Who are the perpetrators?

Last night, an email was forwarded to me that highlighted a human trafficking case that broke this week in Canada.

Involving two 15 year old girls.

They are the accused.

Let me repeat, two 15 year old girls have been charged with multiple crimes, including human trafficking, robbery, procuring, forcible confinement, sexual assault, assault, uttering threats and abduction. The police are searching for a third suspect, a 17 year old female.

It is alleged that these girls were involved in an underage prostitution ring which pimped out three other females, age 13 – 17. It appears the girls were connected via social media.

You can read the full article here: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20120611/girls-charged-with-human-trafficking-120611/

One thing that stood out to me, is that the police mentioned that there appeared to be no males involved in the actual pimping. The main perpetrators seem to be underage females.


What does this mean for the combating of human trafficking? I know for myself I am often guilty of simplifying a complex issue. When it comes to sex trafficking it is easy to place young females in the role of the victim, and violent male pimps in the role of perpetrators.

This case goes to show that situations are often more complex then we expect.

According to UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costa, it is not uncommon for women to be the main perpetrators in cases of human trafficking. “In some Eastern European countries, some former [Soviet Union] countries, Central Asian countries, even 60, 70, 80 [percent] — 83 percent in one case — of the perpetrators are women,” Costa said. “In some of the African countries, the majority of the perpetrators in this business unfortunately are women.”

The first case of human trafficking that we worked on in South Africa involved a female trafficker. The woman justified her actions claiming that if she didn’t lock up her victims, young girls forced into prostitution and domestic work, they would be running all over the street, and she claimed that she was helping the families of the girls by taking over the responsibility of feeding and housing them.


The shock factor in this case is that not only are the traffickers female, but they are only teenage girls themselves.

Of course I can’t help but wonder what happened in the lives of these girls that made them capable of exploitation to this extent. It also challenges me to ask the question if I wonder when it is a male involved in pimping. Somehow it is easier within the realm of sex trafficking to victimise females and villianize males. This case is a stark reminder that every story of exploitation is complicated, and even more so when it breaks societies stereotypes.

One of the questions I am constantly asked about Amsterdam is what percentage of the girls are there by choice. I find this to be one of the most complicated questions to answer. We would prefer an easy answer, but every individual who is in prostitution, or who has been through exploitation has their own, often complex, story.  To separate each person into choice or force, does a great disservice to that story. But one trend we are seeing is the presence of female pimps. Women exploiting other women in the sex industry. Sometimes they do it for the money, sometimes they have risen in the hierarchy of a trafficking ring and this is a good way to get out of prostituting themselves, and sometimes, like the trafficker I met in South Africa, these females pimps see themselves as justified, helping girls out who may otherwise be a burden on their families.

Little information has been released on the accused in this Canadian case as they are only 15, but I am very interested to see how this plays out.


Watch a political response to this case here:


What are your initial reactions to this case of human trafficking in Canada? Any thoughts on the stereotypes often surrounding human trafficking and prostitution?

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