I often think about how fortunate I am. I work hard, I play less hard. I have a roof over my head and food on the table, for this I consider myself very fortunate. Moronic political squabbling aside; everyone in the UK is fortunate. If you’re a heroin addict on the street, there’s the clean needle programme. If you’re a single parent, there are subsidies. Can’t quite stretch for school shoes? There’s child benefit. Free education, free healthcare, social housing and the list goes on.
Now take a peek to Eastern Europe. Politically and economically shafted. Women have children, the men often don’t stay, but rather than have a safety net to provide, things just get harder and harder. Remember the Buckets from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ate cabbage soup every day? Well lots of people in the former Yugoslavia, Romania and the Czech Republic eat like this every day. Imagine this, ladies; your child is hungry with a temperature, you don’t have enough money to feed him, you haven’t enough to medicate him. Someone approaches you at your cleaning/bar job, becomes your friend, meets your family and eventually knows someone who can offer you a 12-month long position in Britain/America/Australia as an au pair/child minder/waitress earning five times an hour what you earn in a day. It would involve leaving your son with your mother for the year, but think about what you could provide for him when you return! Warm clothes, medicine, food and the chance of a better life. You agree. Then your life changes forever.
You leave your house with your trusted friend, and he delivers you to his friend, keeping your passport for safekeeping/filling out the names on the tickets correctly/applying for a work visa. Your trusted friend leaves you there, and you never see him ever again.
Fast forward 24 months.
You’ve been working in a brothel for 20-hour days. You lose count of the clients, and you have made no money. You see it cost the man who brought you here hundreds of thousands of pounds/euros/kronas, and you have to work it off. Oh, you want to escape? Yes, there’s the small factor of your trusted friend in your home country. He’s watching your mother and son, watching every movement. Your son by now has forgotten who you are, your mother thinks you have abandoned them, and she struggles to feed herself and the boy.
You? You work on the same sodden mattress day in, day out. You’re exhausted, sore and for an extra £10 you’ll service a man without protection. You feel sorry for some of the girls who are here, some as young as 14. They’re virgins, so they fetch more, usually at auction to private buyers from far and exotic countries. You saw them kill one of the girls yesterday for having a cold sore; herpes isn’t curable, and who’s going to pay to fuck that? You’ll never leave, no matter how much you earn to pay off your “debt”, until you’re too old and haggard, or you contract HIV. Then you’ll be killed, or merely offered for half price.
So the next time “YOU” judge a woman in a brothel, or on the street, “YOU” should think twice because if it had been “YOU” then “YOU” may have made the same decision.
Sex trafficking into the UK is rife. Money being made in the trade industry. Trading something of yours often involves a sacrifice on your behalf, if you were to steal something and trade it? You’re quids in. There’s an estimated 60,000 illegal sex workers in the UK. Not only is this a crime against most moral judgements, or the UK economy, or women, it’s often a smoke screen for far more sinister things. If you see suspicious behaviour where you live, don’t ignore it, not all women who are sex workers choose to be. Report it, the worst that will happen is that they’ll move premises, but if a few women who are sex slaves are uncovered, you could have saved her life.
There are charities focused on helping women escape from human and sex trafficking situations. Donate your money, your time, your expertise, or just your support. Don’t allow the exploitation of women to continue, and remember, not all women choose to be prostitutes, and it isn’t all Belle Du Jour, hand bags and glamour.
It’s sex slavery, it’s illegal, and it’s happening close by.
For advice, help, support and information visit Women’s Aid.