Trafficking and Prostitution in the Developing World
The world can be a harsh place, especially if you live in a developing nation, and especially if you are a woman. Lack of food and adequate housing, lack of access to good educational and medical facilities, an oppressive, often male-dominated social system - these are just some of the problems faced by millions of women each and every day of their lives. For most there is no hope of escape. Each new dawn brings with it the same sense of despair; the same feeling that one is a prisoner of one's fate. Change is slow in the developing world. Progress, if it comes at all, comes only very gradually, painfully, and often at a high price. Many of the nations of the Third World were only recently communist, or colonies of the Western powers. Many still have one foot in the Middle Ages or even before. Women wash their clothes in the rivers as they have done for centuries. They trundle off to work in the fields or labor long hours in unsafe factories. Whatever they do, they make less than their male counterparts, and almost certainly less than a living wage. Yet as they hurry through the streets of their village, or down the avenues of their decaying cities, they sometimes catch glimpses of another world. It comes in a fast-moving blur, a shiny hunk of metal which races past them at top speed. Maybe they have a television, and through its magical images see into another place - a wondrous place where the streets are filled with fast cars, and women come home from work in expensive suits, and pop ready-made meals into the microwave, while fresh-scrubbed children with Walkmans throw their schoolbooks down in front of the brand new computer. These women of the Third World know that a better place exists. They know that if they could only get there their lives would be completely different. But who has the money? You scrimp and you save but...what about that man who said he can bring you to Italy or France, or Germany? It won't cost you anything. And when you get there, there'll be a nice family waiting for you. You'll be their maid, or maybe their au pair. Sounds great, doesn't it? Like a dream.
Too often, however, this dream is nothing more than a nightmare. According to the Human Rights Law Group, more than 700,000 people each year - mostly women and children - are smuggled across international borders. Promised good jobs and a better life, they find themselves instead working in a sweatshop, on a farm, or even in a brothel. The nice house or apartment they were planning on moving into turns out to be a filthy hole in some slum, or a rusting shed at the edge of a muddy field. Many answered advertisements promising them a good job and a good salary. Others were literally sold into this life by "friends" or relatives. Their captors threaten them with violence if they try to speak out. They tell them that terrible things will happen to their loved ones back home if they go to the authorities.
Root causes of trafficking include greed, moral turpitude, economics, political instability and transition, and social factors. Many traffickers are involved in other transnational crimes. Criminal groups choose to traffic in human beings as well because it is high-profit and often up to now low risk, because unlike other "commodities" people can be used repeatedly, and because trafficking does not require a large capital investment.
They have little respect for the rights or dignity of their victims."
This modern day slave trade not only deprives millions of people of their basic human rights, it also hurts millions and millions more by driving down wages and preventing an improvement in working and living conditions. With such cheap labor readily available, factory and farm owners do not have put money into improving conditions or methods of production. Domestic laborers are thrown out of work, thus further exacerbating the social and economic situation inside the countries that are the destination of the slavers.
Furthermore, many of these unfortunate women end up in "occupations" that are inherently dangerous or otherwise illegal. To be forced into a life of prostitution is to be denied one's human dignity. Such an action represents a very real rape of the individuals who are forced to endure this fate. Women who are forced into prostitution are subjected to the fullest range of abuse and degradation. Even those who freely choose this calling often fall victim to the whims of procurers. They are beaten, purposely addicted to narcotics, and prevented from making contact with their families. And how much worse these conditions must be for the thousands upon thousands of women who are torn from their homelands, and forcibly brought to places where they know no one. Alone in a strange country, unable to speak the language, fearing arrest should their status as "illegal immigrants" be discovered; these women are in the worst position of all. People, who had formerly considered themselves to be religious and morally upstanding, find their lives turned upside down. Compelled by the sheer brutality of this trade to perform acts that are reprehensible to them, they are shorn of even a modicum of self-worth. Emotionally healthy young women come to feel revulsion for their way of life and even for their own selves. A great number of the forms of employment these female slaves are made to endure bring with them injury and disease. Prostitution presents the threat not only of physical assault - or in the worst cases loss of life - but also the threat of infection with an STD, or possibly even AIDS. Even those who manage to escape risk permanent damage to their health and general well-being as a result of the time they spent in bondage.
The Balkans is one of the global hotbeds of this illicit traffic in human beings. The collapse of communism, and the resulting breakdown in the local economies has created a chaotic situation in which law and order have little place. The region's multitude of ethnic and religious groups are at each other's throats, and crime in general is rampant. Since the demise of the old order, powerful crime syndicates have emerged that do a thriving business in both the drug trade, and the trade in human souls. These activities go not only toward lining the pockets of the gang kingpins, but also toward providing funds for the purchase of munitions. The armaments are then funneled to the various rebel groups. In an average year, the Balkan crime syndicates make billions of dollars from these enterprises.
An estimated one million women each year are sold as sex slaves, the Balkans being the single biggest marketplace of all. Every year, two hundred thousand women pass through this region, some of them destined for Western Europe, other for the tiny brothel that are scattered across Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Macedonia, and Kosovo. Many of the Albanian sex slaves end up in Italy, their numbers having grown from 100 in 1991 to more than 33,000 today. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is calculated that there at least 2,500 sex slaves in the country at any one time. Large numbers of these women are employed at brothels strategically placed near NATO bases.
In fact, collusion of authorities or of those who are supposed to be enforcing the law is a major problem. While NATO has formed a task force that has raided nearly one hundred bars and clubs, there are many foreign nationals whose motives are not so noble. Romanian, British, and American soldiers have been accused of patronizing the "dancers" at these clubs. And according to Katharine Bolkovac, a policewoman from Lincoln, NE who was posted to Bosnia as a security officer by the DynCorp, the British-American firm that provides NATO's police in the region, American and British soldiers often engage directly in the abuses of the trade. Her claims that soldiers buy and sell sex slaves, and accept bribes from the brothel owners resulted in her dismissal by DynCorp. A spokesman for Serbia's interior ministry, Lt. Col. Ivan Djordjevic, says that Serbia and Montenegro have become, "A 'transit country' for most forms of organized crime, including human trafficking." As an example of Serbian officials' strong commitment to enforcement of the laws against Trafficking may be quoted the fact that, according to its own figures, it managed to free a grand total of five of the 1,200 women it says were being held illegally in 2000. Though enforcement has increased somewhat, with some major raids carried out this year, and 150 suspects arrested, the illegal trade still flourishes in the war-torn nation, especially in UN administered Kosovo.
Sadly, the story is no different in other parts of the world. Shared Hope, an organization that has attempted to aid these desperate women, confirms…