Xiao-Hung Pai investigated UK’s sex industry as an undercover. She noted in the forum of her new book “Invisible: Britain’s Migrant Sex Workers” that when the government blames the “increasing illegal immigrants” for the exacerbating human trafficking, they forgot that poverty was the advantageous condition for human trafficking. If there were more harmful policies for transnational migration, the vulnerable conditions of migrants will be even worse.
Xiao-Hung Pai, a writer and reporter from Taiwan, investigated UK’s sex industry as an undercover in a brothel, and then published “Invisible: Britain’s Migrant Sex Workers” on April 9th. The book mentions that the limited job market leads to marginalization and pauperization. This is why Rumanian women have the largest number of sex workers in 60 countries of EU (In the UK, the largest number of immigrants working in sex industry are Rumanian, Russian and Bulgarian women).
When Hui-Jung Chi, CEO of the Garden of Hope Foundation, asked “Why did you interview as an undercover?” Xiao-Hung Pai humbly explained that traditional interview method keeps distant from these women and therefore are superficial. Also, the sex industry that these women worked in was rather secretive and most women did not have legitimate documents. Under these double illegal conditions, she thought the undercover was an appropriate way since she wanted to know the relationships between the labourers and the employers and the working conditions of these women.
Xiao-Hung Pai stated in the interview that there was one sex worker who she remembered most was an immigrant from China. Because of illiteracy, she could only use simple English to talk to patrons of brothel, “50 pounds for half an hour, 100 pounds for 1 hour.” Bai said that most sex workers came here to find a living because of poverty. They lacked of social connections and information so they had no choice but to work in the sex industry. They lived alone under social discrimination with no medical resources. They could hardly get any help.
She also did not hesitate to point out that even so many sex workers are in badly vulnerable conditions, they still chose to stay in the sex industry. Did they make this choice themselves? She believed that although they were not forced to work in the sex industry, it was difficult for them to get out of it due to the heavy economic pressure.
Moreover, unlike the common acknowledge that these women were forced to work in the sex industry, the choice was made by these women because of poverty. But Rumanian and Chinese women who accounted for the most immigrants working in the sex industry did not think they were forced to do this. They thought that sex work is a high-pay job, more money in short terms and a shortcut to escape poverty.
However, not everyone could shake off poverty. With the developing trend of globalization, the transnational movements of capital, technology and human resources are common. But during this process, because of the unequal statuses of exporters and importers in the political and economical structures, these movements lead to more exploitations and inequalities, especially for low-pay labourers.
Take Taiwan for an example, according to the statistics of Ministry of the Interior, there were 801,000 foreigners in Taiwan up to the end 2014. Among them, foreign labourers accounted for the largest number (68.9%), 552,000 people. Foreign spouses who havn’t acquired nationality comes as the second (5.3%). Adding up, the two groups of people accounted for 74%. They were the main ones who did the 3D work (dirty, difficult, dangerous).
Hui-Jung Chi stated that by investigating the sex industry as an undercover, Xiao-Hung Pai described many women who earned living for their families. They were “forced” to choose to work in the sex industry because of the flaws of the structure, the transnational movements and poverty. Most of them were the disadvantaged groups in economically vulnerable countries. They must fight for the basic living but the courage of those women and their difficulties were invisible to most people.
Coalition Against Human Trafficking pointed out that, although there were﹛Human Trafficking Prevention Act﹜(enshrined in 2009) in Taiwan, there were many cases that the accused were lightly sentenced or sentenced by other laws. These led to an increasing number of missing oppressed labourers. Till the end of 2014, there were still more than 40000 of them, about 8%. But, the government only tried to solve the problem by offering whistle-blower award (escape of labourers, illegal employment, mistreatments from employers).
Zhi-Fang Bai, the director of Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation and the representative of Coalition Against Human Trafficking, also indicated that the conversation with Xiao-Hung Pai reminded her of many cases during the last 10 years in the association. She pointed out that every year there are 140 cases related to the sex industry because of human trafficking in Taiwan. But 55% of the offenders were sentenced for less than 6 months. She hoped that Taiwan would implement the criminal sanctions and adopt compensation system in the human trafficking cases.
Xiao-Hung Pai used the UK as an example and said that, “In the beginning of this century, when many countries in Europe tightened the immigration policies and border control, the governments blamed the “increasing illegal immigrants” for the exacerbating human trafficking, “declaration of war on human trafficking” has been closely related to the policies of combating “illegal immigrates”…… This wrong correation clearly benefited the countries. During this process, the role of the countries…. in fact created favorable conditions for human trafficking, such as poverty……has been deeply forgotten.”
Hui-Jung Chi said that although Taiwan was not a member of CEDAW, the law has been internalized and therefore should be fully implemented. The Garden of Hope Foundation called for the acknowledgment of the social and economical contribution of the female foreign workers had made through the care work and the domestic work for the destination countries and their home countries. All the female immigrants should have their human rights protected, which include the right to life, freedom, personal safety, free from torture and degrading and inhuman treatment, and no discrimination regardless of their sex, race, ethnicity, cultural features, nationality, language, religion or any other factors.