Overestimating trafficking victims to hide the truth
Shocking numbers from the Dutch Rapporteur Human Trafficking where presented last week. According to the Dutch Rapporteur the number of trafficking victims are even higher than they thought, an estimated 6,250 people according to her. But what most media and people missed was the fact that the number of people that were reported as possible victims are the lowest numbers in years, and the estimations are highly flawed.

Estimations based on flawed numbers
First of all, the estimated number of victims of human trafficking in The Netherlands is 6,250 people according to the Dutch Rapporteur. Those numbers are highly questionable, since they are based on flawed numbers, and basing an estimation based upon flawed numbers is not very reliable. Interestingly enough the Dutch Rapporteur herself claims the estimations are very reliable, but then again, who wouldn't say that if they made the estimations themselves?

Flaws in reporting victims
The estimations are based on reports. Not reports of the number of victims of human trafficking, as people often thing. No, they're based upon the number of people 'they' have suspicions about that they could be victims. In short, they're not all real victims, some could be, many other may not be, it's all purely based on loose speculation. No proof, no evidence or even solid signs are required. No, in fact, even the slightest suspicions are used to beef up the number of 'possible' victims. In short, the number of 'possible' victims are flawed by default, since they're not based on anything other than what some people 'think'.

Proof of flawed reports from the past
I'm not just claiming the reported number of 'possible' victims are flawed, I also have proof that this happened frequently and on large scale in the past. For example, in 2012 the Dutch Rapporteur reported a record number of possible victims. According to the Dutch Rapporteur 'the tip of the ice berg'. In total 1,711 people where reported as 'possible' victims. A large part of that coming from prostitution, in total 1,216 people where reported in prostitution as possible victims.

This year however the Dutch Rapporteur wrote in her report that those numbers where basically incorrect. The numbers of 2012 have now been adjusted to in total 1,256 possible victims, in stead of 1,711. A small mistake of 424 people being 'mistaken' for victims. And funny enough, they're all people from the sex industry. Meaning, the number of possible victims from prostitution in 2012 shouldn't have been 1,216 but rather 792 people.

Reporting innocent sex workers as victims
In the past 5 years they reported in total 1,314 sex workers incorrectly as possible victims of human trafficking. That is in total 19% of all the reported possible victims in the last 5 years, almost a third of all the 'possible' victims in prostitution they reported incorrectly. All of the incorrect reported victims were migrant sex workers, and in the latest report of the Dutch Rapporteur she explains how they were able to make such a huge mistake.

Migration was mistaken for trafficking
Basically what happened is that they were mistaking migration with human trafficking when it regarded sex workers. In fact, the Dutch Rapporteur even wrote a couple of years ago an article, claiming how sex workers that were not being exploited or coerced should still be considered victims of human trafficking if they received help to migrate. The Dutch Rapporteur even called out judges to uphold this, and presented the number of convictions of people who were convicted only for helping migrating sex workers, and the number of people that went free because the judge ruled that helping someone migrating was not human trafficking if there was no form of coercion or exploitation.

High Court ruled migration is not trafficking
It wasn't until the summer of 2016 when all of this changed. The Dutch High Court ruled in a court case that helping a sex worker migrating was officially not human trafficking. Immediately this changed a lot of things, since especially the Dutch Royal Marshals that do border patrol at the airports, where trained to report any sex worker that might have received help, as a possible victim of human trafficking. They had been doing this since around 2012, because the number of possible victims they reported before was almost non-existent. Apparently they found it hard to believe that there were so few sex workers trafficked, and thus they trained the Royal Marshals into spotting and reporting any migrant sex worker as possible victims that might have received any help.

Excuse for lower numbers
As a result of the fact that now they can't count migration as human trafficking anymore when it comes to sex work, the number of possible victims in 2016 were a lot lower than in previous years. In fact, they reverted back to the same size we had before they started reporting migrating sex workers as victims. This is especially noticeable if you look at the number of possible victims only reported working in prostitution. You'll notice how in years before they started doing this, it was never even above 1,000 possible victims, but when they started reporting migrating sex workers, the numbers went up to even around 1,200 victims in prostitution. But since now that has been reverted, they had to come up with an excuse why the numbers got lower, resulting in a flawed estimation based upon vague suspicions, which are far from reliable, as you can read here.

