NEWS

Polite term for violent practice as obedience ensured by beatings

As the 21st century dawned, hundreds of thousands of people were living in a state of slavery, the overwhelming majority of them women and children who continue to find themselves trapped in a vicious circle. Two weeks ago, 400 representatives from 35 countries, including academics, officials and members of NGOs dealing with the issue of human trafficking, met in Rome. But statistics presented at the conference, coupled with the testimonies given by the victims, demonstrated that the internationally recognized term «trafficking» was no more than a polite word for slavery. The congress discussed the globalization of the phenomenon, with UN statistics showing that in the European Union, the number of women victims of sexual exploitation who were forced into prostitution came to over 200,000. Some estimates put it at half a million. Two-thirds of these women originated in Eastern Europe and the remaining third from developing countries. In the USA, the number of illegal immigrants involved in prostitution is almost 100,000, most of whom come from the countries of Latin America, but with growing numbers originating in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. According to the UN annual report on organized crime, about 50,000 women from Thailand alone have been inducted into prostitution in Japan. Behind the modern slave trade are powerful criminal organizations such as the Mafia and Yakuza, whose profits from the sexual exploitation of women come to over 7 million dollars annually. Their illicit activities are assisted by technology, with thousands of women sold in electronic auctions via the Internet. The women give their personal details and photographs in the belief that they will be employed in regular jobs only to end up in the hands of prostitution rings where they are rendered docile through beatings and rapes. They may be forced to work 18 hours a day and often have recourse to drugs or alcohol in order to stand it. Prices in the international sex trade fluctuate according to the country of destination and origin, age and the condition of the women. In the USA and Japan, women who come from Asiatic countries are sold for about 20,000 dollars each. In Belgium, women from African countries are sold for 8,000 dollars each. The money spent by procurers on buying a woman is equivalent to one month’s work. In Germany, it is estimated that prostituted women who come from Eastern Europe bring in 7,500 dollars a month, of which 7,000 dollars is raked off by their exploiters. 20,000 in Greece In Greece, women victims of procurers are estimated at 20,000. At the conference, Bonnie Miller, wife of the American ambassador to Athens, underscored the fact that the vast majority of these women are lured into prostitution through false promises. Mrs Miller mentioned efforts in the Balkans to support victims and inform young women, so that they can steer clear of gang networks. She also emphasized the need to inform the people of destination countries that the women are not prostitutes by choice but by force. Greece is due to start a public information campaign, while in the next few months, Doctors of the World will begin operating a hostel the organization has set up for female victims of sexual exploitation. In addition, a 24-hour hot-line will offer psychological support and information to sex trade victims who want to escape their exploiters.