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Trafficking in Persons: Detailed Reports


The Global Persecution of Women

Human Rights

Article 1, UDHR.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Article 3, UDHR.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4, UDHR.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5, UDHR.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6, CEDAW.

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.

Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

Article 3. Use of Terms

(a) “Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;

(b) The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used;

(c) The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in persons” even if this does not involve any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article;

(d) “Child” shall mean any person under eighteen years of age.

Article 5. Criminalization

1. Each State Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offences the conduct set forth in article 3 of this Protocol, when committed intentionally.

2. Each State Party shall also adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offences:

(a) Subject to the basic concepts of its legal system, attempting to commit an offence established in accordance with paragraph 1 of this article;

(b) Participating as an accomplice in an offence established in accordance with paragraph 1 of this article; and

(c) Organizing or directing other persons to commit an offence established in accordance with paragraph 1 of this article.


“Trafficking in Women and Girls” from UNIFEM, Violence Against Women – Facts and Figures. Downloaded from, 16 Feb. 2007.

Trafficking involves the recruitment and transportation of persons, using deception, coercion and threats in order to place and keep them in a situation of forced labour, slavery or servitude. Persons are trafficked into a variety of sectors of the informal economy, including prostitution, domestic work, agriculture, the garment industry or street begging.

While exact data are hard to come by, estimates of the number of trafficked persons range from 500,000 to two million per year, and a few organizations have estimated that up to four million persons are trafficked every year [31]. Although women, men, girls and boys can become victims of trafficking, the majority of victims are female. Various forms of gender-based discrimination increase the risks of women and girls to become affected by poverty, which in turns puts them at higher risk of becoming targeted by traffickers, who use false promises of jobs and educational opportunities to recruit their victims. Trafficking is often connected to organized crime and is developed into a highly profitable business that generates an estimated US$7-12 billion per year [32].

Trafficking is in most cases a trans-border crime that affects all regions of the world: according to a 2006 UN global report on trafficking, 127 countries have been documented as countries of origin, and 137 as countries of destination. The main countries of origin are reported to be in Central and South-Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Asia, followed by West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. The most commonly reported countries of destination are in Western Europe, Asia and Northern America [33].

— UNIFEM supported the publication of a report on the links between women’s lack of economic opportunities and their vulnerability to trafficking in Albania. The study reveals that the major factors that increase the risk of trafficking for women in Albania are poverty, lack of economic opportunities, low level of education, domestic violence, and inadequate law enforcement. It sheds light on the ways in which anti-trafficking strategies can be linked with economic development and social inclusion, so that a more holistic, long-term approach to anti-trafficking is developed that addresses the root causes [34].

(31) UNESCO Trafficking Statistics Project. 2004.
(32) Referred to by María José Alcalá et al. State of World Population 2006. A Passage to Hope. Women and International Migration. UNFPA. 2006.
(33) Referred to by General Assembly. In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary-General, 2006. A/61/122/Add.1. 6 July 2006. 43.
(34) Milva Ekonomi, Eklantina Gjermeni, Ermira Danaj, Elvana Lula, Ledia Beci. Creating Economic Opportunities for Women in Albania: A Strategy for the Prevention of Human Trafficking. Tirana. 2006.

Human Rights Watch, Campaign against the Trafficking of Women and Girls. 5 June 2006.

Trafficking in persons — the illegal and highly profitable recruitment, transport, or sale of human beings for the purpose of exploiting their labor — is a slavery-like practice that must be eliminated. The trafficking of women and children into bonded sweatshop labor, forced marriage, forced prostitution, domestic servitude, and other kinds of work is a global phenomenon. Traffickers use coercive tactics including deception, fraud, intimidation, isolation, threat and use of physical force, and/or debt bondage to control their victims. Women are typically recruited with promises of good jobs in other countries or provinces, and, lacking better options at home, agree to migrate. Through agents and brokers who arrange the travel and job placements, women are escorted to their destinations and delivered to the employers. Upon reaching their destinations, some women learn that they have been deceived about the nature of the work they will do; most have been lied to about the financial arrangements and conditions of their employment; and all find themselves in coercive and abusive situations from which escape is both difficult and dangerous.

U.S. Dept. of State, Trafficking in Persons Report (TIPR).

The annual "Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000: Trafficking in Persons Report" ... covers "severe forms of trafficking in persons" defined as:

"(a) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or (b) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery."

Human Rights Watch, "We'll Kill You if You Cry": Sexual Violence in the Sierra Leone Conflict. January 2003.

Sexual slavery, defined by the 1926 Slavery Convention and the 1953 Protocol amending the same convention, refers to "[t]he status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised, including sexual access through rape or other forms of sexual violence." The Statute of the ICC includes the trafficking of women and children in its definition of enslavement.


Jorn Madslien, “Sex trade’s reliance on forced labour,” BBC News, 12 May 2005.

Globally, forced labour - which includes sexual exploitation - generates $31bn (£16.5bn), half of it in the industrialised world, a tenth in transition countries, the ILO says in a report on forced labour*.

"Technological developments such as the internet, as well as the proliferation of tourism, escort agencies and media outlets that advertise sexual services, have all contributed to the growing demand for commercial sex," the ILO says. …

"Some regions, such as south-eastern Europe, [have] developed into a hub for trafficking in women following war and steep economic decline," according to the ILO.

"In Europe, Albania, the Republic of Moldova, Romania and Ukraine have been identified as important source countries of trafficked victims." …

In the industrialised parts of the US and Europe, a forced sex worker earns an average $67,200 per year on behalf of her (or his) master, according to an ILO estimate. …

A forced prostitute in the transition countries brings in profits of $23,500, making sex slavery 10 times more lucrative than other forced labour in these countries, according to the ILO. …

A 2003 survey of 185 clients, by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), found that more than three quarters of the respondents "expressed a preference for prostitutes aged 25 or under, 22% preferred those aged 18 or below".

Many of the prostitute clients openly admitted to a preference for young and unfree persons because they are more docile, the report added. …

"Many victims of forced sexual exploitation have been deceived into this abusive treatment, after originally contracting to undertake diverse economic activities," the ILO says.

"Agencies can work under several disguises, the most common being travel, modelling, entertainment or matrimonial agencies."

"Human Trafficking," Polaris Project, n.d, downloaded from, 4 Dec. 2006.

Trafficking in persons, also known as human trafficking, is the modern practice of slavery. It is the third largest criminal industry in the world today, after arms and drug dealing, and is the fastest growing. Traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits every year while victimizing millions of people around the globe.

Trafficked persons are forced or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. Under international law, all children who are commercially sexually exploited are considered trafficking victims, even if no force or coercion is used. Sex trafficking is one of the most lucrative sectors of the trade in people, and involves sexual exploitation in prostitution or pornography, bride trafficking, and commercial sexual abuse of children. Labor trafficking is widespread not only in situations of domestic servitude and small-scale labor operations, but also in sweatshops and farms that are subcontracted to major multinational corporations.

An estimated 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked annually in the United States alone. The number of US citizens trafficked within the country are even higher, with an estimated more than 200,000 American children at high risk for trafficking into the sex industry each year.

Despite this staggering reality, governments around the world are only beginning to address the problem. In most countries, traffickers operate with almost total impunity even in the most severe cases. Inaction on the part of authorities is compounded by a lack of awareness in the general public.

Ruth Meena, “Sexual Exploitation, DPMF Workshop and Conference Proceedings, downloaded from, 6 October 2006.

Women are vulnerable to a variety of sexual abuses due to poverty. Such abuses include prostitution, trafficking of women which takes several forms. With regard to exchange and sale of women/girls, female prostitutes are exchanged to other countries and have no say in the move, female children are sold like any commodity to turn them into prostitutes by their families, poor women are recruited under false pretense while they offer sexual services. Despite the existence of this problem, there is an aura of silence in mainstream debates on politics of sexual exploitation and sexual violence. The problem is compounded by the existing disparities on the legal and constitutional rights of men and women. Although there exists in many countries theoretical rights for women, practically, women do not enjoy equal rights with men. Gender conflict is therefore not merely a legal question, it has socio-cultural aspects as well. Being a social problem, the laws alone cannot eliminate it. Existing literature points to the fact that around the world, at every level, police, prosecutors, as well as judicial interpretation of the laws are problematic for female victims of violence. There are hardly any countries (which I am aware of in this continent) which have seriously prosecuted assailants of women. Most of the existing legal systems have failed to respond seriously and to prosecute assailants of women. Most of the existing legal systems have failed to respond adequately to gender-related conflict and particularly in areas where women are victims. Gender conflicts, particularly those which lead to acts of violence against women, are rooted in the discriminatory practices and norms in many cultures and traditions. The main cause of gender conflict is the unequal power relationship between men and women which has assigned the latter an inferior position in society and made them assume more duties, responsibilities and have less rights. The problem is compounded by the fact that the state has not assumed responsibility and nobody is being held accountable for the existence of gender-based conflicts which have led to various forms of violence against women. While, women, globally carry a heavier burden in production and reproduction, they have less access to property, less education, less health facilities and less rights as citizens of any country.

Youngik Yoon, International Sexual Slavery, downloaded from, 5 October 2006.


Women who become the victims of international sexual slavery are procured by kidnapping, purchase, or with fraudulent inducements for jobs and a better life.


One popular way to procure women for international prostitution is to simply kidnap them in one country and bring them to another. While many incidents of kidnapping and forced prostitution are reported, there is a far larger number of unreported cases because the women who are kidnapped have great difficulty in escaping and reporting the crime. In fact, French police report that every year at least several thousand teenage girls are reported missing from Paris. The police believe that these girls have been abducted into Arab countries for prostitution, but they have no evidence to prove it. Fn6 Also, people have claimed to have actually seen auctions in Africa, where abducted white women from Europe were being sold to Arab customers. Fn7 This section details some of the incidents of kidnapped women who were able to escape and report their abuse.

The following is the reported experience of one French woman who had been held as a prostitute slave for several years in Africa:

Veronique had been a prostitute for several years when her pimp kidnapped her four children, held them hostage, and threatened to kill them if she did not obey him and follow the arrangements he made for her to go to Dakar [Senegal]. Fearing for her children's safety, she went. There, she was enslaved in a brothel for two years, during which time there was no opportunity to leave the premises, let alone escape. When the ships came in, she was forced to take on up to 100 men a day. After two years of brutal beatings and the horrific demands made on her body, she became seriously ill and was taken to a hospital. There, she confided her story to a doctor, who took pity on her. He contacted the police and helped to arrange for her escape. Upon returning to France, she sought refuge with Le Nid, a French refuge for prostitutes. She contacted the authorities and testified against her pimp. He was found guilty and imprisoned, and Veronique's children were returned to her. Fn8

In Asia, much of the prostitution business is run by gangs, who kidnap women from Burma, Laos, Vietnam, and China. These gangs export the kidnapped women to Thailand, and force them into prostitution at massage parlors, go-go clubs, hotels and shacks. Fn9 It is estimated that more than forty-thousand women and girls from Burma alone have been kidnapped and shipped to Thailand. Fn10

When twenty-five Burmese women were kidnapped by gangs in Burma and forced to work in Thailand as prostitutes, Thai police raided the sex den and rescued these women. Subsequently, the women were deported to Burma after they all tested HIV-positive. Upon their return to Burma, Burmese health officials injected the women with cyanide to "prevent the spread of the [HIV] virus." Fn11 In fact, according to a social worker in Burma, the Burmese government routinely executed women who return from Thailand with the AIDS virus. Fn12

The problem of international sexual captivity is not primarily Asian. In Brussels, the daughter of a Dutch count was kidnapped, along with other European girls, and taken to Zaire to work as a prostitute. Fn13

In the United States, federal officials state that women are systematically transported to the United States, and "forced to serve as labor camp prostitutes in return for food." Fn14 U.S. officials further report that organized crime syndicates are behind this international trafficking of women. Fn15

Kidnapped women generally suffer terrible abuses. They are most often under-fed and denied medical care. Those who become sick are often killed by the brothel owners. Fn16 Recently, a number of captives burned to death when a fire broke out in their brothel, and they could not escape because they were chained to their beds. Fn17 One kidnapped woman was lucky enough to escape to the local city hall, but she was found and murdered by brothel thugs. Fn18


In addition to kidnapping, women are also sold into sexual bondage by their families. This happens most frequently in poor Third World countries. In most cases, those who are sold are young girls. Fn19 For example, some Indian parents sell their daughters to Arab men for less than three hundred dollars because they receive cash and no longer have to provide their daughter with an expensive dowry. Fn20 In Thailand, some parents sell their daughters when they are mere babies, and the buyers raise them like livestock. Fn21 Many of the buyers have sold their own daughters. Fn22 When the girls reach a certain age, they are then re-sold into the prostitution circuit to serve foreign tourists. Fn23 A Thai woman, who founded a school for these types of girls, said, "It happens quite often. The kids know that they have to go to Bangkok at a certain age. They know that these people are not their real parents." This woman is working to find these children foster homes, despite continuous threats from gang members. Fn24

The Dallas Morning News published a story of Thai girls who were kidnapped and sold. Fn25 While this story involves the domestic sale of a girl, it gives an idea of how insensitive authorities in Third World countries are to the plight of escaped sex slaves, even when the victims are their own citizens:

In the remote hilltop villages of the Akha, pigs and poverty share the narrow dirt lands with bamboo and thatch homes. Dau came from one such village, from the rice fields, a poor family, and an opium-addicted father. The offer came when she was 12 or 13 - a job in a restaurant that turned out to be a brothel. When her resistance was beaten out of her, the customers were brought to her, five to seven of them on the first night. Her fee was six dollars. She got none of it. The first time Dau escaped from the brothels, she and two other girls from her village climbed through a bathroom window and went to the police. "They tried to convince us to return to the brothel", she says. When the girls refused, the police delivered them to their original kidnapper, who promptly sold them to another brothel. The second time, Dau and her friends made it home. But the brothel agent brought police to threaten their families with arrest unless they repaid him for the girls' value. The girls continued to run until they found a village whose leader took them to the New Life Center in Chianing Mai. The Center, supported by American Baptist and Swedish churches, operates three homes for girls who have survived prostitution, or who are at risk of being sold into it. Fn26

In these poor Third World countries, some parents say they sell their children because they think prostitution is better than starvation. Fn27


Another method of procuring women for forced prostitution in a foreign country is by false promises of work. Many foreign prostitutes in Japan seem to have been brought to Japan by this method. Yeko Takeoka, a Japanese lawyer, and Sister Naoka Iyri, a nun, testified before the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations in 1989 that, among the approximately three -hundred thousand women working in Japan, ninety-three percent had been promised jobs as entertainers, but ended up being used as prostitutes. Fn28

White American women are among the foreign women forced into prostitution in Japan. Fn29 One Japanese organized crime syndicate uses West Coast talent agencies to place advertisements to lure these women to Japan. The agencies advertise jobs of seemingly legitimate productions and shows in Japan. Some of the women who respond to the advertisement are selected, and they are contacted by an "agent". They are promised a specific salary, told where and when they will be performing in Japan, and given pre-paid plane tickets. However, upon arrival, the women are met by a different agent, who informs them that he has bought their contracts from their former "agent".

The women's passports and other identification documents are taken away, and they are forced to work as prostitutes. Fn30 Unfortunately many Americans are unaware of this growing problem.

To increase their legitimacy, Japanese gangsters, called Yakuza, have made inroads into the lawful business world. Fn31 This tends to increase their power and ability to participate in the international prostitution business. Japanese gangs may even have some link to American organized crime. Fn32 The collaboration between Japanese and American organized crime "families" makes it difficult to stop the Yakuza's traffic of women without some type of cooperation between the countries.

Even Mexican women are lured into the United States with the promise of employment, but upon arrival in the U.S. they are forced to work as prostitutes. Fn33 Most of them were promised jobs as barmaids, but ended up as sex slaves for Mexican migrant workers. Fn34

The Dallas Morning News reported one Chinese woman's terrifying experience of being kidnapped to Burma under the false pretenses of employment:

When she [Fong] was 16, a monk visited her village in southern China. He said she could make two hundred dollars a month as a sales clerk in a Burmese border town - a huge sum of for a girl who sometimes went hungry. Instead of the wonderful new life, after a three day trip to the Thai-Burma border, she was sold to a brothel agent for six hundred dollars. When she saw the money change hands, Fong said she was terrified. But she didn't know where she was, she had no money and she did not even speak Thai. Fong was taken to a Bangkok teahouse where a Thai man paid her owner two hundred and eighty dollars for the privilege of taking away her virginity. "I almost fainted. I almost killed myself," she says. Her value as a virgin spent, Fong was shifted to a massage parlor at the beach resort of Pattay. There, she joined 30 to 40 other girls in a glass room wearing numbers, so that customers could choose among them. The brothel owner bought her clothes. The other women "trained her," she says, how to dress, how to give a man a bath, how to do the required things, step by step, so that her skills became her job. Like most women in locked brothels, Fong received no money, except tips. Pimps guarded the doors. If she refused to have sex with drunken customers, she was beaten . . . . One of the few excepted excuses for refusing sex was that a woman was having her menstrual period. But when Fong tried to stretch that excuse for more than a few days, she says, the massage parlor owner would make her take off her underwear so he could see if she was telling the truth. Fong managed to escape after six months. By bus, she made it back across the country to Mae Sai. But, before she could cross into Burma, one of the army of procurers found her and sold her to another brothel. "Being recaptured was almost as terrifying as her first customer," she said. Eventually, a Taiwanese customer paid the owner of the second brothel four hundred dollars to free her, and sent her to the Chinese embassy in Bangkok." Fn35

Filipino women are also enslaved as prostitutes in other countries. Aurora Javante de Dios, an expert on the slavery of Filipino women, said, "Slavery now is more sophisticated, more globalized, and more technical than ever. Women can be recruited for domestic jobs, and end up as prostitutes in Japan and the Middle East. Slavery is now integrated into our countries' economies." Fn36


Fn6 . KATHLEEN BARRY, FEMALE SEXUAL SLAVERY 121 (1979), note 4, at 5.

Fn7 . Id.

Fn8 . Id. at 78.

Fn9 . Gayle Reaves, Trading Away Youth; Impoverished Thai Parents Sell into Prostitution, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, Mar. 21, 1993, note 3.

Fn10 . Id. See also Gayle Reaves, Group Accuses Thai Officials of Perpetuating the Sex Trade: Government Says Supervision of Local Officers to Improve, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, Jan. 31, 1994, at 10A. The Thai government's crackdown on forced prostitution, rather than helping solve the problem, has resulted in only the arrests of "rescued" Burmese women and girls, reports the New York based Human Rights Watch. Frequently, as reasearchers have found, the women are returned to brothel agents who pay money to police.

Fn11 . Uli Schmetzer, Seventeen Countries Meet to Combat Sex Slavery, CHI. TRIB., Apr. 5, 1993, at N2.

Fn12 . Id.

Fn13 . BARRY, supra, note 4, at 121.

Fn14 . Lan Cao, supra note 2, at 1299.

Fn15 . Id. at 1301.

Fn16 . Reaves, supra note 3.

Fn17 . Id.

Fn18 . Id.

Fn19 . Schmetzer, supra note 1.

Fn20 . Id.

Fn21 . Reaves, supra note 3.

Fn22 . Id.

Fn23 . Id.

Fn24 . Id.

Fn25 . Id.

Fn26 . Id.

Fn27 . Reaves, supra note 10. See also Reaves, supra note 3.

Fn28 . Schmetzer, supra note 1.

Fn29 . Oppenheim, Japanese Mafia's Recruiting of American Women Probed, CHI. TRIB., Mar. 14, 1982, Sec. 1 at 6, cited in Lan Cao, supra note 2, at 1300 n.17, 18.

Fn30 . Id.

Fn31 . Robert Thomson, Japan's Cops Going After Organized Crime Tolerance Ended By Public Anger Over Property, Stock Speculations, S.F. EXAMINER, Aug. 23, 1990, at A17.

Fn32 . Id.

Fn33 . BARRY, supra note 4.

Fn34 . Id.

Fn35 . Reaves, supra note 3.

Fn36 . Schmetzer, supra note 1.

Elisabeth Schreinemacher, “The slave next door,”, 6 Dec. 2005.

UNITED NATIONS (IPS/GIN) - Human trafficking has tied with the illegal arms industry as the largest and fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world, after the illicit drug trade.

There are 27 million people serving as literal slaves around the world. Every year, 600,000 to 800,000 victims are trafficked across international borders, half of them children.

This $9.5-billion-a-year industry is hardly limited to the developing world, with 14,500 to 17,500 victims trafficked into the United States every year, according to the U.S. State Department.

“We have to make sure that when we are talking about child trafficking that we include the U.S. victims,” says Rachel Lloyd, a survivor of child slavery and founder of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services.

“We have to acknowledge that all children are worthy of the same dignity and respect and that we don’t make that distinction within our own judgment and policies and within our services,” she said.

At a recent meeting on child slavery by Media 4 Humanity at the Harvard Club, panelists said that teenage girls have been bought and sold on both the Internet auction site eBay and the popular classified forum Craig’s List.

New York, California, Florida and Texas have the highest rates of slavery in the U.S., where close to 300,000 U.S. boys and girls are at risk of falling into the sex trade, panelists said.

“Slavery has returned to American soil,” said Steve Wagner, the director of the human trafficking program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Mr. Wagner added that the estimated number of trafficking victims in the U.S.—50,000—is most likely much greater. It is assumed that one-third are children.

“In the U.S., victims of human trafficking will not self-report. This makes it unlike virtually any other category of major crime,” he said.

In October 2000, the U.S. passed the “Trafficking Victims Protection Act” (TVPA) to prevent human trafficking overseas, increase prosecution of human traffickers in the United States, and protect victims and provide them with federal and state assistance. Before the TVPA, no federal law existed in the U.S. to protect victims. So many were treated like illegal immigrants under state legislation.

While women and children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking for the sex trade, human trafficking is not limited to sexual exploitation. It also includes people who are forced into marriage or bonded labor markets, such as sweatshops, agricultural plantations and domestic service.

