Public Perceptions of Human Trafficking in Moldova * Percepciones Públicas del Tráfico Ilegal de Personas en Moldavia - PDF

Public Perceptions of Human Trafficking in Moldova * Percepciones Públicas del Tráfico Ilegal de Personas en Moldavia Jill Robinson Vanderbilt University, USA Abstract. Human trafficking is a widely studied

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Public Perceptions of Human Trafficking in Moldova * Percepciones Públicas del Tráfico Ilegal de Personas en Moldavia Jill Robinson Vanderbilt University, USA Abstract. Human trafficking is a widely studied phenomenon. Comparing public perceptions of trafficking to institutional (i.e. the academy, governmental and non-governmental organizations) perceptions gives a richer understanding of the problem. The data for this study were collected in and around Chisinau, Moldova in the summer of Public discourse provides a more intimate portraiture of the issue, but the public also demonstrated a complex level of understanding of this social problem in this study. Its view is juxtaposed against an institutional view of human trafficking as explored through a literature review. Combining institutional and public perceptions and knowledge of a social problem is helpful in not only establishing a more thorough understanding of the social problem and guiding policy decisions, but in exploring the experiences victims may face at the community level. Keywords: human trafficking, institutional perceptions, public perceptions, victims and community. Resumen. Aunque el tráfico ilegal de personas es un fenómeno ampliamente estudiado, la comparación entre las percepciones públicas y las institucionales (es decir, del mundo académico, el gobierno y las organizaciones no gubernamentales) puede aportar una mejor comprensión del problema. Los datos del presente estudio fueron recogidos en Chisinau y alrededores, Moldavia, durante el verano del El discurso público proporciona un retrato más íntimo del problema, pero también pone de manifiesto su gran complejidad. La perspectiva pública del tráfico ilegal de personas se yuxtapone a la perspectiva institucional como revela una revisión de la literatura al respecto. Combinar percepciones y conocimientos públicos e institucionales de un problema social ayuda no sólo a establecer una comprensión más rigurosa del problema y a guiar las decisiones políticas, sino también a explorar las experiencias a las que las víctimas se enfrentan en sus comunidades. Palabras clave: percepciones institucionales, percepciones públicas, tráfico ilegal de personas, victimas y comunidad. In recent years, academic research has surged on trafficking in persons. However, most of that research focuses on an overall description of the magnitude of the problem (Anonymous, 2003; Aronowitz, 2001; Dugert, 2004; Landesman, 2004; Stephenson, 2010), description of or calls for changes in policies to combat trafficking and/or aid victims (Butcher, 2003; Global Survival Network, 1997; Guth, 2010; Zimmerman & Watts, 2004), push or pull factors which facilitate/create trafficking (Anderson & Davidson, 2003; Hughes, 2003a), or a combination of these facets of trafficking (Bertone, 2004; Haynes, 2004; Hughes, 2000; Kartusch, 2001). Although the aforementioned cases are important areas of research in trafficking, there are gaps that need to be filled in the existing literature to further actionable knowledge on human trafficking. One Correspondence: Jill Robinson. Department of Human and Organization Development. Peabody College #90. Vanderbilt University. Nashville. TN USA. Vanderbilt.Edu * Versión en castellano disponible en [Spanish version available at]: important aspect of the issue of trafficking is public sentiment. Creating anti-trafficking and victim service measures are only the initial steps toward fighting this crime. Vigilance and support from the public are also essential. Furthermore, if the public perceives victims negatively, then organizations, governments and activists have an additional hurdle to overcome when combating trafficking. Just as domestic violence as a social problem faced the same issue when it started to emerge into the public sphere in the 1960s and 1970s in the U.S. (Johnson & Sigler, 1995), anti-trafficking activists might learn from the lessons overcome by advocates speaking out about this previously ignored, if not accepted, social phenomenon. Finally, many victims of trafficking are repatriated to their countries of origin, many returning to their home communities. Understanding public perceptions may give us a better idea of how they might be treated and are able to reintegrate into society. Public perceptions must be understood before social norms can be targeted by changes in policies, as was the case with domestic violence in the U.S. (Salazar, Baker, Price, & Carlin, 2003). 