Battling a brand new slavery

“They make it seem like a great opportunity to escape,” said Helen Ramirez, Wilfrid Laurier University professor of women’s studies, on the methods used to lure women into the sex trade.

According to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), an estimate of 700,000 people a year are trafficked for sex and other industries. However, as there is no universally agreed estimate, that number could exceed two million.

Ramirez clarified that the difference between sex slavery and the sex trade is that the latter is considered a chosen form of employment. However, despite the sex trade being a form of employment, the labour is often forced or reflects some form of servitude in which the victims cannot withdraw.

“People who work in or run illegal sex slavery will typically go to areas that are often poverty stricken, where the people are so desperate and so in need,” explained Ramirez. “They will offer them jobs in other parts of the world and claim that their food and clothes and legal issues would all be taken care of.”

Parts of Russia and Poland are often some of the easiest places to abduct (most commonly) women and sell them into sex rings in Dubai. In an article by the Coalition Against Trafficking In Women stated, “Russia makes about $7 billion annually by trafficking women from Russia and other Soviet republics.”

People often understand the implications of the sex trade, according to Ramirez, yet they still enter the industry hoping to find a better situation than the desperation they currently live in. Highlighting how people can be persuaded to join, Ramirez added, “The people running sex slavery will get girls to entice girls.”

Once trapped, the victims have very little chance of escaping. “They are brutalized. They’re beaten and threatened with no guarantee that they’ll even be protected if they escape due to immigration laws,” said Ramirez.

There is little hope even for those trafficked in to developed countries. “It is especially hard for immigrants who are sold into Canada and the United States because so what if the police come and rescue them? They might just get sent back to where they were sold from,” Ramirez stated.

Looking toward the Middle East, the issue is just as complicated, if not more so, due to the political instability in many of the countries in the region.

“In Afghanistan no one wants to even touch the sex slavery issues there. It is so complicated in that region politically that no one wants to interfere.” By ignoring the situation, Ramirez said that most often “young boys are sold as sex workers in order to benefit the militia.”

In Spain, police dismantled a ring of illegal male sex slavery where, according to a recent article in the Herald Tribune, “Men were recruited in Brazil and forced to work around the clock under the threat of death.” None of the profits made from any of these instances went to the people who were sold.

Reiterating the financial situation of sex trafficking, Ramirez said, “They are told that their profits are going toward paying off their cost of food and shelter or the cost incurred from their voyage.”

“The point is that these people are so desperate … it is easy for people to ignore them. Their lives are invisible to us,” Ramirez concluded.