Modern Day Slavery: Sex Trafficking
“I was sold for 3,500 euros ($4,400). I was beaten, raped, forced against my will. They would put out cigarette butts on me and cut me with razors. It was like a horror movie” (Kara 131). This first-hand account comes from Martina, a 29-year-old sex trafficking victim from Bulgaria. At the time she was 19 and working as cook. She met a young man who offered her a job at a restaurant in Croatia. Desperate for a better life, Martina took the job without a second thought. Martina continues her story with, “As soon as I arrived and as soon as he brought me to his apartment, everything started. He told me there was no work and that I had crossed the border in order to work as a prostitute. I tried to fight back but I was no match for him physically. He beat and raped me constantly for three days, to the point where I was lying in blood and urine while tied to a bed” (Kara 132). Martina was locked in the apartment for two months, where she was beaten and raped daily until she was “broken” and had become a sexual slave. Then, the man who had taken her took her out to the streets. This horrifying story is merely one snapshot of the estimated 1 million women globally that are victims of sex trafficking every year. Soroptimist, an international volunteer organization working to improve the lives of women and girls, defines sex trafficking as “The exploitation of women and children across international borders, for the purposes of forced sex work” (Horen). In the past decade it has become the fastest growing criminal industry in the world (Lindstrome 45). Kira Cochrane, a writer for the New Statesmen, states in her article, “The trafficking of women is the world’s most lucrative trade for the global black market” (22). Most often the women suffer similarly to Martina; they are promised jobs in another country, sold for the equivalent of two to four thousand dollars, and then forced to perform sex under the threat of extreme violence. It is also estimated that over half of the women forced into sex slavery die either from various injuries or diseases such as AIDS (Kara 50). Once they are sold, owners also make it clear that if they attempt to escape, family members will be killed or kidnapped. And according to the International Organization for Migration, 400,000 of these women are trafficked through an area in southeastern Europe known as the Balkans. In addition, another 200,000 women are trafficked annually into the Balkan region itself (Lindstrom 46). For that reason, the Balkan region has become one of the worst areas globally infected with sex trafficking. Brothels, street prostitution, nightclubs, massage parlors, go-go bars, and escort services flourish in the countries throughout the region. Sex trafficking is booming in the Balkans region because traffickers are able to capitalize on the porous borders, political and economic instability, and rampant corruption. The Balkans region consists of Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia. The geographical positioning of this large European peninsula leaves it at the crossroads between the East and West, an area where Eastern and Western influences meet. For this reason, the two most common trafficking routes move through the Balkans. According to Nicole Lindstrom, a member of the Departments of International Relations and European Studies in Budapest, “Moldova and Romania are typically characterized as states of origin, and Serbia and Albania as transit states, and Bosnia and Kosovo as destination states” (46). Since, the region is an integral part of many trade routes from Europe to Asia, the women are simply seen as another commodity to trade. A Romanian boat captain interviewed in Lindstrom’s article describes his cargo of humans as “interchangeable with other commodities, such as arms and tobacco” (46). In fact he even says that trading women was more...
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