the power to chose

Once a month Cara-he?

Ha, I say, Ha. 

I thought I might write briefly about the idea of choice, and its intersection with prostitution and trafficking in asia, as I see it. 

If you have socially and economically weak young women in a society based on Confucian norms (for example), giving men significant social currency; when said young women depart their homes to seek a better life; when they are tricked, forced or even chose to be prostituted; when they find they cannot leave the situation of being prostituted; when they are beaten, raped, manipulated; when they do leave and then have no where to go, no options, so return to this hell: the horror is almost overwhelming.  It’s unthinkably hideous.  How could an 16 year old end up in a situation like that?  How could she have escaped it?  She’s a victim; she’s needs to be rescued from this god-awful situation.  You can’t *chose* something like that…  

And, if you had those responses, you’d be a decent human being.  And I’d agree with all of them (except the saving bit:); sometimes rhetorical questions are the best answers.  In so far as no one can give consent to something to which they are forced into by economics or social pressures; no problem.  The the young woman in the outline above did not chose her situation; she did not consent. 

But she did – at various points in time – chose certain things.  She chose to leave her home community.  She may have chosen to leave the country for the city.  She may have initially chosen a line of work and not liked it.  She may have chosen to accept work as an “entertainer”, “hairdresser” (don’t even ask, you’d be ill), a “karaoke hostess” without fully understanding what would have been expected of her.  She may have chosen trust go with the person who traffics her.  When she leaves or is released from the sexually exploitative situation, she then will have to chose what comes next (though certainly, from what could be a constrained range of options).  

 It’s at the points that those choices were made that there was potential to change the outcome. Leave home, not leave home? Leave with friends?  What type of job do you take?  Who should you trust?  Who do you send your money to?  Where should you go?  Once you prostituted or trafficked, again – who do you trust?  Do you escape?

The answers to many of these questions are culturally, socially or economically  pre-determined. More over, there is no right answer to any of these questions. There is just what one choses to do.  That doesn’t mean the young women in place might not make different choices, if they had different information in front of them.  

How the information is delivered; what is delivered; by who; is it even possible – all important questions.  But if there is no belief that these women COULD make different decisions, if they were supported to do so, negates that they have any agency, any hope – there is nothing that anyone can do to make it right.  It is Fatalistic.

 In reality, not all young female migrants, or poor rural women, become prostitutes.  Not all women working in karaoke bars provide sexual services.  Not all women who are faced with the same set of circumstances end up in the same place.  Luck, being in the right place at the right time, is significant.  But beyond mere circumstance, is the decision making process – how one makes decisions, what information is considered when the decisions are made, what information is valued.  More important still is having alternatives to chose and support.  

 Maybe different decisions ensure a young women from the Mekong Delta ends up in prostitution, maybe it doesn’t – but it present the opportunity for a more positive outcome.  Which is really all anything can ever do in life.  

To use an analogy of sorts: if one finds ones self pregnant – unplanned and unwanted – and assuming abortion rights stand – we could chose to abort or carry the child to term.  Neither option may be attractive; they may both be devastating.  The unfairness lies in the fact that we can get pregnant.  But the choice – to abort or to bear – offers us different opportunities.  This is what I mean by choice.  It might not be a choice you want to make.  Both options may be unattractive.  But at the point we chose we exert as much control over our lives as is possible.  Acknowledgment of this is so very important.

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~ by Jael on September 22, 2008.

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