The spread of HIV/AIDS among victims trafficked into prostitution also makes victim support and repatriation a public health issue. The U.S. government believes there is a link between trafficking in persons and HIV/AIDS, and it has developed programs to address both, such as rehabilitation efforts for victims of sex trafficking and education about the public health implications of trafficking.

Trafficking is fostered largely by social and economic disparities that create a supply of victims seeking to migrate and a demand for sexual and other services that provide the economic reward for trafficking.

Experts say preventing human trafficking requires several strategies. Criminal punishment is an important element, but addressing the underlying conditions that drive both supply and demand are also necessary. It is also critical to make the socially marginalized groups from whom victims are most often recruited more aware of the reality of trafficking and less likely to be deceived when approached by traffickers.

Trafficking in persons may resemble the smuggling of migrants, but there are several important differences. The smuggling of migrants involves migrants who have consented to the smuggling.

Trafficking victims, on the other hand, have either never consented or, if they initially consented, that consent has been rendered meaningless by the coercive, deceptive or abusive actions of the traffickers, experts say. Smuggling is always transnational, whereas trafficking may not be.

Another difference is that smuggling ends with the arrival of the migrants at their destination, whereas trafficking involves the ongoing exploitation of the victims in some manner to generate illicit profits for the traffickers.

The Global Program Against Trafficking in Human Beings, launched in March 1999, was designed by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in collaboration with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute.

Activities carried out in cooperation with the national counterparts are based on the assessment of the involvement of organized crime in the trafficking of human beings. On a national level, it aims to create awareness, train law enforcement officers and advise on drafting and revising on relevant legislation.

At the international level, UNODC is establishing a database of effective anti-trafficking strategies that can be used by policymakers, researchers and the NGO community.

“It is not enough to keep providing services,” notes Florrie Burke, senior director of international programs for Safe Horizon, a New York-based nonprofit victim assistance organization. “We need to stop the crime of human trafficking.”

"Violence: Violence Glossary: Sexual Slavery,", downloaded from, 3 October 2006.

The Protection Project, a human rights project which is based at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., reported in March 2001 that trafficking of women and children is on the rise worldwide, with a greater movement of sex slaves from African countries to the United States, Canada, and Europe. ...

"The simple reason for the growth of trafficking in recent years is that it is profitable. Traffickers know that the potential profits are high and that the risk of prosecution is relatively low," said Laura Lederer, director of the project. "With low risk and high profit potential, human trafficking may well become the new crime of choice," she added.

One surprise from her research was the tremendous amount of traffic from African countries into Europe, the United States Canada and other countries, Lederer said.

"There's been such a media focus on Thailand, Russia and the Ukraine, countries in Africa have been ignored," she said. Nigeria, South Africa, Mali, Zambia, Gambia, Togo, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are among the African countries featuring prominently in her report.

In addition, she said there was a lot of traffic to Middle Eastern countries such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Lederer said their research showed that while laws existed in many countries, they did not have the political support needed to implement them. "This is a human rights abuse but also a law enforcement problem."

It is impossible to provide exact figures on the extent of the problem because it is criminal in nature. However, according to U.S. government estimates, 50,000 women are brought to the United States each year and forced to work as prostitutes. The report said many of these sex slaves came from countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Thailand, Mexico, the Czech Republic and China. With globalization, the sex industry increasingly involves vast networks of organized criminals, modern Mafia and corrupt government officials.

Russia and newly independent states such as Ukraine are among the biggest "senders" of women and children along with a host of African countries moving them to European countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands and France.

Michele A. Clark, “Human Trafficking Casts Shadow on Globalization,” YaleGlobal, 23 April 2003.

YaleGlobal editorial comment: Women and children have been among the biggest losers in this era of globalization, if we consider the massive increase in human trafficking in recent years. Cheated or sold into a life of sexual slavery or indentured servitude, the victims of human trafficking and their stories reveal the dark underside of increased international mobility. With the demise of socialist states, in particular, women and children from impoverished areas have been smuggled or lured to wealthy industrialized countries where they are exploited for high profits. Although some steps have been taken by the European Union, the UN, and individual national governments to prevent these abuses, precious little has actually been achieved. The continued sale of human beings as commodities on the world market must be addressed globally if the practice is to be curbed. – YaleGlobal

PRAGUE: Sasha sits across the table from me in a sun-filled room. It is mid-May. Pink tulips arch their long stems to follow the light, and a breeze fills the room with a gentle touch of air. This pleasant scene is a misleading backdrop for the sordid story that unfolds. Sasha shows me a Polaroid picture: her room in Amsterdam's red light district, where she spent over a year providing sexual favors for as many as thirty-six men a night; a sex slave in a country where she was an illegal alien with no friends and no protector, and where fear of reprisal against her young daughter bound her to her traffickers.

In 1996, Sasha was 26 and worked as a waitress in a small town in the Czech Republic to support herself, her daughter and her alcoholic husband. After a childhood rife with sexual abuse and multiple rapes, already on her third marriage, and watching her country struggle to emerge from a collapsed economy, she felt trapped in a cycle of abuse and poverty.

She was approached at work by a Czech man who promised her a lucrative job in Germany. Believing that she would be able to save money to ease her family's situation, she accepted the offer and left for the West, along with three other girls. Her fears began when her contact refused to return her passport after crossing the border, and were confirmed when she got to her destination - a sleazy bar on the outskirts of a German city. Once there, she was gang raped repeatedly to obtain her compliance, and eventually taken to Amsterdam's red light district where she was forced to become one of the many women behind the windows, making as much as US$80,000 tax free for her traffickers in her first year.

Sasha is one of an estimated 2-4 million girls who are globally trafficked for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor every year. Along with growing trade and effortless world travel, globalization has also ushered in an increase in the trafficking of human flesh. The problem is so extensive that every country in the world can be considered to be a country of origin, transit or destination. Primary countries of demand include Western Europe, North America and parts of the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Trafficking as a modern phenomenon was propelled onto the world stage in the 1990s. Traffickers, taking advantage of transparent borders, broadband communication, and political and economic upheaval as well as mass migrations of people, have preyed on the vulnerable. The displaced persons, the war victims, the poor, and those seeking the opportunities of the West to improve the quality of their lives, have made trafficking into a booming business as well as a tragic fixture of our times.

During the past decade, trafficking in persons has been systematically documented and debated on a large scale. But in this age, when increasing hostility toward immigration goes hand in hand with ever growing mass movements of people, the terms have blurred. A lack of clarity surrounding the definition of commonly used words such as smuggling, trafficking, and illegal immigration deflects attention away from the real plight of the victim covered by these definitions.

Smuggling implies a contractual relationship between those seeking to leave a country and those acting as agents to assist their client with entry to another country. Usually, the relationship ends once the migrants have arrived at their destination and have paid their legal fees. Illegal immigrants are individuals who travel to another country to seek employment, without possessing proper documentation. They may or may not have been smuggled.

Human Trafficking, on the other hand, is a business involving coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power as well as abuse of vulnerability of women and children for purposes of forced labor or prostitution. It is only the trafficker who gains.

What are some of the causes behind this sudden explosion of human trafficking? Some advocates claim that the demand fuels the trade, and that opposing the legalization of prostitution must be at the core of any successful anti-trafficking measure. Other advocates claim that, because women are denied access to education and subsequent economic opportunities, they are vulnerable to exploitation.

While there is legitimacy in each of these perspectives, a more accurate analysis of the problem begins with the recognition that countries of origin as well as destination share in the culpability. In countries of origin, women voluntarily seek to leave their homes (although they are not knowingly seeking to enter a life of indentured servitude or commercial sexual exploitation) either because they have been lured by the lifestyle of the developed world or, at a more basic level, because poverty, the absence of work, or political repression at home drive them to seek a better life abroad, despite the risks. In many countries of origin, migration is encouraged because governments are unable to provide jobs or basic care. In other countries, where children are expected to provide for their parents, some parents act as agents, selling their children into the commercial sex industry or into forms of indentured servitude and slave labor.

A large number of trafficked women come from countries where the rule of law and civil society are at the mercy of political upheaval, or are merely in embryonic stages. Consequently, the governments of these countries pay little attention to the responsibility for their citizens that should come with sovereignty. Legal systems as well as entrenched social and cultural traditions contribute to conditions of vulnerability for women and children. Some of these include early or forced marriage, discriminatory legal practices, lack of access to education and opportunities, and exclusion from responsible leadership positions.

Countries of destination, or demand, are traditionally affluent countries of opportunity where prostitution may or may not be legalized or regulated. Women are trafficked into the legal sex industry, or into the underground sex trade, depending on the laws governing prostitution, but there is a market in both legal systems. Whether prostitution is legalized or not, the women, like Sasha, are slaves. Tragically, legal systems are such that the woman is frequently arrested and charged as an illegal alien, or criminalized upon returning to her home country for being in possession of forged documents. The traffickers are rarely convicted.

Governments and NGOs around the world have begun to respond to this modern form of slavery. Current anti-trafficking programs in countries of origin focus primarily on awareness and education campaigns as well as legislative reform. Currently, the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 mandates that countries make serious and sustained efforts to meet minimum standards to eliminate trafficking in persons. The Act lists criminalization of trafficking as one of these standards. The European Union requires that accession countries demonstrate compliance with EU laws, including the Council Framework Decision of July 2002 on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. However, little is being done to provide alternatives for women who feel that they have no choice but to leave their homes. It is necessary to combine public education and legislative reform with economic assistance and to ensure that adequately funded development projects include elements that address endemic vulnerabilities of women and children.

In countries of destination, emphasis must be placed on compassionate treatment of victims who are still considered as illegal immigrants, detained, and subsequently deported with little care for their emotional and physical needs, and for the fact that they were victims of a violent crime and not criminals themselves. The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons treats the trafficked person as a victim, as does the US law but, to date, few countries have modified their laws to reflect this emphasis.

The continued treatment of millions of women and children as a commodity - be it sex slave or indentured servant - speaks volumes of the global community's failure to offer protection and opportunity across gender and age. The rapid proliferation of human trafficking and related brutality casts a dark shadow over the benefits that globalization has offered to many. Globalization has made the world a smaller place, but at cost to many of the most vulnerable. It is time to extend the benefits to all.

Michele A. Clark is the co-director of The Protection Project of the Johns Hopkins University School of International Studies in Washington, DC. The Protection Project is a human rights research institute working towards establishing an international framework for the elimination of trafficking in persons, especially women and children. She can be reached at “Millions Suffer in Sex Slavery,” United Press Intrenational, 24 April 2001

CHICAGO (UPI) - Two million women and children are being held in sexual servitude worldwide, and the easing of border restrictions and other trade barriers has exacerbated the problem, researchers say.

A recent report by DePaul University's International Human Rights Law Institute finds 80 percent of those sold into sexual slavery are under 24, with some as young as 6. An estimated 30,000 die annually from abuse, torture, neglect and disease.

"The phenomenon is fueled by poverty and indifference to the rights of women and children, as well as conflict and political upheaval in various parts of the world," reports the institute, engaged in a three-year study of worldwide sexual exploitation. "The advent of globalization has exacerbated the problem by creating what some call market opportunities for traffickers in human beings and for their exploiters.

"Liberalized borders and ease of movement of people across them have made international trafficking in persons a profitable criminal activity."

About half of those sold into servitude were sold internationally, the report said, but the countries to which they were taken do not consider them victims. Rather, they are considered illegal aliens subject to imprisonment and deportation.

"The victims have no one to turn to for help," the report found. "Law enforcers are frequently in collusion with the traffickers and exploiters and victims who seek to escape are returned to their captors by those from whom they sought protection. Their despondency and despair is beyond description."

The researchers said the victims often are addicted to drugs as a means of controlling them and forcing them to perform certain acts.

The researchers found trafficking patterns differ in different areas of the world.

Statistical estimates indicate 300,000 women have been sold into the sex trade in Western Europe in the last 10 years, and since 1990, 80,000 women and children from Myanmar (formerly Burma), Cambodia, Laos and China have been sold into Thailand's sex industry.

Among the other findings:

• As many as 7,000 Nepali girls as young as 9 are sold annually into India's red-light districts, 200,000 in the last decade.
• Afghani women are sold into prostitution in Pakistan for around 600 rupees - less than $4 a pound, depending on their weight.
• About 50,000 Asian, Latin American and Eastern European women and children are trafficked into the United States for sexual exploitation, the going rate between $12,000 and $18,000 each.
• Ten thousand children between the ages of 6 and 14 are in Sri Lankan brothels.
• Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have become the sex centers for Western Europe, featuring women from the former Soviet Union.
• About 1,000 women from the former Soviet Union became prostitutes in Israel in exchange for legal documentation.

Institute President M. Cherif Bassiouni said compiling such statistics "will make it impossible for governments and international organizations to continue their ignorance and denial of this problem and the terrible toll it takes on the lives of the world's most vulnerable people. This investigation will lay the groundwork for an effective, national, regional and international means to combat the phenomenon and to put an end to this cruel form of human slavery."

“Adding to this shameful lack of interest by governments is the fact that there are no regional treaties concerning this phenomenon, even though there are many regional organizations that deal with a variety of problems concerning their respective regions," the report said.

The research blames desperate economic conditions for the practice with traffickers preying on families so poor they are willing to sell a child for a few hundred dollars - a year's income.

"The lure of a relatively well-paying job in a foreign country which does not require language or other skills, such as domestic help, is enough to lead many unsuspecting women and children into the hands of the recruiters and traffickers," the report said.

Martin A. Lee, “Women and Children For Sale. The Globalization of Sexual Slavery,” San Francisco Bay Guardian, 5 March 2001.

On Feb. 25 the small, impoverished country of Moldova, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, became the first former Soviet republic to vote the Communist Party back into power since the collapse of the USSR ten years ago.

The outcome of the general election in Moldova signaled a resounding rejection of economic reforms demanded by the World Bank, which insisted that Moldovan officials privatize farms, telecommunications, and the energy sector and slash agricultural subsidies and social services.

In an effort to abide by the terms of its structural adjustment loan, the government closed 63 village hospitals and imposed other austerity measures. The consequences have been devastating for Moldova's 4.3 million people, most of whom live off the land. Agriculture that once supplied wine and tobacco throughout Russia is at a standstill. Currency values have plummeted. Corruption is rampant. Foreign investment is nil. With a per capita income averaging $370 in 1999, much of the population of Moldova currently scrapes by on less than one U.S. dollar a day.

Higher-priced essentials, greater hardship, shorter lives – this is the price that poor people must pay to please the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which are able to starve a nation of resources (not only loans but private capital) by letting out the word that it is not a good adjuster. "Initially a number of countries resist," says Doug Hellinger of the Development Group on Alternative Policies, "and then, along the way, governments are put under so much pressure they give in."

Widespread deprivation in Moldova and other parts of post-Soviet Eastern European has created golden opportunities for organized criminal gangs involved in the illegal sexual trafficking of women and children. "Traffickers turn up in a rural community during a drought or before a harvest, when food is scarce, and persuade poor couples [to] sell their daughters for small amounts of money," explains a recent study ("Lives Together, Worlds Apart") released by the United Nations Population Fund. Other girls are kidnapped from their homes and orphanages, while many destitute women are lured to foreign lands by assurances of work, income, and visas, only to find themselves forced into prostitution and slave labor.

The U.S. State Department estimates that 700,000 to 2 million women and girls (some as young as five) are smuggled across borders each year and bought and sold for sexual purposes. Shocking in scope, this modern-day slave trade is not only one of the most horrific human rights issues of our time; it is also a significant health issue, for the global sex market is hastening the spread of AIDS and other diseases.

Eastern Europe has emerged as a major point of origin for the burgeoning international black market that auctions women and children as if they are chattel. Human traffickers have little trouble maneuvering in places like Moldova, where it is easy to bribe underpaid customs officers and police. "Even the highest ranking officials in Moldova condone the trade in women and children because the economic crisis means the state cannot take care of the population," says Mariana Peterdel, director of the Romanian-based aid organization Salvati Copii.

Desperate for a chance to improve their lot, young women have been leaving Moldova in droves. But instead of securing promised jobs as nannies or waitresses in a prosperous country, many are beaten, raped, held under lock and key, and resold from one brothel owner to the next. Trapped in abusive situations from which escape is difficult and risky, these enslaved sex workers are told they will not receive any wages until they pay off the purchase price incurred when their employers bought them. According to Human Rights Watch, the practice of "debt bondage" among sexual traffickers is routine, and women often find that their so-called debts only increase and can never be fully repaid.

Katje, a nineteen-year-old Moldovan woman, is one of the lucky ones. She was recently rescued from a seedy brothel in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, where Albanian gangsters dominate the lucrative sex trade. (One Albanian crime gang branded its women with tattoos to prevent them from being poached by other traffickers.) When Katje (not her real name) wasn't with up to ten men a night, she was kept against her will in a dark cellar with several other women sex slaves, sleeping on the floor or on tables. For an entire month, they never saw daylight. "I never thought this was possible. These people are animals," she said of her former captors.

Kosovo, with its war-battered infrastructure, is fertile turf for overlapping mafia networks that earn huge profits from trafficking in weapons, drugs, and girls. The illicit trade in women and children is the fastest growing branch of organized crime, according to the International Organization for Migration, which estimates that the annual worldwide turnover from sex industry trafficking ranges from $6 billion to $12 billion.

The influx of international peacekeepers, NATO officers, and development officials provides a steady supply of customers in "liberated" Kosovo, where a pimp who keeps 15 girls and works them six nights a week can easily bring in more than a quarter million tax-free U.S. dollars a month. Peddling narcotics pales in comparison to the money made on women because once a drug is sold, it's gone, a brothel owner told the Canadian magazine Macleans, but a girl "can be sold over and over before she collapses, goes mad, commits suicide, or dies of disease."

The Balkans – in particular Bosnia and Kosovo – serve as a kind of training ground for women from Eastern Europe, many of whom are subsequently transported to bordellos in Western Europe, Israel, Hong Kong, North America, and points beyond.

The State Department believes that each year 50,000 to 100,000 women and children are smuggled into the United States and forced to practice prostitution or bonded sweatshop labor. Trafficked women are reluctant to seek help from the police because they know they're in the country illegally. Their rights are violated with impunity, as law enforcement authorities have failed to respond adequately to the problem of sexual slavery.

U.S. officials often treat trafficked women as criminals rather than victims of abuse, thereby compounding the trauma they suffered while in captivity. When trafficking rings in the United States have been broken up, key female witnesses are usually deported before they can testify against those who had enslaved them. (Women are sent back to Moldova on a weekly basis.) The Immigration and Naturalization Service is legally required to deal with such women in the same way as other undocumented workers who have broken the law.

Prosecuting sexual traffickers in the United States is therefore highly problematic. Few of these cases result in convictions, and the punishment rarely matches the severity of the crime. A man who had forced Russian and Ukrainian women to work as prostitutes at his massage parlor in Bethesda, Maryland, to cite but one example, was merely fined after a plea bargain stipulated that he could not run a future business in Montgomery County. If he had sold heroin, rather than women, he would almost certainly have received a much tougher sentence.

To improve its own human rights performance, the U.S. government should expand the definition of sexual trafficking to include businesses that promote mail-order "marriages," which are often fronts for prostitution. In addition, Human Rights Watch urges that trafficking victims be given access to legal assistance, translation services, shelters, and health services, and that they be allowed to remain in the United States for the duration of any criminal or civil proceedings against their abusers. Strong precautionary measures should also be implemented to ensure the physical safety of trafficked persons, including witness protection programs and asylum opportunities for those who cooperate with law enforcement.

Trafficking in women and children is fueled by the misery of the world's poorest people. This is something to keep in mind as we observe International Women's Day on March 8. Human rights activists are calling for a coordinated international effort to punish traffickers and the corrupt officials who facilitate their crimes. A full-fledged campaign to eradicate this scourge must also address the persistent social and economic inequalities that diminish the status of women.


Carlotta Gall, “With Child Kidnappings on Rise, Afghans Seek Help From Public,” New York Times, 30 April 2004.

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 29 - The Afghan interior minister, Ali Ahmad Jalali, made an unusual appeal to the public on Thursday to watch out for child kidnappers and traffickers, after the police uncovered widespread cases of child kidnapping across the country.

More than 187 children have been rescued from kidnappers, and 100 kidnappers have been caught in the past year, Mr. Jalali said. Women, girls and boys are being kidnapped in every province of the country, often by criminal networks that deal in human trafficking, using children for crime or even trading body parts, he said.

There are signs that the problem may be growing, he said, citing the fact that one-fourth of the 187 kidnapped children had been rescued just in the last month. The police rescued about 17 children in Kabul alone in the last two weeks, he said.

The recent increase may be because more cases are being reported now, Mr. Jalali said. But a lack of awareness and expertise among the police had allowed the problem to grow more serious, he said.

The police have organized special teams to campaign against kidnapping, and the recent increase in the number of children found is a sign of their success, he said. Ordinary citizens have played an important role in thwarting kidnappers or tipping off the police, and Mr. Jalali appealed for more help from the public.

Women and children are kidnapped for both the international and domestic markets, he said. Approximately 750 Afghan children have ended up in Saudi Arabia in past years, 250 of whom were repatriated last year, he said. Children are often used for street begging or child labor, and they have sometimes been sold or sent with the consent of their parents, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission has said.

"Some of the cases which happened recently are particularly harrowing," Mr. Jalali said. "They are kidnapped with different aims, whether for illegal use, for trafficking, for use in different kinds of crimes and also unfortunately they kidnap them to use parts of their bodies."


”East European girls face rape, violence in Albania,” Agence-France Presse, 13 May 2000.

VLORA, Albania, May 13 (AFP) - Women from Romania, Moldova and Bulgaria face beatings, rape and prostitution when they arrive in Albania, which has become a centre for international trafficking in young females.

Many of the women dreamed of a European Eldorado and did not know they were to be sold into prostitution, but their final destination is often the mental hospital in the port town of Vlora in southern Albania.

