Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sex Slavery in the UK

Here is an article that appeared in the BBC online today, Wednesday, 3 October 2007, entitled 'I was sold for 2,000 euros', with my comments (emphasis in original summaries):

Anna is one of an estimated 4,000 woman thought to have been trafficked into the UK into a life of prostitution.

Here, she describes how she was forced to have sex and faced ice-cold baths, starvation and beatings if she did not do as she was told.

When Anna was just 12, she ran away from her home in Albania after befriending an older man.

Albania, again.

He obtained forged papers for her and took her to Hamburg in Germany where he coerced her into prostitution.

After four years selling herself for sex, she was hidden in a lorry and trafficked into the UK where she was sold on for 2,000 Euros and employed in a brothel.

In past posts, we considered women who were trafficked to the Balkans; here we consider a woman who was trafficked from the Balkans. Western Europe was her ultimate destination.

Since she was coerced into prostitution, every time she has sex with a John, it is a rape, whether the John realizes it or not, whether the John intends it that way or not. The Johns here are criminals, and the "prostitute" here is the victim of this "victimless crime".

"In the beginning I was busy. I was younger and slimmer, and I was a new face," she says.

She was getting between 15 and 20 customers a day and at Christmas that could be as many as 30.

That's a fine Christmas activity: raping a woman who has been sold into slavery. Try explaining that to the Man Whose birthday is being celebrated!

She found herself under increasing pressure to take drugs.

Sometimes the drugs are so the women will be more "productive" or more compliant.

Sometimes, it is the only escape the women can find.

She tells of a time early on in her abuse when she was with one customer who had asked for two girls.

The other girl was showing her what to do but Anna started to cry when she saw the customer lying on the bed - it was the first time she had seen a naked man.

"The girl said to me to go downstairs and I went downstairs. I was crying and shouting and he [a pimp] started hitting me saying 'don't cry because you put us in trouble - why are you crying in front of a customer?'"

In addition to the physical abuse, there is tremendous emotional and psychological abuse on these ladies.

Icy baths

Punishments were harsh and Anna was desperate to leave but too afraid to make a move.

"As soon as the bell rings I have to be ready. If they see you without make-up -'oh my god'. You are going to get hit if you don't look nice."

If she didn't make money, she would be put in a bath of ice-cold water and hit, she says.

"You are not allowed to eat if you don't make money and all the time they follow you.

"Sometimes you think you will kill yourself or try to run away. If they catch you, it's the worst thing."

You would think the "owners" would at least take better care of their "merchandise" -- I wonder how they treat their cars when they have trouble starting?

Scarred by iron

Eventually Anna was rescued during a police raid on the brothel.

By that stage, she was covered in scars and bruises, and permanently felt sick.

"I have got a scar, I was burned with an iron on my leg and I was beaten."

Unfortunately, the name is new, but the story is an old one, as old as humanity.

From there, she was sent to Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre before being taken in by the Poppy Project which looks after trafficked women and children who have been forced into prostitution.

This next part is good:

She told the BBC she was recently refused the right to stay in the UK and is currently fighting extradition.

Now aged 20, she does not want to return to Albania for fear of being found and forced back into prostitution.

She's only 20!

However, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has said she could not give any guarantees that victims would not be deported after being rescued.

That is a national disgrace. Jacqui Smith is the one who ought to be sent to Albania.

Unfortunately, it is not a rare occurrence in the UK:

UK women 'threatened with sale' Monday, 19 March 2007, by Mark McGregor, BBC News, Manchester:

The figures are startling.

An estimated 4,000 trafficked women are thought to be working in the British sex trade at any one time, having arrived from across the world.

The majority willingly travel here from eastern Europe, west Africa and south-east Asia with the promise of jobs, more money and a better way of life.

What they end up as are commodities. Coerced, often forced, to work as prostitutes, they are moved from address to address, city to city, by the gangs that control them.

