Today, Sunday, October 18th is International Combating Human Trafficking Day. Until the last 10 years of so very few people in the Western World realized the extent and widespread impact of trafficking on women & children throughout Eastern Europe and Asia who are tricked, coerced, kidnapped and sold everyday into forced prostitution. I haven’t spoken much about this issue on my blog thus far, which I regret. I think this is mainly because I don’t even know where to start. What to say or how to say it.
I guess I’ll start with the fact that human trafficking for forced labor and sexual exploitation earns more money for organized crime than global drug trafficking networks. Human Trafficking is Modern Slavery. It is extremely sad to realize that as a society we have not progressed enough to eliminate the concept of slavery from our everyday lives. Slavery should exist in history books. No child or woman should consider this their reality.
My first two days at the Animus Association, I participated in an European Commission sponsored working group between Italian, Romanian and Bulgarian NGOs (See my original blog post here). Italy is considered a country of destination for girls being trafficked, while in this case both Bulgaria and Romania are seen as countries origin. Besides being a country of origin, more victims are actually trafficked through Bulgaria from Ukraine and Moldova, making it more of a country of transit. Also, many Bulgarian trafficking victims are trafficked within the country as well.
In our globalized society women are being illegally trafficked and exploited around the world. Communication needs to be widened between countries of origin, transit & destination in order to combat this sickeningly major violation of human rights. But more so, countries with the resources need to help those who don’t have the money, government structures, training and/or networks in place to prevent trafficking and help victims.
At the working group 2-day meeting I mentioned above we went over case studies from all 3 countries of victims and reviewed the reintegration process. Of the case studies presented in Bulgaria the girls who escaped from their pimps/traffickers were ONLY allowed to at the Animus Crisis Center for 30 days, where they were provided much needed daily trauma counseling. There was simply not enough money to allow victims to stay longer. This is not enough time to provide thorough counseling to help the victims who survived the unimaginable. And often times, even while Animus is able to coordinate with other state sponsored shelters (there are few) for victims to go after the Crisis Center very few victims it appears choose this option. Instead, many choose to go back to the place where they were trafficked from. In one victim case study, the victim had been trafficked from her small poor village by a man she thought to be her “boyfriend” – when she escaped a first time after being trafficked to Italy, he came to her parents house beat her and brought her back to Italy. Despite this, after her time at the Crisis Center ended she returned home to her poor village that offered her little opportunity or safety. And to make matters worse she did this while knowing that her trafficker had been released on bail. I was continually surprised and saddened by the lack of resources/money available to help victims who managed to escape.
This is one of many stories . . . thousands of women & children are trafficked and exploited against there will. Slavery still exists today and more needs to be done.
**The banner up top is one I made in both Bulgarian & English for Animus with my poor graphic design skills :)