For the hundreds of young women, some of them still adolescent, the Albanian port of Vlora is an obligatory transit point on the way to western Europe. Some of them have refused to be broken by their ill-treatment while others have given up and can go no further.

Alina, 18, is one of the latter. Huddled in a corner of a police station in Vlora, her face bruised and swollen, she jumps at the slightest noise. Repeating that she is Romanian, she says that her passport was confiscated long ago by the pimp who abused her. Police found her naked in a nearby forest, where she had been beaten and raped.

"At least she is alive. Last night, we found the body of a 14-year-old girl in a back street," one of the policemen said. Alina will be kept for a few days in a cell here before being handed over to the port city's pyschiatric hospital. There she is likely to face worse treatment. Reliable sources said she would probably be drugged and raped by other inmates.

Three other Romanian women and a Moldovan share a cell next to Alina's - two women from Bucharest, Loredana, 18 and her sister Mihaela, 16, and 15-year-old Bianca from Mirsa in central Romania, along with Angela, a 16-year-old Moldovan.

The four were arrested as they prepared to leave for Italy, where they had been promised well-paid jobs, a rich wedding and a life of ease. The women also believed they would be able to send money to help their poverty-stricken families.

The promises bear no relation to reality and the women's planned final destination was the brothels of Europe's major capital cities.

"Trafficking in women is booming in the Balkans and the former Communist countries," said Fitore Palushi, an Albanian woman police officer. "Whether they admit it or not, they are all for sale and they all have their regular pimps, even though some of them do not know it."

From Vlora, at least a dozen women are smuggled into Italy every night, headed for prostitution, and the traffic is constantly increasing.

The traffic is also lucrative for the smugglers. For just one woman handed over personally to pimps in Italy, the smuggler will be paid 3,000 dollars, three times the normal tariff for an ordinary illegal immigrant.

A recent report released in France said that transit camps existed in Albania, where women were trained to submit to their future punters by repeated rapes and beatings, before being sent to western Europe.

Eve-Ann Prentice, "Tara is a Student Nurse who was Kidnapped and Sold as a Sex Slave for 1,200 Pounds," London Times, 24 February 2000.

Albania [is] where the hub of the [sex-slave] trade is centred. ...

The Third World atmosphere of Tirana has proved a fertile breeding ground for Europe's burgeoning Albanian mafia. Corruption and racketeering reach deep into Albanian society; some police are hand-in-glove with the gangsters and are widely believed to take bribes to smooth the path of the criminals they are supposed to catch.

One group of escaped sex-slaves reached a police station in Durres, only to be imprisoned and repeatedly raped by the police officers over a two-month period last year, according to one Western aid worker. When they became tired of abusing the girls, they terrorised them and sent them out to work as prostitutes. ...

The IOM-ICMC shelters are part of a $640,000 project to help women who have been bought and sold, to return home. The mission also aims to help them become reintegrated in societies which often shun them after they return, suspecting that they willingly prostituted themselves.

The aid project was born after a counter-trafficking workshop sponsored by the IOM and the British Government's Department for International Development in Tirana last September. The scale of the task facing those trying to help is monumental; between 250,000 and 500,000 are believed to be working as prostitutes in the European Union - "the majority having reached their destinations through illegal trafficking networks," says the IOM. "Women being trafficked into prostitution now constitute the largest single category of illegal migration to the EU." ...

The number of women being seized and forced into unpaid prostitution is believed to have increased since Nato-led peacekeeping troops entered neighbouring Kosovo last summer. Young Kosovo-Albanian girls were also reported to have been snatched from the refugee camps set up in Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro during the Kosovo crisis. "Especially alarming have been the reports of young refugee women being abducted from the camps by armed scafisti (members of Albanian organised crime), forcing these women into prostitution in Italy and elsewhere in Western Europe," the IOM said in July, last year.


Testimony of Alina, originally from Armenia, trafficked in the UAE, downloaded from Polaris Project,, 4 Dec. 2006.

I met my boyfriend at my girl-friend’s house. He had been dating me for a month already when he told me he was going to marry me. My boyfriend told me we could earn some money for our wedding if we went to work in Greece at his friend’s company. We would stay for three months there to earn enough money and come back.

I was extremely happy. I could not believe all that was happening to me. He took my passport and all necessary papers and said that he would take care of visa and travel arrangements. I was so happy and careless that I did not even ask to see the tickets or documents.

The day of departure came. We took the plane and instead of Greece we landed in Dubai. As I had not been abroad before I could not really understand where I was. I could only recognize the Arabic signs and people dressed in Arabic robes. When I asked why we landed in Dubai he said we would have to stay for a couple of days in Dubai, and then later we would go to Greece. He took me to a hotel and said that he was going to see his friend and would be back soon.

Two hours later a man came to take me to another hotel saying that I was his property. I could not understand, I kept saying that it was a misunderstanding and that my friend would come soon. I had come to Dubai for another purpose. The man told me that my friend had sold me to him, that from now on he would have my documents and I had to do whatever he told me to.

He said that the next day I had to move to another place and serve all the clients he would send to me. I was shocked by what was happening. The next day he came and took me to another hotel. He said that every day I had to give him $500, no matter how many clients I would serve. He was so violent. It was a continuous hell.

Each day I served around 30 to 40 clients. I was not able to move or think. It went on for weeks. I was living between clients and tears. That was the rhythm of my life. I could not even realize what they wanted from me. The intensity of the process lasted for a couple of weeks. One day I got terribly sick. He left me alone and sent another Armenian woman to visit me. That day I understood that it was an organized enterprise and that there were many women from many countries who shared the same fate.

Meanwhile the pimp refused to give back my passport because of the debts he said he had incurred on account of me. I had to work and earn money if I wanted to go back home. Then he introduced me to another man telling me that he had sold me to him and that I had to take my passport from him. The next day I was beaten like for the first time. He was an extremely cruel man. He came every morning to pick up his money and beat me terribly. I had no right to speak or express my concern, everybody knew him well for his cruelty. I did not receive any money from him. He did not even buy food. It all depended on the client’s will. I was resold four times.

One of my clients was trying to kill me. If it were not for the women in the next room I would have been killed. In his frenzy the man was beating me. He squeezed my throat.

Luckily enough there was a police raid in the hotel where I was working and I was taken together with other women to a police station and detained. My pimp did not do anything to release me from prison. I spent four months there. Though it was prison and the conditions were terrible, it was incomparable with what I had gone through before that. Nobody was cruel or rude to me there and I had to wait while my temporary documents from Armenia and the ticket for deportation were arranged.

I came back without any money. All I had before remained with the pimp, I could not pick up anything. The most shameful thing happened at Yerevan airport. Everybody was treating me as if I were a prostitute, saying bad words. My life has changed since that time. Now you see me here in the street. I have become a real prostitute."


“Trading women in East Asia,” BBC News, 20 July 2003.

Women from minority hill tribes in Thailand are increasingly being lured into prostitution, an anthropologist investigating the issue has told the BBC.

David Feingold, who has recently made a film on the trafficking of women in East Asia, found disturbing evidence of women lured into the Thai sex industry, not just from the remote highland regions but also from neighbouring countries such as Burma, Laos and China.

Mr Feingold told the East Asia Today programme that, within Thailand itself, the greatest factor influencing the trafficking and exploitation of girls was their lack of citizenship.

Because they used to be nomadic, and therefore were effectively status, they have never been recognised as Thai, even though they now live in settled communities in Thailand.

"The single most important thing is to give all of the hill tribes a legal status," he said.

These people - nearly 500,000 in all - are unable to get educational qualifications, own their own land or travel outside their districts to look for work, Mr Feingold said.

This increases the girls' vulnerability, and many get into debt and are then forced into prostitution, he said.

The reasons why Burmese girls end up as prostitutes in Thailand are slightly different, the film-maker said.

Many are fleeing forced labour, displacement from fighting and economic degradation.

Others see their choice as staying at home and getting raped for free by the Burmese

army, or going to Thailand for sex work. "They are making a choice, but it's not a choice anyone should have to make," Mr Feingold stressed.

For Chinese girls, the situation is different again.

"Some girls are literally kidnapped, but there are others who see the streets of Thailand as being paved with gold," he said.

These girls go to Thailand voluntarily, with an economic incentive.

Mr Feingold's film - which is narrated by the actress Angelina Jolie - also contains rare interviews with Thai brothel owners.

Mr Feingold said that many of these owners did not see themselves as evil, but just as people running a business.

He also said that the documentary exposed the high levels of corruption among the Thai police, with the brothel owners treating corruption as a daily fact of life.

"They didn't whisper about it - they simply said we pay this much to the immigration officials, this much to the police, this much on beer, and this much on towels," Mr Feingold said.

His film, Trading Women, will be shown in London, Paris, and Washington in October.

Mike Wooldridge, “A ‘Trade in Human Misery,’” BBC News, 14 Dec. 1998.

The trafficking of women and children is increasing dramatically in Asia, according to a new United Nations report.

India is said to be a major hub for what the report describes as a "trade in human misery".

The report estimates that in India alone more than 2 million women are involved in commercial sex work - one in four below the age of 18.

It says political will and government commitment is the most important factor in combating trafficking.

The report says trafficking in women and children is one of the worst and most brazen abuses of human rights.

It calls the illegal trade a "blot on our collective consciousness as we prepare to enter the new millennium" and a matter of shame that it thrives half a century after the adoption of the declaration of human rights by the global community.

History and traditions

The report, from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (Unifem), acknowledges that it is deeply embedded in the history and traditions of many societies.

But what is new, it says, is the unscrupulous and massive scale of the problem, exacerbated by globalisation and lucrative tourism and sex industries.

The Asian trafficking networks are highly organised - traffickers are adept at avoiding detection - and because many of the women and children involved are illegal migrants, they remain silent for fear of reprisals.

Unifem says traffickers are particularly active during periods of economic hardship in villages, such as the pre-harvest season.

The agency says that while reliable figures are hard to come by, it has been estimated that around 200,000 Nepalese women and girls have been sold into prostitution in India and there has been trafficking on a similar scale from Bangladesh.

But the growth of the problem is Asia-wide and sexual exploitation of boys is not uncommon.

Women and children illegally trafficked become involved in many other industries too, such as carpet and garment manufacturing and brick making, often ending up working long hours for low wages.

Unifem says a comprehensive approach is needed, including more effective policing at borders and raising awareness in the tourism industry, but with political will the key factor.


Terry Vanderheyden, “Canada an “International Embarrassment” on Sex Trafficking,”, 2 March 2006.

MONTREAL, March 2, 2006 ( – Canada and the United Kingdom have been singled out in an international study for failing to meet their obligations for the protection of victims of human trafficking, while other developed countries received praise for their efforts. The study comes at a time when the UK government is considering an overhaul of its policy in this area, and a new Conservative Government has taken power in Canada.

The 40-page study, titled “Falling Short of the Mark: An International Study on the Treatment of Human Trafficking Victims”, was released Wednesday by The Future Group, a leading Canadian non-partisan, non-governmental organization founded in 2000 that specializes in combating human trafficking and has worked with victims in Southeast Asia and West Africa.

Of the countries evaluated: Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, only Canada and the UK failed to meet their obligations to protect victims under the United Nations Trafficking Protocol and international best practices.

“Canada’s record of dealing with trafficking victims is an international embarrassment and contrary to best practices,” wrote principal author Benjamin Perrin. “Canada has ignored calls for reform and continues to re-traumatize trafficking victims, with few exceptions, by subjecting them to routine deportation and fails to provide even basic support services.”

The situation in Canada is so bad that individual law enforcement officers are reportedly approaching local hospitals and NGOs to cobble together funding to provide the most basic medical assistance for victims in major cities.

“People have been threatened and told that if they co-operate with law enforcement their families back home will be killed,” said Perrin. “What Canada has typically done is detain these victims without medical care, then deport them. It’s a practice that we’ve seen in some authoritarian and despotic countries and it has no place in a civilized, just society like our own.”

The report criticizes former Liberal cabinet ministers Irwin Cotler, Joe Volpe and Pierre Pettigrew for “passing the buck” on the issue. Conservative Citizenship and Immigration Minister Monte Solberg told Sun Media, “It’s very damning, and if there are obvious legislative or regulatory fixes that need to be done, those have to become priorities, given especially that we’re talking about very vulnerable people.”

“I am delighted to endorse the report by The Future Group,” said Gregory Carlin, Director of the Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition, “Governments should act by implementing their international obligations. Police officers should not have to collect money to fund basic prerequisites for the victims of trafficking.”

The study found that contrary to the practice in other developed countries, trafficking victims in the UK and Canada are dealt with on a case-by-case basis and are routinely deported. Only minimal support has been provided to victims in recent years, and only general laws exist for their protection during investigations. It also found there is no evidence that providing legal status to victims would result in abuses of the system.


Jill McGivering, “China slow to wake up to human trade,” BBC News, 9 August 2006.

As China opens up, people trafficking is emerging as a growing threat, but officials are reluctant to admit the scale of the problem.

In Yunnan province, young women are being sold as wives or to brothels and sweat shops in Thailand.

Life in the small Yunnan villages, close to the border with Burma, is very different from other parts of China where the economy is booming. This is a sleepy world of lush rice paddies, hillsides bursting with rubber trees and dotted with Buddhist temples.

Many villages here contain ethnic minorities whose language and culture has more in common with northern Thailand than with the Han Chinese.

Local people say trade across the border with Burma has fallen. So too has tourism. So for young people growing up in these small hillside villages, there is little opportunity.

Every year, thousands of them pack up and leave, heading for China's cities or crossing through Burma to Thailand in the hope of well-paid jobs.

Some do make money and come back to the villages to show off their success. That only encourages more young people to follow suit. But for an unknown but perhaps growing number, it all goes horribly wrong. ….


It was very difficult to find officials who could give a clear picture of the scale of trafficking.

One local Communist Party secretary told us it was certainly a potential threat, as more people migrated, but insisted it did not happen in his small community. But anecdotal evidence is widespread.

Long Hai-yu has been studying trafficking in Yunnan's villages for the last two years. She took me to one small village which she asked me not to name.

She talked to me about a case there involving two teenage girls who were recruited by strangers at the end of last year.

They were promised jobs in a shoe factory in Thailand, she said. But once the men took them across the border, they were blindfolded. The men started to threaten them and demand money from their families.

In fact, the two girls managed to raise the alarm and were rescued before they were taken any further, but Long Hai-yu said she thought they would have been sold into the Thai sex industry.

Not very much is known about who exactly the traffickers are. Long Hai-yu says they are Chinese people from another province, perhaps Sichuan province. They are not Thai, she explained, because it is too hard for Thai people to come to the villages to recruit girls.

As for numbers, it is impossible to know. Once young girls leave for another country like Thailand, it is hard for their families to find out what has happened to them.

Long Hai-yu said that at just one nearby border point about 2,000 people cross into Burma every year.

"Many go to work in nightclubs and bars," she said, shrugging her shoulders. "Who knows how many are trafficked?"

'Can't happen here'

The Chinese authorities are just starting to take action. Here in Yunnan they have set up the country's first anti-trafficking programme.

I watched two young women act out a play, one playing a cruel trafficker and the other a desperate trafficking victim who despairs and finally kills herself. But not everyone in the audience got the message.

"Trafficking is when your boss doesn't give you all the money he owes you when you leave," said one girl.

A man sounded a reassuring note. "There's no need to worry," he said. "The government policy is good. Trafficking can't happen here."

But despite the reluctance to talk about it, all the evidence on the ground suggests trafficking is happening.

Researcher Long Hai-yu said she was extremely worried.

"The pattern is already changing," she told me. "Traffickers are targeting younger and younger girls, as young as 16."

As China opens up, its new freedoms are bringing new dangers. But they will be hard for the country's Communist system to address until it changes its culture of embarrassment and secrecy.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

“Rape and Sexual Slavery: Our bodies...their battleground,”, downloaded 3 October 2006.

According to Amnesty International, combatants in the Democratic Republic of Congo have raped at least 40,000 women over the past six years.

A horrific feature of contemporary conflicts is the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. Widespread rape and sexual slavery have been used to humiliate and terrorize civilians in the DRC, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Liberia, Sudan, Iraq, Chechnya, and Uganda.

Rape can be used as an instrument of ethnic cleansing and genocide, and in many conflicts, girls are abducted by soldiers and forced to become their 'wives.' Besides having to cook, clean, wash clothes and carry ammunition, these girls are also forced into sexual slavery.

The physical and psychological consequences of sexual violence include internal wounds, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and increased risk of suicide.

It can take up to four operations to heal survivors' physical injuries, and the necessary medical services are often inaccessible. For the brave women who do receive treatment, it offers them a chance to regain control of their lives.

Case Study: Democratic Republic of Congo

The 7-year war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has resulted in more deaths than any war since World War II. Despite the signing of a peace agreement in 2003 (which created a power-sharing government and gave the rebel factions a share of power in the country), the brutality of war has raged on in the country. One of the most horrific features of this conflict has been the use of sexual violence as a strategy of war by virtually all sides.

UNIFEM Executive Director Noeleen Heyzer stated during her May 2003 visit to DRC that, "Nearly all the women interviewed in Kinshasa or in the Eastern DRC, whether at health care centers or rural villages have been victims of sexual violence and rape."

The rape of Congolese women and girls by soldiers during the war is horrifying in both the extent and the extraordinary brutality of these crimes. Rapes often occurred in public, and the women were usually beaten, whipped, or otherwise physically abused by their rapists before, during, and after the assault. In many instances, women are raped multiple times, by multiple attackers. Furthermore, the rape victims were often very young or elderly, an act which violates traditional roles of protecting the young and respecting the elderly in society. The health implications of brutal sexual assault for children and the elderly are particularly severe. This is compounded by the fact that the country's medical system has been weakened by years of war, and suffers from a shortage of trained health care providers and medicines - essential to providing rape victims with the treatment they desperately need.

In 2004, USAID found a 12% HIV positive rate among women who had been raped in DRC; other studies show rates as high as 27% among rape survivors in the eastern DRC.

Since October 2002, women's associations in the Uvira province have reported 5,000 cases of rape, which corresponds to 40 a day according to ReliefWeb. This figure does not include cases of rape that go unreported.

Many survivors did not seek medical help immediately because they feared social disgrace and abandonment by their husbands if they revealed that they had been raped. Ten years later, women continue to die from diseases related to the HIV/AIDS virus they were infected with during the conflict. Many women are left as the sole providers for themselves and their children, and without any means of economic survival. Survivors also continue to face devastating psychological problems.

A large number of men are also victims of rape and sexual violence, though this is reported much less frequently than the rape of women.


Eve-Ann Prentice, "Tara is a Student Nurse who was Kidnapped and Sold as a Sex Slave for 1,200 Pounds," London Times, 24 February 2000.

Seven pairs of wary, traumatised eyes stare at us as we enter the living room at the fugitives' hideout. The young women clutch one another's arms and huddle together on a sofa, watching in silence.

They trust no one from the outside - and nor should they. Some of the most violent mafiosi in the world are out there, periodically scouring the warren of filthy streets looking for them. The game was nearly up two weeks ago when armed gangsters gathered outside another house that the women used as a hiding place in the Albanian capital, Tirana. Shots were fired and only the bravery of those protecting the fugitives saved the day. They smuggled the terrified women out and moved them to the new hideaway. They could be discovered again at any moment.

The women seem barely old enough to warrant the mafiosi's efforts; mostly they are girls in their teens. The reason they are on the run is because they are escaped slaves - and the men who bought them want their property back.

The runaways are just a tiny minority of the countless thousands of human beings bought and sold in a burgeoning trade which has spread its tentacles from the far reaches of Eastern Europe to the massage parlours of London's West End, and more recently Britain's suburbs. The merchandise in this flourishing illicit business comprises innocent girls and young women who are often kidnapped from their home towns and villages and forced into lives of violence and prostitution. They are usually bought for between £500 and £2,000 and their "owners" then make a fortune by forcing them to sell sex.

The escapees' safe house is surrounded by a high wooden fence and we are ushered quickly inside. The seven young women huddled on the sofa are still in a state of shock. They include Tara, a 19-year-old former student nurse, Maria, a 16-year-old schoolgirl, and Elena, a 30-year-old mother-of-one who is desperate to know where her toddler son is and who is looking after him. All three come from Moldova; all three were sold into slavery - the 16-year-old Maria eventually being bought by a 19-year-old drug dealer who imprisoned her in his family home with his mother.

Maria has a flawless peaches-and-cream complexion and waves of dark brown hair falling to her shoulders. Initially she shakes her head and refuses to speak. But after hearing others tentatively recount their experiences, she lifts her head and begins to describe the way she was bundled into a car and kidnapped as she walked near her home in the Moldovan capital, Kishinau, last September. She has not seen her family since. ...

Not all the women are kidnapped; some are duped by promises of jobs abroad. It is easy to trick a naive young woman from a poverty-stricken no-hope town in Moldova or Romania into believing that there is an escape route from desolation if they accept the offer of a job as a babysitter or waitress in Italy, Belgium or London. There are also some women who willingly opt to become prostitutes, seeing it as their only chance to avoid a life of grinding poverty, and they mistakenly believe they will be able at least to store up the money they make. The reality is different, they are rarely paid for their sexual services. Almost all the women - whether kidnapped, conned or consenting - are usually raped, beaten and psychologically tortured for weeks before being sold on to pimps, brothel-owners or perverts who can afford to buy a woman for their own use.

The sex-slave mafia trade is in women from the former Soviet republic of Moldova, Romania, Kosovo, or Albania, where the hub of the trade is centred. The victims are then often taken by car or force-marched along remote mountain paths for days to Tirana or the Albanian coast. Many are dispatched on flimsy dinghies across the Adriatic to Italy, from where they are passed on to the red-light areas of West European capitals. Others are forced to work in Albania, Greece, or in the newest market for sex-traders - Kosovo, with its hundreds of thousands of international troops. For some women, their forced journeys end in death - either at the hands of the mafiosi if they prove to be more trouble than they are worth. Or they fail to survive the rigours of their transportation. ...

