Trafficking in Women and Girls by Marian Douglas, Anita Botti and Iain Guest

Marian Douglas, near Kosovo
Skopje, MK
Writer, consultant
in Italy:

My *Original Letter* To Editor International Herald Tribune:

I am writing regarding Anita Botti's June 1 article on the international
trade in human beings, which targets mainly women and girls (copy below).  Having worked
in the Balkans since 1997, I strongly encourage the international public and
policymakers to look more closely at this grave matter Ms. Botti addresses.

International prostitution trafficking is not a "stand alone" problem; it is
linked to other illegal trade, including drug trafficking.  Until recently,
however, trafficking in human beings received much less attention than other
related activities.  If trafficking in human beings is not addressed
effectively, it and a host of other activities will only grow worse.

Here in Europe, I have seen Nigerian women from West Africa and women
from eastern European countries working as prostitutes, usually in very sad
situations.  I will never forget seeing African women in Western Europe,
lined up on roadsides, standing, and sitting on chairs, waiting for hours
for "clients", and even waiting by the road in the rain.

Recently there was a news report of an African woman, also in Europe, who
managed to escape her captors and flee to local police.  Partially blind, it
was reported she had been working as a prostitute in an attempt to earn and
save money for an eye operation.

How are women trafficked across international borders? What are immigration
procedures at national points of entry? For most of us, when you arrive at a
national border through an airport, or by car, for example, you usually must
present your own valid passport and sometimes a visa for the country you
wish to enter.  Is it possible in some places for individuals to bring
groups of foreign women across national borders without this practice
raising suspicion?

Is it possible for one man (or woman), holding numerous passports for a
group of women, to arrive at a border with the women, and have a collection
of passports successfully processed for entry, with few or no questions and
no investigation? After being brought into foreign countries, the women
never see their passports again; they remain confiscated by the persons
running the prostitution rings.  This creates further complications for the
women as they have no documentation.

Southeastern Europe also has an international prostitution trafficking
problem.  One of the trade's favorite targets is women and girls from
Europe's poorest country - Albania.  Some are kidnapped, while others
accept what they are told are "offers" of "legitimate" work in foreign
countries.  They are transported abroad, then forced to work as prostitutes.

Next door to Albania, in Kosovo, there is now a population of thousands of
women and girls who were the unfortunate victims - but also survivors - of
ethnically motivated mass rapes.  Published reports say the World Health
Organization and the U.S. Government's Centers for Disease Control estimate
the affected population to be as high as 20, 000 persons, reported to be
over 4 percent of Kosovo's population.  Many now suffer social exclusion for
having been raped.  Most are young women, including teenagers, between 15
and 40 years of age, with their lives ahead of them.  Without a new kind of
help, what future do these women and girls have? Sadly, some who have been
interviewed say they have no future.  In the absence of help, it seems only
too plausible that these women and girls comprise a near-perfect high-risk
group for further gender-based exploitation, including international
organized prostitution which is already present in the region.

To date there are far too few resources for assisting these female
victims/survivors in and around Kosovo.  What is needed in this
case is international public awareness - plus immediate action -
that produces humanitarian and social intervention by the international
community cooperating with the work of local groups such as Sevdije
Ahmeti's Centre for Protection of Women and Children in Pristina.
Lacking that, these women and girls are an easy and accessible target
for the regional and international "trade in human beings".

Regarding "The Trade in Human Beings Is a Worldwide Scourge"
(Opinion, June 1) by Anita Botti:

    Having worked in the Balkans since 1997, I strongly encourage the
international public and policy makers to look more closely at this grave

Italy: Forced Prostitution and Women From Nigeria
By Iain Guest -  International Herald Tribune
BENIN CITY, Nigeria - Visitors to Italy this summer might be taken aback by
the number of African prostitutes competing for their attention with Italy's
fabulous tourist attractions. They may be even more startled to learn that
many of these young women are being held in a state of virtual slavery.

