The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed.”:
“Health risks and consequences
As each trafficking incident unfolds, the victim experiences threats to her physical and mental health. These risks have been catalogued in detail in a multi-country study of trafficking covering Albania, Italy, the Netherlands, Thailand and the United Kingdom. From the pre-departure stage, to the travel, transit and destination stages, through to detention, deportation and integration or return and reintegration, women and girls may experience repeated physical, sexual and psychological abuse or torture, including forced or coerced use of drugs and alcohol, lack of adequate food, withholding of medical treatment, forced unprotected sex, threats or intimidation of their loved ones, denial or privacy, frequent relocation, public discrimination and social exclusion.
Acute and chronic physical and mental health problems are the frequent outcome. Beatings and/or rape initially may be used by traffickers to establish their authority, instill fear and discourage any attempts to escape. Victims’ failure to comply with traffickers’ demands may result in further violence. Physical and sexual assault also occur in encounters with clients. Because many young women and girls who are trafficked for prostitution are unlikely to be able to negotiate safer sex, they are also highly vulnerable to contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. In all forms of prostitution, the links to HIV vulnerability are high, especially when clients are violent and/or refuse to use condoms. In Nepal, HIV prevalence among prostitutes is estimated at 20 percent. In Cambodia, that figure climbs to 29 percent, and in Zambia to 31 percent. In South Africa, as many as 70 percent of prostitutes are infected with HIV.
Other potential consequences of the abuse and torture suffered by trafficked women and girls include forced and/or unsafe abortions, malnutrition, tuberculosis, hepatitis, depression, self-harm, addiction and, ultimately, death. “Neary” and “Svetlana” are among the incalculable number of women for whom trafficking proved fatal.
“Neary” grew up in Cambodia. Her parents died when she was a child, and – in an effort to give her a better life – her sister married her off when she was 17. Three months into the marriage, Neary went to a fishing village with her husband, who rented a room in what she thought was a guest house. But when she woke the next morning, her husband was gone. The owner of the house told her that she had been sold by her husband for $300 and that she was actually in a brothel. For five years, Neary was raped by five to seven men every day. In addition to brutal physical abuse, Neary was infected with HIV. The brothel owner threw her out when she became sick, and she eventually found her way to a local shelter. She died of HIV/AIDS at the age of 23.”
“Svetlana” was a young Belarusian looking for a job in Minskland when she met some Turksih men who promised her a well-paying job in Istanbul. Once Svetlana crossed the border, the men confiscated her passport, took away her money and imprisoned her. Svetlana and another foreign woman were sent to the apartment of two businessmen and forced into prostitution. In an attempt to escape, Svetlana jumped out of a window and fell six stories to the street below. According to Turkish court documents, the customers called the traffickers instead of taking her to a hospital. Svetlana died as a result of her injuries, and her body lay unclaimed in the morgue for two weeks until Turkish authorities learned her identity and sent her body to Belarus.
The supply side of the sex-trafficking equation
Some victims of sex-trafficking are simply abducted or relocated internally or transnational. Many others, however, choose to leave their homes in search of a brighter future. Deceived by traffickers’ promises of the good life, they have no idea that they will be forced into prostitution. Even the few victims who understand and accept that they will be working in the commercial sex industry cannot anticipate they extent to which they will forfeit control over their health and welfare. They may believe they are choosing the best of possible options.
The supply side of the trafficking equation is made up of the conditions that cause individual women and girls to be vulnerable to trafficking. Researchers have described a convergence of “push” and “pull” factors. Push factors for an individual woman or girl might include domestic violence, child sexual abuse, single parenthood or inducement by impoverished parents or criminal husbands. At the broader societal level, lack of education and employment opportunities, economic crises or war. HIV/AIDS is another push factor, to the extent that the pandemic is leaving an increasing number of the world’s children orphaned and vulnerable. Pull factors might include the hope of a higher standard of living, shifting and/or increased migratory flows and , for many women and girls, “the timing and apparent quality of the offer to depart.”