The aid project was born after a counter-trafficking workshop sponsored by the IOM and the British Government's Department for International Developmen in Tirana last September. The scale of the task facing those trying to help is monumental; between 250,000 and 500,000 are believed to be working as prostitutes in the European Union - "the majority having reached their destinations through illegal trafficking networks," says the IOM. "Women being trafficked into prostitution now constitute the largest single category of illegal migration to the EU."

The number of women being seized and forced into unpaid prostitution is believed to have increased since Nato-led peacekeeping troops entered neighbouring Kosovo last summer. Young Kosovo-Albanian girls were also reported to have been snatched from the refugee camps set up in Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro during the Kosovo crisis. "Especially alarming have been the reports of young refugee women being abducted from the camps by armed scafisti (members of Albanian organised crime), forcing these women into prostitution in Italy and elsewhere in Western Europe," the IOM said in July, last year. ...

Tara spent ten months with the man who bought her, she says, until he came to trust her. "Then one day he let me go out of the apartment. I lied to him and he thought I would come back, but I went to the police. I didn't want to go back to him because I am not a prostitute. I was also stressed and tense and couldn't stop crying and crying. The police didn't arrest him. He had much money and he could pay the police because he used to buy and sell drugs and could afford it. Everyone is so corrupt." ...

Maria now suspects, however, that the driver took pity on her because police came to the car when it stopped at one point and she screamed for help. The girl who had begun school just five days before being snatched says she was kept in a police station for another two months before being taken to the International Organisation for Migration a Geneva-based intergovernmental group. "I cannot say the police were kind," she says. "They treated me as if I was a prostitute and I was forced to sleep on a table because there was no bed." ...

The IOM is trying to help Maria to return home to her parents, three-year-old brother and 13-year-old sister, but the organisation first has to arrange travel documents. Maria is luckier than most because she was able to keep her identity card throughout her months of captivity. Most sex slaves are quickly deprived of their passports and other identity papers and issued with forgeries when they are transported abroad. This, along with language difficulties, makes escape or repatriation should they escape, doubly difficult. ...

Unlike Maria, Tara left Moldova for Albania of her own free will. She wanted to find a job to pay for her nursing studies. "In my country it is usual to leave for work abroad because there is no work at home. You even have to pay to work in the hospital," she says. She was taken hostage after applying for a job as a waitress. "They didn't believe me when I went for the job and it was obviously for prostitution work and I said I was not a prostitute. ...

The IOM shelters were set up in January and so far they have shielded about 15 women. Ken Patterson and Rich Kocher know that they have touched only the tip of the human-trafficking iceberg. "If we need to help thousands, we will try to do it," says Kocher.

Great Britain

Martha Buckley, “Baltic girls forced into sex slavery,” BBC News, 28 Nov. 2005.

Five Albanian pimps have been convicted of sex trafficking offences after a trial at Southwark Crown Court.

On 31 October 2004, a 16-year-old Lithuanian girl made what was probably the biggest mistake of her young life when she agreed to go on a trip to the UK with a group of new friends.

Instead of the few days of fun she had been promised, she ended up being sold into prostitution in an ordeal that was to last for months.

A missing persons hunt sparked by her disappearance eventually led police to a series of west London brothels and a gang of Albanian people traffickers.

Jurors at Southwark Crown Court heard how the girl was "tricked" into leaving her home in a village near the town of Siauliai after being befriended by a young man.

He introduced her to a group of his "friends" in a nightclub, who invited her to join them on an exciting "sports" trip to London, all expenses paid.

After forging a permission letter from her parents, the men took her to Sheffield and handed her over to a gang who took her ID card - which clearly showed she was only 16.

Sold on

This group sold her on again to a group of Albanian pimps - the four Demarku brothers - Flamur, 33, Agron, 21, Bedari, 21, and Xhevair - and Izzet Fejzullahu, 32.

They told her she would have to work as a prostitute to cover the money they had paid for her and took her to a house in Pears Road, Hounslow - one of a string of brothels in the west London suburb.

Under the working name "Veronica from Italy", she was forced to sleep with as many as 10 men a day and earning her pimps around £800 a day - of which she received nothing, despite being promised a share.

The brothels operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week - with the "girls" allowed one day off a week.

Huge profits

According to one witness, the brothel in Pears Road alone took between £3,000 and £18,000 a day. The rent for the property was only £1,000 a month.

The gang were making huge profits and several of them drove around in new Mercedes cars.

"Veronica" was allowed occasional phone calls home but was too frightened and embarrassed to tell her mother what was really going on.

The gang occasionally sent the family £100 or so, which the prosecution argued was intended to make them think their daughter was doing well abroad.

But the family remained worried and began searching for her, with the help of a Lithuanian missing persons TV show.

A team from the BBC's Six O'Clock News, who were investigating the sex trade, flew to Lithuania and interviewed her family.

Clues led to London

The BBC team alerted the Metropolitan Police after the money transfers gave a clue that she might be in London.

The Met was already aware of the Pears Road brothel and visited it on 16 December 2004.

She was not there but a notice advertising "new beautiful ladies at very good prices" gave a phone number, which led to another brothel in nearby Kingsley Road.

Police raided it the same day and rescued "Veronica", who was interviewed and then flown back to Lithuania to be reunited with her family.

But, suspecting she was not the only trafficked woman working against their will, they placed the gang under surveillance.

Series of raids

Over the next four months they found five houses in Hounslow, Isleworth and Feltham which were being used as brothels with at least five girls in each.

Undercover officers posed as clients to gather evidence against the pimps and to try to identify women in need of help.

In April 2005 they carried out a series of raids, seizing documents relating to Lithuanian women, evidence of money transfers, menus of sexual services and many thousands of pounds in cash - in one case £30,000 was found at a single address rented by the gang.

Among them was another young woman from Siauliai, a 19-year-old student who had been a virgin before she was sold to the gang.

Like "Veronica" she had been tricked into coming to the UK by a young man who befriended her before feeding her a "string of lies" about a nice house and a bar job.

She was met at Heathrow by Fejzullahu and Agron Demarku and driven to one of the brothels.

Giving evidence from behind a screen, she told the court:

"The girls were walking around in nightdresses and then a man walked in, a client, and I asked what I was really there for.

"They laughed and said: 'Prostitution'. I burst into tears. I said I don't want to do that and that I wanted to go home.

"But I was told I wouldn't leave before four months because I would have to work off a huge amount of money paid for my journey."

'Sold like cattle'

The gang gave the girls little or no money and kept them in the brothels mainly through fear, occasionally selling them on to other traffickers "like cattle", prosecutors said.

Michael Holland, prosecuting, said although the gang did not resort to physical violence, the girls were cowed into submission partly by threats and partly by their predicament - strangers in a foreign country, without their passports, unable to speak the language, understand their rights or even be sure where they were.

Fejzullahu and the Demarku brothers told the women who were trafficked from abroad they had to work to pay off their purchase price after which they would be allowed a share of their earnings.

By this time, the prosecution said, most would be "broken" - too ashamed and worn down by degradation to go home and resigned to a life of prostitution and being forced to work for their "owners".

Fejzullahu and three of the Demarku brothers were found guilty of trafficking and prostitution offences on Tuesday. They will be sentenced, along with Xhevair Demarku - who pleaded guilty before the trial, on Thursday.

Last month three sex traffickers who had run a similar prostitution ring in Sheffield, and had dealings with the Demarku brothers, were jailed. Tasim Axhami, from Kosovo, was found guilty of rape and jailed for 21 years. Emiljan Deqirat, from Albania, was given 16 years for sex trafficking offences, and Vilma Kizlaite, a Lithuanian, was sentenced to 11 years for false imprisonment.

David Harrison, “'I was raped and beaten. I lost the will to run away,'” The Telepgraph, 13 November 2005.

Irina Valinsky perches on the edge of her bed in a north London flat and puffs anxiously on a cigarette. "Twenty-five to 30 a day," she says nervously. The 21-year-old Lithuanian is not answering a question about her tobacco habit, but about the average number of men she is forced to have sex with every day.

Working at two flats and a "massage parlour" six days a week, she charges £150-£400, depending on the time and services supplied - but has to hand over almost all the money to her Russian pimp.

She is one of thousands of vulnerable young girls who have been trafficked to Britain in the past few years from Eastern Europe, beaten, raped and coerced into a life of sexual slavery. Last week, in the Sunday Telegraph, I reported on how I was offered the chance to buy a Romanian woman for £1,300.

Irina is typical of many of the girls brought to Britain from countries such as Lithuania, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, Albania and Russia.

The explosion in trafficking has been fuelled by the expansion of the European Union - many Eastern Europeans no longer need visas for Britain - falling travel costs, criminal gangs exploiting any opportunity to make big money, and a seemingly limitless demand.

Up to 6,000 women are estimated to have been trafficked into Britain in the past few years. About 1,500 traffickers were arrested last year and the Government and police are drawing up urgent measures to combat this relatively new crime.

"There's always been some sex trafficking," said one Scotland Yard detective, "but the trickle has become a tide." More than 80 per cent of "off-street" prostitutes in London are now foreigners, mostly from Eastern Europe, compared with less than 20 per cent 10 years ago, according to recent research.

Like most trafficked women, Irina was duped into coming to Britain and held under threat of violence to her and her family. She was "excited" when she landed a job as a waitress in London, after replying to a newspaper advertisement in Vilnius. But, once in England, she was introduced to an Albanian who took her passport and said he had paid £4,000 for her - and that now she would be working for him as a prostitute until she had paid it all back.

"That first night he raped me, to break me in," she said. "I thought about escaping but he never let me out of his sight. He hit me in the face and his friends raped me. I lost the will to run away." After a year Irina was sold to her current pimp.

The arrival of the girls from Eastern Europe has coincided with - and fuelled - a disturbing expansion of the sex industry. Most end up in the "off-street" sector: massage parlours, saunas, brothels, private flats, and, increasingly, lap-dancing and other "gentlemen's clubs". They are frequently sold on several times.

"The traffickers and pimps rule by fear," says Denise Marshall who runs the Poppy Project, Britain's only refuge for women who escape from their sadistic controllers. "The girls are totally traumatised. It can take years for them to get back to anything resembling a normal life.

"These girls are victims but are too often dismissed as prostitutes and illegal immigrants."

Trafficking is "easy money" for criminals, says Ms Marshall. "Why should they risk carrying a bag of heroin into Britain when they can buy two girls, bring them in legally on the Eurostar and get their money back in a week?"

The two-year-old Poppy Project, based in south London, is funded by the Home Office. It can house 25 girls and is full. The girls who make it to the shelter, usually after a referral from the police, have all experienced horrific abuse. Anna, a Ukrainian in her twenties, was raped at an early age and then beaten and gang-raped regularly, before being trafficked to Britain to work as a prostitute. Maria, a Moldovan was trafficked to London, beaten, raped, and sold as a prostitute three times.

The Government is using the EU presidency to draw up a Europe-wide anti-trafficking "action plan" and will set up an organised crime agency in April next year. "The fact that so many women are being trafficked against their will has added a shocking new dimension to prostitution," said Paul Goggins, the Home Office minister for serious organised crime.

Senior police officers want to see a new offence introduced for men who use trafficked women as prostitutes and say local authorities should close down saunas and massage parlours that offer sexual services.

Det Chief Supt Steve Kupis, the head of Operation Maxim which fights organised immigration crime in London, said: "Trafficking women into prostitution is modern-day slavery."

There have been successes. Last month, two men were jailed for a total of 36 years in Sheffield for auctioning two Lithuanian girls for £3,000 each at a coffee shop in Gatwick. Two weeks ago, two Moldovans were jailed for bringing 600 women into Britain illegally and forcing them into prostitution. On Friday at Cardiff Crown Court, a 21-year-old Lithuanian claimed that she was tricked into coming to Britain for a better life only to be sold into prostitution for £5,000 to three Albanians.

Back at her flat Irina stubs out another cigarette. I ask her what would it take for her to flee this life of sexual servitude. She stares at a kitsch painting of a child on the wall and says, wearily: "I don't know. It is dangerous. They would get me or my family. What else could I do? Where could I go?"


”Low conviction rate of traffickers worries USA,” Tribune of India, Chandigarh, 20 March 2004.

Kolkata, March 19. The US today expressed concern over the low rate of convictions against human traffickers and significant delay in taking legal action against them in India.

“The Indian authorities recognise that the relatively low rate of convictions against traffickers is a barrier to the country’s ability to combat trafficking effectively,” US Ambassador to India Dr David C. Mulford said, noting that “although there is an increase in the number of cases filed against traffickers, legal action is significantly delayed when they are charged under statutes that permit bail pending trial or sentencing and providing opportunities for them to flee before completion of the judicial process.’’

He was speaking via digital videoconference during the inaugural session of a conference on “Corporate Social Responsibility: Addressing Trafficking in Persons’’ organised by the U S Consulate-General in Kolkata in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the international NGO Apne Aap Women Worldwide.

Dr Mulford said the United States had committed itself to taking a leading role in combating the “global social plague’’ of human trafficking.

In the past two fiscal years, the US provided over $ 54 million in assistance to more than 70 countries to strengthen anti-trafficking law enforcement, victim support, legislation, and regional cooperation.

“India is a country which is both a source and destination for trafficking victims. Here young girls from Assam may be taken to brothels in Mumbai or girls from Nepal and Bangladesh may turn up in the Kalighat and Sonagachi red light areas of Kolkata,’’ he said.

The U S envoy encouraged partnership of the corporate and NGO sectors to combat human trafficking saying, “to address the larger context, schools and families need to become involved, religious and political leaders to speak out vocally and, above all, we need NGOs and corporations to work together to make India and this world a better and a safer place for the most vulnerable among us.’’

Mr Ashley Varghese, attorney, International Justice Mission, said the network of the traffickers was so strong and so powerful and intimidating to these hapless girls that it was difficult to follow up the entire process.

“In some cases the brothel-keepers in Mumbai even come to the court to intimidate the rescued girls. They at times bring the parents of these girls to the brothels and then force them to claim them so that they can be sent back to the trade,’’ said Mr Varghese.

According to survey statistics, 45 per cent of the girls used in prostitution in Mumbai were minors while 28 per cent were on the borderline (aged between 18 and 19) and only 27 per cent were adults in 2003-2003 which in 2003-04 there were 43 per cent minors, 25 per cent in the borderline category and 32 per cent adults, Mr Varghese informed.

”Trafficking now 'worse than African slavery,'”, 14 Nov. 2006.

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Human trafficking, including women forced to become prostitutes or minors forced to do child labor, is worse now than the trade in African slaves of past centuries, a top Vatican official said on Tuesday.

"This trafficking in human beings has intensified, persons put into slavery because they depend on certain criminals who take possession of these human beings," said Cardinal Renato Martino, former longtime Vatican envoy to the United Nations and current head of the Holy See's office concerned with migrant and itinerant peoples.

"It's worse than the slavery of those whose slaves who were taken from Africa and brought to other countries," Martino told a news conference to present Pope Benedict XVI's annual message dealing with the problems of migrants.

The cardinal singled out modern-day forms of slavery -- minors who are sold to do child labor or who are forced to be soldiers, as well as women forced to prostitute themselves -- and challenged countries to combat these problems.

"In a world which proclaims human rights left and right, let's see what it does about the rights of so many human beings which are not respected, but trampled," the cardinal said.

In the papal message, Benedict noted that more women were leaving their homelands in search of a better life. "However, women who end up as victims of trafficking of human beings and of prostitution are not few," the pope said.

In the last decade or so, many women in Eastern Europe have traveled to the West after being promised what appeared to be honest jobs, but upon arrival in the countries were forced to work as prostitute to pay off the cost of their trip.


Matsui Yayori, “Eliminating Trafficking in Asian Women,” downloaded from, 13 Seotemnber 2005.

1. From Sex Tours to Trafficking in Women

Starting in the 1980s women from Asian countries, such as the Philippines and Thailand, started to arrive in Japan to serve in its sex industry. It was a noticeable change in the trend. Previously Japanese men went abroad for "sex tours", first to Taiwan in the 1960s as Japanese was widely understood due to the legacy of Japan's 50-year occupation there, and then to Korea. In 1970s, the Japanese men's sex tour started receive criticism world wide.

In the 1980s, Filipino women started to come to Japan. Some of them come as singers and dancers with proper visas, but others come through human trafficking handled by organized gang groups. In many cases, women in the latter group face serious human rights violations such as confinement, violence, and forced prostitution. When it started, the majority of the women was from the Philippines. Started in the mid-80s, women from Thailand started to join. Currently, every year, over 100,000 women, mostly Filipinos and Thais, are sexually exploited in the sex industry all over Japan.

The women from Thailand are in more vulnerable position than the women from the Philippines. Some of the reasons are: 1) unlike the Filipinos who have legitimate entertainer's visas, most of the Thai women come with tourist visa and therefore they are illegal workers, 2) most of Thai women are from rural area with little English capability where as most women from the Philippine can speak English as it is widely spoken in their home country, and 3) Thais being Buddhist and cannot ask for help at Catholic churches.

Although the women's intent is to earn money abroad, the are more likely to be treated just as commodity by human trafficking syndicate often involving organized gang groups. A typical scenario of trafficking women from Thailand is as follows: first, the brokers in Thailand recruit women saying sweet words as "you can make a lot of money if you work in a factory or department store in Japan." The recruiters "export" women for 1,500,000 yen to 2,000,000 yen. The Japanese dealers buy the women for that price and "whole sell" them to sex industry in Japan for the doubled price. Owners of bars "buy" women for about 3,500,000 yen to 4,000,000 yen and tell the women that they are indebted for that sum. In order to repay this debt, women are forced into prostitution.

To prevent women from escaping, they are put under close surveillance of organized syndicates who often are affiliated with gang groups. They are confined to an apartment or a bar and force to take numerous "customers" day in and day out. If they protest or try to escape, they are inflicted violence or rape as a punishment. Recently, the number of women hospitalized or sent home due to their mental disorder associated to forced drug use is increasing. When they get sick or being injured, Japanese government refuse to provide medical care or welfare benefit. Some kill themselves in desperation, and other are being murdered in process. Some of such incidents are reported in newspaper and known through the information from embassies. However, they are only the tip of iceberg. In same cases the body of deceased can not be claimed because they were sent to Japan with fake passports.

In June 1990, a 20-year-old Filipino women was beaten to death at an apartment in Nakano, Tokyo by a gang member. At the funeral, which happened to take place at the same time as the royal wedding of Princes Kiko, a young woman flung herself down on the simple coffin decorated only with a cross and a little bouquet of flowers. This young women who rushed from Manila was the mother of the dead lady. She was reunited with her daughter who left the country three years ago to support her family at the age of seventeen in this unexpected manner. On the urn, the false name and the age, 25, was written according to the fake passport she entered the country with. Even after her death, her true identity was deprived!

In September 1992, a Taiwanese women, named Sachiko, was stabbed to death in Shimodate, Ibaraki. Three Thai women including "Akina" who worked for Sachiko were arrested for burglary and murder. The three women killed their abusive boss believing that there was no alternative in order to flee from unbearable mistreatment. On of the three women, Gun, learned Japanese at the detention center and have written letters to her lawyer and supporters frequently.

"I am a human being, no a commodity. It was only after I arrived Japan, I realized that I was sold. Everyday, I was forced have sex with men. I was deprived of freedom by Sachiko and not allowed to go out. I was not born to be confined. I was threatened that I would be killed if I tried to escape. I wanted to be free from her for my own safely and for my parents. My parents are sick. Their house was mortgaged. They wrote me that they need money. It feels as if my life is floating in a big ocean. Please let my like back to the shore."

In 1994, the prosecutors recommended a life-time imprisonment for there three women. In May, they were sentenced for ten-year imprisonment. The victims of the sexual exploitation were punished severely, but the instigator of the real crime behind Sachiko, the bar owner, was free from any kind of prosecution.

These cases illustrate how women from Asia are mistreated by trafficking dealers and being subjected to Japanese men's sexual desire. The women are mentally and physically exploited to the limit, and in worst cases, their lives are deprived. On the other hand the trafficking in women is such a lucrative business as it is reported that the agents caught with the violation of Prostitution Prevention Law was making 1 million yen per year. The global trafficking in women is a modern form of slavery. The victims of the trafficking are the victims of two major human right violation, namely sexual violence and economic exploitation.

2. Behind Sexual Violence--Victims of "Development"

In order to understand the underlining reasons for the increase of trafficking in women in Asia, it is necessary to look into the conditions both in Japan, as the receiving country, and in Thailand and the Philippines, as the sending country.

In Japan, the sex industry is expanding, but the number of young Japanese women willing to work in the industry in short. The Asia women are brought to Japan to fulfill this gap. They are cheap, plenty, and profitable. Some brokers make millions of yens every year using a few women as prostitutes.

The underlying reason that let the sex industry in Japan flourish is the general tolerance to prostitution rooted in licensed prostitution system in feudal era. Furthermore, today's corporate culture has promoted the commercialization of sex, and today's "corporate warriors" ask for "contemporary comfort women." Thus the increase of serious crime against women's mind and body is caused by the intertwined factors of sexual discrimination in traditional patriarchal culture and the poverty.

The economic disparity between Japan and other Asian countries play a role from the "supplier" countries. With Yen being strong, the average wage in Japan is 10 to 20 times higher in Japan than in other Asian countries. With this difference Asian people are drawn to Japan. For instance, the government of the Philippines promote the exportation of labor to earn foreign currency in its effort to catch up with economic development and to ease unemployment. It is so much so that the Philippines is sometimes called a nation living on migrant workers. The government has a policy of sending women as entertainers to Japan as Japan does not accept blue-color workers from abroad. As a result, several tens of thousand young Filipino women come to Japan; many of them are forced into prostitution.

