Facts and Myths about Sex Trafficking in Canada

Photo credit: Matthew S. Browning.

The Calgary Circle, the newest affiliate in our sisterhood of Circles, is supporting ACT Alberta, an organisation that works to end human trafficking in Alberta, Canada. To help end human trafficking it is important to understand the issue better, which is why The Calgary Circle committee members Helen Maguire and Susan Ferner have written this list of facts and myths about human trafficking in Canada. If you’d like to find out more about their work with ACT Alberta and donate, please click here.

FACT: HUMAN TRAFFICKING IS A CRIMINAL OFFENCE

The legal definition of human trafficking requires three elements:
1) the act of recruitment, transportation or harbouring a person;
2) by means of exercising control, direction or influence over their movements;
3) for the purpose of exploiting that person, typically through sexual exploitation or forced labour.

Due to the clandestine nature of trafficking, it is difficult to quantify the number and determine the types of victims, but it is believed that most trafficking victims in Canada are sexually exploited.

MYTH: TRAFFICKING IS THE SAME AS SMUGGLING

Although the idea of trafficking can invoke a nefarious vision of a victim being transported across borders under cover of darkness, the reality is often far different. Trafficking victims are not necessarily moved across international borders and approximately 94% of the cases of sex trafficking identified in Canada have occurred within its borders.

FACT: TRAFFICKING IS BIG BUSINESS

Sex trafficking can be less problematic, easier to conceal and more profitable than selling drugs. On
average, every trafficked woman in Canada generates just under $300,000 for her traffickers per year.

MYTH: ONLY CERTAIN PEOPLE ARE CONSIDERED TO BE “AT RISK”

The major risk factors for being trafficked are living in poverty; having a personal history of violence or neglect; or being otherwise vulnerable to manipulation and coercion. However, the number one risk factor is being female. Women and children from every socio-economic background are at risk and anyone can be targeted and exploited.

FACT: VICTIMS ARE PREDOMINANTELY WOMEN

Approximately 95% of trafficked victims are female: most under the age of 25. Of note, in Canada, indigenous women are disproportionately affected. Although indigenous people make up approximately 4% of the population, they account for approximately 50% of sex trafficking victims.

MYTH: VICTIMS ARE PHYSICALLY FORCED INTO TRAFFICKING

Relationships between traffickers and their victims often begin with what the victim believes to be a friendship or romantic relationship. A common technique used by traffickers is to lure teens and young women into sex trafficking by treating them well, initially. Many victims are recruited through the internet or by an acquaintance. Often, the victim is “groomed” by someone pretending to be her boyfriend or friend who promises her a better life and buys her gifts. The average age of girls who are manipulated in this manner is 13. In the case of older teens or young women, the trafficker also buys gifts and may promise her a good job in a new city. Once a relationship has developed, the trafficker is able to more easily emotionally manipulate the victim and exploit her vulnerabilities. The trafficker often becomes violent and may threaten and isolate the victim but continue to show occasional affection. Through these tactics, the trafficker gains control and the victim can be coerced into selling sex for others’ profit. Because of the nature of the relationship and how it is developed, the victim might not understand that she is being trafficked.

FACT: TRAFFICKING IS A HIDDEN CRIME

Much of the sex trade has moved away from the street to the internet. The solicitation of sex predominantly occurs online through local classified and escort pages, which makes it difficult to locate and identify sex trafficking victims. Victims often do not come forward for many reasons, including fear of retribution and further violence from their trafficker; fear of arrest because they have been coerced into performing illegal activities; lack of knowledge about their legal rights, and lack of understanding that they have been victimized and trafficked.

Prosecution is often difficult because victims are often frightened and unwilling to testify against the perpetrators. It can also be difficult to prove in court that the woman was, in fact, a victim and not a willing participant due to the coercive nature of the relationship between the victim and trafficker. Because of these reasons and more, most (60%) of trafficking cases in Canada have resulted in a decision of stayed or withdrawn whereas only 30% resulted in a guilty finding.

Written by Helen Maguire and Susan Ferner.


My visit to Nonceba

 

The Circle founder Annie Lennox shares her most recent visit to Nonceba, a family counselling centre and shelter for women supported by The Circle. Nonceba is located in Khayelitsha, a township in Western Cape, South Africa.

Its vast spread of corrugated iron shacks is breathtaking in size and scale, while living conditions are humbling.

The African sun burns at intensely high temperatures, turning shacks into roasting ovens. Fire is a constant hazard, spreading in seconds and devastating people’s lives on a regular basis.

The cold winter season brings freezing winds and heavy rains to flood and soak the thousands of vulnerable dwelling places, which are barely fit for shelter of any kind.

