Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Global Price of Sex



As you've probably figured out by now, I'm a major CBC junkie. So on Sunday night, I was tuned-into none other than my favourite channel when I stumbled upon this documentary, Sex Slaves. And yes, it was just as disturbing as it sounds...

Global sexual trafficking steals the lives of half a million women every year. Often these women come from the margins of society where poverty and everyday survival become the centre of their existence. They are either lured or kidnapped by a very sophisticated network of organized criminals in order to feed the profits of this thriving, multi-billion dollar industry. And as Sex Slaves so painfully illustrates, the business of buying and selling human lives is definitely booming in Eastern Europe.

This is when we get a glimpe into the life of Tania. At first glance, she exudes the energy and vitality of a beautiful young woman until you start to see the dark trauma in her eyes. As Tania shares her unimaginable story, you wonder how any human being could endure such pain and anguish.

Her story begins in Russia. After Chernobyl's nuclear catastrophe in 1986, Katia's family was eventually relocated to the Ukraine. Consequently, their intense radioactive exposure came at the price of numerous health problems as three of Tania's siblings were diagnosed with various cancers. Her younger brother's condition was so severe that he would soon die without the proper treatment. Adding even more insult to injury was that the high cost of medical care would prevent the family from seeking these much needed treatments due to their dismal income. Therefore, Tania took it upon herself to help her loved ones out if this futile situation.

This when the opportunity of a lifetime seemed to fall right into her lap. As a waitress at a local cafe, Tania had crossed paths with an older women who held promises of a better life. The woman claimed to have international connections within a legitimate nanny business in which Tania would be the ideal employee. This new career could earn her more than $1000 a month. While plenty of doubts had crossed her mind, Tania finally conceded that this could be her one big break to secure a better life for both her daughter and siblings. Little did she know that she would be entering an underground world of sex and slavery.

Tania was taken to Turkey where she was sold to one of the country's homegrown pimps. He had bought her for a cool $5000 from her supposed friend back in the Ukraine. This friend turned out to be a highly accomplished human trafficker with dozens of unsuspecting girls and women under her belt. Apparently, this businesswoman was sending her own daughter to law school by selling the souls of these young lives.

In Turkey, her latest Ukranian victim endured months of sexual torture. Tania was trapped behind closed doors in an Instanbul villa as she slaved for 24 hours a day as a prostitute. Not only was she regularly beaten and raped by both her pimp and paying johns, Tania never saw a single penny from any of her profits. In fact, her pimp was so cruel as to propose that she could actually pay for her freedom by working off her debt, or purchase price of $5000. This became Tania's only source of hope...

After an exceptionally cruel beating, one of Tania's johns had noticed multiple burn marks all over her body. When she had come clean about her pimp's regular abuse, this particular john decided to buy Tania her freedom. Soon after her return home, Tania's younger brother passed away.

Sadly, Tania's story only echos the horrific tales shared by thousands of women worldwide. While both Canada and the United States have introduced harsher anti-trafficking bills to further protect victims within each country, such legislation obviously does not extend to the international community. And as the human trafficking industry exists to barter innocent lives in exchange for cheap and cruel sex, thousands of others stand to make a killing from these transactions.


**This PBS site has clips from the documentary as well as interviews from each of the women featured in the film: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/slaves/

11 comments:

Don Thieme said...

Wow! Tania's story is heart wrenching. I will have to catch this program some time if I can.

--Bamboo Blitz-- said...

Don, I'm sure the documentary will run again on the CBC or PBS due to all the media coverage it got (which is great)...While I've read a lot about human trafficking in books/articles, it was really heartbreaking to actually hear these women tell their horrible stories...

The End said...

Notice how one of her clients helped her. Society has this big old bad out against prostitutes and their clients, yet clearly these people are not intrinsically bad.

I read a very interesting study in New Sexual Agendas (editor Lynne Segal) where they compare licensed prostitutes in Holland to the illegal ones and then they compared these findings to the sexual experiences of college students. The licensed prostitutes had strong self esteem and relationships with their clients.

Point being that by making prostitution illegal we are really just taking away these women's rights to protect themselves and have a safe work environment.

However, Tania's story is of course worse because she was literally forced into that line of work and was in actual fact a prisoner. Did the documentary discuss any possible solutions? It's a tricky situation especially since it is international.

The All Seeing Eye said...

This a horrible crime that needs more light turned upon it. Thanks for the post.

--Bamboo Blitz-- said...

Hey, the end...

Recently, I attended this women's conference and saw this powerful presentation on the sex trade. One of the presenters was a former sex trade worker and really educated us on the hierarchy of the industy: An elite escort would be at the top with the most power, while a street worker and slave would obviously be at the bottom with the least power. So like you mentioned, as long as prostitution remains illegal, these women have no rights in a dangerously unregulated industry. I think the Robert Pickton trial is a sad testament to this.

In regards to your last comment: Right now, I think the biggest hope for cracking down on human trafficking are strong advocacy groups that continue to lobby governments for harsher anti-trafficking legislation. And I think people being educated on the subject can go a long way as well...

--Bamboo Blitz-- said...

Hi the all seeing eye...

Yes, all of the women's stories in the documentary both horrified and moved me. It's really unbelievable how this actually goes on...

The All Seeing Eye said...

Yes, it's too bad the UN is really good for nothing. If it could do anything, then it should have stopped this practice a long time ago.

--Bamboo Blitz-- said...

the all seeing eye...

No kidding! If stopping human trafficking was on their list of things-to-do, I'm sure we'd see some significant action taking place by now. I mean I always considered SLAVERY the biggest human rights violation there is...

BURAOT said...

this is another issue that should have been gone centuries ago. what is going on with this world?

the issue of prostitution varies from one culture to the next. i am in favor of legalized prostitution since it would provide sex workers a safer working environment, health and legal protection. we all have sex in exchange for something right? why not money?

still, it needs to have consent from both parties. like an employment contract, if you will.

white slavery and sex-trafficking is an entirely different thing that should be wiped off the planet. this crime is one of those that should have been ancient history.

and since this crime is as ancient as it is, perpetrators i believe should suffer the ancient consequence of this action.

probably, castration and death by public hanging.

--Bamboo Blitz-- said...

Hi Buraot...

I definitely agree with both of your points. Decriminalizing prostitution would help preserve the safety and rights of women who choose to work in that industry. Obviously, making prostitution illegal has neither stopped its occurrence nor helped any of the women its targeted...

And yes, human slavery is a heinous crime that deserves heinous consequences! Thanks for your thoughts...

Jaywalker said...

Hey bamboo as promised here I am visiting your blog. Yes sexual slavery is a very real problem and sadly there are quite a number of Filipinas that fell into this trade courtesy of the peddlers of human miseries. Visit my aug. 23rd entry where I have posted related subjects of feel good and not so feel good entries on the subject.

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