One of the causes of the explosive increase in international trafficking in women and prostitution is the problematic economic development in Asian countries. Unlike the Philippines, economic development in Thailand has been remarkable with a double-digit increase in GNP since the latter half of 1980s. The capital city of Thailand, Bangkok, is lively, a veritable symbol of prosperity. On the other hand, rural areas have fallen behind in terms of economic development, or rather, been victimized. Forest have been destroyed. Farmers are indebted and suffer from poverty. Economic development in Thailand has benefited only the rich in Bangkok, and those in the developed countries who use them. As a result, the gap between cities and rural areas, or the gap between the rich and the poor, has widened. Poverty in rural areas is a result of unfair economic development of Thailand.

The rapid economic growth has led to consumerism and mammonism. With the penetration of consumer goods into rural areas, people are thrust into the cash economy. Unfortunately for the people in the country side, only commodity they can offer in exchange for desired cash is their daughters. Thus, the trafficking in women accelerates.

Economic development among Asian nations is uneven. In contrast to the remarkable economic growth in Newly Industrializing Economies (NIEs) and other countries that follow, like Thailand, the economic situation in the least developed countries, several of which are in South Asia, is still doomed. For instance, Nepal is one of the poorest countries in terms of per capita GNP. Nevertheless, the surge of development has started to penetrate its economy; agriculture has been destroyed and cash has become indispensable for purchasing food. Traffickers sneak into underprivileged areas with their target being young women. In Nepal, like in Thailand, destructive economic development make women more vulnerable to violence against women.

As it is sometimes called "development dictatorship," the Asia's economic growth has been often achieved with severe repression of people who demanded a fairer and more independent economy. In other words, oppression of human rights was seen as necessary evil of economic development. Examples can be seen all over the region as the 38-year martial law in Taiwan, the long-term dictatorship in South Korea, and the absence of political freedom in Singapore to name a few. Military dictatorship and the practice of strong state power and oppressive administration are still rampant.

Japan is directly involved in above mentioned un-healthy economic development in Asia, that widens the gap between the rich and the poor, abuses human rights, and degrade natural environment. In Thailand, for example, started in the latter half of the 1980s, Japan's direct investment has been poured in the country so much that more than 1,000 Japanese companies has been established. A huge amount of Official Development Assistance (ODA) followed to support the activities of Japanese companies. It is so much so that the Thai people lament that their forests, fields, and shores have been sold to Japan. For this reason, when analyzing the trafficking in women from Thailand, it is necessary to look into the distorted economic relationship between Japan and Thailand.

Velisarios Kattoulas, “ HUMAN TRAFFICKING. Bright Lights, Brutal Life,” Far Eastern Economic Review, 3 August 2000.

Each year, criminals smuggle thousands of women into Japan. They arrive with hopes of finding honest work--only to find a life of sexual slavery awaits them

AT LEAST SIX TIMES A YEAR, Hiro Watanabe drives from the Kabukicho red-light district in western Tokyo to Narita airport, southeast of the Japanese capital. In the international-arrivals hall, he meets three, sometimes four, Southeast Asian women. Almost without exception they are young and pretty, and have come to Japan to take up word-of-mouth job offers from factories, restaurants or bars.

Or so they think. Instead, Watanabe--who works for a yakuza crime syndicate that controls much of the Tokyo underworld--takes them to a small apartment in Kabukicho. There, over the next couple of days, he convinces the women it's in their best interests to work for him and his partners as prostitutes--for free. A bull of a man in his 40s with a shaven head and a tattoo that covers a bulging torso, he won't say how he achieves this unlikely feat. But the way police officials and human-rights activists tell it, Japan's legion of slaveholders rely on the terror of the concentration camp: verbal threats, beatings and rape.

It would be shocking enough if Watanabe (not his real name) was the only yakuza strong-arming foreign women into prostitution in Japan. But while the world mulls the deaths of 58 Chinese in a bungled people-smuggling run across the English Channel in June, the trade in humans flows unabated in North America, Western Europe and Asian countries such as India and Pakistan. Nowhere is that more evident than in Japan, one of the region's top destinations for women forced into sexual slavery.

Now, a survey of people-smuggling has lent support to what Japanese activists and foreign diplomats long suspected: Every year, tens of thousands of women and children are illegally brought to Japan and forced to work in a sex industry that activists estimate is worth Yen4 trillion ($400 million) a year.

Completed in May by the Social Security Research Foundation, the secret, government-funded study, Foreign Women Involved in Prostitution in Japan: A Survey, includes no estimate for the size of the problem. But experts believe that of the 120,000 Asian, Eastern European and Latin American women overstaying visas in Japan today, as many as 75,000 are working under duress in a sex industry that activists say accounts for 1% of Japan's GNP--as big as its annual defence budget.

"Although not all women overstaying their visas are being forced into prostitution, one way or another most of them are involved in the sex industry, many of them against their will," says an Asian diplomat based in Tokyo who has followed sexual slavery in Japan for years.

The results of the study, based on interviews with 257 foreign women conducted nationwide between October and December last year, haven't been made public. But according to a copy made available to the Review, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they had been forced into prostitution or other types of sex work. (Most of the women in the survey were questioned by police following arrests for immigration offences or prostitution.)

Although the Japanese government acknowledges that there are foreign women working in the sex industry, it maintains that only a fraction of them are coerced into prostitution. Activists, however, estimate that between 500,000 and 1 million women have been enslaved since the yakuza moved into the trade in the early 1980s. That's at least four times the number that historians believe the Japanese military drafted as "comfort women" in the 1930s and 40s. Yayori Matsui, a prominent human-rights activist, describes Japan's sex slaves as "contemporary comfort women" to her nation's "corporate warriors."

Ironically, the yakuza started press-ganging foreign women into prostitution in Japan just as the original comfort women started coming forward for the first time. It was the early 1980s, and growing job and educational opportunities meant fewer Japanese women were becoming prostitutes. For nearly a decade, the yakuza who controlled Japan's brothels solved that problem by organizing sex tours to other Asian nations, especially Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. But when Japan's neighbours objected and such trips became controversial, the yakuza started shipping women to Japan. In the beginning, they were mainly Thais and Filipinos. Since then, however, the yakuza have brought women from as far as South America and Eastern Europe, creating a truly globalized supply chain.

Watanabe got involved in the international slave trade in the late 1980s. At first, he paid Yen1 million for every woman he picked out from photographs sent by a supplier in Thailand, and then spent nearly as much for a second broker to smuggle the women to Japan. These days, a Thai trafficker selects women and sends them to Narita airport. Watanabe pays more than Yen2 million for every woman who makes it, but he says the extra cost is worth it because his Thai partner almost always sends him women who are young and beautiful.

Moreover, while many women used to flee captivity, today few dare. In part, that's because Watanabe and other yakuza cooperate in capturing women who make a run for it. In particular, they routinely photograph their slaves and fax around their pictures in case one escapes--a system Watanabe says helps him recover nine out of every 10 women who flee.

As if that wasn't discouraging enough, Watanabe's Thai colleague seeks swift and brutal retribution against the families of escapees. For instance, Watanabe says, in November 1999 traffickers gunned down a Thai man who was waiting at Bangkok airport to meet his daughter, who had fled her captors. Although the story appears to be apocryphal, the telling of such tales no doubt helps dissuade young women from fleeing.

"There are fewer and fewer women escaping from sexual slavery," says Chinami Kajo, a lawyer who represents foreign women forced into prostitution. "By all accounts, the yakuza are treating women much more severely than in the past, and it wouldn't surprise me if a lot of women who tried escaping weren't being killed and efficiently disposed of."

While Watanabe admits to forcing more than 100 women into sexual slavery, he is unapologetic. For one thing, he says, coercing women to work at the Yen30,000-an-hour brothels popular among Japanese salarymen is great business. In a month, one woman can earn him and his partners about Yen1.5 million--at least twice what their typical customers take home. And, of course, there are no profit-sapping wages to pay.

In any case, Watanabe adds, he treats the 16 women he "manages" well. He doesn't force them to work when they are menstruating. When they are ill, Watanabe's partner lets them recuperate at his spacious home, instead of in the guarded, shoebox apartments where they normally live, two to a room. And Watanabe hits them only as a last resort. "They don't make as much money if they're all cut up," he says matter-of-factly. "So I try to create the kind of atmosphere you'd find in a family."

That's not the way Maria Gonzalez remembers her experience at the hands of another Japanese slave trader. A slender woman in her 20s with long curly hair, an aquiline nose and large brown eyes, Gonzalez grew up in a small town in Latin America. Last October, a local woman offered her waitressing work in Japan that paid 100 times as much as her $25-a-month job selling lottery tickets.

Eager to help her bed-ridden father, Gonzalez (not her real name) flew to Osaka in January. There, she was met by a man she later realized was a gangster, and taken to a dilapidated apartment in Nagoya. For the next three days, she was given nothing to eat or drink except coffee, and was only let out of a locked room to parade in front of several small groups of men.

"At first, I had no idea what was happening," she says. "I still thought maybe there was a restaurant job waiting for me. But when men starting arriving at the apartment to look me over, I thought 'Oh shit, I'm for sale.'"

Eventually, a local pimp "bought" her, confiscated her passport, and told her she had to make $5,000 a month working a street corner in an infamous red-light district. Ten days later, Gonzalez had earned only $300. "My pimp was furious," she recalls. "He threatened to make me work in a live sex show, pump me full of drugs, beat me or sell me to a more violent pimp."

A few days later, she refused to do what a customer told her--and was paid for it with bruises and welts on her face, neck and legs. Fearing that her next beating might be her last, she decided to flee. As the man guarding her apartment slept the next morning, she ran to the local police station. Gonzalez says that she explained her situation to a Spanish-speaking officer and was told the matter was not police business. The following day, she sneaked out to see immigration officials. This time, she says, she was told that since she had a valid 90-day tourist visa they couldn't help her. (Activists say they often hear similar tales; however, police and immigration officials deny them.)

Convinced word of her escape attempt would soon reach her captor, she called a friend in Latin America to find out a phone number for her embassy in Tokyo. Three days later, and barely two weeks after she was sold into slavery, she was on a train bound for the capital. Thanks to a Tokyo-based diplomat, Gonzalez received a new passport and flew back to her family. "I am not an object, something that can be bought and sold," she said, the week before she left. But although she wants to expose the slave traders, Gonzalez fears what might happen to her if she did.

By all accounts, Gonzalez is one of the lucky ones. Last year, of the 50 women who fled to the only Japanese hostel that took trafficking victims, roughly a fifth were addicted to drugs--force-fed to them by their jailers--and a third tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

Although activists have been clamouring about such suffering for years, Japan started to take them seriously only in 1998, after the Group of Eight summit in Birmingham, England, pinpointed people-trafficking as a rising global scourge. The same year, Japan donated $84,000 to Empower, a Thai human-rights group that provides counselling to victims of sexual slavery in Japan. And it started training police and customs officials from Japan and neighbouring countries in how to identify human-smuggling operations and crack down on them.

To Japan's credit, its efforts have started to bear fruit. In its first such raids on Japanese brothels, police last year freed 127 foreign women kept as sex slaves. And in joint operations with Thai and Filipino police, the Justice Ministry repatriated three Japanese to stand trial on people-trafficking charges.

That said, Japan still has much to do. For starters, like virtually every other nation, Japan lacks adequate legislation to tackle the crisis. In most cases, slavers are prosecuted under either immigration or anti-prostitution laws, which means sentences are light. In February last year, for instance, the courts found a slaver guilty of forcing a 15-year-old girl and scores of women into prostitution. But because it was his first offence, he was given a one-year sentence, suspended.

In all likelihood, the world's slaves won't get much respite until the passage of a landmark United Nations protocol designed to break the global slave trade. Slated for adoption by the end of the year, it should help governments levy stiffer sentences against traffickers, establish witness-protection schemes for victims and fund projects to train women at risk.

In the meantime, the slave trade grinds on. In late July, Watanabe plans to pick up a fresh batch of unsuspecting women at Narita airport. Like thousands before them, they will arrive expecting to work as waitresses or factory assembly-line workers. How different the reality will be.


, Olivia Ward, “Post-war Kosovo the latest hotspot for sexual slavery,” Toronto Star, 7 May 2000.

Pristina, Kosovo - Post-war Kosovo has become the latest hotspot in Europe for sexual slavery.

Since Yugoslav forces pulled out of the province last June and turned it over to United Nations control, thousands of East European women have been lured over Kosovo's unsettled borders to a life of violence, abuse, starvation and disease that police describe as subhuman.

Behind the doors of dimly lit makeshift bars, women are forced to receive 10 to 20 clients a night on filthy backroom cots. Sometimes there are no toilets or running water.

The criminals, who operate across Europe, kidnapping, terrorizing and enslaving women, have become a small but particularly dangerous force in Kosovo's burgeoning underworld. Those who have tried to liberate the women from the lucrative sex trade have been threatened with mob violence. It is believed some of the captives have been murdered trying to escape.

`The stories we hear are so horrible, I have to stop listening'- Barbara, who risks violence for speaking out One veteran aid worker - hunched into a chair at a sunny cafe and glancing fearfully around her - refused recently to comment on the sex trade. ``I'm sorry but I can't tell you anything,'' she says, her hands shaking as she lights a cigarette. ``You need a story, but I need to go on living.'' Paula (not her real name) is a psychologist whose job is counselling traumatized women.

Her clients are not ethnic Albanian war casualties, but victims of Kosovo's peace. In this territory of rapid transition, with a thinly stretched police force and inadequate detention facilities, mobsters hold most of the aces. ``Kosovo is a great big marketplace,'' says Barbara, an administrator with one of the organizations that help shelter the women on their way back to their home countries, placing them in secret, heavily guarded locations.

She, too, is nervous about revealing her identity. In the criminalized Balkan region, betrayal and violence dog even the most well-intentioned, she says.

The poisonous mixture of sex, violence and big profits in the expanding trafficking racket makes it impossible to know whom to trust.

``In any conflict zone, you have a lot of men who are looking for sex, and criminals who are willing to supply them,'' she says. ``Here, they can do it with impunity because the legal infrastructure barely exists.''

And, she adds, the trade is shocking because it is not ordinary prostitution. The women are not voluntary sex workers, and they are abused and degraded in a life of daily terror. ``The stories we hear are so horrible, I have to stop listening,'' she says. ``It's hard to believe that human beings could be used in such an appalling way in Europe in this century.'' There are 100,000 ``internationals'' in Kosovo, about 60,000 of them aid workers and the rest members of the military. But the overburdened U.N. police force barely can cope with the daily demands of fighting violent crime and ethnically motivated attacks in the war-torn province. In the past six months, police have rescued only 50 women, taking them to halfway houses in Kosovo for treatment and preparation for return home.

Most disturbing, nearly half of the men who patronize the women are international aid workers and peacekeepers, even though it is obvious from the conditions at the sleazy underground bars that double as local brothels that this is not prostitution, but slavery.

And, according to aid workers and KFOR officials who asked not to be identified, members of at least one of the peacekeeping contingents are involved in running a brothel in Kosovo.

One bar in the Pristina suburb of Slatina, which was raided by Italian members of the U.N. police, operated near the headquarters of the Russian forces. Its clients, police said, were American as well as Russian troops.

KFOR contributors deny such involvement.

But although the military is kept under heavy discipline, and troops are barred from socializing in towns, the enslaved women tell their counsellors that a number of the men find ways to evade the rules. Male aid workers, on short-term contracts away from wives or girlfriends, also have little difficulty finding ``action'' in notorious bars. ``Some of the women have begged the humanitarian workers to help them, and they're just ignored,'' says Barbara. ``We're very shocked by this, and we have urged their organizations to discipline them.'' Like other aid officials who work with the rescued women, Barbara refuses to allow reporters to approach the secret shelters and interview the residents, for security reasons.

The main country of supply for Kosovo's sex slaves, police and aid workers say, is the former Soviet republic of Moldova, bordering impoverished Romania. But many others are from Romania itself, as well as Ukraine and Bulgaria.

The enslaved women are part of a pattern of trafficking throughout Europe, according to the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, which produced a recent report on what it said was a growing menace to the women of the poorest countries.

``More than 174,000 are estimated trafficked each year from the former Soviet Union and East Europe,'' it said. ``Most are under 25, but a lot of them are aged 12 to 18.'' Ironically, some of the victims began their nightmarish odyssey by spending their life savings on phony visas to escape their near-bankrupt countries.

Others were tricked into signing up for what they thought would be ``respectable'' jobs as waitresses or dancers in rich western countries, handing over their documents to racketeers who later sold the women to human traffickers for sums ranging from the equivalent of $500 to $20,000.

According to those who have helped the rescued women, a typical life of sexual slavery begins in a sleazy hotel room in an East European city, where the new recruits are ``indoctrinated'' by multiple rapes. Women who already earned a scant living from prostitution discover that their wages are now owned by their new masters.

Captured by what appears to be a well-developed criminal network, the women are moved through several countries in the region, traded off each time to men who bid thousands of dollars or deutsch marks for them. Many end up in Macedonia, whose borders with Kosovo are patrolled by international forces, and which has a large ethnic Albanian population. Once they reach Kosovo, the enslaved women hit rock bottom. Police who have raided bars in Pristina say that some of the women have been forced to live in cellars ``not fit for a dog to inhabit.''

The owner of one bar named Toto's, which was closed by international police, locked them into a squalid unheated basement without running water, toilets, or beds to sleep in. Some of the trapped women tried to commit suicide. Others were penned in an attic. All were kept under lock and key, and women who tried to escape said they were beaten. In addition to working as prostitutes, some of the women were forced to provide bar ``entertainment'' by dancing naked for the clients.

Many of these women will never be rescued.

Aid workers fear they will eventually die violently, or from inevitable disease. Few clients worry about protection against sexually transmitted disease, and the women are in no position to protect themselves.``The women we see have every kind of physical and mental illness you would expect in that life,'' says Barbara.

None of the captive women will realize her dream of rising from abject poverty. And only a few will be able to leave their captors, even after they have worked out the ``debts'' incurred by their sale. ``The best they can hope for is to get out with their lives,'' says Barbara. ``We don't even know how many have already died.''

Peter Finn, “Sex Slavery Flourishes In Kosovo. E. European Women Forced Into Brothels,” Washington Post, 24 April 2000.

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia-The sex-slave traffic in East European women, one of the major criminal scourges of post-communist Europe, is becoming a serious problem in Kosovo, where porous borders, the presence of international troops and aid workers and the lack of a working criminal justice system have created almost perfect conditions for the trade, U.N. police officials, NATO-led peacekeepers and humanitarian workers say.

In the past six months, U.N. police and troops have rescued 50 women--Moldovan, Ukrainian, Bulgarian and Romanian--from brothels that have begun to appear in cities and towns in Kosovo, a province of Serbia, the dominant republic of Yugoslavia. Police and aid workers say they fear that hundreds more, lured from their impoverished homelands with the promise of riches, may also be living in sexual servitude.

"These women have been reduced to slavery," said Col. Vincenzo Coppola, commander of a special unit of the Italian carabinieri, or national police, in Kosovo that has rescued 23 women on raids of brothels in Pristina, the provincial capital, and Prizren.

According to police sources and aid workers, the women--and some girls as young as 15--were transported along a well-established organized crime network from their East European homelands to Macedonia, which borders Kosovo to the south. There, they were held in motels and sold at auction to ethnic Albanian pimps for $1,000 to $2,500. The pimps work under the protection of major crime figures in Kosovo, officials said, including some with links to the former anti-Serbian rebel force, the Kosovo Liberation Army.

The women, who had been stripped of their passports, were frequently held in unheated rooms with primitive sanitary conditions in Kosovo and forced to engage in unprotected sex, sometimes up to 16 times a night, for no payment, according U.N. police officers who requested anonymity because of U.N. regulations limiting their authority to speak with reporters.

The undermanned U.N. police force is hard-pressed to cope with a variety of criminal activities in this war-scarred province, and authorities and aid workers here have been slow to respond to the burgeoning sex-slave trade. Moreover, there are limited humanitarian resources available to protect those women who are able to seek sanctuary.

In addition, officials said, the trade has flourished because of a lack of applicable law on both trafficking and prostitution and because some countries with military forces here have tended to dismiss the activity as simple prostitution. German peacekeepers in southern Kosovo, for instance, have taken a benign view of the phenomenon in part because prostitution is tolerated in Germany.

International aid workers are trying to convince them that these women are victims. "It's not classic prostitution," said one aid worker who has interviewed rescued women and is working on a draft U.N. regulation to punish people involved in the sex-slave trade. "They are not paid. They are never paid. Of the 50 women we have seen, not one has received a single deutsche mark, and they are often held in horrendous conditions."

According to authorities, the women were told that before they could keep any of their earnings, they first had to pay the pimps for their purchase price. Often, however, they found themselves fined for such infractions as not smiling at customers, so there was no way they would ever have enough money to make the payoff. If they protested, the women said, they were beaten.

A number of the women appear to have contracted sexually transmitted diseases, officials said, and international groups are attempting to obtain treatment for them either in Kosovo or as soon as they can return to their homelands. "This is a major problem, and it is going further underground because of police raids," said one aid worker. "At first, it was very out in the open, and so-called nightclubs were popping up. But now it's moving into private dwellings, and I expect if we get a reliable phone network we'll soon see call-girl services."

International organizations recently established a safe house to protect women who escape from the brothels until they can be returned home. But it is now full, with 21 women, and police have had to suspend raids on other brothels until they can repatriate some of the former captives.

International officials declined to allow a reporter to speak to any of the rescued women. But in bars in Pristina, Gnjilane and Urosevac, there are young Moldovan and Ukrainian women who describe themselves as "waitresses" seeking economic opportunity in Kosovo. "I can earn 400 deutsche marks [$200] a month," said a Moldovan woman at a cafe in Gnjilane, where beds are set up behind a dank front bar. Asked how much cash she had on her possession, the woman said only, "I'm okay," as an ethnic Albanian bar manager looked on.