TB, pneumonia and HIV/AIDS are rife in impoverished communities like these, where generations of people survive without decent housing, services and facilities, safety or security, exposed to lack and abuse at every level. According to statistics, more than half the residents are unemployed and living in abject poverty. Criminality, gang violence, alcoholism and drug abuse fester and thrive. Young children growing up in this environment have limited prospects ahead of them as young adults.

As well as all this, there are inordinately high levels of reported rape and violence against women and children. An estimated ONE in THREE children living in Khayelitsha have suffered serious sexual abuse by the age of 18. The lack of effective community emergency intervention facilities, with an over-burdened police force and an under-resourced state welfare system, results in an inability to tackle the burden of child abuse and domestic violence.

In an effort to respond to this terrible situation, the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre started from very humble beginnings in 1997, as a two-room consulting practice run by volunteers from the community.
In 2008, the organization received a major financial boost to create a new purpose built centre —a residential safe house able to accommodate 21 women and children with a play therapy room, counselling suite, training facilities, community hall and offices.

On a recent visit to Nonceba, I witnessed some of the wonderful work they are doing first hand.

On my arrival I was greeted at the entrance with a warm hug and lots of laughter from Pauline, who runs the centre and is an awe inspiring women and children’s champion!

(From left to right) Annie, a former service user at Nonceba and Pauline.

She introduced me to members of the staff team who were working that day, while she showed me around the centre. Nonceba truly is a small oasis of safety, security and healing for women and their children in the midst of a consistently dangerous and threatening environment.

 

 

The range of services Nonceba offers is comprehensive and holistic. Social workers are available to help women seek and receive the support they are entitled to, and counsellors help women and children deal with the traumas they are faced with. There are play spaces and simple bedrooms in the safe houses, where mothers can stay together with their children. Child care is provided. A crèche is run, so mothers have a safe and caring place to leave their children whilst they are at work, and the community hall is a place where past and current service users, as well as staff, can come together for support, encouragement and laughs. Once the women do eventually leave Nonceba, continued support is available after their stay.

Going into the child’s therapy room was a poignant and sobering experience, realising as I did that the children who come here have been hurt and traumatised by adults in an inconcievable way.

Pictured above are some of the dolls used in therapeutic sessions with children who have been sexually abused, so the therapist can gauge a better assessment as to what has actually taken place in a non-invasive way. These dolls really brought the sadly disturbing truth home to me as to what is happening to so many children.

Nonceba understands the need to deal with the underlying issues and give the women the skills and resilience to manage once they leave.

 

It was wonderful to sit quietly in a yoga class, where women could partake in a gently healing session of breathing and stretching their bodies through this beautiful practice with a qualified and experienced teacher. Having opportunities like these are uncommon in townships to say the least. This was a heartwarming and deeply touching moment for me.

Once the class was over I introduced myself and spoke about The Circle and our shared purpose, in the need for respect and empowerment for women everywhere in the world.

Like so many grass-roots NGOs the need for these services is overwhelming, yet funding is neither guaranteed or sufficient to respond to the full requirement.

The SA government contributes towards costs for a woman and her family to stay in the facility for up to three months while receiving shelter, counselling and trauma healing, but this isn’t really a long enough time frame for lasting transformation to take place.

On one wall at Nonceba there is a specially sculpted “tree” where they hang “leaves” with the names of donors on them. It was wonderful to see The Circle leaf.

I feel so proud that The Circle is making a significant contribution to Nonceba and the women and children of Khayelitsha, in helping to respond to some of the desperate need, and offer support in a situation where there is so little to be accessed.

To find out more about Nonceba and donate, click here.


Feminist Calendar: July and August 2018

Now – 4th November – Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up (London)

This V&A exhibition presents an extraordinary collection of personal artefacts and clothing belonging to the iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Locked away for 50 years after her death, this collection has never before been exhibited outside Mexico.

20th July – 100 YRS Suffrage – A Feminist Festival (Leeds)

100 Years of Suffrage is a feminist festival taking part over three weekends, July 20th – August 5th. The event will be held at Aire Place Studios

The festival opens on Friday night with an exhibition featuring two feminist artists whose work, whilst working in completely different styles, looks into redefining beauty standards. This will be followed by an after party featuring women and non-binary djs.

The next event is a day of workshops and talks for women and non-binary people. It really focuses on the last 100 years of suffrage and what the next 100 years have in store for feminism. This will feature talks about suffragettes of colour, talks from women MPs and their experiences in parliament and feminist activists will discuss their battles with law changes and policy makers. This will culminate in a spoken word open mic where women and non-binary people can share their political experiences.