According to one expert, “Traffickers are extremely clever and full of a lot of common sense.” In other words, they choose their targets carefully. The particular vulnerabilities of women and girls that make them the preferred mark of traffickers are fundamentally linked to gender-based discrimination, oppression and violence. Where women have little power, rights or opportunities, they are at greater risk of being trafficked. As such, trafficking is as much a product of violence against women and girls as it is a source. In a remote village in Nepal, for example, girls traditionally are afforded very few rights within their families or society. Their disempowerment is a boon for those who control their fate:
“In Chautara, a Tamang village north of the Kathmandu Valley, Bhim Tamamang is a relatively wealthy man. His cottage is roofed with tin, and his son’s motorcycle is parked outside, next to the buffalo shed. Although he has no electricity, a television stands in the corner of the room, covered in cloth. “We will have electricity here in a few months,” he says. Bhim’s prosperity is a result of his fortune to have fathered four daughters. Three are working in the brothels in Mumbai. The fourht, age 12, will go next year. “Gurung and Magar families send their sons to the army. Their sons send money home. Why shouldn’t we send our daughters to help us?”
The demand side of the sex-trafficking equation
For many individuals operating at the local level, such as Bhim Tamang, poverty alleviation is a driving force for engaging in trafficking. In countries including India, Pakistan, Burma, Nepal and Thailand, girls may be sold into prostitution to pay off money loaned to their parents. Further along the chain of exploiters, all the way up to the organized-crime networks, commercial profit is the primary incentive in the escalation of human traffic around the world. Established routes used by drugs and weapons racketeers, especially in southeastern Europe, facilitate the illegal trade in humans. Many of these routes pass through “transition countries”. In these countries, which often are marked by war or steep economic decline, the forced sex industry is 10 times for lucrative for exploiters that other forms of forced labour.
Regardless of the elements of poverty, greed and organized crime, no trafficker would be successful without market demand. The sex industry throughout the world is the most recognized source of demand for the trafficking of women and girls. In some settings, sex tourism further feeds the incentive for trafficking.
It is not just the sex industry itself, however, that promotes sex trafficking. Racial and social discrimination within the sex industry figure prominently in the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls. According to one expert, “Research shows that historically and cross-culturally, a large percentage of clients seek prostitutes whose racial, ethnic, caste or national identities are different from their own. Thus we find that women and children in prostitution serving local demand are often migrants, and that men’s prostitute use increases when they are abroad.”
By importing and exploiting foreign prostitutes, traffickers are better able to meet demand criteria, and at reduced cost. Hence, a sign outside of a sex club in Hong Kong reads: “Young fresh Hong Kong girls, White, clean, Malaysian girls; Beijing women; Luxurious ghost girls from Russia.” Mitko, a pimp working in Bulgaria promises customers, “Ten minutes and I can get you a girl – any girl – blond, brown, black or white.”
Another perceived attraction of a trafficked woman or girl is her powerlessness. She is significantly less likely to have authority in the sex transaction than a voluntary commerical sex worker who is legally or otherwise empowered to exercise some measure of control over her working conditions. If she is young, the added promise of virginity attracts men seeking to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections. Conversely, clients who already have sexually transmitted infections may believe, according to the myth of the “virgin cure”, that sex with a virgin will heal the disease. In a study conducted in 2003 by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), three-quarters of the 185 clients surveyed expressed a preference for prostitutes under the age of 25, and 22 percent preferred those 18 years of age or under. For many of these clients, this predilection is related to the fact that younger women and girls will be more docile in the sex transaction.
Yet another source of demand for trafficking is men seeking brides, domestic workers or sex slaves. While consensually arranged marriages do not fall within the trafficking rubric, the conditions in which a young bride may find herself once she has entered the marriage may amount to trafficking. The mail-order bride industry has come under scrutiny by trafficking experts for this very reason. The largely unregulated trade of mail-order brides follows traditional trafficking patterns. Brides from impoverished countries within the former Soviet Union, Asia and Latin America are sent to paying clients in the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. In the most extreme scenario, according to one expert, a mail-order bride client “may go so far as to undertake serial sponsorships or immigrant women to supply new recruits for prostitution rings. In this case, he will hold the bride in debt bondage because he paid for her to immigrate to North America, and then force her to participate in slavery-like practices in order to obtain her freedom.”
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