Recently in Nigeria I met one woman who was lucky enough to
escape. She had been offered the chance to travel to Germany, to work as an
apprentice hairdresser. Instead, she was taken to Italy. Within a day of
arriving, she was told she would have to earn 90 million lire ($50,000) from
prostitution just to purchase her freedom. At the going rate of 30,000 lire
an encounter, that would have meant sex with 3,000 clients.

Twenty-five days and many clients later, this young woman managed to escape
with the help of an Italian charity. But she is very much of an exception.
At least 15,000 Nigerian prostitutes are thought to be working the streets
in Italy, and as many as a third might have been lured there under false
pretenses. Far from home and without documents, they cannot break free from
their bondage without being arrested, deported, and exposed to humiliation
back in Nigeria.

How can such an abuse flourish in Europe in the 21st century?
How can the Italian government allow it? How can women be so gullible as to
get trapped? Is it possible (or appropriate) to discourage those who
knowingly enter the trade? Questions like these have begun to capture the
attention of policymakers at the international level. Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright recently described the trafficking in women as the
''fastest-growing international criminal enterprise.''

Up to now, most research on human trafficking has focused on Asia and
Eastern Europe. Only recently has it become clear that other parts of the
world are also exporting women and that within Africa, Nigeria is the
largest single source, almost all of them from Edo and Delta states in the
south. It began in the late 1980s when Nigerian women started traveling to
Italy to work in tomato fields. From there they graduated to the cities and
the streets.

Traffickers spotted an opportunity and moved in. During the 1990s, they were
able to exploit the poverty, corruption and collapse of services that
occurred under Nigeria's military rulers. At that time, any foreign travel
seemed appealing. Some feminists feel the traffickers can also draw on a
that devalues women and girls. Whatever the root causes, scores of small
enterprises in Edo state have invested in trafficking. They include forgers,
immigration officials, police and phony lawyers. Parents have been known to
sell their own children. Students have sold their best friends.

The impact of all this is deeply corrupting. Traffickers are splitting
families and undermining confidence in the rule of law. They are even
starting to recruit in schools. Alarmingly, the rot is beginning to spread
beyond Edo into other states of Nigeria, particularly the Muslim North.
Civil society in Nigeria is beginning to fight back, and there have been
several arrests in recent weeks. But there is no real consensus on how to
proceed. Some would like to outlaw prostitution. Others feel this would only
further victimize the victims.

One thing is certain: Nigeria should not have to wrestle with the dilemma
alone. Trafficking would not exist if there was no demand, and Italy bears a
particularly heavy responsibility. Although Italian law is supposed to
punish traffickers and give their victims an incentive to go to the police,
it is not enforced with any conviction. Only one suspected Italian
trafficker has been arrested, and that was in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, in the past year more than 500 Nigerian prostitutes have been
rounded up and deported back to Nigeria with barely a day's notice. The
deportation policy playhands of the pimps and traffickers, who often
denounce veteran prostitutes to the police when they are close to paying off
their debt. (The goal is to secure new, younger victims.) Even less do the
deportations address the abuse that is flourishing on Italy's streets.

But the real folly of deportation is that it adds to the stress of the women
(many of whom are infected with  the HIV-AIDS virus) and make their
reintegration much harder. This in turn adds to the burden on the
financially strapped Nigerian authorities. Last year Italy and Nigeria
drafted a ''Readmission Agreement,'' under which Italy will support the
reintegration of deported prostitutes while allowing more legal immigration
from Nigeria. But the agreement has languished for a year and has yet to be

It is time for Italy to get serious. When it comes to slavery, the Italian
government must not be allowed to hide behind its usual reputation for
incompetence. The writer is Coordinator of the Advocacy Project, an
association that supports advocates in countries of crisis or in transition.
  He contributed
this comment to the International Herald Tribune.
Anita Botti's article: International Herald Tribune Paris, Thursday, June 1,

"The Trade in Human Beings Is a Worldwide Scourge" By Anita L. Botti, for
International Herald Tribune

MANILA - Delegates from 20 Asia-Pacific nations and the United States
gathered here recently to build a strategy for combating a modern
manifestation of slavery - the growing trade in human beings. At this
three-day conference, we heard about Asian villages where few girls
remained. They had been taken by traffickers who had lured, abducted or
bought the children for sale to brothels or into forced labor.