The final event is a peddle powered feminist cinema, showing independent films from women and non-binary directors featuring films with the theme of suffrage and how far we’ve come. Vegan food will be on sale.

The aim is to bring the community together to learn, share and celebrate the last 100 years of suffrage.

21st July – East End Suffragettes in the Archives (London)

A special day exploring East End suffragette stories in Tower Hamlets archives. A great introduction to what collections the archives hold and how to use them.

Workshop: Suffragette Sources at Tower Hamlets Archives
11:00am – 1:00pm, drop-in

Discover some of the suffragette sources from the collections at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives. Read the real Woman’s Dreadnought, see our first edition copy of The Suffragette signed by its author Sylvia Pankhurst, and browse our unique collection of pamphlets, news cuttings and photographs. With an introduction from Robert Jones, Heritage Officer (Library), and then a chance to explore the material.

21st July — East End History Club Suffragette Special

2:00pm – 4:00pm, drop-in

A special edition of Tower Hamlets Archives regular East End History Club, exploring women’s lives in Tower Hamlets throughout the twentieth century. These sessions are ideal for those who are curious about local history and want to find out more. There’s no need to book, just drop in. Tea, coffee and biscuits provided.

24th July — Webinar: Refugee Women

Levels of displacement have never been higher than they are now. There are currently 68.5 million forcibly displaced people. 28.5 million of those are refugees and asylum seekers.

Refugee and asylum-seeking women and girls face challenges on multiple fronts, including their gender and their situation as displaced people. Displaced women and girls are at a higher risk of experiencing sexual violence and many have to give up their education.

Join us in our second webinar to learn about these and other challenges that millions of refugee women and girls are facing and find out more about how you can support them to overcome these challenges.

Speakers will be Laura Padoan, a UNHCR Spokesperson, and Claire Lewis, from the UNHCR Global Goodwill Ambassador Programme.

27th July – Red Light: Sex workers’ and allies’ fundraiser party (London)

The Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM), the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) and Scot-Pep are having a party and you’re invited!

They’re raising money for a plaque commemorating beloved friend Laura Lee, who tragically died this year. Laura was a giant among sex work activists, a fearless campaigner and a dear comrade. They will be remembering Laura with a minute’s silence at the event.

Further money raised will go to Sex Workers’ Alliance Ireland (SWAI), who are fighting against the Nordic Model in Ireland.

Come for music, drinks, dancing and love!

3rd-27th August – Hot Brown Honey (Edinburgh)

Hot Brown Honey turn up the heat with lashings of sass and a hot pinch of empowerment in the smash-hit, genre-defying, award-winning firecracker of a show that’s taken the world by storm. Taking on intersectional feminism, cultural appropriation and female sexuality, this is a must see at the Edinburgh Fringe.

5th August – Screening of “Shireen of al-Wajala” (Leeds)

Aire Place Studios warmly welcome you to celebrate the end of “100 Years of Suffrage” with a pedal powered screening of ‘Shireen of al-Walaja’ Shireen is a powerhouse of everything it means to be a woman. As her Palestinian village shrinks, Shireen’s strength and courage grows. Please note this film features state violence.

9th August – Girl by Girl, Vote by Vote (Glasgow)

This Story Cafe Special is part of our Vote 100 programme, marking 100 years since some of the first women in Britain were granted the right to vote. Bring your daughters, granddaughters and nieces to celebrate!

Story Café Special: Girl by Girl, Vote by Vote, Thursday 9th August, 12.30pm to 2.30pm, for anyone aged 10+
This event is aimed at girls and young women 10+ but all are welcome. All children must be accompanied by an adult.

Sheena Wilkinson, one of the UK’s foremost writers for young people, will reveal the secrets behind her latest novel, Star by Star, a bold tale of Suffragettes and heroes, courage and survival.

13th August – Rose McGowan with Afua Hirsch (Edinburgh)

In 2018 the film industry, for so long a haven of misogyny and sexism, has found itself at the heart of a worldwide ‘cataclysmic global reckoning’, in which women everywhere are standing up defiantly against predatory male behaviour. In Brave, the American actress Rose McGowan recounts her fight against the Hollywood machine. Today she talks to Afua Hirsch about her campaign to help all women reclaim their lives.

Part of the Identity Parades series of events and sponsored by Open University.

16th August – Networking Summer Drinks (London)

The Circle welcomes members and their guests to a summer networking event in August. Share a cold beverage with like-minded individuals who are working with The Circle to empower some of the most marginalised women and girls in communities around the globe. At the event you can learn more about the projects we are supporting and ways that you can get involved to make a difference.

The event will take place at The Rotary, a venue with a beautiful outdoor space just outside Regent’s Park.