Every November of each year, the world commemorates the anniversary of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women designed by the United Nations Assembly in 1999. Yet, in real life women and girls around the world still suffer from and are subject to all forms of violence including rape, beatings by their partners and sexual exploitation. A matter of concern is the growing trend in European and international scene of trafficking women for prostitution.
Economic globalization has increased trafficking of women from poorer countries to wealthier countries. Women are trafficked legally or illegally, and in most cases they end up in forced work or prostitution. The United Nations estimates that around four million people are being trafficked each year globally, and criminal groups gain thus large profits.
Human trafficking is a form of organized crime, where the majority of traffickers are linked to Mafia or other international criminal groups. To combat this trafficking, the United Nations has proposed the New Convention on transnational organized crime in December 2000, later known as the Protocol on the Trafficking of Human Beings.
The IOM (International Organization of Migration) has reported that 420,000 women have been trafficked from Ukraine in recent years.
One afternoon Karina, a young women from Ukraine, was reading an advertisement for a job in Greece as a shop assistant. This adventurous prospect of working in an EU country appealed to her and so she applied for this position. All was arranged and Karina’s hopes for a better life increased till she embarked on her new adventure.
It was not a dream what awaited her but a nightmare. On the day Karina was supposed to travel, she met other women who were all waiting the same organizers who were supposed to take them to Greece. Instead of Greece, Karina found herself in Bosnia along with other women, some younger and some of her age. The women were transported from one car to another, crossing unknown territories until they arrived at a club. Soon after the women were drugged, sold and forced into prostitution and if they did not cooperate they would be sold again to more dangerous owners. They were not only being kept in filthy rooms with inadequate facilities, but were exposed to sexually transmitted diseases and afflicted with grave injuries.
Trafficking is strongly associated with prostitution. It is estimated that 79% of human trafficking is involved with sexual exploitation and that more than 80% of the victims are women. Most member states of EU are countries of origin, in transit and/or destination for human trafficking. The demand for immigration has opened up new ventures for those who were ready to seize the opportunity to fill this gap and gain profit.
Furthermore, trafficking is a criminal act violating human rights and specifically third and fourth article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
To combat the problem of trafficking, on the 15th of November 2000 the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, was adopted and opened for signature.
Article 2 of the Convention specifies the purpose of the article:
a) To prevent and combat trafficking in persons, paying attention to women and children.
b) To protect and assist the victims of such trafficking with full respect to Human Rights.
c) To promote cooperation among State Parties in order to meet those objectives.
In Article 3 of the same convention trafficking is defined as
the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. (United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime 2000)
In addition, the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking and Human Beings was adopted and opened for signature on the 16 th of May 2005.
The specified purposes of the Convention are
a) To prevent and combat trafficking in human beings, while guaranteeing gender equality;
b) To protect the human rights of the victims of trafficking, to design a comprehensive framework for the protection and assistance of victims and witnesses, while guaranteeing gender equality, as well as to ensure effective investigation and prosecution.
c) To promote international cooperation on action against trafficking in human beings.(Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.)
Women and young girls are taken and sold out of their countries and kept in slavery. Millions of women and girls are trafficked every year for the aims of sexual exploitation. In this area, there seems to be incentives from both the organizers and the people who would want to leave their countries.
The industry of human trafficking is fast becoming larger than the drug industry, as it has great demand in all parts of the globe. The social, political and economic factors in one s’ country do play an important part in pushing people out of their countries. Central and even Southern Europe appear as lands of opportunities, when compared with countries in Eastern Europe.
Women may be looking for other work opportunities abroad, after having been deprived from work, especially under Communist regime. Along with these factors, economic disparity, discrimination and lack of education also encourage people to seek employment outside their own countries and to look for a better economic social future. This is where traffickers and criminal organizations come in the scene to lure people, by taking advantage of people’s situation and by promising another world, although they only lead them to slavery.
The promise of a new life in another country and of new employment suddenly turns into a forced entry into drug addiction, prostitution, pornography, forced marriages and other sexual services. If caught by law, traffickers face harsh penalties, and to make up for this risk they make sure that they are paid with large sums of money.
Slavery has considerable and even traumatic effects on the individual. In most of the cases vulnerable persons are separated from their families , become subject to psychological, physical and sexual abuse, are forced into prostitution and are thus exposed to sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.
The European Union is making considerable efforts to combat the trafficking of human beings and is helping the prospective countries to improve their living standards, to update their economic situation and to encourage more women to work.
Democracy and human rights are amongst the important principles in EU’s relations with other countries. It is therefore crucial, when dealing with the problem of human trafficking, to create dialogue with the concerned non-EU countries.
The dialogue is created by paying special attention to women who are subject to discrimination or who are facing violence or sexual exploitation. This is achieved by the development of structures to support the implementation of gender-focused programs for helping and protecting the victims. We should also ensure that women participate in the labour market, achieve gender equality and provide family friendly arrangements.
Development and respect of the conventions of human rights cannot be obtained in the countries concerned unless a form of law enforcement for combating criminal organizations is fully implemented. This is also achieved by providing social and economic equality for individuals.
States have an obligation to exercise due diligence in the arena of human trafficking and they have the duty of identifying traffickers and those who are involved in controlling and exploiting trafficked persons.
An important measure in stopping human trafficking is the role of law enforcement. This can be emphasised by focusing on each and every country concerned and at the same time making sure that these measures do not have adverse impact on the rights and dignity of those who have been victims of trafficking.
Women‘s organizations are urging the European Union to focus on prevention of trafficking by addressing the demand for prostitution which provides the need for trafficking in women.
Last October, the European Parliament backed by a majority of MEPS called on the Commission to establish a European year for combating violence against women within the next five years. This will hopefully lead to more awareness, result in new strategies and finally put an end to all sexual exploitation.