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I met Nicola Mai at Oxford, researcher on migrant labour and trafficking from London Metropolitan University famous for his research into Sex Work and trafficking in London. The occasion was the screening of his film Normal, a film covering the realities of the victims and perpetrators of trafficking in the sex industry.
The film featured six people, a male prostitute selling sex to men, a hard man trafficker from Albania, the boy friend trafficker, a women brought to London by her boy friend who immediately made her work as a prostitute on arrival, the women who came to London to work as an Escort but found she had to sell sex and pay off a large debt bond, and finally a TS from Columbia who wanted to get a sex change and used sex work to achieve her aims. The interviews took you through the lives of subjects from where they came from, their families, how they became involved in trafficking, their thoughts, their views and for the trafficked what happened to them in the end.
The film used actors who were using the original dialogue, and was successful in keeping my attention for the 65 minutes. The technique was to use quickly changing camera angles, cutting between the subjects of the interviews as the stories of their lives unfolded.
Don’t go to the film expecting a rehash of Nic Mai’s research. This film was about trafficking and not the sex industry in general. It looked at the different nuances of trafficking, how the traffickers were drawn into trafficking, the different types of trafficking, and how the subjects of trafficking can become involved in trafficking. Parts of the interview showed how the subjects of trafficking, by stating to the police that they are trafficked and coerced can soon be released from detention and not deported. I missed some nuances in the film which came out in discussion, so I am going to watch it again.
The audience, mainly Oxford undergraduates seemed generally appreciative of the film and the techniques. There was much praise for the actors. You could relate to the actors and really believe they were the trafficked and traffickers.
In the discussion afterwards we heard from Nic and Ellis from the SWOU. Ellis explained what the SWOU was, and their education programs . They answered questions from the audience and both explained that this was the ugliness of trafficking, but that in the huge majority of cases those coming to the UK were not trafficked. Nic mentioned the figure of 6% trafficked from his studies. There was discussion on the laws, and how the current laws stopped migrant sex workers seeking medical help here, making them fly back to Romania or where ever they come from in emergencies. Both felt total decriminalisation was the only safe way to go. Decriminalisation ultimately reducing stigma. Stigma was mentioned, and Nic could relate that to his homosexuality.
It was heartening to hear students ask what they could to help the cause of sexworkers. Ellis answered this by asking that people should facilitate opportunities like this, where the voice of sex workers could be heard.
The film is on in London
Date: 21 March 2013
Place: Room LG01, New Academic Building, Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW