This blog post is rather different to the last one. It is not about a love story. It is not about feeling happy or excited. Quite the opposite. In fact I find it quite difficult to write about this subject; because when I think about it for any length of time, I start to feel physically sick. Tears come to my eyes and I even start to shake. I’m not quite sure how to handle it to be honest. But one thing I am sure of, is that I want people to know.
Today, there is an estimated 27 million slaves throughout the world. That means there are more slaves now than at any other point in human history. 1.39 million of them are victims of sex trafficking. 90% of people who are brought into the EU as slaves end up in the sex trade. Sex trafficking is a very lucrative international crime.
Here we are, in Europe, in 2013, perhaps thinking we live in quite a civilised, developed society. Yet the same issue that concerned William Wilberforce in 1807 must concern us today. What was happening then, is happening now, in much the same way:
Girls from African rural communities are being tricked into paying ‘agencies’ who promise them travel and work in the west. They are then transported like cargo, often in shipping containers. Many die on the way. The ones who survive often wish they hadn’t, once they realise what’s in store for them.
Others, from Eastern Europe, are also lured. Traffickers target impoverished and disadvantaged communities in Albania or Bulgaria for example. They appeal to young girls’ sense of hope and ambition for the future. They promise them a better life, and jobs as nannies, waitresses, or house cleaners. Upon arrival in Europe, the girls’ passports are snatched away, and the nightmare begins:
There is usually an initial period of ‘breaking’. Their traffickers will rape and beat the girls, repeatedly, for days. They abuse them both physically and psychologically, not allowing them enough food or sleep. The abuse gets worse if the girls fight or resist. This is done until they are ‘broken’ i.e. until they can’t fight or scream any longer.
At that point they are ready to be put to work in brothels. Their job is not to be a nanny or a cleaner, or a waitress. It is to be raped, night after night by several paying customers. It is to be filmed for pornographic movies. It is to be treated worse than an animal.
In some cases, traffickers will inject them with drugs, consistently, to make sure they become addicted and therefore dependant.
In Greece, prostitution is legal and 70% of the male population buy sex. 70%. That is shocking! But having lived in the outskirts of Athens as a teenage girl, it rings true to me. I clearly remember some of my male school mates openly discussing visiting brothels at the end of their ‘night out’. It disgusted me then and it disgusts me now. Only now I know that a lot of the beautiful girls in those brothels are imported slaves.
In Britain the statistic is lower: 10% are buyers of sex. However their attitudes are equally as shocking. During the research study “Men who buy sex” conducted by Eaves, published in December 2009, one man said “Prostitution is like masturbating without using your hands”.
Here in Scotland, trafficked girls are sold for sex through brothels, saunas and escort services online. This happens all over the country both in cities and rural areas.
If you have read this far then you understand what is making me feel sick and shaky.
“But this problem is so huge, ” you might think. “What can I do about it?”
There are things we can do. Here are some ideas:
We can educate ourselves, and others.
We can be a voice for those who can not speak for themselves. The next time a guy talks about prostitution or pornography in a flippant manner, we can dare to speak up and explain. We can educate our sons and daughters and they can, in turn, educate their friends. We can help build a culture where this is out in the open, and deemed unacceptable.
We can help organisations who are practically working to raise awareness on a bigger scale, help victims and penalise offenders. I’m thinking of the CNN freedom project or the A21 campaign. There are lots of others. We can give them our time, our skills or our money.
We can alert out local government representatives: MPs or councillors. We can get along side local authorities with information/ intelligence which may help what they are doing to tackle the problem. Only yesterday, UK border agency officers were involved in an anti trafficking operation. “Authorities believe they have disrupted a major people-smuggling network after carrying out dozens of co-ordinated raids in England, France and Belgium.” (BBC news, 6th Feb 2013)
Human Trafficking is modern day slavery. It impedes upon every human’s right to be born free and to not be held against their will. It is torture. No one should have to endure this. William Wilberforce said, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”
I am convinced that we shouldn’t choose to look the other way. We can all do something. We can’t just stand by and let this carry on.
CNN freedom project