June 19, 2006

Trafficking In Women

No matter how much attention is drawn to stories like this one, it is not enough.

Both women are educated professionals: Masha is a lawyer; Irina is an engineer and an accountant. Both left Russia for Germany with the promise of employment as either a housekeeper or waitress. Masha was seeking an opportunity to see the world and learn a new language; Irina was in debt and wanted a better paying job.

Their stories are typical trafficking stories: When they arrived in Germany, they were met by members of the Russian mafia; their passports were taken away; and they were informed that the jobs they expected didn’t exist and they would be prostitutes instead. They were told it was futile to resist and that the police would not help them because the pimps worked under police protection.

Irina resisted and was beaten. She was shown photographs of dead, mutilated women who tried to go to the police. The mafia had locations where thugs beat and sometimes killed uncooperative women. Irina fearfully decided to cooperate and earn enough money to pay off the debt the Russian mafia claimed she owed. Masha also decided to be compliant, going so far as to feign disappointment when a man chose another woman for sex, while she waited for an opportunity to escape....

...Irina decided to escape. Another Russian woman, Tatiana, who was being held captive by threat of harm to her two-year-old son back in Russia, helped her by stealing her fake passport from the pimps. Irina fled. She later learned that Tatiana was murdered for helping her escape.

The column ends on a hopeful note, suggesting that the spotlight on Germany brought by the World Cup will draw attention to the sex slavery industry there, where legalized prostitution is an $18 billion industry, and will mark a turning point for the abolitionist movement. Sounds like wishful thinking, but there are people trying to help.

Posted by dan at June 19, 2006 8:39 AM