Women's Studies Professor at UMass Amherst Completes Research on Sex Trafficking in 5 Countries

AMHERST, Mass. - Janice G. Raymond, professor of women''s studies at the University of Massachusetts, has completed a study on the trafficking of women into the sex industry in Asia, Latin America and North America. The results of the study will be used to advocate for legislation and policies around the world that would protect the human rights of women, prosecute sex traffickers, and prevent prostitution.

The results of the two-year study were published in early February. The study was funded by a $260,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. The grant was awarded in 1999 to the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, an international human rights non-profit organization that Raymond co-directs.

Raymond was the international coordinator of the study, working with a team of five other researchers. The project focused on migration trends in five countries as they related to sex trafficking, and the health effects sex trafficking has on women. The team, all of whom have had experience in research and advocacy for women, interviewed 146 women who were trafficked in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Venezuela, and the United States. Researchers studied both women trafficked within a country for prostitution, and women brought into a country for prostitution. The women were asked to describe processes of recruitment into prostitution, how they were moved across borders, and the clients or buyers. Trafficked women were also asked about what social, political, and legal changes should be made regarding the sex industry. Researchers also interviewed police officers, social service providers, and women''s advocates.

"Another of our purposes was to make the harm visible," Raymond said. Raymond said the study found a high incidence of physical violence against women and other negative health effects, such as illnesses, injuries, and emotional and psychological health effects. "Our goal was to provide a very good reference point for advocacy that prostitution is a form of violence against women and has serious consequences on the health of women."

One notable finding, Raymond said, was the high rate of physical violence against women trafficked in the United States. "They reported the highest rate of physical harm of all of the women we interviewed," Raymond said.

Raymond and her colleagues will use the study to pressure governments to initiate legislation against trafficking, and change existing legislation to better protect women and more effectively prosecute traffickers.

"We will advocate for anti-trafficking legislation that does not legitimate the commercial sex industry," Raymond said. "Instead of punishing the men, we punish the women. Victims of sex trafficking should not be treated as criminals. Victims need protection, financial aid, jobs, legal help, counseling, visas, and legal residence, as well as other resources."

Raymond hopes the study will help shed some light on the demand for prostitutes. According to Raymond, the United Nations estimates that four million people, mostly women and girls, are trafficked throughout the world each year. Raymond notes that there are both large- and small-scale networks of recruiters. While many are related to organized crime, some are made up of relatives and neighbors who gain the women''s trust in their countries of origin.

"Demand is the least visible aspect of the sex trafficking problem," Raymond said. "National legislation has to address the buyer, client, or customer. Supply of women trafficked from abroad into the U.S. could not function without buyer demand and the existence of organized local sex industries that flourish with impunity."

Janice Raymond can be reached at 413/545-1954 or jraymond@wost.umass.edu.