Waugh Thesis Prize Winner
An excerpt from Eric Damiana's winning thesis "Silent Suffering: A Critique of Sex Trafficking Policy in the Russian Federation and the Czech Republic"
The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism across central and eastern Europe in the late eighties and early nineties ushered in a new stage of history for this part of the world. The formerly communist and Eastern Bloc countries each went along their separate paths; some quickly gained EU and NATO membership, others fell into deep economic recession, and still others broke out into civil war. This change in the international system also led to a darker, more sinister trend: the fourth wave in global human trafficking.
Human trafficking ranks third in the world in terms of profit, behind drug trafficking and the criminal arms trade. The first three waves originated in Southeast Asia, Northern Africa, and Latin America, respectively. This most recent wave is the largest of all four. The chaos that immediately followed the collapse of communism in Europe resulted in varied reactions to transitions in each country, and this is no different with human trafficking; some countries suffer this problem more than others. The Czech Republic and the Russian Federation are two post-communist countries whose paths sharply diverged. However, trafficking is a serious problem in both of them. Both the Czech Republic and the Russian Federation have failed to address human trafficking successfully in their national policies. Instead, they have downplayed the issue and have only dealt with it when facing pressure domestically and abroad. Lack of efforts by the administrations of these countries minimizes the problem to the point where they are either nonexistent or cosmetic at best. Furthermore, the actions that they have taken so far do not address many factors of sex trafficking, such as a trafficked person's agency, complicity by state structures and home communities, and the swiftly changing structure of the trafficking apparatus itself.
The focus of this project is to examine two very different countries, describe why trafficking is a problem for these countries, and explain why they have failed to address this problem. Much of the study conducted on human trafficking looks at it as a transnational problem, and only delves into national narratives in order to situate a state in the global situation of trafficking. Often, studies only compare countries when talking about migration between them and movement of trafficked persons across borders. The intent of this study is to fill a gap in trafficking scholarship, and provide a type of variational study on two actors in the region. Trafficking is indeed a transnational phenomenon, but to understand it at the transnational level, we need to understand it at the national level as well. Women who are trafficked are not themselves transnational: They live in national communities and cannot be separated from their national contexts.
The Czech Republic and the Russian Federation differ in how they handled political and economic transition because of many cultural, geographical, and historical reasons that set these two countries apart. However, they share many commonalities as well, especially in their attitudes toward and treatment of women. Both countries share the Leninist legacy, which prescribed a particular approach to the treatment of women in a communist society that later had political and economic implications in the nineties and beyond. Both countries also share patriarchal cultural perceptions on gender that contribute to sex trafficking.
This project focuses primarily on the sex trafficking of women in the Czech Republic and the Russian Federation. Anti-trafficking efforts often concentrate on sex trafficking to the detriment of labor trafficking, but labor trafficking is in fact the more prevalent of the two. The focus on women in this thesis is not meant to overshadow or silence the men who are also affected by trafficking, but to make the analysis and aim of trafficking policies much more specific and clear. The trafficking of women is deeply rooted in patriarchal culture, and a comparison of trafficking in women versus trafficking in men is a topic in and of itself, beyond the breadth of this paper.
Human trafficking on the global scale has changed so much over the past decade that many of the first initiatives to stem trafficking are no longer applicable, or are simply inadequate. Additionally, the nature of human trafficking makes it notoriously difficult to study and draw solid conclusions. We have been attempting to complete a puzzle for which we have too few pieces. Instead of operating on tropes, stereotypes and extreme models, we would be better served to recognize the shadowy and ever-changing nature of this issue in our fight against it.
 While the trafficking situation in Russia is well-documented, some may question the Czech Republic as a choice for this study. The Czech Republic is not the only country which is often ignored or whose human trafficking situation is downplayed. According to statistics compiled by the International Organization for Migration, Czechs and Poles constituted the same percentage of trafficked women in year 2000 (8%). Higher than these two nationalities were Ukrainian (12.4%) and Lithuanian (17.5%), which is a higher percentage than Russian women in the same year (15.1%). These statistics are based on the nationalities of women helped in Germany during the same year. Frank Laczko, Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels and Jana Barthel. “Trafficking in Women from Central and Eastern Europe: A Review of Statistical Data.” International Organization for Migration (IOM). September 20, 2002. accessed: June 2, 2012.
 Andrees, Beate, and Patrick Belser. 2009. Forced labor: coercion and exploitation in the private economy. Boulder, Colo: Lynne Rienner Publishers.