Ten years of World Trade Organization policies on agriculture, non-agricultural sector and services have resulted in massive impoverishment of women. This impoverishment aggravated at least two phenomena: feminization of migration and sex trafficking.
In the Philippines alone, at least 74% of 2,000 Filipinos that leave the country daily are women. Trafficked persons around the world is estimated at 800,000 yearly, 80% of whom are women from developing countries. In the developing world, the women who are trafficked lament of landlessness or lack of employment, or miserably low wages or violence against women, as conditions they leave so that they risk their lives elsewhere. WTO has literally wiped out any source of livelihood left in home countries.
The deepening capitalist consciousness, manifested not only in material relations but in treatment of human beings, worsens commodification of people. Under GATS Mode 4, or ‘movement of natural persons,’ skilled workers will not be considered as workers, they are without rights.
This ideology of commodification of life also forces on us to accept that women are objects to be bought and sold. Given the demand in the sex industries of many developed countries, capitalists in the sex trade ensure the steady supply of women and children from impoverished countries. Meanwhile, male buyers of prostitution sex continue to demand for cheaper and a wider variety of supply. Prostitution of women then is being normalized and legalized in developed countries like Australia and countries in the European Community, as the industry generate huge earning for their governments, too.
Liberalization of tourism is also part of the agenda in the WTO GATS, as part of Mode 2 (‘consumption abroad’). Liberalized investments in tourism contributes to a loss of jobs in traditional sectors as fishing and agriculture. Exploitation of women and children is widespread in tourist destinations as low-paid workers, hired in precarious jobs. Women also receive 30% less than their male colleagues in comparable jobs. Worse, they are used in the marketing approaches by tour operators, many traffickers use the women in developing countries as come-on and products to be sold or “part of the destinations to be visited.” Sex tourism and prostitution has become investment opportunities for capitalists abroad.
Liberalization of services are being rammed down our throats, even as both developed and developing countries have not conducted impact studies of suc policies, and despite histories of neglect and abuse of the environment, indigenous peoples, women, children and workers in the process and as a result of.
Militarism is also an important function of globalization and the former creates the demand for trafficked women and children. The wars waged by US and the Coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq are important for their economic interests. Military presence in many countries in the South created a demand for prostitution. In South Korea alone, prostitution increased with the presence of American forces.
Fighting against sexual exploitation makes it imperative for feminists to reject the notion of prostitution as sex work, becasue prostitution is exploitation that is at the crux of capitalist exchange and patriarchal practice and belief that men have the right to buy women. It is imperative for us to struggle for an elaternative economic system and trade justice — towards alternative lives for women and not give up on prostitution as “sex work” or the end point of our lives that only needs to be reformed.
Alongside survivors of prostitution, we continue to resist impoverishment and globalization. We continue to resist patriarchal conditioning and systems. We call for women to be protected, while punishing the owners of prostitution establishments.
Prostitution is violence against women. Women are not for sale. Junk the WTO!