trafficking women… today’s growing business

Trading is pretty normal in our world. From the cauliflower to the computer – trading is important for us. But there are also other ways of trading than those which provide the daily food: the trafficking of people.

This occupation is not new at all – but through the increasing global dimensions, trafficking human beings is now the fastest growing area of organized crime. More than 700,000 people are trafficked every year. The UN has found a rather long definition for “trafficking in human beings” which was adopted by the UN General Assembly:
“Trafficking in human beings is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring 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 labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
UN protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children

Countries of origin

Statistics say that a high percentage of victims of trafficking are coming from Southeast Asian countries and former soviet states. Also the Balkan countries are countries of origin but destination countries at the same time. Their profile can be described as low developed and often they are post-conflict regions. The unemployment rate is high and the living standard low.

Countries of destination

The destination countries can be divided into two categories: those countries who belong to the developed countries and seem to offer richness, security and wealth and those countries who in the first place don’t seem to be profitable for traffickers but are of advantage for them because of the low standard of justice and law.

The victims

Although men are victims of trafficking as well, women and children form the big majority. This is because women mostly have a low social standard and therefore are even more affected by unemployment than men, which already led to the “feminisation of poorness”. Others are the only breadwinners of their family and without them the social life wouldn’t be existing – but still their position is below that of men and there is no way for them to take part in the political life. Especially the young women are desperate and seek a better life in the rich countries which they mostly only heard of in mass media and have no clear idea about it. Most victims of trafficking have never been abroad before.

They are not able to safely may it be legal or illegal – to their destination country because they have no money for visa or smugglers and no contacts in the countries of destination.

The traffickers

Are mostly male according to the reports of testimonies but also some women take part in this “business”. They approach their victims with promises about a well-paid job in a western country, a save travel and that they only have to pay their fee after they earn money. A lot of victims consent to this offer although in some cases women and girls are threatened, forced or even kidnapped. And it is hard to speak of a “consent” if the real consequences of that are not known – none consents to exploitation.

Exploitation in destination countries

The traffickers smuggle their victims abroad to transit and destination countries. There, the women and children have to work as prostitutes or under unbelievable conditions in households or other services. They face total exploitation: working all day, no medical help, no security, and no salary. The money they “earn” is often taken directly by the traffickers for the costs of the travel and accommodation.

Sometimes they receive a little but it’s never enough to pay the debts. Like this the women and children stay dependent from the traffickers. Additionally they use the fear of the women who know that they are illegally in the country and could be found by police or that something might happen to their families.

The victims are not treated better than goods. The women and girls working in prostitution, are sold or kidnapped by the pimps. A report by Barbara Limanowska, a special advisor on trafficking in south-eastern Europe, names US$ 50-250 as the price for a woman on a Romanian “market”.

No chance to get out?

The possibilities for women and especially for children are few. Most women are not aware of their situation: They do not know that they are trafficked and that they can get assistance. They only know that they entered the country illegally and that they’re working illegally in an illegal “business”. In case of police raids victims often repeat the stories their pimps told them to say because of the fear of being sent back or being detained.

The police itself often have no knowledge and expertise in how to recognize trafficked women – mostly they are treated as illegal immigrants and are arrested instead of receiving the help they need. Those who take the step to go to police and ask for help will get little assistance: in most countries there is no opportunity for them to stay in the country where they are but have to go back. The help they get ends at the border and usually it consists of only an offer to get back to their home country. Like this they are sent back to the social environment that they wanted to escape from and are very likely to be retrafficked. Apart from that they have to fear the revenge of the traffickers especially if they testimony against them.

Traffickers are not the only one to blame!

Trafficking in women wouldn’t be as profitable as it is if there wouldn’t be a demand for services of prostitutes. Men often claim that they have a right for getting this service – but what rights do the prostitutes have? Prominent men are abusing prostitutes and nobody cares about it.
Prostitution is not creating a bad reputation for the men but for the women!

An interesting phenomenon is that in post-conflict countries where a lot of peacekeeping soldiers are around the number of prostitutes increases essentially – caught soldiers mostly face no punishment on that. Also corruption plays a big role in trafficking. It’s not an exception that policemen and traffickers are good “business partners” and after a police raid the police brings the women back to their pimps and into slavery.

Measures against trafficking – what can be done?

Trafficking is more and more recognized as one of the big fields of organised crime that one needs to combat. International organisations, states and NGOs took measures, implemented campaigns and wrote conventions; often with less success. This is what experts demand.

create a new position for women: in a men’s world as it still is today, the rights of women are still not seen equal with the rights of men. The change of minds is a crucial precondition for combating trafficking

empowerment of women and girls

outlaw the utilization of services of forced prostitutes

prevention campaigns

guidelines for police how to recognize victims of trafficking and how to assist them

a long-term assistance that doesn’t end at the border line and includes vocational training, proper housing and jobs

support of local groups acting against trafficking: researches show that no state campaign is as efficient as the work of local groups. Those should be strengthened through both financial support and official acceptance

proper punishment against traffickers

possibility to submit a application for asylum in the country of destination

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