According to the rescued women, the clientele varies from brothel to brothel, officials said. Some serve mostly ethnic Albanians; others cater to a mixture of ethnic Albanians and international workers. Peacekeeping troops--including Americans--also were customers, the women said. U.S. officials deny that American troops visit the brothels, pointing out that soldiers are confined to base when they are off duty.

The first case of sex-slave trafficking came to light in October--four months after NATO-led peacekeepers entered the province--when French police officers raided a brothel in Kosovska Mitrovica and found two Ukrainian women, ages 21 and 22, and two Serbs, one of whom was a minor. The establishment was closed and the Serbs were released, but the French did not know what to do with the two Ukrainians, who had no travel documents, officials said.

According to sources familiar with the case, the French policemen detained the women at a military camp while they appealed, without success, to humanitarian organizations for assistance. After two weeks, fearful of a public relations disaster because of the presence of "prostitutes" at a military facility, the French policemen took the two women to the administrative boundary between Kosovo and Serbia proper and essentially expelled them. It is unclear what happened to them.

In November and December, further cases of forced prostitution came to light when U.N. policemen visited a number of bars in Pristina--bars with such names as Totos and the Miami Beach Club--and removed women who appealed to them for help.

On Jan. 22, officers with the Italian police unit entered an establishment on the outskirts of Pristina called the International Club, where they were approached by women asking for help. The club, now closed, was a crude structure with a small bar and barren rooms in the back that were equipped with just a bed and a red light bulb. Some women were kept in an attic. The following night, the Italians raided the club and rescued 12 women, mostly Moldovans and Ukrainians, who appealed for sanctuary.

The Italians were criticized for conducting the raid without coordinating with the U.N. police and humanitarian organizations who then had to assume care of the women. But their efforts did lead to official recognition of the problem and the creation of the safe house in early February.

That has allowed international workers to interview the women and understand the process by which they were brought into the sex industry. In the last 10 years, according to women's advocacy groups, hundreds of thousands of women from the former Soviet republics and satellites have been trafficked to Western Europe, Asia and the United States. Kosovo, which had some local prostitution but no trafficking problem before the peacekeepers arrived after the Kosovo war ended last June, is just another new market, officials said.

Most of the women interviewed responded to newspaper ads seeking "attractive women" to work in the West and, in fact, knew they would work in the sex industry. A small minority told police they had been kidnapped or were completely deceived when they applied for jobs in the West, including one Moldovan teenager who got pregnant in Kosovo, police officials said.

"The women we've spoken to left their countries of their own volition and basically knew they would work as prostitutes," said a U.N. police officer in Gnjilane. "But they thought they could earn thousands of dollars in some exotic location like Italy or Spain and then go home rich. Instead, they end up imprisoned here without a dime."

James Pringle, "Sex Slave Trade Thrives Among Kosovo Troops," London Times, 5 February 2000.

Signor Lupoli said that the number of such girls was rising so quickly that the agency was finding it very difficult to cope. The IOM had also had difficulties locating a non-government organisation (NGO) to agree to take care of them. One problem is that the girls are not refugees so [they] do not come under ... the UNHCR. ...

In Kosovo, the streets were empty recently after dark after a panic that teenage girls were being kidnapped by the Albanian mafia to be sold into prostitution. Indeed, some have disappeared.

John Follain and Edin Hamzic, “Mafia smuggles refugee women into sex slavery,” Sunday Times, 16 May 1999.

After her husband and young son were murdered by Serbian paramilitaries, Alina fled Kosovo in terror. Nothing, she thought, could be worse than staying in her war-torn homeland. But danger lurked on the other side of the border. Alina, 27, escaped the Serbs only to become a prisoner in Italy, forced into prostitution by her Albanian captors.

Criminal investigators fear Alina's experience could be repeated thousands of times as the exodus of refugees from Kosovo into Albania continues. The United Nations has warned that vulnerable Kosovan women are being forced into prostitution in the European Union by ruthless criminal gangs with long experience of smuggling women and children across borders into EU states.

"Human traffickers are a serious threat, especially in Albania," said Sadako Ogata, the UN high commissioner for refugees. The situation is now so bad that it needs to be "forcefully addressed" by the international community, she believes.

Alina, who lived in Pristina until her husband and son were killed in front of her by masked members of a Serbian militia within days of the Nato airstrikes starting, is one of the first known Kosovan refugees forced into prostitution by Albanian mafia gangs. In early April she was approached by a man in Kukes, at an Albanian refugee camp she had fled to. He said he would find work and a home for her in Italy.

The Albanian drove her to the coast, from where she was smuggled in a speedboat across the Adriatic at night, with other illegal immigrants. She landed somewhere on the coast of southern Italy, to be met by four Albanian men.

They took her to Triggiano, a village south of the port of Bari. There, she later told Italian police, she was confined to a 16 sq metre airless room in a decrepit house with three other young women - Shpresa, 25, from Drenica in Kosovo, and two Albanians. The women had to share two torn mattresses and were fed only tinned food and bread.

Her four guards, who shared the bedroom next door, let her out under escort only at night. "I was already mourning the loss of my husband and my son, and now I was forced to sell my body," Alina said. "The Albanians told me, 'Do this or we will beat you; do this or we will kill you.' "

"This" meant dressing in a miniskirt, fishnet stockings and high heels, packing a few condoms into her handbag and parading the seafront motorway south of Bari, or plying her enforced trade in small towns nearby. The four captives earned 1.5m lire (about $500) each a night - none of which they were allowed to keep.

Alina's ordeal finally ended 10 days ago, when police raided the house. Two of the Albanians escaped arrest by fleeing over the rooftops. The two others, who turned out to be from the Albanian port of Durres, were caught and charged with abetting illegal immigration and prostitution, kidnapping and enslavement, and face several years in jail.

The next day, with a magistrate's approval, Alina headed back to Albania by ferry. Others, however, are sure to take her place. Italian relief workers at refugee camps in Vlore on the Albanian coast have reported visits by men who then leave the camp with young women. In one case, a 16-year-old was taken away from a camp set up by volunteers from Italy's Piemonte region.

The man who took her had a Kalashnikov slung across his back and told relief workers he was a policeman. "There are 2,000 Kosovan refugees in our camp," said Father Giovanni Mercurio, who manages the Rezervat E Shteti centre in Vlore. "For a month now police have been taking girls away and we are not told their destination. But we can't do anything about it."

Relief agencies have reported their concerns to the Italian interior ministry, but a government spokesman said there was little the authorities could do. "The girls are free, the refugee camps are not prisons. They are at liberty to do what they want and that can include being hired by Albanian criminals. The best way to stop that happening," he said, "is to have European countries take in refugees and care for them."

Last year, however, a Sunday Times investigation revealed that girls as young as 14 were being kidnapped or bought from their families in Albania to be sold for $800 each into the white slave trade in Britain. Thousands of women like Alina have been smuggled into Italy by sea and then transported overland to London, Hamburg and other western European cities.

In Durres, The Sunday Times was told that the price had since risen to $1,300. "Albanian mafia gangs are very vicious," a recent Home Office report emphasised. "They make the Italian mafia look like crowd-control officers at a local whist drive."


Kalaya Chareonying, ”Trafficking of Burmese Women and Children into Thailand,” Trade Environment Database No. 426, May, 1997.


1. The Issue

Trade in human beings for sex industry work and the continued trafficking of women and children into Thailand from Myanmar is a major human rights violation and also a serious health issue. In a given year, thousands of Burmese women and children are bought and sold as commodities, destined to become prostitutes. In Thailand, ever younger girls are being lured and abducted into forced prostitution, because they are thought to be safe from AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The expansion of the sex market to include this safe commodity (young girls) has resulted in the creation of activist groups against the exploitation of children. These local and international groups, particularly nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), have been effective in informing the world about the problem of trafficked women and children.

2. Description

Although the illegal trafficking in women and girls possesses distinct characteristics in each country or region where it occurs, certain patterns have emerged that cut across geographical boundaries. In a typical situation, a women or girl is first recruited by an agent who promises a good job in another country or province. In the case of Thailand, the common practice is to lure young Burmese women to Thailand with promises of employment as a waitress or domestic servant -- but instead, the girls are tricked into working as prostitutes.

As part of their recruitment or abduction, the women and girls are controlled through debt bondage. The initial debt is usually a payment to the woman's family at the time of recruitment, which she must repay, with interest, by working in a brothel. This debt also includes the brothel owner's normal charge of food, clothes, medicine and other expenses. Escape is virtually impossible without repaying the debt. Leaving the brothel without repayment puts the woman at risk of punishment by the brothel owner, or pimps. Also retribution against the prostitutes' parents and other relatives for defaulting on her debt is not uncommon. To make matters worse, police can and do arrest the trafficked woman on illegal immigrant charges. The distance from home, lack of familiarity with local language or dialect, and inability to find local support networks further reinforce the women's and girls' dependence on the brothel owners and pimps.

Many thousands of women and children from Myanmar are lured, abducted or sold into brothels in Thailand. They are bartered at prices that vary depending on their age, beauty and virginity. Women and children who have been trafficked can rarely escape, and are victims of exploitation. While it is true that heavy trafficking of persons, particularly women, has taken place from the Shan State in Myanmar for an extended period, the present situation sees women from all over Myanmar being lured into prostitution because of economic difficulties.

The number of Burmese women and girls recruited to work in Thailand brothels has soared in recent years as an indirect consequence of political repression in Myanmar by the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and because of improved economic relations between Myanmar and Thailand. After the 1988 crack down on the pro-democracy movement by the Burmese military, many countries around the world responded with economic sanctions and withdrawal of foreign aid, resulting in the shortage of foreign capital and exchange for Myanmar. Desperate for foreign exchange, SLORC turned to Thailand which offered a range of economic concessions. Such economic links led to official openings along Thai-Myanmar border, allowing both Thai and Burmese citizens to cross the common border easily (1).

This opening of trade and border crossings has facilitated the rise in trafficking of men, women and children from Myanmar. The same routes which are used to transport drugs and goods are now also used to transport people. Although trafficking in women and girls has become a lucrative and expanding cross-border trade, which routinely escapes effective national and international sanctions. This is due to corruption among police and immigration officials at borders who aid the illegal passage of traffic in persons.

A border boom brought about by the increased trade with Myanmar, coupled with the profitable tourist industry in Thailand, has increased the demand for women in the sex industry, especially for younger girls. Tourism in Thailand generates some US$4 billion annually, and sex is one of its most valuable sub-sectors(2). Combined with the tourist demand for prostitutes, the local demand is also high and helps sustain the sex market in Thailand. It is estimated that 75 percent of Thai men have had sex with prostitutes (3).

In addition to economic ties with Thailand, Myanmar's suppressive military regime has led many members of ethnic minority groups to become economically desperate enough to be recruited into prostitution. Myanmar continues to be ruled by a highly authoritarian military regime, (SLORC), which is widely condemned for its serious human rights abuses. There continues to be credible reports, particularly in ethnic minority areas, that soldiers commit serious human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killing and rape. Disappearance continues, and prison conditions remain harsh, with the members of security force randomly beating or otherwise abusing prisoners. Arbitrary arrests and detention continue for expression of dissenting political views, resulting in a few thousand students and dissidents remaining in exile in Thailand.

According to a US Department of State Report on Myanmar, approximately 90,000 people were residing in ethnic minority camps along the Thai-Burma border, among these are thousands of new arrivals driven out by army attacks in the ares controlled by the Karen and Karenni ethnic minorities.(4) SLORC is suppressing ethnic minority groups that are fighting for autonomy, and consequently, women belonging to these groups, such as the Karen, face difficulties because of militarism and the resulting economic hardship. Discrimination against women and ethnic minorities, violence against women and child prostitution, as well as trafficking in women and girls in border areas remains a serious problem.(5) Many women and children of the ethnic minority groups in border areas, and particularly in the Shan State, were forced or lured into working as prostitutes in Thailand.

The main center for trafficking in Eastern Myanmar is Kengtung, in Shan State, Northern Burma. Thousands of Burmese women of Akha, Lisu, Wa, Shan, Tai Yai and Burman ethnic origin are bought, recruited and then sent on to Northern Thailand.

The following factors help to encourage the trafficking of women from the Eastern Shan State. Shan women face severe economic, physical, religious, cultural and political discrimination. They are expected to find work that will support their parents and families, as well as to work the fields and do the house work when at home. Religious discrimination takes place in the context of Theravada Buddhism. Shan women are not considered pure enough even to enter the temples in central pagoda areas. At an official level, there is little participation of Shan women in the local decision making process.

The adverse socioeconomic conditions in Myanmar increase the likelihood that women and girls will be lured into forced prostitution. Notably in rural areas, women and girls have little education and few economic opportunities. Myanmar is a poor country, with an estimated average per capita income of US$200 to US$300 per year on a cash basis or about US$600 to US$800 on a purchasing power parity basis.(6) The complete lack of development in the Eastern Shan State have also contributed to migration. In many areas there are no roads, let alone cars, schools or clinics. The vast majority of Shan women never had the opportunity to go to school. Those who decide to cross the border into Thailand often know nothing about AIDS. It is widely understood that prostitution is an employment option where they can raise more money than through any other work, given their limited education. Thus, the burgeoning trade in women and girls is linked fundamentally to the women's unequal status.

Disturbingly, some of these agents who recruit young women for the brothel gangs in urban centers in Thailand are ordinary people who are known by the women. Sometimes trusted villagers and townsþ people or even friends and relatives have been known to lure unsuspecting women to leave their homes with promises of jobs with high wages, such as waitressing, in Thailand.

Once they arrive in Thailand, these victims rarely stay in one location. While some women stay in one brothel for a year or more, many are frequently moved around by the owners to avoid being caught or found by the womenþs family members who want them back. Many Burmese women end up in brothels in Ranong province which are usually owned by Thai businessmen and employ both Thai and Burmese women. Brothel owners use a combination of threats, force, debt bondage and illegal confinement to control the women and girls, and force them to work in deplorable conditions. This eliminates any possibility of escape. In many cases, the women especially those from Myanmar are forced to work in conditions which amount to nothing short of slavery. Most of them are confined to their rooms and only occasionally allowed to go out under the guard of a pimp. For example, one brothel from which prostitutes were freed was surrounded by barbed wired and an electrified fence (7).

Procurement and trafficking for the purpose of forced prostitution are not only widespread in Thailand, but in many instances occur with the direct involvement of the Thai police or border guards. Police and immigration agents at the border not only aid in the passage of Burmese women and girls, police involvement extends to maintaining forced prostitution after the women and girls enter the brothel. Brothels in Thailand are officially illegal, but they continue to flourish. Brothels routinely operate with police knowledge and police protection. For instance, the Crime Suppression Division of the police force raided houses suspected to be brothels in Bangkok and found account books listing protection payments to Thai government officials (8). Furthermore, police also are frequent clients at brothels.

Women and girls from brothels in the Ranong area who are arrested as illegal immigrants are normally deported back to Myanmar by Thai police and immigration officials. In most deportations, many victims are met by agents offering to take them to Bangkok for sex work, again (9). Or, the deported victims go straight into the arms of SLORC officials who, in turn, charge them of illegally leaving Myanmar and send them to prison.

The young women who are trafficked internationally are especially victimized because of the language barrier in their destination country. This creates a situation where they are easily exploited by customers, are at the mercy of brothel owners, are at disadvantage seeking help if they run away, are unaware of laws that might protect them. Besides being forced to work off their debt, which can take years, the women are charged for all their expenses at the brothel. It is believed that some 20,000 women from Myanmar are presently in Thai brothels, with 10,000 new recruits each year. The total number of prostitutes in Thailand is estimated between 800,000 and 2 million (10).

Victims of forced prostitution are particularly exposed to health risks, especially sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including AIDS, because they are not allowed to negotiate the terms of sex. Aside from the risk of infection through sexual intercourse with many clients, the growing popularity of contraceptive injections in brothels also contributes to the spread of disease, since brothels owners often use the same and possibly contaminated needle several times. Other women have become infertile due to STDs and, thus, unmarriageable. This is a great stigma in cultures where the primary purpose of marriage is procreation (11). Upon returning to Myanmar, these victims are shunned by SLORC for being both minority ethnic members and prostitutes and many are thrown into jails allegedly for illegal migration to Thailand. Some are forced to return to prostitution back in Thailand in order to support themselves. Many Burmese prostitutes, who were known to have AIDS, are murdered by Burmese soldiers when upon returning to Myanmar (12).

A report from the United Nations International Drug Control Program states that 74.3% of all tested drug users, 9% of the prostitutes, 0.5% of blood donors and 1.4% of pregnant women in Myanmar were HIV-positive (13). The AIDS virus is spreading at an extreme pace among prostitutes in Asia. Thailand could have up to 800,000 people infected with the virus, and Myanmar -- where condoms were banned until 1992 and are still rare -- has some 400,000 infected people (14).

In Thailand, which has a high prevalence rate of HIV, the clients fear of infection has led traffickers to recruit younger women and girls, sometimes as young as ten. Many come from remote areas in neighboring countries which are perceived to be unaffected by the AIDS pandemic. This ensures their "purity" or virginity which increase their value (15). Child prostitution in Thailand refers to children under fourteen. Although pedophiles have always sought out young children, the AIDS scare has escalated the use of children by all consumers. Young children are sometimes marketed as 'virgins' in order to attract customers who believe that children are not exposed to AIDS, and thus can provide safe sex.

Moreover, virgins are in great demand among Chinese from Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Chinese men prize sexual intercourse with young girls for the rejuvenating properties they believe to be associated with the act. According to O'Grady, "there are surprisingly large number of aging and wealthy Chinese businessmen who believe that they must deflower a virgin at least once a year to gain the energy needed to be successful in their business enterprise and have a long life"(16). However, the idea that a child is safer than an adult in terms of transmitting STDs and AIDS is only fallacy. In fact, children are at greater risks because of youth: their vaginas and anuses are easily torn, creating sores and bleeding that permit the AIDS virus to spread quickly.

Dr. Werasit, director of AIDS research at the Anonymous Clinic run by the Red Cross and World Health Organization (WHO) in Bangkok, completed his tests of prostitution in the Chiang Mai area in December of 1992. Four out of five prostitutes tested in the Chiang Mai area were HIV-positive. He estimated that 50 to 80 percent of prostitutes in Thailand are infected. According to the WHO, between 125,000 and 150,000 Thais will have died from AIDS by 1997. The Population and Community Development Association of Thailand estimates that AIDS could infect as many as 5.3 million by the year 2000, with more than a projected million dead from AIDS (17). Thailand, as a developing nation, does not have the health- care infrastructure to deal with an epidemic of this impending size. It will be easy for prostitutes to become part of a disposable population that receives little, if any, health care.

The epidemic could eventually throttle the country's economic boom, which has exported its way to an annual growth rate averaging 7.5 percent over the last decade. Since rapid economic growth has already created a shortage of technically skilled Thais, losses from AIDS will add a still greater cost to the work force. "The center of gravity of the AIDS epidemic in the world is moving to Asia," says David E. Bloom, professor of economics at Columbia University in New York (18). The gravity of the AIDS crisis has begun to wake up Western transnational and Asian corporations. These companies facing a scarcity of skilled labor in many parts of Asia could face more problems if they suddenly began to lose experienced staff to AIDS.

Health-care costs are sure to skyrocket, a labor shortage will emerge, and foreign investment could dry up. Treatment for AIDS, excluding expensive drugs, costs $1,000 a year, or 50 percent of the annual income for an average family. Each death due to AIDs, which usually strikes victims in the peak of their productive years, equals a loss in future earnings of $22,000 per person. This is compounded by the slacking off of the $5 billion tourism industry, in part from the impact of AIDS (19).

The virus spreads rapidly from country to country in part because of trafficking of prostitutes across borders, but also because customers tend to hop from place to place. Sex tours started in Japan, allowing groups of men to visit brothels in South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. Now South Korean and Taiwanese men are prosperous enough to travel on sex tours of their own to places like Bangkok or Manila.

Southeast Asia is now the world's number one destination for tourists looking for sex.(20). Many sex tourists are from the West, but a great number of Japanese and Chinese are also drawn by the low prices, easy access to prostitutes of either sex at any age and the lack of enforcement of laws. Without doubt, the rising sex tourism is contributing to the spread of AIDS everywhere. It is also true in Thailand that prostitutes who use condoms with their clients do not necessarily use them with men whom they are have personal relationships, and, hence, intimate relationships currently present a great danger in contracting STDs and AIDS (21). At the same time, those Thai men who frequently visit prostitutes also present the same danger to their wives and girlfriends at home.

Sex tourism in Asia is fed both by the use of local women and children and by international trafficking in persons. Sex tourism is closely tied to economic development in Thailand. The enormous increase in sex tourism in Thailand in the 1970s and 1980s is directly tied to the Vietnam War. Bangkok became a major center for Rest and Recreation (R & R) leave, commonly known the by GIs as I & I (Intoxication and Intercourse).(22) A large and steady stream of dollars entered the local economy through the sex industry. When the war ended, the Thai government, the military, and business, needed to continue the flow of foreign exchange earnings. To this end, they promoted sex tourism, to such an extent that a group of high-ranking military generalþs wives created a travel agency to organize the tours. After the war, many Americans chose not to go home. The saying was that there were no MIA in Vietnam; in reality they were all MIBs -- Mischief in Bangkok.(23) From 1965 to 1993, the number of tourists grew from 250,000 to over 5 billion (24).

Tour agencies in industrialized countries, especially Japan, Australia, Europe, North America, and recently, Korea, organize tours to major sex industry centers for men explicitly for sexual activity. Cities and resort areas specialize in particular types of sex or certain nationalities of men. For example, a city in northern Thailand is a noted homosexual center. Various areas in Bangkok are set up to serve men from different countries. Patpong is the famous area for Western tourists. Several island resorts in Thailand are specifically for pedophiles, and their remote nature makes them that much more difficult to be found in order to protest their acts.

