|TRAFFIC OF WOMEN FROM EASTERN EUROPE
Eva Danzl Suarez
|"Trafficking of women" is a topic of which we can hear about or see regular on Western TV, mostly on programs which seem to do have a strong tendency of sensational journalism. The dominant image of middle and eastern women in these programs is prostitution, without any background information.
But first of all, what is our definition of "Trafficking of women":
In the eighties "Trafficking of women" was frequently considered as a slave trade, women were compared as slaves, as victims, which barely had the possibility to defend themselves against their destiny. This view was based on a specific theory of migration: Systems of exploitation and their profiteers who were making use of difficult economic situation of so called Third World countries. On a theoretical level the so-called "push and pull" model was used to explain female migration: the economic misery and impoverishment were classical push-factors, the demand for cheap-salary - women workers, submissive wives and exotic sex-workers typical pull-factors. However, quite quickly FIZ like other feminist organization included different approaches, especially of feminist analysis and feminist studies. It was obvious that the term "Trafficking of women" could not be explained simply on an economical background. It had to be defined as a specifically way of gender exploitation. This factor until now is considered as very essential: Important is the so-called "International division of work": Within the capitalistic processes of production (i.e. the model of Neoliberalism) work is divided in labour and non-labour. This economic system considers work in world-market-factories and free-production-areas (the multinationals) similarly as the gendered housework. The consequences are low-wages, no labour rights, sexual and other kinds of exploitation and violence for the female workers.
In the FIZ the simple "Pull and Push" theory was also not considered as sufficiently profound, because of the fact that the affected women don't have their scope for an independent and self-confident action. The "Pull and Push" definition was defining migrant women implicitly as objects of merchandise, which are bought and sold. This definition reaffirmed a paternalistic view towards women from Asia, Africa, and Latin-America and Eastern Europe.
However until today it is evident that female labour migration is a constitutive element of the world-economy. Cheap female labour and cheap female entertainment (which is obtained from low wage countries) is determined and controlled by industrialized countries, because industrialized countries need to maintain their standards of living. Especially female labour of "invisible", as to say illegalised migrant women form a submissive segment of labour market, which is therefore, exploited most.
The problem was and is, when we are looking at the sensational so called documents about "Trafficking of women", that migration is treated as an equivalent as traffic of women. But not every migrant woman is a trafficked woman. Although FIZ and feminist organizations have tried for years to change this image of the victim, to stop the tendency of individual destiny in order to demonstrate the structural background of exploitation, the press until now very often continues using cheap and dangerous images for their reports.
The FIZ uses the term "Trafficking of women" therefore only in clearly defined cases: "Trafficking of women" means that a woman is in a situation of constraint if she has to pay a high sum of money for commissions to agents and has to work off her debt and if she has been deceived by false promises. Another characteristic is if women are treated like a possession, serfdom or if she is forced to do a job as prostitution or others, against her will. Traffic of women signifies a punishable offence; it is a gender specific manner of exploitation. Until now, in Switzerland traffic of persons is only used in case of forced prostitution: In FIZ like in many other similar organizations in Europe the definition is interpreted in a broader way.
We talk about "Traffic of women" in case of domestic workers, sex-workers, cabaret-dancers, if their way of migration as well as the conditions in which they live in, agree with the before mentioned definition.
Many times we have been asked why in Switzerland as well as in many other western countries rarely happen trials against traffic of women. But it is clear, that until women will not have legally defined protection there will be also in future no accusations neither trials. Their situation is too risky and dangerous. Another point is the fact that the criminal law is very limited: Traffic of women means automatically forced prostitution. It is obvious that there are many different kinds of traffic: The law does not do justice to reality. At international level different gatherings of women organizations have tried to change the criminal law but until now the situation still stays unsatisfying. So much about traffic of women.
This year FIZ has published a new documentation about the particular situation of women from Middle and Eastern Europe: More and more often we were invited to talk and inform about traffic of women from Eastern Europe. In Switzerland up to this time didn't exist an investigation about female migration from Eastern Europe and its structural background. At the same time, as I mentioned before, sensational documentaries about traffic of women as well as sensational articles appear all over. But what is the real situation of female migrants from Eastern Europe? Statistics of cabaret dancers in the last years show clearly a change concerning the origins of the stripdancers: Before, the women came mostly from Latin-America (Brazil, Santo Domingo, Columbia) from Asia, (mostly the Philippines, Thailand) and some Northern African countries like Marocco as well as Black Africa, (Cameroon etc.). Now 50% of the women come from Middle and Eastern Europe.