They have little chance of escape, let alone the life they were promised, and live in constant fear of being "sold" on to another gang.

But according to those on the frontline trying to help these women, it is not a threat confined to foreign nationals - some believe it is a two way street.

In short: British women are being threatened with being sold abroad.

My readers are aware of some aspects of the sex slave trade from previous posts I have done. The focus of this blog is not the sex slave trade, but the violent spread of Islam; as certain criminal elements in the Islamic world fund their operations through organized crime, and as some of that funding then winds up supporting Islamic terrorist groups, there is a connection between the trafficking of women as sex slaves and Islamic terrorism.

However, up until this point, Western nations have been seen at this blog as the victims of the terrorist violence, as well as the victims of credit card fraud and certain other scams that fund it. Regarding narcotics and prostitution, Western nations have been seen here as the consumers of the drugs and sex that organized crime provides, not as the suppliers of any of the raw materials. Well, people, especially women, are the raw material for the sex slave trade, and here we get a glimpse of how Western women can find themselves trafficked abroad as sex slaves, and once in that underworld criminal pipeline, there is no telling where these ladies might wind up, or who might be enslaving them.

'Logical step'

Peter Green is the project director of Barnabus, a Christian outreach which works with people involved in the sex trade in Manchester, dubbed "the sauna capital of Europe".

Although the charity finds it difficult to access the city's massage parlours, volunteers have seen a sharp rise in the number of women from eastern Europe working the streets in the last 12 months.

"I believe it (sex trafficking) is widespread," Mr Green told the BBC.

"But I also believe we are not aware this is a two way issue, that young women are being taken out of our country and sold abroad because they owe money to the massage parlours."

Although he cannot go into the specific details, Mr Green has been alerted to the threat hanging over one British woman by fellow charity workers - at a time when the UK is marking the 200th anniversary of the Parliamentary Act which brought about the abolition of the slave trade.

"It's something I'd never considered, but when I first heard about the plight of this young lassie it became a logic to me," he said.

"If people are being transported one way they can be transported the other way.

"This young lassie was having to service 20 guys a day just to pay off interest, that's before she started to earn anything, and she was under constant threat of being sent out - trafficked - out of the country."

And, of course, these guys who keep the books on this business will make sure that this young lady can never pay off the principle, but can only make payments on the interest, by renting out her body.

They're cute about this: they don't just flat out tell the girl that she's a slave, because that would make it too obvious. They lead her to believe that, by cooperating with her "owners", she might actually work her way out of her situation. Of course, she never will, and the "debt" that she "owes" gets held or sold to others as long as she is productive.

We know what happens to a car or a toaster oven when it is no longer useful. What happens to a woman who has been forced into the sex industry, but is found to no longer be productive, perhaps due to illness, perhaps due to age?

After raising the issue at a meeting of the Stop the Traffik organisation in Manchester and discussing it with other Church of England charities, Mr Green believes it is an issue that has not been previously considered.

"I don't believe people see it, particularly the church," he said.

"We just see what we see on the television and in the newspapers (about trafficking) and we are working from that without looking in the opposite direction."

Even some of the experts have not fully appreciated some aspects of this problem. It is good to see more awareness is developing regarding this issue.

Figures about the influx of vulnerable women into this country, because of the covert nature of trafficking, are almost impossible to pin down accurately.

So when it comes to data supporting the concept of British women being forced out of the UK, the figures are non-existent - as yet.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), believes the threat of being sold may well be a tool that gangs use to coerce women into sex work.

Grahame Maxwell, deputy chief of South Yorkshire Police and programme director at the new UK Human Trafficking Centre in Sheffield, told the BBC: "We are aware of internal trafficking, where foreign nationals are grooming English girls and taking them city to city.

"It is, however, very hard to get a person who doesn't want to leave the country to leave.

"So unless they are drugged and hidden in the back of a van, which then you are talking something very serious indeed, a lot of it may well be just threats."

