Stop the Trafficking and Prostitution of Women and Girls

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More than four million women and girls are trafficked into the sex industry annually, according to the United Nations. The majority think they are going to work as waitresses, dancers in bars, or as domestic servants, but end up in a debt bondage situation in brothels far from home. Thailand and the Philippines are well known for sex trafficking, but trafficking is becoming prevalent in Eastern Europe also.

According to a Ukrainian woman who was forced to work in a brothel in Israel, "I don't think the man who mined my life will even be fined. You can call me a fool for coming here. That's my crime. I am stupid. A stupid girl from a little village. But can people really buy and sell women and get away with it? Sometimes I sit here and ask myself if that really happened to me, if it can really happen at all."

Many women and girls are coerced into the sex industry by tales of good paying jobs. In countries like Burma, many young girls from the hill tribes hear stories about the "glamorous and exciting" life in Bangkok, Thailand. These girls see life in Bangkok as a chance to earn much needed money to help support their families. But unfortunately, these girls are misled and find themselves forced to prostitute their bodies in order to pay off a "debt" to the people who brought them to the city. Some girls also knowingly enter the sex industry in hopes of making a substantial amount of money to send back to their families. Many see working in the cities as the only viable option because there is no work in their home towns.

The money these girls make from their clients is usually handed directly over to the mamasans, the brothel owners who then distribute it: 50 percent of the money may go to paying off the girl's debt, and many times the other 30 to 40 percent will go towards the bar/brothel owners to pay off officials and police to keep the brothels open. The money left over for the girls ends up going towards food, medical expenses, and the makeup and clothing they have to wear in the brothels. Sometimes all they end up with is enough money to buy a piece of bread. Any hope of sending money to their families is squelched.

There are a number of groups and NGO's who are working to stop this horrible violation of women's rights. The Global Survival Network in Washington, DC has a Human Trafficking Program which investigates the international trade and trafficking of people into forced labor in sweatshops, sexual slavery, and domestic service. La Strada is a group in the Ukraine which publicizes the trafficking of Eastern European women. The Israel Women's Network works to ease the plight of women working in domestic servitude. Please contact these organizations to help fund programs to stop the international trafficking of women and girls.

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

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