Let's take the example of canton Zurich: In 97 the alien's police registered 117 cabaret-dancers from Eastern Europe in the period of one month, which means three times more than in 1993. The same situation we find in the whole country. Similar numbers exist in case of marriage: In the year 1994 there have been 194 marriages between Swiss men and women from Ex-Sovietunion. Already in 96, there are 296 marriages, which mean an increase of 60% within two years.
It is important to know that the number of cabaret-dancers in the last 8 years has been tripled: In 88, were 721 dancers, and in 1995, there were 1918 cabaret-dancers. Every month work more or less 900-1000 dancers from Asia, Africa and Latin-America with a so-called L-permit, and more or less 650 women with L-permit from Eastern Europe. But concerning illegalised women, it is very difficult and also questionable to work with numbers. There exist estimations, although they are quite impossible to confirm. During interviews with women from Eastern Europe and also talking with other women in the sex-business it became clear that there is quite a high number of women from Eastern Europe who work in brothels, massage-salon or in the streets.
According to the magazine "Cash" as well as consulting institutions reckon that there work definitively more than 10'000 illegalised women in Switzerland as sex-workers. In 1995 - although one has to be careful with numbers - there have been 4.2 billion of Swiss franc turnovers; military expenses one year before were also 4.2 billion... 60% has been obtained by illegalised prostitution. And, more or less 350'000 men visit prostitutes more than one time a year in Switzerland. It is obvious that we talk about a flourishing business, but the question is, WHO are the profiteers?
Back to Eastern Europe: It is not my task today to talk about the socio-economic and political situation in Eastern European countries which produces female migration to Western Europe, shortly however: There are quite some similarities with so-called partly modernized countries (like Brazil, Thailand etc). We find a similar socio-economic situation in Eastern Europe. Various interviews with women from Eastern Europe show that their main motivation to migrate is the economic situation in their country of origin. Many of them are highly qualified women who however cannot maintain their families; the hope of better living conditions is a principal factor to migrate.
Another important factor is the migration policy of the country of destination:
In our case the Swiss migration policy, as well as other countries the migration policy is determined by preserving "islands of wealth", therefore Switzerland as well as the European Community have created restrictive conditions within the migrant policies, and that are being tightened constantly. Restrictive migratory possibilities increase illegal immigration and illegal residence in a country, as a result of this, the danger of exploitation has severely heightened. Illegalised women find themselves absolutely unprotected by law.
Swiss migration policy is based up to that moment on the so called "three circle Model", which means that persons from the European Community and EFTA are the first circle and therefore are given preference and receive work and a permit to stay in Switzerland. The United States as well as Australia, New Zealand and some more countries belong to the second circle; also they have a possibility of limited recruitment. The rest of the world, which means, Africa, Asia, Latin-America and Eastern Europe do not have neither the possibility of a working permit neither a permit of residence. Migration therefore is only possible by marriage, study, and tourist or as a strip-dancer. To be able to understand the structural background of female migration I think it is very important to explain more about the diverse aspects of Swiss migration policy.
Migration by marriage
According to Swiss foreign law also the women from Eastern Europe receive a so-called B-permit, a residence permit which has to be renewed yearly. In case of death of their husband or divorce prior to the first five years she looses all her rights of residence, if she does not have children with her husband. She has to leave Switzerland in order to avoid illegality. The consequence is an increased dependency on the husband and a general aggravation of her situation. Many husbands use their spouse's predicament to blackmail them; the women endure maltreatment and violence for fear of divorce and therefore expulsion.
The business of marriage brokers is increasing in Switzerland as well as in Eastern Europe. The method of the brokers has changed in the last few years because of the new communication-technologies. Internet for example plays an important role in this business. It has become a significant platform in the international marriage market. In this eastern women are reduced to a "object for sale" for men. A typical form of advertising is for example: Russian women are faithful, modest, adaptable, and no emancipated, ideal for western men. Besides the suppliers emphasize that "men can take advantage of their services" without any risk and besides economical. Furthermore they have the right of fee-repayment including taxes in case of unfulfilled order. If the booked woman is not favorable you have the right of exchange." Another information given is that women from Eastern Europe are cheaper, the trip shorter and the women are not so noticeable as women from Asia or Africa are. Booked women in many cases can be "used" for a couple of month and returned. She will be lent to another man until a client marries her. The debt of the trip as well as the commission she has to pay herself. Agencies usually advertise in newspapers, bigger ones lend videos with women including exact descriptions or catalogues. Structures of traders are wide-ranging: From single culprits to international drug-rings. One cannot underestimate also the diverse connection between brothel-keepers, agencies, and private brokers, as well as the mouth to mouth propaganda. The interviewed police notices that they do not know if there really exist organized drag-rings, at the same time they say that women from Eastern Europe keep quiet insistently in case of interrogation about the way they came into Switzerland.
We suspect like other similar organization in Europe that organized traffic is quite common in case of Eastern Europe. Some interviewed women came to Switzerland with false promises like the offer of a job in a hotel or restaurant, but at the end they fond themselves in a brothel and forced to prostitution or as a strip-dancer. Also their husbands force some into prostitution. There are many cases of men who married a woman from Eastern Europe to exploit her financially, or in order to have a cheap domestic worker and sex as much as they want without consideration of their wives. Most of the interviewed women say that they feel themselves under pressure, without rights, isolated, depressed, and that the men often don't accept their children which joined the family in immigration.
Migration by L-permit, the so-called Artist-Visa:
(I am talking about the strip-dancers)
First of all some more statistics: In December 1998, 1786 women have been working as strip-dancers in Switzerland, -970 came from Eastern Europe, (This is a very high figure knowing that women from Eastern Europe started to migrate in this sense since the beginning of the nineties), -191 women came from African countries (North Africa included), -497 came from Latin-America and the Caribbean, -90 came from Asian countries.
In order to obtain the specific visa L (of eight months), one has to present a labour contract with a minimum of 3 months to the Swiss representation in the respective country. Often agents, who recruit the women directly in their country of origin, organize these labour contracts. For the next five months the cabaret dancers have to agree via placement. Agencies on contracts with single cabarets. During their stay in Switzerland the cabaret dancers normally work in a different Canton or town each month. This makes it very difficult for them to create social contacts or to settle down in one place. It is therefore almost impossible to integrate into a social life. The work of a Cabaret dancer consists of several performances every night where the women have to present a striptease. In most of the establishments the women are urged to animate the clients to drink alcohol. Often they have to prostitute themselves. This is the reality although animation is forbidden in most of the Cantons by law. In fact prostitution is legal in Switzerland with a number of restrictions, but cabaret-dancers with a short term working permit are not allowed to work as prostitutes.
With the high level of alcohol consumption, the night work and the general humiliating character of the occupation in Cabarets, this type of work is for many women linked to substantial psychological and physical problems.
The above-described reality and the reflection in the interview clearly indicate that laws and regulations are not often kept in practice. Further examples are the excessively high rents, the embezzlement of the children's allowance or unjustified salary deductions. Cabaret dancers are very limited in defending their rights due to lack of information, to their dependency on agencies and Cabarets and due to the insecure work permit. It is enormously difficult to bring about a legal action, because even in these cases there is little chance of getting a residence permit. Additionally many women are exposed to threats from cabaret owners, agents etc.
Since 1996 there have been new laws and regulations for cabaret dancers: Should they be unemployed for more than one month during the eight-month period they loose there working permits and are relegated to an illegal status they remain in Switzerland. The eight month short term working permit L' enables them only to work as cabaret dancers. A change of profession is forbidden. Now each cabaret is only allowed to employ six dancers. The minimum age for dancers is 20. Furthermore the administration of the Cantons have fixed the rentals for rooms as well as the minimum net salaries. These regulations offer a certain protection but they do not fundamentally change the bad working and residence conditions. The changing of this permit into a yearly residence permit is not possible and the new law does not admit the right to bring the family to Switzerland.
On the 1st March 1998 revised contracts for Cabaret dancers came into force. Therein the formerly contractually fixed probation period of three days is not applicable any longer for both parties. For the women this means an improvement because often they have been dismissed within the first three days if they defended themselves against breach of contracts or other injustices. As a consequence it was practically impossible for them to get new contracts. Another innovation is the introduction of a medical insurance for each day in hospital, which has to be covered by the employer.
In this context I think it is important to demonstrate the advantage which has this kind of migration policy for the Swiss State: It is evident that strip-dancers don't produce costs on the contrary strip dancers are profitable for the Swiss state. Every monthly contract has various deductions: First of all 10% of the salary are tax-deduction. This means with a monthly income of 4000. - Swiss Francs 400. - Are deducted for tax reasons, additionally more than 5% for social security and some other securities. Counting only the 10% tax in case of 2000 dancers Switzerland makes a profit of 9.5 Million Swiss Francs a year, without services in return from the Swiss government. The money for social security, dancers have to pay, is without having the right, in case of unemployment, to be allowed to take advantage of it. Who more is profiteering by the Swiss migration policy? The agencies, drag-rings, dealers and individual brokers, but also the governments of origin. Also women from Eastern Europe bring foreign currencies, maintain entire families and therefore are extremely significant.
