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The sex industry, human trafficking and the global prohibition regime: a cautionary tale from Greece

Abstract

Using the concept of global prohibition regimes as an analytical point of departure, this article interrogates the development and results of the agitation campaign that relayed the new global prohibition regime against trafficking for sexual exploitation in Greece after 1995. In line with the international trend towards the issue of trafficking in the 1990s, the Greek campaign has been successful in shaping perceptions of the change in the Greek sex industry on the basis of an equation of prostitution, trafficking and transnational organized crime, and it also successfully capitalized on transnational supports to induce changes in legislation and public policy. However, a critical examination of the Greek situation suggests that there is a considerable discrepancy between the above conceptualisation and the knowledge of the issue emerging from the activities of criminal justice agencies. The examination of the general conditions of economic exploitation and social marginalization of migrants in Greece in the 1990s and after reveals significant homologies between the social organization of the sex industry and other sectors of the economy that have depended on migrant labour. This result underscores the nature of the idea of organized crime as an ideological construct acting as a diversion from more substantive paths of inquiry into the structures of national economy that bear upon the exploitation of sexual labour.

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Notes

  1. I shall come to Lazos’ (2002a) account of prostitution before the 1990s in my discussion of the results of his research as a whole in a subsequent section.

  2. Europap is a network across 18 Western and Central European countries, linking over 400 specialist health projects, sex workers’ projects and social support programmes. The members of the network include health and other project staff, sex workers and academics across Europe working on HIV prevention and other health and safety issues. The network shares information and experience in order to promote best practice in local projects (www.europap.net).

  3. This is somehow underscored by the eclipse of reports suggesting that foreign women working in prostitution did possess certain margins of autonomy (see, e.g. Galanis and Karagiannis 1998).

  4. Quotations from publications in Greek have been translated by the author this work.

  5. See Greek Helsinki Monitor: http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr/english/profile.html; International Helsinki Federation: http://www.ihf-hr.org/welcome.php; Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/

  6. For a recent discussion of the methods and significance of the TIP report, see (Dottridge 2007).

  7. The problem of adequate classification has not been, of course, uniquely Greek (see, e.g. Hindelang et al. 1978)

  8. Interestingly, the overall picture does not change significantly whether the arrest data from 1999 are included or not.

  9. Alternatively, assistance and protection are offered to the victims, once they have sought themselves help from the (public) services and establishments of assistance and protection (art. 2 Pres. Decree 233/2003). After the introduction of the Presidential Decree the point of contention between the police and the NGOs was the procedure by which the latter’s expertise and shelters could be integrated in the process of providing assistance. Eventually, a memorandum of cooperation was signed in November 2005.

  10. The same comment has been included in the subsequent 2005 and 2006 reports (Hellenic Police 2005: 11, 2006: 10).

  11. It should be noted that at this point of the two volume work, Lazos appears to understand the distinction between voluntary and forced prostitution as the distinction between legal (registered) prostitution and everything else.

  12. For the economy of the text, I shall only refer to the report for 2005 here, as the substance of the matter is not affected: the report noted that the modus operandi of the criminal organizations involved in trafficking in 2005 ‘has not differed from that of the previous years’ (Hellenic Police 2006: 10).

  13. A potential employer would visit these open areas where migrants congregated in the morning and pick his workforce.

  14. At the time of writing (April 2008) the mobilisation of migrant workers at strawberry plantations in Southwest Peloponnesos was making headlines in Greece, revealing the extent not only of the dependence of this niche agricultural sector on migrant labour (approximately 3,000 workers from Bulgaria, Romania and Bangladesh), but also of their miserable conditions of living and brutal exploitation with wages ranging between €3–5 per hour (Imerodromos 2008; Ta Nea 2008).

  15. Interestingly, the conditions of sexual exploitation of migrant women, as part of the same trend, did not escape the attention of local trade unions (Linardos-Rylmon 1993: 49).

  16. Lazos (2002a: 230) also notes that legal brothels, whose form for fiscal purposes is that of the small business as the licensed prostitute is the owner by law, have also been involved in the prostitution of foreign women.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Georgios Antonopoulos, Paul Crawshaw and the two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions for revision of earlier drafts of this paper.

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Papanicolaou, G. The sex industry, human trafficking and the global prohibition regime: a cautionary tale from Greece. Trends Organ Crim 11, 379 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12117-008-9048-7

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Keywords

  • Greece
  • Trafficking for sexual exploitation
  • Prostitution
  • Global prohibition regimes
  • Illegal migration
  • Informal economy