• Berit Arne-Skidmore
4. semester, Socialt Arbejde, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)

The data for this thesis is based on the life stories of four African women, who all have been illegal immigrants and have earned a living by prostitution. In the public debate, female victims of human trafficking are often described as sex slaves and victims of force and exploitation. To counteract the stereotyped perception surrounding these women, the starting point of this thesis has been to hear the stories from the women themselves, hear who they are, and what they think is important in their lives.
Based on a phenomenological approach to the women’s stories, combined with a hermeneutic analysis, the focus of the thesis has been on the issues the women themselves talk about. Based on the women’s stories as told by them during the interviews, I prepared three overarching questions for analysis:
• Which factors contribute to immigrant women living in Europe choosing to support themselves, their bereaved families and/or children through prostitution?
• Which strategies make it possible for them to master a life in prostitution?
• Which dreams for the future do the women have?

Denmark has an Action Plan to combat human trafficking, which among other elements, outlines the national social work initiatives concerning this group of women. En important element in the action plan concerns offering victims “An Assisted Voluntary Return” to their country of origin. In my discussions with the four informants, I was therefore interested in whether this initiative was applicable to the situations of the women.
Throughout the analysis, it is made clear that all four women are powerful and are able to cope with what happens in their lives. Several differing contributing factors are present when a woman decides to support children or family through prostitution. Based on this, I conclude, that there are mutually cultural as well as individual grounds for their choosing prostitution as a way to make a living. In addition, factors such as the current world economic crisis have also had a direct effect on some of the women; one informant has started in prostitution directly due to the financial crisis.
All four women master their life in prostitution by their trust in God. It became clear throughout the interviews, that a strong belief in God gave meaning to many of the women’s lives. Strong religious beliefs are an integral element of many African cultures, and a belief in God is often part of a common cultural self understanding as an African.
All the women have wishes for their futures that combine the past, present and future. The women’s wishes are substantiated in their present situation but are also characterised by previous experiences, which have had influence on their lives and the way the look and interpret their existence.
The Action Plan against human trafficking and the assisted voluntary return initiative can be a positive solution for some. Despite this, this thesis’ analysis shows that it can be difficult for the women to accept this offer; a pattern which also is recognised in international research (Brunovskys og Surtees, 2008, Anders Lisborg, 2009). Several factors contribute to victims of human trafficking rejection of assistance; for example, many women do not self-identify themselves as victims. Furthermore, it can be difficult for them to return to their families and local communities as “failed migrants”, a situation the women discuss as being more stigmatic then being linked to prostitution.
The thesis concludes with a discussion of why the stigmatized view of the women as victims is so dominant in the Danish debate on victims of human trafficking, and the recommendations of Brunovskys and Surtees are presented regarding how victims of human trafficking better can be helped.
Udgivelsesdato12 aug. 2010
Antal sider119
Udgivende institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 35893528