NEWS

Mass media help boost sex trade, claims report

The mass media are effectively procurers in the sex trade in women and children in Greece, which is both a transit and destination country, claims a recent study. Classified ads and running ticker-tape type adverts on late-night television act as fronts for prostitution rings. The recent study, Trafficking in Women and Children: Greece, a country of destination and transit (ISBN: 960-86976-03) by Ira Emke-Poulopoulou, member of the New York Academy of Sciences, vice president of the Greek Society for Demographic Studies, and responsible for the Demographic Section of the Institute for the Study of the Greek Economy (IMEO), removes any doubts over the role played by the mass media in countries of origin, destination, and transit, through personal ads, advertisements for massage and telephone acquaintances. In November 1998, there were moves to ban such adverts, but no decision has been made to date. But the study notes that the mass media also play a positive role. Eighty percent of Greeks say they knew of the problem of sex trafficking from the mass media, and one in five from their own personal experience, which shows how widespread the phenomenon is in Greece. Police reports show most pimps are Greeks The majority of procurers and others guilty of sexual exploitation are Greek, according to police reports for the years 1998-2000. Prostitution venues are normally bars or illegal brothels. To avoid arrest – and boost profits – the pimps flit from city to city, preferring those where they maintain relations with corrupt police officers. The clients The years 1991-1996 saw a 60-percent rise in the number of clients for prostitutes while sexual transactions saw a 100 percent rise. Albanian women are often placed in cities near the Albanian border or in the north until traffickers decide where to prostitute them. Other transit points are Volos, Larissa, Karditsa and Lamia, where the women work in bars, secret brothels and massage parlors, often well known to the police. Many are transferred to Athens, Crete and other islands where profitable prostitution rackets are sprouting everywhere. Private service One of Greece’s peculiarities is that prostitutes are chosen according to client specifications and delivered to the home. Albanian women are preferred because they are cheaper. The pimp is often their own husband. Penalties are light and the profits huge. Some rings exclusively import dancers and those in other similar professions. Others traffic in women with a legal work permit in Greece. Prostitution in Greece entails new heights of violence as well as degradation and exploitation of the prostitute, says Ira Ekme-Poulopoulou. Another survey by G. Lazos of 382 Greek and foreign women found that 26 to 28 percent of prostitutes had been inducted into the profession after prolonged physical and psychological violence. Only 23-26 percent had known their destination before entering Greece. Many of the foreign women had no idea of the year, month, or day of the week, nor of where they were. Snatched Even if arrested by the Greek Police, the women’s troubles may not be over. The Greek State does not make available money for deportation by air and deports women by train, of whom 80 percent are forcibly returned or fall into the hands of other criminals. Typically, young Bulgarian women deported by train to Sofia are snatched by armed mafiosi who board the train and return them to Greece. Huge profits from trafficking women, children Greece is regarded by Europeans as a country of origin as well as a transit and destination country, since many of the Albanian women arrested speak broken Greek, possess false Greek passports and undergo their induction into prostitution there. Statistics, derived from police statistics and other studies and surveys, are hard to come by, due to the powerful taboos, indifference and hypocrisy of local communities. But 60 percent of sex trade victims were from other countries and most had come to Greece illegally. A report by the Greek Police on the trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation demonstrates a rising trend, especially during 1999. By contrast, prostitution of minors and pederastry seems to have declined. Of the 13,677 foreign women brought to Greece as artists from 1991-1995, 1,277 were arrested on prostitution charges. A study by the Free Movement of Women (1991, 1995, 1999) showed that of the 15,000 Filipino women in this country, 20 percent had prostitution as their main or partial means of livelihood. Most of the women worked as domestic help, and 5 percent were involved in prostitution, as were most women from Thailand and 10 percent of the women from Ethiopia. Prostitution of women from Eastern Europe showed a dramatic rise during the 1990s. But police statistics only record arrests and thus underestimate real numbers. Hidden prostitution is camouflaged by socially accepted professions such as waitresses, dancers, masseuses, hostesses, beauticians, strippers and actresses in pornographic videos. According to the limited number of cases known to the police and mass media, child prostitution in Greece is not particularly widespread. But 12-15-year-olds are supplied from Albania to brothels and sex clubs in Athens, according to the police report on organized crime. Of the 5,800 traffic-light children under 16 who live in Greece, 55 percent are the children of immigrants, few go to school, and a large proportion live in Athens without their parents. They become easy targets for forced labor, begging rings and sexual exploitation. Judging by the confiscations of child pornography with protagonists aged between seven and 16 at Athens sex clubs, the phenomenon may not be as rare as supposed. States cooperate Research has shown that around 80 percent of all types of prostitution is in the hands of pimps. Albanians, Romanians, Russians, Bulgarians, Ukrainians and Africans are most often pimps after Greeks, in that order. Prostitution rackets in Greece are well organized, often by wealthy and respectable members of the community. Cooperation transcends state borders. Bulgarian police estimate that Greco-Bulgarian gangs number some 300. Albanian procurers and the Albanian mafia are considered the most cruel and violent, in Europe as well as Greece. Corruption among police and civil servants who issue passports and visas, coupled with insufficient numbers of special police, rob an already weak law of its force. There are many cases in which women receive legal documents only to be sent to red-light districts in the rest of Europe. Despite police cooperation pacts with Bulgaria and FYROM, the results are negligible. They are not helped by the fact that the average wage for police officers in those two countries does not exceed $70 per month.