Soroptimist International initiates project to prevent sexual exploitation.
On Sunday December 2, 2007, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, the Soroptimist International launched a project to create awareness about the heinous practice of Sexual Trafficking of Women and Girls. That program will launch in the United States on Friday, January 11, 2008, the first National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness.
What is trafficking?
A $32 billion annual industry, trafficking is a type of slavery that involves the transport or trade of people for the purpose of work. According to the U.N., about 2.5 million people around the world are ensnared in the web of human trafficking at any given time.
Trafficking impacts people of all backgrounds, and people are trafficked for a variety of purposes. Men are often trafficked into hard labor jobs, while children are trafficked into labor positions in textile, agriculture and fishing industries. Women and girls are typically trafficked into the commercial sex industry, i.e. prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation.
Some sex trafficking is highly visible, such as street prostitution. But many trafficking victims remain unseen, operating out of unmarked brothels in unsuspecting—and sometimes suburban—neighborhoods. Sex traffickers may also operate out of a variety of public and private locations, such as massage parlors, spas and strip clubs.
What is Soroptimist doing to stop trafficking?
As an organization of business and professional women working to improve the lives of women and girls and local communities throughout the world, Soroptimist undertakes a number of projects that directly and indirectly help potential trafficking victims. In late 2007, the organization launched a major campaign aimed at raising awareness about the devastating practice of sexual trafficking.
Soroptimist undertakes a number of other projects that directly and indirectly help victims and potential victims. These projects provide direct aid to women and girls—giving women economic tools and skills to achieve financial empowerment and independence:
The Women's Opportunity Awards program—Soroptimist's major project—provides women who are heads of households with the resources they need to improve their education, skills and employment prospects. By helping women to receive skill and resource training, Soroptimist provides trafficking and potential trafficking victims with economic options.
The Soroptimist Club Grants for Women and Girls program provides Soroptimist clubs with cash grants for innovative projects benefiting women and girls. Many clubs undertake projects that directly and indirectly benefit trafficking victims: a Soroptimist club in the Philippines supports a shelter for abused women and girls escaping from sexual trafficking; a club in California held a conference in support of the Western Regional Task Force on Human Trafficking; and a club in Chicago has held several educational events related to trafficking.
The Making a Difference for Women Award program honors women who work to improve the lives of women and girls. Kathryn Xian is a recent recipient. In 2004, she led a grassroots campaign against a local tour company offering Asian sex tours. She also testified at a Hawaii State House of Representatives hearing on trafficking. The hearings resulted in the passage of Act 82, which makes “promoting travel for prostitution” a Class C felony violation. Act 82 now serves as model legislation for other states.
Soroptimist's Disaster Relief Fund provides financial assistance to regions affected by natural disasters or acts of war, with special attention paid to services benefiting women and girls. Women and girls affected by disasters are often vulnerable to traffickers.
Stopping Sexual Trafficking–What You Can Do
Around the world, individuals and organizations are raising awareness about trafficking and slavery, and working to end it forever. Below are some ideas for ensuring that women and girls live free from violence and slavery.
Find out about sexual trafficking in your community and country. Search local newspapers, magazines and the Internet for articles about trafficking and slavery in your area. Use keywords like trafficking, prostitution, pornography, slavery, sex worker or pimp. Talk with university professors specializing in relevant fields, such as women's studies or criminal justice. Finally, talk with police officers and social service providers to learn what they are doing to end slavery.
Learn as much as you can and share that information with your friends and family.
Reach out. Write articles, editorials and letters to the editor and send them to local newspapers and magazines.
Contact the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The UNODC launched a global human trafficking awareness campaign and has joined forces with partners in more 40 countries to produce customized versions of video spots. Find out about showing them in your community and connecting with local partners.
Support Groups Working to End Sexual Slavery
Contact Soroptimist. Find out more about what Soroptimist clubs in your local area are doing to end sexual slavery.
Target law enforcement. Police officers are often the first involved when a woman is rescued. Contact your local law enforcement to find out what the protocol is for dealing with victims of slavery.
Donate. To make a donation, click here. For more information about what you can do to end the sexual trafficking of women and girls, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Women and Girls Are Trafficked
Some women are lured into trafficking with the offers of legitimate and legal work as shop assistants or waitresses, for example. Others are lured with promises of marriage, educational opportunities and a better life. Some are sold into trafficking by boyfriends, friends, neighbors or even parents.
Women and girls are abducted or recruited in a country of origin, transported through transit countries and then forced into exploitative labor or sex work in destination countries. Trafficking victims often pass among multiple traffickers, moving further and further from their countries of origin. In many cases, traffickers and victims share the same nationality. A trafficker in the Ukraine, for example, may traffic her neighbor to Turkey. Once there, she may sell her victim to a Turkish trafficker, who will take the woman to Thailand, her final destination.
While transnational human trafficking has received more attention then intra-state trafficking, the reality is “that much of the worldwide trafficking and exploitation of persons occurs within communities and countries, if even only initially.” There is minimally reported evidence in the area of intra-state trafficking leaving institutions like the UNODC, who recognize the graveness of the problem, without the tools to eradicate it.
Both men and women participate in the trafficking of women and girls into sexual slavery. Men generally control a trafficking ring, but women are instrumental in effectively managing the trafficking victims. Female traffickers gain the trust of their victims in order to better psychologically manipulate them.
Typically, once in the custody of traffickers, a victim’s passport and official papers are confiscated and held. Victims are told that they are in the destination country illegally, which increases victims’ dependence on their traffickers, and are often kept in captivity. Victims are also trapped into debt bondage, whereby they are obliged to pay back large recruitment and transportation fees before being released from their traffickers. Many victims report being charged additional fines or fees while under bondage, requiring them to work longer to pay off their debts.
The High Cost of Human Sex Trafficking
Sex trafficking of women and girls has astronomical costs, both to the women and girls who are its primary victims, and to society as a whole. Trafficking is an abuse of physical and mental integrity, security of the person, freedom of movement, and privacy. Trafficking “violates the universal human right to life, liberty and freedom from slavery.”
Sex trafficking also has widespread negative consequences for individuals and societies:
• Sex trafficking helps to promote societal breakdown by removing women and girls from their families and communities. If and when victims are able to return to their communities, they often find themselves doubly victimized by social stigmatization, discrimination and rejection.
• Sex trafficking fuels organized crime groups that usually participate in many other illegal activities, including drug and weapons trafficking and money laundering.
• Sex trafficking negatively impacts local and national labor markets, due to the loss of human resources. The effects of trafficking on economies include “depressed wages, fewer individuals left to care for elderly persons, and an undereducated generation. These effects leads to the loss of future productivity and earning power,” especially in child trafficking victims.
• Sex trafficking burdens public health systems. Trafficking victims often suffer from myriad physical and psychological traumas, including sexually transmitted diseases, anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Victims also often suffer physical complications from unsanitary living situations and poor nutrition.
• Sex trafficking erodes government authority, encourages widespread corruption, and threatens the security of vulnerable populations.
For more information about Soroptimist and what you can do to end the sexual trafficking of women and girls, please contact Gail Rocco-Mack, President of the Soroptimist International of Santa Clarita Valley at 661-263-2528.