The exploitation of boys and girls exemplify the single most unsavory element of the worldwide growth in the sex trade: an explosion in child prostitution, driven in part by the fear of AIDS. Since 1985, child prostitution has escalated dramatically worldwide. In the developing world the number of child prostitutes are staggering: an estimated 800,000 underage prostitutes in Thailand, 400,000 in India, 250,000 in Brazil and 60,000 in the Philippines.(25) The newest international sites for child prostitution are Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, China and the Dominican Republic.

In recent years, religious groups, and feminist organizations, and nongovernmental organizations have begun to press for an end to sex tourism. For example, in Thailand, the recent government efforts to curb the sex industry can be viewed, in part, as facilitated by the growth of female tourists, new social movements against women and child prostitutes, and of the increasing awareness of AIDS.

Example of the newly emerged social movement group is The End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT), founded in 1990 by Asia-based Christian groups, now has offices in 14 nations and extensive links with religious and social organizations around the world dedicated to fighting child prostitution. Pressure by ECPAT, and groups like it has already had some impact; in 1992 the Philippine government adopted a Child Protection Code to guard against child abuse.

Another effective fighter against sexual exploitation of children is the Task Force to End Child Exploitation in Thailand, a coalition of 24 government and private agencies dedicated to exposing links between Europe and the child sex trade in Bangkok. In 1991, the group disclosed the existence of a Swiss network of airline-ticket agencies catering to European pedophiles.(26) Local, regional and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been at the forefront of efforts to raise awareness of trafficking and to press for accountability. NGOs, particularly local groups, are carrying out desperately needed programs to warn girls and their families of the dangers of trafficking, shelter those who have managed to escape, provide urgent medical and psychological care, assist in repatriation, and press governments to strengthen domestic laws against trafficking.

The work of NGOs has filled the gaps left by government inaction and, at times, has led to governmentsþ improving their behavior. For example, in Thailand, NGOs working alone find that after they rescue girls and send them back to their country, they often come back again, especially those from Myanmar and the border areas, where the ongoing political conflict meant there was no one to take care of the children sent back across the border. Thus, NGOs have sheltered Burmese women and girls and found safe, undisclosed ways to return them home over the borders. In addition, Thai NGOs have advocated that their government adopt the necessary legislation and ratify the relevant international instruments to improve projections for trafficking victims.

From the international level, according to the American-based human-rights group, Asia Watch, the Thai government turns a blind eye to the traffic in women and girls brought from Myanmar to Thailand in forced prostitution.(27) Furthermore, the border controls that exist between Thailand and Myanmar are evaded by corrupt police on both sides. According to the Asia Watch, despite clear evidence of direct official involvement in every stage of the trafficking process, no Thai officer has been prosecuted, except in one highly publicized case of murder.(28)

Due to the NGOs demand, in March 1994 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted Resolution 1994/45 calling for the elimination of trafficking in women for the purposes of prostitution. The appointment of a U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and the work of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, in particular, have helped put pressure on the U.N. and its members to recognize the seriousness of the trafficking problem. U.N. Specialized agencies, including UNICEF, UNDP and WHO, have begun to analyze the issue of trafficking and prostitution in relation to their education, development, and relief work. The International Police Organization (INTERPOL) has also held several conferences on trafficking and has attempted to coordinate cross-border efforts of law enforcement agencies to curb trafficking in children, as mentioned earlier.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) launched a program to combat the trafficking of children and their exploitation in prostitution and sweatshops in Asia in the beginning of 1997. In Southeast Asia, Thailand appears to be the center of the problem according to ILO International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) for Asia. In addition to prostitution, surveys by ILO and NGOs found foreign boys and girls, mainly from Myanmar, in factories, construction sites, gas station and sweatshops in Bangkok and across the country.(29) Economic progress and development in Thailand may have actually contributed to the flow of children from other countries of the Mekong River region, where many face poverty and underdevelopment, political instability and civil war. …

A double-standard code of conduct reinforces and reflects the demand for prostitution. In Thai society, while strict rules of sexual conduct are applied to women, men can maintain their sexual freedom, and in many cases promiscuity is taken as proof of manhood. A demonstration of heterosexual orientation by having sex with a female prostitute is an important rite of passage for some groups of Thai men.(32) For example, it is a common practice for second-year university students to take freshmen to the local brothel.(33) One study has shown that many Thai men, around 73%, have their first sexual experience with a prostitute.(34) In addition, according to Harvard researcher Hnin Hnin Pyne, 75% of Thai men frequently visit prostitutes (35).

Furthermore, many Thai people accept as the norm sexual non- restraint for males. In a recent study by Deemar Corporation, 80% of the males and 74% of the females responded that it was þnatural for men to pursue sex at every opportunityþ (36). Many Thai men continue visiting prostitutes after marriage and their spouses accept this as an alternative to having an affair. Since divorced Thai women end up alone, many are forced to stay with their irresponsible husbands. Thus, the promiscuity of Thai men and the mentality that leads to this promiscuity are key reasons for the enormity of the prostitution problem.


Trafficked victims are not only sent to Thailand for prostitution, but Thailand is also used as the main route for sending prostitutes to other countries.

Human Rights

It does not matter whether trafficked victims are men, women or children, with or without STDs or AIDS, they are human beings, and thus deserved to be treated as human. Many victims who carry the AIDS virus are shunned by society and the government and are left to die.


Erin Richardson, “Nepal Sex Trade,” Trade Environment Database (TED) Case Studies, No. 509, 1998.

Beli's story:

Beli was only fourteen years old when she was sold in to a life of prostitution. The brothel madams beat her, starved her, assaulted her both physically and mentally, and locked her in a room until she lost the will to escape. After nearly four years in a brothel, of never being allowed out on the street to buy anything, of living and working in a tiny room with four other people, servicing up to 45 men a day, Beli has escaped to a shelter in Bombay, rescued by Vinod Gupta, a millionaire social worker dedicated to helping these young girls escape the prostitution rings.

But Beli will never shake the legacy of the brothel. Now, at 17, she has found out that she is HIV-positive. She doesn't want to return home, and she has refused to see her brother after he spit in her face when told she had AIDS.

Life would seem desperate to others not in Beli's position. But she will be kept safe and happy, among her new family at Anuradha Koirala's shelter, and looks forward to being able to provide for herself after she completes her painting courses.

Beli's story of kidnapping and rape is not uncommon. Experts believe there are more than 10,000 Nepalese prostitutes in India, many of whom were forcibly abducted or tricked into going there by friends and family who sold them to pimps or brothel owners for prices that range from US $40 to US $1,000.{2} While prostitution is not a crime in India, soliciting and sexual contact with children under 18 is illegal. Areas notorious for selling their innocent girls to India consist of: Ichok, Mahankal, Thakani, Duwachaur of Sinduphalchowk District, and Sikharbese. Also included are Gyangphedi, Kulu, Dhade, Bolgapm, Pating Sireese, Likhu and Kharbuji of Nawakot District. These are the most common villages where deceit is not often necessary. The families willingly sell their young girls for 'big money.'{3} The practice of selling the girl-child is so commonly accepted in some areas that entire villages have been depopulated of women. With the sale of a young woman bringing as much as 10 year's income, there is little surprise at the support to sell the girls. Other times, the girls will return to their villages with new clothes, cash, and jewelry, recruiting even more people into the trafficking ring.

The Constitution of Nepal stipulates that children (a person who has not reached the age of 16) shall not be employed in factories, mines, or similar hazardous work. It also forbids slavery, bonded labor, and trafficking of individuals. The government has a poor record for enforcing the constitutional provisions protecting human rights. Many government and private reports conclude that not enough is known about child prostitution and trafficking in Nepal to do anything, although some estimates state that between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepalese women and girls are taken to Indian brothels each year. Social activists say that 20 percent are younger than 16 and more than one third are taken by force or lured with the false promise of jobs or marriage. {4}

Girls are often recruited with promises of work, wealth, and freedom in the big city. This is a far cry from the life they would lead if they stay in the villages, where they are considered little more than chattel. Traffickers buy them from their families, and sell them to interested individuals and groups running prostitution rings or brothels, or as bonded labor in carpet factories. Kathmandu is the only boom economy in the poor country of Nepal. Cheap, unskilled labor is in great demand, especially in the carpet industry. Many women and girls leave their villages as laborers to find work in the carpet factory. In order to cover the cost of buying labor, the factory owners will sell the prettiest girls to the city brothels, making this industry one of the first contact points for prostitution.

Nepalese women are favored in India because of their light skin and facial structure. Some are taken as early as nine years old. The trafficking of these young girls from Nepal has become a booming business for the brothels, so much so that the pimps and procurers have set up a system to "break in" the new girls by teaching them how to dress, how to talk, and how to put on their make-up. Also during this breaking in period they are locked in a room so they cannot escape, raped, beaten and barely fed. They are then forced to have sex with as many as 35 men per day, for as little as 60 – 100 rupees or US$1 - $2 per client, depending on their age and beauty. Younger girls are worked especially hard to get as much money out of them as possible before they become too old or disease ridden. Almost all of the proceeds go directly to the brothel madams to pay off their "buying price" from the pimps and procurers. The girls never know how much they have been bought for, nor do they know how much they make per client. They can spend nearly 10 years trying to repay the money, virtually enslaving them to the brothel madams.

Traditions of Exploitation

The sale of women and girls has its roots in Nepalese culture and religion. The sex industry in India has been active since the Vedic period, made reference to in the Ramayana and Mahabharata spiritual texts of the Hindu religion. Sex workers were called "Vaishyas' and have accompanied kings to the battlefield, formed the main bodyguard of Emperor Chandra Gupta Maurya, and engaged in intelligence services for the kingdom. During the Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1565) the highest honor bestowed on a young girl was to be sold as a Devadasis, a temple prostitute, literally meaning, "slave of god."{5} The devadasi is a Hindu temple servant who, before reaching puberty, is dedicated for life to the goddess Yallamma.

In other cases, a young girl is "married" to the temple. Traditionally, the divine marriage would transport a low-caste girl into a devotional career of temple singing and dancing. In modern times, this outlawed ritual is believed to absorb nearly 10,000 girls a year, often condemning them to a life of sexual enslavement to temple priests or city brothels. {6}"Untouchable" caste women are also traditionally prostitutes, while other castes allow unmarried women and children to be offered to the temple as offerings. In many cases, there is an established network between the temples and the city brothels. Temple leaders take advantage of the ignorance of the law and the cultural and traditional beliefs of the local communities. In the majority of the cases, this invariable results in the children being sold to the temples then in turn sold to brothel madams. "Some of these forms of child prostitution in India emerge from deeply rooted, traditional practices and beliefs which still prevail," said Richard Young, chief of community development for the United Nations Children's Fund in India. " They may be legally outlawed, but they do continue."{7} Without helping the population overcome some of the historically rooted prejudices, such as women as second class citizens, the birth of a Nepalese child will be rejoiced, but for all the wrong reasons - such as the money she will bring to the family when she is sold.

These traditions of exploitation are some of the many barriers that need to be overcome in order to eradicate the trafficking of women and girls across the border between India and Nepal. These cultural heritages along the caste system are ingrained in their world view. The upper class, especially those in government, does not see trafficking (or the caste system) as a problem since they are not negatively affected. However, outside forces cannot impose their own moral and cultural standards on a sovereign nation, the need for change needs to be recognized within if the traditions are not to be perpetuated. History, traditions, and cultural norms will be extremely difficult to overcome in order to stop the exploitation of the poor Nepalese villagers who are compelled to sell their children in order to survive.

The trafficking of girls has reached high levels of organization and government cooperation. The sex tourism trade is big business for many cities with high tourism, such as Bombay and Kathmandu. In Nepal, tourism is the country's chief industry and sex workers have begun to play a major role in Nepal's tourism earnings.{8} One of the many reasons for the growth of the sex trade in South Asia is the crackdown of other sex trade destinations in the East, such as Bangkok. As these other areas begin to clamp down on their own sex trade, tourists began looking for other "exotic" locations, finding an alternative in South Asia.

Measures to suppress trafficking of women and children have proven inadequate, primarily since law enforcement agencies and government officials are unwilling to enforce the law. Police take bribes to look the other way, and officers leave the brothels alone because corrupt politicians protect them. In the case of rape against prostitutes, sentences range from a fine of 500 rupees (US $9.00) to one year's imprisonment. Brothel owners can be sentenced between 7 to 14 years imprisonment for forcing children into prostitution under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1986. However, there is a general unwillingness among citizens, particularly government figures, to recognize violence against women as a problem. {9} One lawyer at the Institute of Legal Research and Resources (ILRR) has stated that one of the most significant factors in being unable to halt the sex trade is the lack of adequate laws. "We don't have laws to prosecute anyone involved in illegal prostitution. Our laws can only prosecute those who have forced others in to prostitution against their wishes."{10} Moreover, since many young girls leave their home villages willingly in pursuit of jobs and a better life, it is difficult to prosecute any of the middlemen or brothel owners, who have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Impact of AIDS

The fear of AIDS by returning prostitutes has discouraged the government from promoting the rehabilitation of prostitutes. It has been estimated that 60% of the prostitutes are HIV positive, some as young as 16.{11} There is a belief that the young girls are less likely to be infected, which has increased the demand for children. Most clients refuse to wear condoms, and if a girl insists, they can always find one who will not. Many of the girls need the money to support their children, or to try and save what little they can for the future. When they are too old or disease-ridden they will be kicked out of the brothel, hopefully having saved enough money to buy a bed on the street.

By their middle teens, many of the prostitutes have developed AIDS symptoms, if not a full-blown case of AIDS. It is estimated that 1,000,000 women between the ages of 15-49, and 48,000 children are infected with HIV in India. The cumulative total is 4,100,000 of the adult population (ages 15-49) are living with HIV/AIDS.{12} Many of the doctors take advantage of the girls' ignorance and illiteracy, and misprescribe the medication while not educating the girls on how to take care of themselves. Healthcare professionals such as the International Health Organization workers and community volunteers try to educate the girls in how to protect and take care of themselves, but in most cases it is too late.

Take for example Durga, a devadasi in the red-light district of Sangli, India, 10 hours from Bombay. She was put through the ritualistic ceremony before her first menstrual cycle, having been raised in a Bombay brothel, where her mother was sold into prostitution by her father. She remembers carrying water for less than a penny a trip, and being raped, beaten and hospitalized at 13 for refusing a customer. But now she makes about $120 a month, enough to support her two children, two brothers, and her mother, and knows no other way of life. In Sangli, the tradition of serving a squatter camp in a prosperous farm-belt has remained unchanged in many ways except one: men have come in asking for younger and younger women. Even here the fear of AIDS has hit the brothels. One young Durga's prostitute once asked her if AIDS was really a disease with no cure. Durga told her yes, and that two of her other co-workers had recently died from it. Durga also told her about Ichalkarana, a textile-mill center not far from Sangli, where eight prostitutes died from AIDS. There, the red-light population, which once numbered around 70, is down to 35.

Durga once thought she would dedicate her daughter to be a devadasi, like herself and her mother. But not anymore. "We are afraid of death," she explained. "We do not want our children to die."{13}

According to some accounts, the sex trade is declining in Bombay. The reasons appear varied, but are primarily due to the AIDS scare. But as the business declines, many men are choosing to buy younger and younger girls, ones who have less chance of having AIDS. There is a culture of child prostitution that will need to be changed before substantive laws will be enforced. "Attitudes and mind sets, corruption and apathy are major obstacles which will not be overcome by any scheme," said Richard Young. {14} Rather than a reactive response or rehabilitation, measures should be proactive and focused on education and empowerment of women and female children. Because of the poverty of the region, women and girls have little in the way of other employment opportunities.

Illiteracy has proven to be one of largest contributors to social inequality in Nepal and India. Although the Nepalese constitution offers women equal opportunities for education, many social, economic, and cultural factors contribute to lower enrollment and higher drop out rates for girls. A direct correlation exists between the level of education and status. Female children of wealthy families have much higher education levels and access to relatively high-status positions in government and the private sector. Poorer women are caught in a vicious circle imposed by the patriarchal society. Their lower status hinders their education, and the lack of education constricts their status and position.

Saving the Girls

This has not stopped some people from trying to rescue these young girls. Vinod Gupta, one of Bombay's most active millionaires, has devoted his retirement to fighting the evils of India's most corrupt city. Gupta started an organization called Savdhan to organize the rescue of these young prostitutes. When Gupta receives a smuggled letter asking for help, he organizes a raid on the brothel (with local police cooperation in order to make it legal) to seize the girl and get her out. By his account, nearly 5,800 girls have been rescued. He surprised Bombay in 1982 by rescuing a 13-year-old Nepalese girl who was being prostituted to foreign sex tourists in luxury hotels in a case that made international news. More than a decade after that renowned case, and a decade after India and Nepal signed a treaty to stop child trafficking, Gupta estimates prostitution is still worth about $800,000 a day to Bombay's underworld mafia, pimps, and local politicians. {15} The police may raid the brothels and imprison sex workers along with pimps, madams, and traffickers, but corruption permits the sex industry to thrive, and police are among the men who use the brothels. Because of this, there are many vested interests in not pulling off a successful raid. Oftentimes, the madams are tipped off in advance, hide the girls and get out of the brothels before the raiders can rescue any of their girls.

Even if a raid is successful, other problems occur in trying to decide what to do with the girls. In February 1996, Bombay police "rescued' over 400 women and children (over 60 percent were minors) from India's largest brothel. Two hundred and eighteen of those rescued had been trafficked from Nepal. The women were detained and were unable to be released since the governments of India and Nepal refused a dialogue about what to do with the girls. Social workers say the Indian government has been reluctant to resolve the issue other than to send the sick back to their home villages.

Rescue operations have also been ineffective. Of 547 young girls rescued during a much-publicized police raid on Bombay brothels in February 1996, 238 were Nepali. They were sent to remand homes where they languished for five months due to authorities’ inaction. Five girls died and 32 escaped during this time. Following pressure from Nepali non-governmental organizations, 124 were finally sent back to Nepal in July, though many face continued problems of social rehabilitation, venereal diseases, including HIV infection, and rejection by their families.{16}

However, many of the rescued girls want to return to the brothel. They do not feel as though they will be accepted back in their villages. In many cases, they are correct. Many regions in Nepal do not want to become the dumping ground for "India's soiled goods."{17} They do not see these girls as victims. India and Nepal share an open border, so there is no telling how many ex-prostitutes are returning to their home villages, or how many new girls are entering the brothels.

Hopeful Future?

Not all hope is lost, though. There are a growing number of women empowerment activists and human rights groups in Nepal, and nearly all political parties have their own women's group. However, little success has come of enacting tougher legislation. Authorities in Nepal fear loss of face. An awareness of Western concern might help motivate massive penalties for the corruption that permits these practices to happen.

Internationally, steps are being taken at the national level to target sexual exploitation at home and abroad. New extraterritorial laws in some countries, including Australia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States now permit countries to prosecute nationals guilty of sex offenses overseas. This might help to decrease the interest in sexual tourism, since visitors may have to pay a price for their activities. Recently, the World Trade Organization established a Task Force to target tour operators and hotels that knowingly cater to sex tourists. Enforcing these new sanctions and laws will require international cooperation from a variety of participants, including government entities such as the police and judicial systems, as well as local and international NGOs. However, it is the enforcement of the law that has been the primary problem in the Bombay area. Many local officials and policemen benefit from prostitution.

Prostitution and the sex trade are issues nobody wishes to talk about in India or Nepal. Many think it is an unavoidable evil. In the short run, it helps the economy and benefits those in power. However, over time, ignoring the unsustainable situation will only enhance the negative impact on the culture and health of the society. If the country become so highly infected with AIDS, drastic measures may become necessary and will only hurt the economy even more. Enforcement of local, national and international laws that have been largely nonexistent need to be adhered to. With the underlying causes of the issue being multifaceted, (the poor economic conditions and the cultural norms that allow women to be sold into sexual slavery), these socioeconomic issues also need to be addressed before a substantive solution can be found. But with the growing awareness of the massive human rights violations, not to mention the increasing number of AIDS cases, isn't it about time this issue is seriously discussed between the Indian and Nepalese governments?


Allan Little, “Nigeria's 'respectable' slave trade,” BBC News, 17 April 2004.

"Trafficking in human beings" is a phrase guaranteed to cause a sharp intake of breath among listeners from the liberal and affluent and concerned West. The view of trafficking in Nigeria is somewhat different. In fact, it is seen as an everyday part of West African life.

It starts with the promise of a better life.

The parents are taken in. The children are persuaded. When they leave home they do so willingly, with some excitement, not trepidation.

The trafficker has promised a good job, a schooling, a regular income. But that is not how it works out.

One young woman told me she was promised regular work in the Nigerian countryside.

Discernible shame

She found herself transported overland through the north of Nigeria, to Mali, then to Algeria, then Morocco.

From there she was smuggled into Spain, at night, in a small boat, and from there, on forged papers, into Italy by train.

They took her to a house in Turin where she lived with other girls, some, but not all, Nigerian like her, and under the control of a madam, also Nigerian.

She was put to work as a prostitute, something she speaks of now with a discernible shame.

After seven months she had earned enough money to pay off what she owed the traffickers for taking her in the first place.

When that debt was paid, her trafficker shopped her to the Italian immigration authorities and she was repatriated, home to Benin City, Nigeria with nothing to show for her ordeal.

There was a second young woman with a similar story.

Not yet out of her teens, her traffickers took her to Verona where she worked as a prostitute.

She spoke without shame. She spoke with anger.

"Just when I had paid off my debt," she said. "Just when I was about to start working for myself, the police caught me."

This is the pattern. The traffickers do not want their working girls setting up on their own, taking custom away from their girls.

Turnover - in human traffic - is everything.

Oil rich cities

Unicef estimates that human trafficking is more lucrative than any other trade in West Africa except guns and drugs.

The streets of Nigeria are teeming with trafficked children.

Of the hundreds of thousands of street kids living rough in Nigeria's oil rich cities, perhaps 40% have been bought and sold at some time.

The girls most frequently sold into domestic service, or prostitution, the boys into labour in plantations, or to hawk fruit and vegetables for 12-hours a day in an open air market.

Some work as washers of feet.