The system is flawed
Basically the whole system of reporting 'vague' suspicions is a flawed system if you want to get a reliable estimation of the size of human trafficking, especially when it comes to prostitution. After all, right now they are 'assuming' that every vague suspicion is correct. And even worse, that they are only reporting a very small portion of the total size of human trafficking, basically based upon no information at all. Because there is literally no indication that the size of human trafficking is as big as the number of possible victims they report, let alone much bigger.

People are biased when it comes to prostitution
The big problem with reporting possible victims, is the fact that people are often biased when it comes to prostitution. Often people by default assume that women are victims of trafficking, thus resulting in incorrectly reporting sex workers as victims based on 'vague' suspicions, rather than actual evidence or any proof. The stigma of sex work as something a women would never want to do, is reinforcing the number of 'possible' victims, thus resulting in an incorrect image about human trafficking in prostitution.

Real statistics even far lower
And no, I'm not just trying to put a bright face on things. I have good reason to suspect the number of possible victims isn't even close to the number of real victims. Because if you look at the total number of cases the Dutch justice system handles, it doesn't even come close to the huge number of possible victims they report. Every year the Dutch justice system handles around 250-300 cases a year. Compare that to the 1,100 possible victims they averagely report every year in the last 10 years, and you can see there's a huge difference that doesn't make sense. And I'm not even talking about the number of actual convictions of human trafficking, which is even far lower, around 120 convictions each year.

Invisible victims nobody can find
Everything is based on the assumption that victims are scared, and would never or rarely ever go to the police, and therefore never or rarely press charges. But if that would be true, and every year we would have around 1,100 victims a year, that's in 10 years around 11,000 victims. Yet the number of cases each year is somewhere around 275 average, meaning this would be around 2,750 victims that got free. If we therefore have to believe the Dutch Rapporteur there are still around 8,000 victims who never went to the police to press charges for over 10 years, and I find that very hard to believe, especially if the number of reported 'possible' victims is going down in stead of up as well as the number of cases. It's like everyone is chasing a ghost, that everyone is convinced of exists, and they keep chasing it, but they can never find. Well, let me tell you, if after 10 years you're still not able to find it, there's a big chance it never existed.

The 'hidden ice berg'
But the big problem is that people find it difficult to accept the truth that women most of the time choose to do prostitution out of free will. People still have trouble accepting the fact the women can have a free choice, and not everything is being controlled by men. And people apparently also find it very difficult to accept that women are okay with sex, and can take control themselves, rather than men. It's so hard for them to accept, that when actual statistics don't match up with their own ideas, they think they're missing something, thus resulting in manipulation of numbers to uncover this 'hidden ice berg' that doesn't exist. And that's exactly what the Dutch Rapporteur is doing. She has no reason to assume there is more human trafficking than the number of people they report as possible victims, but because they simply can't believe that, so they multiply the number until they get a number that matches their own imagination.

Dutch version
New Dutch government criminalizes prostitution further
The Netherlands is forming a new government, and seems to be nearly finished with it's proposals. The last details of their agreement are now being worked out, and one of them regards the new prostitution policy. The new prostitution policy could have gone either way, either in favor of sex workers or against them, since the new coalition exists out of VVD (liberals), D66 (democrats) but also two christian parties, CDA and ChristenUnie. And especially the ChristenUnie is a hardliner against prostitution, although they cleverly disguise it as an anti-human trafficking policy.

Today however it got announced that the new prostitution policy will include a pimp ban, criminalizing any pimp without a license. And yes, I know what you are thinking. Could pimps get licenses in The Netherlands? Well, no. At least, not what most people think are pimps. Because this is exactly where the ChristenUnie has the upper hand, they are much better informed about prostitution, and they're using it against us. While other pro-prostitution parties such as D66 in general are less well informed, and the ChristenUnie is playing that card very well during the negotiations.