We heard about Chinese women who had been promised modeling jobs
in Italy, but ended up in brothels in Mongolia. We heard about women who
managed to escape their captors, only to see their families terrorized by
the very same criminals, demanding payment of their victims' ''debts.''

Trafficking in people is not just an Asian problem. In the past decade, the
international trade in human beings, particularly women and children, has
reached epidemic proportions. No country is immune. Economic crises and
regional instability, combined with increasingly open borders, have created
a fertile environment for traffickers.

Each year, an estimated 700,000 to 1 million women and children are shipped
across national boundaries and sold into modern-day slavery. About 50,000 of
them are brought into the United States for sexual servitude, domestic
servitude, bonded sweatshop labor and other debt bondage. Trafficking in
humans is, first and foremost, a human rights issue. But it is also a
transnational crime issue, a socioeconomic issue and a public health issue.

Trafficking is a transnational crime issue because organized criminal
enterprises that have flourished in the aftermath of the Cold War find
trafficking in people a relatively easy and low-risk enterprise. They are
sometimes abetted by corrupt government officials. The international
trade in human beings is a major source of revenue for organized crime.
The profits earned from it feed back into the other illicit activities of
Organized crime.

Human trafficking is a socio-economic issue because severe poverty and the
relative powerlessness of women in many developing countries make for an
endless supply of potential victims. There are also problems with
repatriating victims after they have escaped or been rescued. Some cannot
safely go home because they would face ostracism for 'dishonoring' their
families or because their families sold them into slavery in the first
place. Too often, victims continue to face the threat of violence and death
from their traffickers.

Human trafficking is a public health issue because it exacerbates the
spread  of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis-C and other infectious diseases. In many
rural villages in Nepal, for example, one can find young women and girls
who were sold into prostitution in India, contracted AIDS, were discarded
by their captors and returned home to die. Many former victims desperately
need crisis counseling services, which often are not available.

The U.S. government strategy for combating this trafficking includes
educating the public, assisting the victims, protecting the vulnerable and
apprehending the perpetrators. The administration is working with Congress
to pass an effective bill that provides severe punishment for traffickers
and protection for the victims, including medical treatment, shelter, and
opportunity to become legal residents of the United States in some cases.

However, that bill must not, as some have proposed, inflict mandatory
economic sanctions on countries that are perceived as doing too little to
combat trafficking. That would be counter-productive. It could require the
U.S. to impose sanctions on as many as two-thirds of the world's
governments. It would not end trafficking; instead, it would foster a
climate of suspicion and distrust and cripple the important work of
non-governmental organizations on behalf of victims in many parts of the

Advocates for trafficking victims in many developing countries have urged
Washington not to punish their governments but to target organized criminal
elements that traffic women and children. Regional approaches to ending
human trafficking are also needed.  At the meeting in Manila, government
representatives, international organizations and non-governmental
organizations came together to develop an action plan to combat trafficking
from, to, and within the Asia-Pacific region.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has already drafted
an action plan for Europe. It has begun implementing projects to increase
NGO support, mount public awareness campaigns and work with legislatures
on stronger laws. Other regional organizations have also started to turn
their attention to human trafficking.

Most importantly, there must be a coordinated, concerted global push to end
the trade in human beings. Adoption of the UN Convention Against
Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and
Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, is a vital
step. This treaty, now being negotiated, will help source, transit and
destination countries hunt down and severely punish traffickers, assist
victims in rebuilding their lives and educate woman and children about the
dangers of trafficking.

No one country has the power to eradicate this scourge. The transnational
character of human trafficking demands that all nations work together in an
aggressive effort to end this barbaric assault on human rights and human
dignity. The writer is deputy director of the U.S. President's Interagency
Council on Women and a member of the U.S. Interagency Taskforce on
Trafficking in Women and Children. She contributed this comment to the
International Herald Tribune."