In Nigeria children enter the labour market almost as soon as they can lift and carry.

We watched a skinny boy in a dust bowl of a quarry carrying stone blocks on his head ferrying them from where they were cut from the earth to where they were broken down into usable pieces for the construction industry.

He worked here alongside his heavily pregnant mother.

He earned 40p (70 US cents) a day, which his mother used to buy food for her five younger children.

The boy was nine-years-old and he had been working at the quarry since he was seven.

Unicef believe there are 15 million children working in exploitative labour in Nigeria.

It is a 21st century slave trade.

What is most striking is the tacit support that human trafficking enjoys at almost every level of society.

The Lagos middle class have a bountiful supply of house boys and house girls, brought from villages in the north by helpful aunts and uncles who pocket the cash and disappear.

No-one asks questions. No-one wants to know the answers.

For human trafficking is not something that happens on the criminal fringes of Nigerian society.

It is woven into the fabric of national life.

In Benin City, in the oil rich Edo state, east of Lagos, I met an articulate 15-year-old girl who said many of her friends had been trafficked.

"Their parents are involved," she said. "They say to the girls: 'Why don't you go with this man and work. We have no money, we have nothing to eat. You can send us money.' And so the girls go."

And that is the problem. That trafficking has the tacit collaboration of the victims' own families. That it is not seen as criminal activity at all but as a normal and even respectable way for a family of - say - seven or eight children to boost its meagre income.


”Woman Files First Trafficking Suit,” Aviva, 20 Dec. 2006.

In a landmark case for Thailand's judicial system, a 39-year-old woman has filed a civil lawsuit against three fellow villagers for trafficking her into prostitution in Japan. Urairat Soimee filed her suit at the Lom Sak Provincial Court in Phetchabun province, 300 kilometres north of Bangkok, demanding 4.6 million baht (118,000 dollars) in compensation from Sarit Khampah, his wife Khai and their relative Phathama Kosaka for luring her into working as a sex worker under false pretenses in Japan in 2000. Urairat filed a "forma pauperis" suit, claiming she was too poor to pay the court the required deposit equivalent to 5% of the requested compensation. "The court accepted the forma pauperis status and will soon set a date for the trial," said Janjila Boonprasert, a case coordinator working with Urairat from Thailand's National Human Rights Committee (NHRC). Urairat's case is deemed a landmark in Thailand, where human trafficking is rampant, because past victims of the trade dared not press charges against the perpetrators out of fear or shame. "Society tends to look down on victims of prostitution trafficking because there is a belief that they enter the trade willingly," said NHRC's Janjila, in a telephone interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. Urairat, who is dying from ovarian cancer, is different. "She's filing the lawsuit because she has nothing to lose," said Janjila. "Her time is almost over. Her body is weak but her determination is strong." Urairat in her suit claimed that the accused, all residents in her hometown of Lom Sak, duped her into travelling to Japan on the promise that they had secured her a job in a Thai restaurant but instead forced her to work as a prostitute. In an attempt to flee the sex slavery Urairat killed her "mama san" or female pimp, for which a Japanese court sentenced her to seven years imprisonment. Urairat was released after serving five years and allowed to return to Thailand last year when she was diagnosed as dying from ovarian cancer. Source: Bangkok Post, 20.12.06.


Amberin Zaman, “Sex Trafficking Plagues Turkey,” LA Times, 1 Feb. 2006.)

The country is a prime destination for women lured from former Soviet states and pressed into slavery, report says.

ANKARA, Turkey — This nation has become one of the largest markets in the trafficking of women from nearby former Soviet states who have been forced into prostitution, with profits from the illicit sex trade in Turkey an estimated $3.6 billion last year and growing, an international agency said in a report released Tuesday.

About 5,000 women, more than half from Moldova and Ukraine, are believed to be working as sex slaves in Turkey, an agency official said. The prostitution networks make about $150 per customer, with each woman serving up to 15 clients a day.

"If they work 340 days a year, it's a multibillion-dollar business just in Turkey alone," said the official, Marielle Lindstrom, country director for the International Organization for Migration. "And the women don't get a penny."

The release of the report was timed to coincide with an awareness campaign launched by the agency and the Turkish government. Most of the women identified last year as victims of human trafficking were between the ages of 18 and 24. One-third were mothers, and many were either divorced or married to abusive spouses. They were brought here with promises of jobs as waitresses or dancers that would help them support their children.

"The minute they set foot in Turkey, their passports are taken away and they are raped and beaten," said Allan Freedman, who coordinates counter-trafficking programs for the Ankara bureau of the International Organization for Migration.

The awareness campaign is designed in part to tap into Turks' adulation of children. In a television commercial to be aired nationwide, four children left behind in a Moldovan village ask for their mothers in broken Turkish.

"This is a country where family is the foremost value, so that is what we are appealing to," Freedman said.

It is hoped the ad will prompt more people, especially clients, to tip off authorities so the women can be rescued.

Prostitution is legal under Turkey's strictly secular system. Prostitutes issued identity cards by the authorities operate out of brothels that are guarded by metropolitan police, and the women have mandatory weekly health checks.

The influx of women from former Soviet states, known here informally as Natashas, reportedly has cut into the profits of the legal sex trade.

The foreigners' plight was graphically brought to light last summer when security forces found five Ukrainian women in a windowless, 40-square-foot underground cell in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya. The women had been imprisoned for 10 months by a father and son who forced them into prostitution after luring them to Turkey with promises of legitimate jobs.

In her statement to police, one of the women said the father had poured boiling oil over her legs and genitals when she refused to have sex with a client. The women were rescued after a client called a free telephone help line set up by authorities last year.

Thanks to such calls — more than two-thirds of them by clients — 52 trafficked women were rescued last year.

The help line is one of several steps Turkey's conservative government has taken to stamp out the illicit sex trade. "We want to become a model country" for anti-trafficking efforts, said Derya Kanbay, an official with the Foreign Ministry.

The Bush administration, which contributed $600,000 to the Turkish effort, threatened to cut funding two years ago because of what it said was Turkey's failure to adequately address the problem. Corruption within the security forces has been cited as an obstacle by Western law enforcement.

Despite Turkey's stepped-up efforts to rein in trafficking, the U.S. has decided to slash funding for the program this year because of the financial strain imposed by the war in Iraq and the Gulf Coast hurricanes. The U.S. Embassy in Ankara is reportedly trying to get the money reinstated.

"We get so much return on our program in Turkey, which is why we would like to continue our support," said a U.S. official who requested anonymity.


"Amnesty May Be Granted to Ugandan Responsible for Kidnapping, Sex Slavery," Feminist Daily News Wire, July 6, 2006.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced Tuesday that if peace talks are successful, he will grant amnesty to Joseph Kony, head of a Ugandan terrorist organization, despite the atrocities Kony has committed over the past 19 years. Under Kony's leadership, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has killed thousands and kidnapped approximately 20,000 Ugandan children. Many of the girls kidnapped by the LRA were forced into sex slavery, according to the BBC.

"Kony was abducting girls to offer them as rewards to his commanders," International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo told news service AllAfrica. Girls and women who are released following their abduction often returned home with HIV infections and children born of rape. According to a Ms. Spring 2006 report, countless women have faced shame and rejection upon their arrival from the LRA camps and must rely on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for support.

Museveni's promise of amnesty is contingent on the outcome of peace talks to be held next week between the Ugandan government and the LRA rebels. Ugandan officials told the BBC that Museveni would grant Kony amnesty if he "responds positively to the talks...and abandons terrorism." However, according to a BBC report on Wednesday, the ICC will continue to pursue an arrest of the fallen LRA leader, who currently faces a 33-count indictment, including 12 counts of crimes against humanity for the atrocities he has committed against women and young children. Said UN Humanitarian Affairs Chief Jan Egeland to the BBC, "[Kony's actions are] terrorism of the worst kind anywhere in the world."


”Teen tells of Asia's rampant sex slavery,” Taipei Times, 28 Oct. 2005.

REGIONAL MALAISE: Vietnamese teenager Tran Mai Hoa was duped and sold to human traffickers who forced her into sexual slavery, but she was fortunate -- she escaped

Teenage school dropout Tran Mai Hoa's sad, soft voice lowers to a hush as she recalls how on a whim she accepted an invitation from a woman she barely knew to go on holiday.

"I never go out with people who I don't know well but I went with her," says the 17-year-old, her eyes downcast as she moodily traces patterns on the floor.

Hoa set off in a car with the woman, a friend of her older brother, thinking she was going on a short trip to a nearby town. But after her companion spun her an excuse about needing to take a detour, the naive girl was taken on a three-hour drive north from her native Halong City and then on a ten-minute boat ride across a river. Unwittingly, she had crossed the unpoliced Kalong border river into Chinese territory.

Sold into slavery

"When I was taken to a house, I found some Vietnamese people there and they told me I was already in China. In the beginning I didn't know what was happening. Later the Vietnamese people told me I had to be a prostitute," Hoa, not her real name, says.

Like countless thousands of other young Vietnamese and Asian women, Hoa had been sold to a human-trafficking syndicate. She was bound for a life of sexual slavery, forced to sleep with up to 10 men a day until a lucky break helped her escape the gang's clutches and return to Vietnam after just a few months.

And save for that happy chance, her story is all too familiar across much of Asia.

Hoa, who looks older than her years, with waist-length hair neatly tied behind her neck, never once breaks down as she recalls her ordeal, sitting in an office of the Women's Union in northern Vietnam's Quang Ninh province, of which Halong City is the capital.

The woman who allegedly lured her there and who has since been arrested, was once a victim of trafficking herself, before joining the criminal operation and tricking young women into following her footsteps.

Experts say that many Vietnamese women, either themselves past victims of trafficking or those who sought partners across the border, are engaged in the sex trade.

"We understand that a lot of the brothels are just across the border and a number of them are run by Chinese men married to Vietnamese women," says Andrew Bruce, Director of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) country mission, saying the wives may be pivotal players in the trafficking business.

Nguyen Huong Giang, of Save the Children UK in Vietnam, says the two main trafficking destinations are China and Cambodia, but trafficking to other countries in the region as well as to Europe is on the increase.

Six categories

Giang identifies six categories most vulnerable to being trafficked: girls, school drop-outs, the unemployed, children from large families, those from broken or single-parent homes, and working children.

Hoa fits the first three types. Three years ago, the teenager quit school believing her education was a burden on her poor parents living in Halong City, a relatively affluent tourist destination famed for its spectacular bay dotted with limestone formations, caves and grottos.

Her 51 year-old mother, who works for a coal company, is the sole breadwinner. Her father, 60, used to do seasonal construction work but does so no longer.

For a young girl unable to find work, the idea of a brief trip away with her older brother's friend was too tempting to resist. But once in China, the enormity of her mistake dawned on her and she pleaded in vain to be taken back home.

The trafficker only threatened to sell the short-statured girl further away in China. Better work for a few years, pay back the money for her sale to the brothel and win freedom, Hoa was told.

"I thought of my parents. I thought they'd made a lot of effort to take care of me and bring me up till now ... If they know what kind of work I have to do, what is happening to me, what'll they think?" she asks.

"I tried to commit suicide but they [the brothel keepers] saw me. They screamed at me and said: `You pay us back and we'll let you go,'" says Hoa, who tried to slit her wrists.

"And so I stayed in order to try and come back home," she recalls.

Hoa saw none of the money from the ten or so men she had to service daily but believes each of them paid about 40 yuan (about US$5).

She knew nothing about condoms but was taught to use them and allowed to insist they be worn, and the girls at the brothel were even supplied with palatable meals.

There were about a dozen in the brothel, divided among different "owners," some Chinese and some Vietnamese. The girls, or inmates, were not allowed to talk to each other except in the presence of their minders.

Unbeknown to Hoa, Vietnamese and Chinese police launched an anti-trafficking campaign this summer, giving her a lucky break that many never get.

"One day in mid-August, the trafficker put me in a car to evade a police raid. When we reached Nanning [capital of the southern Chinese Guangxi region], police stopped our car," Hoa recalls.

Lucky break

Her nearly five-month ordeal was over. Numb with relief and despite being in the custody of foreign police, she dozed off. After two days of debriefing about the Chinese traffickers and minders, she was handed over to Vietnamese police in the border town of Mong Cai.

Hoang Thi To Linh, an IOM program officer, says 22 women were handed back in Mong Cai alone in the summer. Similar operations are believed to have taken place at several other border posts.

But those who are rescued may be just a fraction of those sold into sexual slavery.

Giang of Save the Children says that according to some surveys, the number of children and women trafficked from Vietnam alone may range from "more than 20,000 to more than 40,000 cases" to date.

Duong Thi Xuan, spokeswoman for the Vietnam Women's Union, says simply: "So long as there is demand there will be supply."

The UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking says on its Web site that anti-trafficking efforts may simply shift the problem from one place to another.

"This is sometimes referred to as the `push-down, pop-up' phenom-enon," it says.

And for every girl like Hoa who is rescued, there are several left behind or being trafficked anew.

Hoa's family eagerly took her back, but some others are reluctant, a fact which pains Noortje Verhart of IOM.

"The best solution would be to see if somebody would like to go back to their place of origin, their families in the first place," she says.

"When they have been through those experiences, the family often is prepared to receive them but [if] they don't want that then we have difficulty there," Verhart says.

In societies such as Vietnam, the family is central to people's lives.

Happy ending?

"I was very happy to be back home," Hoa says. "My parents were shocked and hurt, knowing what I suffered over there [in China]. They didn't shout at me or anything, they just encouraged me."

Her unemployed brother is remorseful that a woman he had known turned out [to be] a trafficker.

"He said sorry to me because his wrong choice of friend had such an effect on his sister," she says.

"I am disappointed with what happened to me. I want to have a new life. I want to study something that can help me find a job," she says, worried that her ageing parents will be unable to care for her for much longer.

"Actually I ought to be feeding them, not they me," she says.

In the weeks since her return, she has had no job offers but the Women's Union says it is helping her get part-time work.

Linh of IOM says the union and her organization are offering training courses for both trafficking victims and other young women deemed vulnerable to exploitation.

The course is made up of lessons in cooking, English and "life skills in order to help them gain confidence," says Linh. Hoa will take it next month and get help with food, accommodation and some pocket money for course material.

Throughout the interview, the only question Hoa adamantly refuses to answer is what she thinks of men in general now and whether she will ever get married.

She has a more fatalistic view of life.

"Destiny has a bad part and a good part," she says. "If early in life misfortune occurs, then I believe good fortune can come in the future."

United States

Larry Neumeister, “Experts: Sex Slavery Widespread in US,” Associated Press, 20 August 2006.

New York - Raids that uncovered more than 70 suspected sex slaves focused on 20 brothels in the East, but they illustrated a long-ignored national problem found in towns large and small, experts say.

"It's a very overwhelming subject for a lot of people to recognize that there is slavery at this time in our country," said Carole Angel, staff attorney with the Immigrant Women Program of the women's rights advocacy group Legal Momentum in Washington. "It's hard for us as humans to contemplate what this means."

The concept of slavery in the 21st century is foreign to most people, agreed Jolene Smith, executive director of Free The Slaves, a Washington-based organization dedicated to ending slavery worldwide.

"Americans are conditioned to believe that slavery was a thing of the past," Smith said. "We have to reeducate ourselves about this reality."

On Tuesday, federal and local law enforcement raided brothels disguised as massage parlors, health spas and acupuncture clinics in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maryland, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia, arresting 31 people on trafficking charges.

Authorities said they also freed more than 70 sex workers, taking them to undisclosed locations for questioning and to provide basic services such as health care and food. Authorities said it might take weeks to get the Korean immigrants to trust them enough to discuss their ordeal.

"Human traffickers profit by turning dreams into nightmares," said U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia in Manhattan, where the majority of the traffickers face prosecution. "These women sought a better life in America and found instead forced prostitution and misery."

Angel said the raids should not give the impression that trafficking is limited to immigrants, who are often enticed into coming to America for legitimate jobs but then forced to work in brothels, sweatshops and restaurants to pay off debts of up to $30,000 to their traffickers.

"There are so many faces on this," she said. "It happens in rural communities, big cities. It spans all education levels, different countries, different races."

Such forced labor also thrives in agricultural and domestic work, as well as in sweatshops or unregulated industries, said Laurel Fletcher, law professor at the University of California at Berkeley International Human Rights Law Clinic.

Fletcher was one of several authors of a 2004 report believed to be the first comprehensive study of forced labor in the United States.

That study, by Free The Slaves and the Human Rights Center of the University of California at Berkeley, concluded that at least 10,000 people are forced laborers at any time across the United States.

The State Department estimates there are among up to 800,000 trafficking victims worldwide.

The Berkeley study concluded that forced labor victims came from more than 35 countries, with the most from China, followed by Mexico and Vietnam. It found reports of forced labor in at least 90 U.S. cities, most often in areas with large immigrant populations.

Fletcher cautioned that trafficking in smaller communities is likely harder to detect.

The study also concluded that prostitution and sex services accounted for 46 percent of the documented forced labor. Domestic service made up 27 percent, agriculture 10 percent, sweatshop factory work 5 percent and restaurant and hotel work 4 percent.

Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the federal government has begun numerous investigations and seized tens of millions of dollars from traffickers.

With increased investigations, the number of arrests has risen more than 400 percent in recent years, Myers said. And the amount of assets seized from human smugglers and human trafficking organizations has gone from almost nothing in 2003 to nearly $27 million in 2005, she noted.

Myers said criminals look at the slaves as a commodity.

"But we know that the victims of trafficking and smuggling are not cargo," Myers said. They are human beings who often have been mentally and physically broken down in every way possible."

Stephanie V. Siek, “Voice given to sexual slavery victims. Author has talked to 55 worldwide,” Boston Globe, 27 October 2005.

One of the guiding mottoes of Sister Helene Hayes's religious order is, ''One person is of more value than a world." It's a phrase Hayes has taken to heart as she works on a book that aims to give voice to women and girls who were manipulated into believing their value was not as human beings but as merchandise.

Hayes, who lives at the Sisters of the Good Shepherd's community in Marlborough, has spent the past year and a half in seven countries chronicling the stories of sexual slavery around the world. She is now back in the United States hoping to do a round of interviews in this country.

Between 14,500 and 17,500 people in the United States and 600,000 to 800,000 worldwide are victims of the slave trade, according to Department of Justice estimates. These men, women, and children are unwillingly part of a $7 billion global industry that exploits human sexuality, and are deceived, coerced, or kidnapped into a life of prostitution.

''They are voiceless, they are dispossessed, they are nameless. My intent is to write a book that opens up the experience of the women and the service providers that work with them," said Hayes, after giving a lecture on her work to a group of local women gathered at the Waltham Public Library last week.

At the end of her talk, Hayes showed the film ''The Fields of Mudan," a fictionalized story about a young Asian girl who is sold to a brothel in the United States.

So far Hayes has interviewed 55 women in Sri Lanka, Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines, Belgium, France, and Italy. Hayes is working with local service agencies to document the experiences of 10 women in the United States as well.

Hayes entered the religious life in 1958, right after graduating from high school in her native Malden. Drawn by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd's work with troubled adolescents and their dedication to marginalized members of society, she took her final vows at age 26 and later studied social work, getting a master's degree from Fordham University and a doctorate from Boston College. Her thesis on Boston's undocumented Haitian, Irish, and Salvadoran immigrants became a book, ''US Immigration Policy and the Undocumented: Ambivalent Laws, Furtive Lives."

But it wasn't until about a decade later, in 2003, that she heard about the situation of trafficked women during an international meeting of her order. That year, the sisters identified slavery among their top five priorities. Hayes decided to make it her number one priority. Her research and travel for her book are funded by the sisters.

All the women Hayes has spoken to have escaped hellish situations and are in recovery programs -- most run by nuns in her order -- that provide emotional and material support to help them reestablish their lives. Hayes asks them about their lives before, during, and after slavery. Hayes tells of one survivor describing a fellow victim who ''jumped from a building and died, and I envied her."

''I am very bitter," another told Hayes. ''No girl goes into this on her own; a hatred grew within me."

They told Hayes of the deep shame they felt, of their worries that they'd be killed or that their families would be told they were prostitutes. They also feared getting AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, as they were often forced to have sex without a condom. Many of those who became pregnant say they were forced to have abortions.

Hayes said the victims tend to be young women and teenagers from poorer countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Traffickers use a variety of ruses to get them involved. Some are lured with promises of lucrative, legitimate work; others are befriended by ''recruiters" -- perhaps a boyfriend, neighbor, or relative -- who sell or betray them to gangs. Some are simply kidnapped, stuffed into the back of a car, and taken over a border where they are sold, often to organized crime gangs who then sell them to brothel owners or pimps.

They find themselves trapped in a foreign place where they may not know the language or the culture. Some may be so isolated -- kept locked in rooms and barred from contact with anyone but clients -- that they don't even know what country they're in. Their passports and identity documents are taken from them.

The women's experiences were so horrific that Hayes said she had to be very careful not to traumatize them again by asking them to relive their memories.

''A lot of them said that as painful as it was to go back in memory, it was worth it if one woman or one girl didn't have to go through what they went through," said Hayes.

Some women, she added, have become outreach workers to others just like themselves.

''There was so much crying and talking about loss, after loss, after loss," said Hayes. ''I was gratified by the honesty the women shared in the interviews, but it was painful. There were no exceptions for the 55 stories -- they were all hard to hear."

Project REACH, based in Brookline, opened three years ago to provide crisis mental health services to victims of human trafficking and consulting services to agencies that work with them. Elizabeth Hopper, the organization's associate director, said that cases in the Boston area over the past several years number in the dozens.

''We've actually had both domestic servitude and sex trafficking cases from the suburbs," Hopper said. ''It's underground, behind closed doors."

Warning signs might include a household member who doesn't speak English, doesn't interact with others, and may seem perpetually frightened or upset. In cases of sex trafficking, Hopper said, another sign may be a home or other location where there are men going in and out at all hours.


The Global Persecution of Women