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Thanks to Elodie Broussard for providing tripwolf with this important information.

If you have ever traveled in the Netherlands or Mexico or Thailand or Cameroon or any one of dozens of nations around the world, the chances are you have driven or walked past one of them. At any one time, throughout the world, there are as many as 4 million people who have been trafficked and sold as sex slaves. Of those about ten percent are children – that’s 400,000 children being raped repeatedly, daily, to fill the coffers of organized criminals . Believe it or not these slaves are never far from you as you stroll through a lively tourist area. But how to recognize them? How to help them?

How to identify a sex slave:

Victims of sex trafficking are usually mistaken for prostitutes – clients assume they have made a more or less voluntary decision to earn a living selling sexual services. But as many as 8 out of ten women these days are forced to prostitute themselves and they never see a penny of the money clients pay. They’re sold to traffickers by a relative, or they’re duped by an ad for a fake job overseas, or they’re kidnapped. Once in the traffickers’ clutches they’re confined, beaten, stripped, drugged and raped until they finally succumb and meekly do as they’re told –spreading their legs for every customer thrust their way.

A victim of sex trafficking is not free to come and go. Usually she is put to work somewhere indoors from which escape is difficult: a bar, a massage parlor, a hostel, an apartment. Often she is persuaded by her captors that her freedom can only be purchased by paying off her “debt” – whatever the trafficker paid for her plus whatever he considers an acceptable profit on his investment. Because sex slaves are often trafficked across borders they’re frequently unable to speak the local language. A victim usually sleeps wherever she is forced to work and is never able to show any ID – the first thing traffickers steal from a victim is her passport or papers. A victim won’t confide in somebody she doesn’t know. She’s already been betrayed many times over, by a relative, by the traffickers, by a dissatisfied customer, by a dirty cop, by a customer who promised to help but never did… She knows what her owner is capable of, to trust a customer would be to put her life in the hands of a complete stranger.

How to help:

Each case is different but one thing is always true: never try to directly help a victim or parley with her traffickers. To do so would be to risk the life of the victim, possibly her family and certainly your own. Local police are frequently accomplices of the traffickers. The best advice is to contact a local NGO that works to help victims. They know the terrain and likely have reliable contacts within the local police force. To find out which NGO is the closest to the trafficking area, please contact the international humanitarian organization S.T.O.P. – Stop Trafficking Of People. You can email elodie.broussard[at]stopinternational[dot]org

Despite what a pimp or a tour operator would like you to believe, sexual exploitation is never an accepted phenomenon of the local culture. According to the International Coalition for Responsible Tourism, some 90 million tourists each year chose their destination because of the availability of easy sex for money. To satisfy the fantasies of some and the greed of others, millions of lives are broken day after day, night after night. Forewarned is forearmed.

To learn more about human trafficking:

Websites:
www.ungift.org

http://www.humantrafficking.org

www.onudc.org
www.stopinternational.org
www.unicef.org

Publications:
Human Trafficking indicators (pdf. 2 pages) : http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/publications.html#Leaflets
(Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish)

Un Visa pour l’Enfer, by Celhia de Lavarene (Ed. Fayard, 2006)
The story of the Peace Keeping Mission in Liberia, told by the head of the UN team sent to fight human trafficking for sexual exploitation.
(Available in French)

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