270 PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN MOLDOVA This article focuses on how respondents from the public view, describe and explain human trafficking in a source country of human trafficking, Moldova. The results of this study are juxtaposed to what could be called an institutional perception of human trafficking. This perception is offered via the mechanism of a literature review. It overviews how the academy, government and non-governmental organizations see the problem. As can be expected, at the institutional level trafficking is seen as a vastly complex social problem with structural (macro) level causes. The public generally sees social problems in a more intimate (micro) way. Combining public and institutional knowledge and perceptions helps to develop a better understanding of trafficking in all its complexity, and may provide insight into how victims of trafficking may be treated by their local communities if they repatriate. Trafficking can be classified more broadly as interpersonal violence (symbolic, emotional, mental, and physical). There are other studies of public perceptions of interpersonal violence that approach the issue quantitatively and deductively (Johnson and Sigler, 1996; Herzog, 2007; Herzog, 2008). Models for these studies look at how social norms (Herzog, 2007) and specific national histories (Johnson and Sigler, 1996) influence public perceptions of interpersonal violence. Herzog (2007) used the consensus and conflict models of public perception to drive his study. However, this article takes a different approach. It is qualitative and inductive and explores the richness of public knowledge and perceptions of human trafficking. The study most similar to the one at hand examined public perceptions of trafficked women in Israel (Herzog, 2008). Like the two studies mentioned above, it was quantitative and deductive and employed a large sample size (n = 1,650). Herzog found support for his hypothesis that the public will view typical interpersonal crimes (such as rape and homicide) as serious crimes and therefore expect severe punishment for offenders. However, he additionally hypothesized that trafficking in women for prostitution would be viewed less seriously than the aforementioned crimes. He did not find support for this second hypothesis, and found that even respondents with traditional partriarchal orientations viewed trafficking in women as a serious crime. The author notes as a limitation to the study that it did not allow for exploration among respondents. Using a semi-structured interview, I was able to delve more deeply into the respondents understanding and perception of human trafficking. Also, the focus of Herzog s (2008) study was on the trafficking of women for the sex trade. I asked about human trafficking in general (including men, women and children) for various reasons (sex trade, labor, organs). Finally, in contrast to Israel, a destination country, Moldova has been a major source country for victims of trafficking. Trafficking in Moldova Moldova is a small, landlocked country of the former Soviet Union. It rests between Ukraine and Romania, and for hundreds of years has been shifted from Romanian to Russian (and Soviet) control. One of the poorest countries in Europe, Moldova is considered to have one of the highest rates of trafficking victims in South Eastern Europe (Clert & Gomart, 2004 cited in World Bank, 2004; IOM, 2004b; IOM/SIDA, 2003; Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, 2004), and since the breakup of the Soviet Union, South Eastern Europe emerged as a major source region in the global trade in humans (Kartusch, 2001). It is impossible to put an exact number on how many persons are trafficked. Even estimates are guesses at best. The government of Moldova indicates that 600,000 people of the total 4.3 million in population are living outside of the country, but there is no indication of the precise percentage of that group that is suspected of being trafficked (IOM/SIDA, 2003). Conversely, organizations such as IOM (International Organization for Migration) in Moldova publish figures of those they have actually counted. They reported that between , they provided support services to 1,535 returned female (including minors) victims of sex trafficking (IOM, 2004a). That figure alone is astonishing, but it represents only the number of known cases. One must expect the number of female trafficking victims for the sex trade from Moldova to be much higher. Also, this figure does not illuminate the magnitude of trafficking in other forms or the number of male victims involved. Macro-level causes of trafficking Institutions, especially the academy, typically focus on macro-level causes of trafficking, which can be categorized generally as push and pull factors of trafficking. The majority of this literature review focuses on these push and pull factors to tease out the systemic causes of trafficking. The results and discussion section of this article will provide a more intimate knowledge as offered by the public. However, there are parallels between their understanding of the problem and an institutional understanding of the problem. Push factors. Wealthy/stable countries are typically recipient locales while poor/unstable countries are often origin locales for trafficking