For Sale - Women and Children into a Life of Slavery and Prostitution

13th Sep 2015

This is my second blog in the Harmful Cultural Practice series. 

With all the reports of migrants hiding in trucks and beneath trains to reach the UK, an average Briton would probably imagine the country to be under virtual siege from abroad.

While much of the British press has helped to escalate the issue, with headlines of Calais refugees hell bent on a better life in Britain, the Guardian newspaper took a far more considered approach this week claiming the UK was way down on the list of destinations for migrants. The report is worth reading.

Nevertheless, away from the headlines a catastrophic picture is now emerging of the fate of vulnerable women and children being trafficked by smugglers across Africa and the Middle East into Europe.

The NCA’s United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) estimates that 2,744, people, including 602 children, were potential victims of trafficking for exploitation, an increase of 22 per cent.

In the past two decades there has been a rising movement of people and gangs grooming and preying on children and particular women, internationally and here in the UK.

While women and children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking for the sex trade, human trafficking is not limited to sexual exploitation.  Victims – whether for labour, sex or organ trafficking – come from all backgrounds, and includes both boys and girls. They span a wide age range from 1 to 18 years old.

Sex trafficking victims up to roughly 25 years old most often started as young as 14. Children are trafficked from all regions of the world and represent a variety of different races, ethnic groups and religions.

The prostitution of children also usually manifests in the form of sex trafficking where the child is expected to engage in sexual activities for basic essentials such as food and shelter. Both are commonly associated with child pornography and they often overlap.

Demand for cheap labour and for prostituted women, girls, and boys is the primary “pull” factor. Common push and pull factors exploited by traffickers include:

  • Unemployment and perceived job opportunities overseas (into the UK)
  • Unhappy home situation: the victim may be in an abusive situation, their family may be in debt, or there may be an addict in the family
  • Relatives and friends live in the destination country
  • Returning migrants, legal and illegal, say they have made a better living for themselves.

Sex buyers are far more complicit in the victimisation of sex trafficking victims. Sex tourism and child pornography have become worldwide industries, facilitated by technologies such as the Internet. This vastly expand the choices available to paedophiles and permit instant and nearly undetectable transactions.  It was recognised by the UN as a major international crime in the protocol UN Convention to Transnational Organised Crime (2000).

The number of women and children trafficked worldwide each year is estimated between 700,000 to 2 million.

As professionals we need to be prepared, organised and to be able to respond to a crisis such as this proactively.  The best intentions do not alleviate disaster nor mitigate loss; actions are needed.

The Benjamin Franklin axiom that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is as true today as it was when Franklin made the quote.

We need to tackle prevention by undermining the trafficking and sex trade business that stems from the migrant crisis across the Mediterranean and Europe.  If we don’t act and do something to help the countless vulnerable women and children in our midst, then who will?