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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Trafficked women's symptoms akin to torture victims'

Another news article that seems relevant here: a study found that forced sexual and domestic labor induces post-traumatic stress disorder among women (women seem to be the only ones studied). Note that domestic labor is included with sexual labor. This is chilling. Here's the whole article:
Trafficked women's symptoms akin to torture victims'

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Women and girls trafficked for forced sexual or domestic work suffer post-traumatic stress on a par with torture victims, researchers said on Wednesday.

In one of the first studies of health problems of women who have been trafficked, they found 95 percent had been physically or sexually abused and nearly 40 percent had suicidal thoughts.

"This research shows that women who have been trafficked into sex work emerge with very severe pain and injuries and they show psychological health problems that appear to be similar to those documented among victims of torture," said Dr Cathy Zimmerman, the author of the report published by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The International Labor Organization estimates that at least 2.5 million people around the world are in forced labour at any given time.

Zimmerman, a researcher in public health policy, said because of its underground nature it was difficult to get precise numbers.

"This is an international trade that is happening in virtually every corner of the world," she said in an interview.

"The majority believe they are getting a job doing something like waitressing, being a nanny or working in a bar. Most of them are tricked into the situation."

Zimmerman and her team studied 207 women from 14 countries who had been released after being trafficked.

The women, aged 15-45 years old, were being treated in seven countries by aid agencies. Most were between 21-25 years old and 12 percent were under 18.

The vast majority of the women with children were single mothers. Sixty percent experienced some form of violence before being trafficked, and 56 percent reported symptoms suggestive of post traumatic stress disorder. Headaches, fatigue, dizzy spells, back pain, memory problems, anxiety and depression were common.

"If you can image a situation of confinement and abuse and systematic rape over a periods of months or a year it is not surprising that people are coming out with symptoms that might be at similar levels to those persons who are tortured," said Zimmerman.

She added that women needed professional health and support services immediately after they were freed and in the long term. (link)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Stopping Violence Against Women

This interview made me think of mail-order brides and some of the discussions we've had here: "Stopping Violence Against Women: Eve Ensler and Kimberle Crenshaw on V-Day, Women in Prisons and Breaking the Silence," transcript at, June 21, 2006. I have a lot of respect for Kimberle Crenshaw as well as Eve Ensler.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of women in Juarez, in Mexico, immigrants here in this country, Kimberle Crenshaw, can you talk about immigrants, women and violence?

KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: In fact, one of the -- what we're doing tonight is we're providing a whole range of narratives about women to try to put some of these statistics in a context. You know, all the frame, people tell us -- you can tell people all the statistics you want, but you have to put it in a story.

One of the stories is about immigrant women, and it focuses on the fact that immigrant women are among the most vulnerable to violence, in large part because women who come here, particularly those who come here to marry American citizens, have to stay properly married to them for two years before they can petition for permanent residency status. Many of these women are subject to violence. The last thing these women want to do is call the authorities in, because they're very concerned that they'll lose any opportunity whatsoever to make the United States their permanent home. So we found many women were severely abused, and some were even killed, because of the double effect of the sort of anti-immigration laws and policies that really put people in a position of vulnerability and because of the violence that they experience at home.

So I call this the intersection of oppression. You've got one thing, you've got another thing. And when movements aren't aware of how these things come together, when the immigration movement doesn't really think about, “Well, some of these people are women, and some of these people are subject to violence,” and the anti-violence movement doesn't think, “Well, some of the women who are victimized by violence are also immigrants,” the particular way that they end up being caught between these two different forms of discrimination isn't often recognized. So they're more or less falling between the cracks.

One of the best things coming out of this is we can tell stories like this to make people understand that there are some women who are falling between the cracks, so that our interventions, our policies, the things we advocate for include all the women who are subject to these issues, not just the few that we can immediately think about.
Read the whole interview.