victims. However, poor and unstable countries are becoming receiving and transition countries as well (IOM, 2004b). Kartusch (2001) identified poverty, economic and political transition and conflict as the key push factors that drive people from their home countries in South Eastern Europe. Watts and Zimmerman (2002) cite the same factors, and include social inequity between countries as an additional cause for trafficking worldwide. JILL ROBINSON 271 After the fall of the Soviet Union, third world countries ceased to be the only regions of the world overwhelmed by poverty. In survey results published by the MiraMed Institute (1999), 54% of initial respondents (n = 1,391) considered poverty to be the most pressing issue for women in former Soviet states. In short, the pool of potential trafficking victims increased with the end of the Cold War and former communist countries descent into poverty. Yablokova (2004) cites the easing of travel regulations among reasons that trafficking became an issue for the former Soviet Union. That statement is problematic. First, there is no information about cases of trafficking during the Soviet era. As with other social problems, the lack of official documentation does not provide sufficient evidence that a problem did not exist. The communist party worked very hard to create at least the perception of utopia. For example, prostitution for a long time was not identified by the Soviet government because it did not approve of its existence in Soviet society. Thus, on paper, it was not an issue under communism, but in reality, prostitution was engaged in by Soviet citizens, even by members of the Communist Party (Marcinkeviciene & Praspaliauskiene, 2003). As such, the public might be in a position to give more information. Although it is anecdotal, accounts of trafficking during the Soviet period by community members potentially provides a better understanding than what official documents might suggest. Second, easing emigration policy does not mean easing the travel process. The borders might have loosened for former Soviet citizens to leave, but that does not necessarily translate to easing immigration processes. Pull factors. The demand for cheap labor and sexual services as contributors to the trafficking process began to receive more attention as the phenomenon of trafficking became better understood. IOM (Anderson & Davidson, 2003) officially recognized the need to understand this side of trafficking with an important pilot study conducted in Sweden, Thailand, India, Denmark, Italy, and Hong Kong. They interviewed domestic work employers and patrons of the sex trade to search for factors that fueled the demand for trafficked labor. Reportedly, the methodology was complicated, and their findings had to be considered with caution because respondents would be implicating themselves in socially and ethically undesirable activities. However, the responses were quite telling of attitudes towards sex workers and domestic servants. For example, one respondent (an Indian banker) who openly admitted to patronizing the sex trade, and knew that many prostitutes were trafficked, had no sympathy for them. He concluded that if violence was committed against the prostitute, then it was her fault because she had probably cheated her client or given him a substandard service (p.24). Many domestic employers reported that they did not like employing native workers because they were too spoiled and had too many social protections as citizens (p. 30). For this study, pull factors will be uncovered by community members after they have heard stories of or have known people who were lured abroad by promises of work opportunities. At the micro level, they will likely share stories that detail these processes. The most contentious topic debated here is the role of prostitution in trafficking. As indicated above, sex trafficking is focused on more emphatically than other forms of trafficking, so naturally, sex work becomes an issue of debate. One primary question is: does the legalization/decriminalization of sex work abate or exacerbate sex trafficking? People within and out of the feminist movement have thus far failed to come to an agreement on this issue (Bertone, 2004; Shrage 1994). Some scholars and activists argue that countries that tolerate prostitution create the demand for sex trafficking (Hughes, 2003a, 2000; Anonymous, 2003; Leuchtag, 2003; Landesman, 2004;). Their argument is simply that if sex work can be seen as a legitimate form of business, demand will rise for sex workers, thus increasing the incentive to recruit more women/girls into the trade. Leuchtag (2003) cited the example of the Netherlands, where 80% of the prostitutes who work in legal brothels were trafficked. Others argue that it is intolerance and the failure of governments and society to recognize sex work as a legitimate form of labor that facilitates sex trafficking (Butcher, 2003; Block, 2004). Their position is that the more underground the market, the more dangerous it is for workers within that trade, as the illegality