April 28, 2005

A Sex Slave

It seems oddly appropriate during Pesach to consider for a moment the various institutions of slavery that still exist today. There are many examples that can be given such as the children that are kidnapped to serve as camel jockeys in the UAE and the status of women who are sold into slavery to serve as sex slaves.

The following article has a rather innocuous headline Migrant Women Trapped in Europe's Sex Industry that to could have and should have been more powerful.

"LONDON (Reuters) - The money Rosa was earning in a Turkish shoe factory was not enough to support the three children she had left behind in Ukraine.

Then her new friend in Turkey, Katerina, told her she could earn $700 a month as a casino waitress in Bosnia and convinced Rosa to come home with her to Moldova and then make their way to Bosnia.

"I began to think of all the things I could do to change my life to help my children, my family."

As the time came to leave Moldova, Katerina said she had a problem with her passport and would join Rosa in Bosnia a week later. At the station, she introduced Rosa to a Romanian man who would accompany her.

Rosa felt something was wrong when she said good-bye and Katerina just turned away.

"I pushed my feelings aside," said Rosa, who declined to give her real name. "I don't usually trust anyone, but I told myself that sometimes you have to have faith."

Rosa paid Katerina $300 to get her a job but a criminal gang had already paid Katerina $700 to make Rosa their slave.

She was smuggled across Europe in cars and once in a fold-away bed on a train, was sold and resold, beaten, raped and forced to work in brothels.

She was afraid to escape because her captors had kept her passport, home address and photos of her children.

Rosa was freed months later in Britain when police raided a sauna she was working in. But her captors are still at large."

In some ways it is hard to believe that things like this still happen, but they do and they happen here in North America too as well as in other parts of the world. Here is the next part of this story.

"Poverty, war, open borders and domestic violence are prompting increasing numbers of people from eastern Europe and beyond to seek work in the wealthy West.

With governments tightening limits on immigration, women desperate for work in bars, shops and hotels have come to rely on crooks to spirit them across borders using false identities.

"The profits are huge and the money the traffickers wave in potential victims' faces would certainly outweigh the salaries they can expect by staying at home," said Richard Danziger, head of the counter-trafficking unit of the International Organization for Migration in Geneva.

On the wrong side of the law in a foreign land, some of the women find themselves forced into prostitution. They are powerless to resist their captors. Many have sex with up to 30 men a day for months on end.


The trade in people for forced sex has mushroomed into a $12 billion industry to rival drug trafficking and gun-running. Because the victims are locked in rooms or moved around in secret, it is almost impossible to trace them.

It also makes quantifying the problem virtually impossible. Five years ago, the British government estimated that as few as 140 or as many as 1,400 women had been smuggled into the country and forced to work as prostitutes.

Social workers say the problem has grown alongside lurid Internet sites and flyers plastered on the walls of phone booths fueling a demand for unprotected and risky sex that few women would willingly supply.

"There is definitely too much work to deal with," said Anna Johansson of the London-based Poppy Project, which helps women trying to leave prostitution. "We're getting referrals from Birmingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, from all across the country."

The world can be a very cold and unforgiving place. So during a time in which I celebrate my freedom I feel that it is important to bring things like this up to raise awareness and to ask that we all try and do what we can to help make it a kinder and gentler world.

Take a moment to look around your community and see if there is a way that you can give something back. It doesn't have to be much, clean up a beach/grafitti, help tutor children, whatever. Just do something. The little bits add up.

And don't forget about the people like these poor women who slip through the cracks. There must be things that we can do to help them too.

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