Even the newsreports don't even know what the new plan actually is. Some newsreports are reporting that the pimp ban will be re-introduced. Others report that 'illegal pimps' will not just be fined, but even will get jail time. But the question of course becomes, can you also be a legal pimp? Because is there something as a pimping license? Well, no. There's no licence for pimps in The Netherlands, so by definition all pimps are illegal.

Now for those of you that are thinking now: how come The Netherlands never criminalized pimps? Well, if you're thinking about people who force women into prostitution and/or exploit them. They are already criminalized, since this is called human trafficking. So if this is what you're talking about, than a pimp is simply called a human trafficker, and that person is already a criminal by the Dutch law. In short, this new law doesn't fight human trafficking, forced prostitution or exploitation. But it seems to be talking about something else than just a human trafficker.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what the new coalition means with a pimp, since often people have no idea what the definition of a pimp is. But if we have to believe the newsreports, they are talking about 'people who financially profit from prostitutes'. And the new plan is to criminalize people who do this without a license.

So who exactly will be targeted with this new law? Well, the list of people that could be considered 'people who financially profit from prostitutes without a license' is very long. For example, my bookkeeper financially profits from prostitutes, and he doesn't have a prostitution license. Or for example my mother, whom I frequently send money to, to support her.
But the list becomes much longer. For example chauffeurs who drive around escort girls. Or what to think about security guys, who protect prostitutes from harm, they also don't have a prostitution license.

In short, there are a lot of people who profit from prostitutes financially without a license. But that doesn't make them bad people. In fact, many of these people help us. But that just might be exactly the plan of the ChristenUnie, to make our work much more difficult, and slowly reduce prostitution in The Netherlands this way.

But most importantly, it doesn't help fighting human trafficking. After all, just because you criminalize a larger group of people, doesn't make it easier to find evidence in human trafficking cases. The only thing it does, is putting a lot more people in jail for no reason. The other thing is that it just makes the lives of a lot of sex workers more difficult. And the more difficult their lives will become, the more they will be depending on others, and that makes them vulnrable to human trafficking. In short, this law will only increase human trafficking dramatically.

Of course, this will also result in more people being arrested and eventually convicted. And once that happens, the ChristenUnie will have statistics showing that the number of convicted people profiting from prostitutes have increased a lot, claiming they're approach works, and more people ending up in jail who are actually innocent. In short, this law is extremely dangerous, and makes me wonder how far they will go with labeling people 'profiting from prostitution'. I mean, will they soon also arrest the clerks at the bank, because the bank is profiting from me as a prostitute, and they don't have a license for this? So would that mean that banks will start to refuse me out of fear of being seen as an 'illegal pimp'.

And things can go very crazy. For example, even the supermarket profits from me being a prostitute. So are they going to arrest people from the supermarket as well? And does that mean they will refuse me as well if they would find out I am a prostitute? In short, do I need to start hiding the fact that I am a prostitute more, out of fear that the people that profit from me won't let me buy stuff from them anymore, or use their services? And doesn't this make us much more vulnrable? Especially if there will be a prostitution register, like how the new coalition is proposing right now, to register all the prostitutes.

Because after all. If nobody wants to do business with us anymore, because they would be considered criminals. The only people that still would want to do business with us, are the real criminals, because they will know we are vulnrable, so they can exploit us much easier. In short, isn't this just a short cut to handing over the entire industry to criminals?

The weirdest thing is the fact that they used the fact that illegal prostitution is growing as an argument. After all, the reason why illegal prostitution is growing in The Netherlands, is because of the fact that cities such as Amsterdam, has closed down so many window brothels for example. In short, this is a result of their own policies, not because so many prostitutes love to work illegal. Sex workers want to work legal, but cities make that impossible by reducing workplaces for prostitutes with over 40%.

In short, if they really want to reduce illegal prostitution, they shouldn't be targeting people profiting from prostitutes, but they should give us back the workplaces we have lost due to gentrification projects such as Project 1012 in Amsterdam, and the closure of the windows on boats in Utrecht.

Dutch version


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    Romanian prostitute working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam (De Wallen), speaking out for the truth behind prostitution. Blogging about prostitution, human trafficking, forced prostitution, politics and all the myths surrounding it. Member of PROUD, the Dutch union of sex workers.