of the profession holds prostitutes in fear of criminal prosecution. Furthermore, they underscore the difference between prostitution (a choice ) and sexual slavery, and argue that to criminalize the prostitute is to keep her in fear of seeking help from authorities (Butcher, 2003). The debate over prostitution s role in sex work remains very much a political one because there is no conclusive evidence on the impact of legal or illegal sex work on human trafficking. (Bertone, 2004). It is a disagreement that is not likely to come to any solution because of political agendas and passionate viewpoints. Realistically, the sex trade will continue to exist regardless of its legal status (Anderson & Davidson, 2003). As a result, scholars, activists and even governments who attempt to minimize the exploitation of the sex trade while protecting sex workers. Vietnam and Sweden decriminalized the prostitute and only penalize traffickers, pimps and consumers (johns) (Leuchtag, 2003). This may have a more direct effect on social norms than implementing sweeping policies on sex work. More generally, social norms and behaviors tolerated within society can be considered as a pull factor, to the extent that they affect demand. That is, social norms can justify the exploitation of immigrants. 272 PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN MOLDOVA Discrimination might lead a society s members to be less concerned with the state of certain ethnic or racial groups, women or members of lower socioeconomic status (SES), which can lead them to ignore instances of people being used for cheap labor (Anderson & Davidson, 2003). Gaining an understanding of the public s perception of sex work in general may give better insight into how sex trafficking victims may be perceived and treated. Immigration policy. Less restrictive immigration policies as a potential solution to trafficking (Haynes, 2004; Bertone, 2004; Kartusch, 2001; Global Survival Network, 1997; Anonymous, 2003) are often pursued by progressive activists and by academics, but less supported by many governments. The rationale behind this theory incorporates push/pull and situational factors. Governments that typically focus on trafficking as an issue of illegal immigration look to more restrictive immigration policies as a solution (Haynes, 2004). Interestingly, this position is often echoed by the public at large, as is the case in this study. Public perception often leans toward penalizing the immigrant and therefore favoring more restrictive immigration policies. Scholars within the liberalized immigration solution (LIS) camp, on the other hand, consider this tactic to further exacerbate the problem. They argue that it is too simple of an explanation of why people are vulnerable to trafficking. Push and pull factors alone do not explain how people become vulnerable to traffickers, but rather why they migrate. By also considering the conditions of migration, research might provide additional insight into vulnerability. Simply put, when people seek to migrate but are not offered the legal means to do so, they may seek irregular migration schemes (Kartusch, 2001). Traffickers, including corrupt officials, are able to take advantage of the demand to migrate and prey on the illegal status of migrants, which leaves them with limited options pre-, mid- and post-migration. It also creates an increased reliance on the person or persons who facilitate border crossing (Global Survival Network, 1997; Haynes, 2004). Fortunately, some governments are considering the advice of LIS proponents. Italy identified that a significant number of its trafficking victims were originating from Albania. The government s strategy was to offer more work visas (i.e., increased opportunity for legal migration) to Albanians seeking to immigrate to Italy (Haynes, 2004; Kartusch, 2001). In addition, upon IOM s urging, Italy created a database which allowed Italian employers to match needs with Albanians seeking to immigrate (Kartusch, 2001). A similar agreement to protect Moldovan immigrants and help them find legitimate employment was signed by the Italian and Moldovan governments on November 27, 2003 (IOM/SIDA, 2003). This is an important step, as recent polls show that over 80% of respondents in Moldova within the year age bracket would leave the country if it were a possibility. Over half of all respondents (n = 1149) from all age groups indicated the same desire (Public Policy Institute, 2002). In most academic articles, a review of the literature identifies present gaps in research and situates the authors hypotheses and/or research questions. Then participant responses (i.e., data) are used to expand theories, and/or confirm or challenge hypotheses. In this study, I juxtapose institutional knowledge via a literature review against community knowledge via a broad semi-structured interview. It is common for persons to individualize complex social problems. However, this study shows how community members understand the multiple layers of hu
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