Technology, Globalization and Systems of Sexual Exploitation
When those with power introduce a new technology into a system of oppression and exploitation, it enables the powerful to intensify the harm and expand the exploitation. This characterizes what is happening as predators and pimps, who stalk, buy and exploit women and children, have moved to Internet sites and forums for advertising, documenting and engaging in sexual exploitation.
Sexual abuse and exploitation are indigenous to all patriarchal cultures, institutions and nations, but the recent, rapid economic and political restructuring in many regions of the world has escalated the trafficking of women and children. There are approximately 200 million people around the world who are forced to live as sexual or economic slaves. 1
The widespread political and economic restructuring, referred to as globalization, involves large shifts in wealth, employment and populations in a complex set of processes that is freeing those with power from local and even national regulation and control. Supranational corporations and international banking institutions that are richer and larger than most countries, and organized crime syndicates that are richer and larger than some countries, are setting the pace and are no longer accountable to any national government. In this milieu, women and children are increasingly becoming commodities to be bought, sold and consumed by tourists, military personnel, organized crime rings, traffickers, pimps, and men seeking sexual entertainment or non-threatening marriage partners. The global sexual exploitation of women and children that is accompanying globalization is a human rights disaster. Pino Arlaccki, who heads United Nations efforts to fight organized crime said, “Slavery is one of the most undesirable consequences of globalization.” He added, “We regret this is not considered as a priority by any country at the moment.”2
Accompanying and facilitating globalization is a revolution in communications and technology. The computer based telecommunications system known as the Internet can send text, images, audio and video files around the world in milliseconds. Significantly, the cost of access to this global communications network is within the financial reach of most people in wealthier nations. Within the last five years this network with its worldwide audience has been undergoing commercialization. Some of the commodities are women and children. The Internet has accelerated and deepened the marketing of women for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
Forums on the Internet have become meeting grounds for pimps selling women, predators buying women or stalking victims. Web sites and newsgroups have become show rooms and bragging spaces for every type of violence perpetrated against women and children.
Like other powerful constituents of globalization, the Internet is almost without any regulation. Its international reach and new technologies have made local and national laws and standards either obsolete or unenforceable. Nicholas Negroponte, Director of the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and founder of Wired