Opinion by Taylor Conroy
The Kiev Daily advertisement reads, “Nice young woman needed in Vienna as a maid for a comfortable middle-class home. Travel and visa arrangements provided, great pay.” The young Ukrainian woman reads this. She cannot believe it, Vienna is such a big and prosperous city. This may finally be her escape from a life of poverty and distress.
She has no vision of opportunities for herself in her home country, and she has almost no money. Rumors have been spreading of the great prosperity in the Western European countries, but she is also aware of the difficulty in attaining a travel visa in these countries. So this seems like the perfect opportunity. With promises of arrangement for a visa, travel across the border and decent pay abroad, the offer seems too good to pass up. But unbeknownst to this young woman, this is a scheme to traffic her into a life of slavery.
The largest human trafficking flows are taking place within Europe. Eastern Europe accounts for more than 75 percent of the trafficked women in the world.
The close proximity to Western Europe and the ease of travel between European countries has created an ideal hub for trafficking.
Many states within Eastern Europe also have porous infrastructure due to corruption within the legal and political systems. This has increased the ease of international travel from Eastern European countries to the more affluent Western countries.
Women in Eastern Europe have distinctively low socioeconomic status and are oppressed by their inferior gender status. This aids to thir vulnerability. Women dream of a future in the West filled with opportunity and prosperity.
Their vulnerable position pushes them to find opportunities abroad, often in countries where they do not speak the language and have no support system. Individuals are often coerced through deceptive promises of a bright future abroad. Recruiting them has become highly professional.
Recruiters pose as legitimate work agencies, and provide extremely vague details of income and travel arrangements. Women with few opportunities will grab onto the promise of a better future without question.
Once on the trek to a new location, passports are stripped from the women. The travel arranged across the border leaves women in debt to their unknown pimp.
This pimp is now is in possession of the most important resource for the global sex industry: a young, vulnerable woman. Once abroad, the trafficked women are told of the immense debt that they must repay for their travel across the border. They are put into restricted boarding houses where they are forced into prostitution through relentless physical and psychological violence. These Eastern European women find themselves entrapped in a helpless situation in which they cannot escape.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude: Slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”
Slavery did not end with the abolitionist movement. It did not end with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. It still continues to exist today, and it has become an increasingly growing problem all throughout the world. Since abolition, slavery has changed its face, gone underground and remained seemingly untouchable by the authorities.
Most women trafficked are part of a hidden population and trafficking often is a crime that goes unnoticed and unreported. Legislators must realize that slavery is not only a problem of the past, but also a growing problem that is present today.
Trade in human beings will not disappear until economic structural imbalances, the secondary position of women, lack of corruption politically and transnational crime networks are eliminated.
Human trafficking is an international problem arising from myriad causes. Therefore, the best place to start is with education. Eastern European women must be educated in the dangers of human trafficking. Awareness must not only be raised in Europe, but around the world.
Conroy is a sophomore health sciences major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org