the problem. Far too often the problems are trivialised and not seen as a violation of the dignity of human beings guaranteed under Germany's Basic Law.
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-bibliothek | 12.1. 1998