Migration through a tourist visa
A large number of women enter Switzerland with a tourist visa valid for three months. Legal work is prohibited in Switzerland and constitutes a reason for deportation. Women from Eastern Europe entering as tourists usually work in the sex and domestic sector as well as in industry and cleaning-businesses. They are highly exposed to illegality and they risk being taken into deportation custody and being expelled. Proudly the minister of police department of the canton Zurich emphasizes that, since coming into effect of the compulsory measures in the regulation concerning foreigner's rights in 1995 that 405 women have been taken into custody in Zurich during February 1996. This represents 11% of all cases of deportations. The length of custody in 90% of the cases was no longer than 96 hours, that means, nearly all women have been deported, before a committing magistrate has examined the order of arrest.
In the last year for example a notice in a national Newspaper informed about a drag-ring which forced women from Hungary into prostitution. The foreign police deported the affected women straight away, they, victim of traffic of women, of violence didn't have no chance at all to claim for their rights. Switzerland has created a so-called victim-protection law. But evidently women affected by trafficking are not included. The effect of the "three circle model" is an increase of exclusion of migrant women and illegality. Migration for women from Eastern Europe becomes more dangerous and more profitable for drag-rings, women traffickers and illegal employers. <BR> Illegalised women migrants, domestic or sex-workers, clarify plainly the prevailing double standards: On one hand they are tolerated on basis of demand, on the other hand they are being deported as soon as they get public.
The domestic workers: It is known in our work that also domestic illegal workers come from Eastern Europe. They find themselves in a entirely unprotected situation. Mostly they have to work until 12 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week and with an income which is extremely low. Sometimes the employer does not pay, the women has no possibility to claim her salary. It seems those human rights in case of migrant women from the third circle as for example the women from Eastern Europe do not exist.
At the end I would like to inform you about our demands regarding migration policy and especially regarding our main theme "traffic of women". In our work in FIZ we have defined some important measures on different levels. Concerning the Swiss migration policy level following principal aspects are important:
1. Women from Asia, Africa, Latin-America and eastern Europe who until now belong to the so called third level should have the right of a independent residence permit, this means independent from a particular purpose like marriage. This motion already FIZ like other organizations have together with a parliamentarian (Christine Goll) submitted to the Swiss parliament in the context of violence and migrant women.
2. Pregnant illegalised women should get a residence permit until the paternity suit is finished. At that moment it is extremely difficult to fight for the women and child right because officially an illegalised women and child do not have a residence in Switzerland. Therefore neither the Swiss court nor other authorities like the guardianship are eager to receive that kind of complaints
3. Children with a Swiss father should get a Swiss nationality (until now the child has to ask a quicker naturalization). But this case depends on the relationship between father and child; if the Swiss father wants to get rid of the illegalised child-mother and his child, the Swiss law in fact supports his behavior. Trials of that kind usually takes a very long time and the foreign police do not wait until the end of the trial, this means that the women and her child are quickly deported.
4. Children with a father with Swiss residence should have the right to receive the same residence like their father.
5. The so-called artist permit has to be abolished entirely. If there is an evident demand on strip-dancers as well as sex-workers they should have the right of a working permit and consequently a residence permit. The artist permit is in itself a discriminating racist and sexist permit, which supports tracking of women as well as their profiteers.
6. Concerning the criminal law and traffic of women, we demand urgently a "witness-protection-program" which means that:
a. The women affected from traffic of women get a residence during and also after the trial.
b. The women get the possibility to change her name.
c. The women have the right to receive social money.
d. The women are facilitated the complete use of the "victimsprotection-law"
e. The foreign police have the instruction too not to carry out proceedings of deportations
At the moment on the government level the experts have been preparing a new migration policy. To avoid in future critics that the Swiss migration policy in itself is racist and discriminating, they plan to stop the so called "three circle policy". Basically the new model facilitates again persons from European Community and the EFTA in case of working and residence permits. In case of persons from the rest of the world, therefore also women from Eastern Europe are not specifically mentioned, they in future only should get a Swiss working permit if they are highly professionals. The same situation as before remains, the only difference is that the Swiss migration would be less evidently discriminating. Up to that moment non-Swiss qualifications are in most cases not accepted. The chance to get a permit is therefore minimal. Women who work as sex-workers or as strip-dancers are entirely excluded from this new proposal.
|Eva Danzl Suarez
Quellenstrasse 25/ 8005 Zürich
Tel: +41/(0)1/ 271 82 82