Those last three sentences missed the point made in the previous sentence: a victim will cooperate under duress; she will also cooperate if she has been tricked, and tricking women is how much of this "industry" gets its recruits. The victim may be told that she is in greater demand in the Middle East, that the sheikhs there will pay more, that she will pay off her debt sooner by working there... and, off she goes, without trying to alert authorities to her situation due to fear and due to her grasp on a straw of faint hope.

Mass exploitation

But according to the National Christian Alliance on Prostitution (NCAP), there is "an issue" of UK women being trafficked abroad.

Spokesman Mark Wakeling told the BBC that Mr Green's was "not an isolated story".

"I have heard of it as well, from a group working in the West Midlands, about young girls being groomed by men who try to get them to go overseas to 'visit people'.

"Who knows what happens when they get there? It could be viewed as a form of slavery," he added.

But for Christian groups like NCAP and other charities that work with women involved in the sex trade, the issue of British women being groomed for sexual exploitation within the UK is just as pressing.

Mr Wakeling points to the United Nations (UN) definition of trafficking, which encompasses themes such as the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability as well as the recruitment and transfer of people.

"A lot of people think trafficking only happens when there is a change of country," he said.

"Actually, the vast majority of women on the streets are being exploited because of their vulnerability in the same way someone brought from Lithuania to Manchester is being exploited as well.

"You might not always have a physical enslavement (as a prostitute) in the UK but you certainly have a psychological enslavement."

Psychological and mental enslavement, emotional abuse -- these are the kinds of things we need to be considering.

The sex industry needs to be targeted wherever it is found.

The women are the victims, and their pimps and traffickers belong in jail (or worse?), but, ultimately, it is the clients -- the Johns -- who are causing the problem.

If you go to one of the articles linked, the BBC has many more articles dealing with sex slavery in the UK. Again, since this is only peripherally related to the theme of this blog, I am not going to be posting extensively on this per se.


anticant said...

I should think 4,000 is a low estimate. But who knows? I have been concerned about the social and legal issues surrounding prostitution for 40 years, and the trade is, as you say, far more international and vicious nowadays.

As you also rightly say, the men who use prostitutes are a key factor. As with drugs, if there was no market, or a much smaller one, the trade would collapse.

Prostitution freely and voluntarily entered into is one thing; coerced prostitution through physical or economic slavery is quite another. I don't suppose many of the men who use prostitutes stop to think or enquire how the woman came to be there - it's a fantasy world, and they wouldn't be told the truth anyway.

And these days we are living in a world where far too many people's moral compasses have slipped disastrously - from presidents and prime ministers down.

Yankee Doodle said...

"Prostitution freely and voluntarily entered into is one thing; coerced prostitution through physical or economic slavery is quite another."

One helps create a market for the other. One helps blur the distinctions between right and wrong.

S & M functions this way. It's a small step from 1) the "fantasy world" of S & M with a woman who "freely and voluntarily entered into" it to 2) raping a woman who has been coerced. All you need to do is tell yourself it's just a game, and that "no" means "yes".

Although this article is not really about the Islamic world, the concept in Shi'ite Islam of temporary marriages, while perfectly acceptable according to their moral code, helps build the concept of women as playthings -- as if any form of Islam needed that concept built.

"And these days we are living in a world where far too many people's moral compasses have slipped disastrously"

Here in the West! That's why we are so vulnerable to conquest by someone who does not doubt himself.

"from presidents and prime ministers down."

It starts at the bottom; that's how it gets permitted at the top. Who would want to set an example by convicting a President for something that he would do himself?

Aurora said...

Yankee, I agree that the line can get blurred between voluntary prostitution and sex slavery. They're paying for 'merchandise' and the pimps can be quite violent towards the women.
Another tragic and disgusting undercurrent of evil in this rotting world we inhabit. Nice thorough post on an important topic, Yankee.

anticant said...

"Who would want to set an example by convicting a President for something that he would do himself?"

Isn't that what they tried to do with Clinton?