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Who are the Victims of the Sex Trade?

An international conference "Stop Sex Traffic!" was held in the Russian city of Murmansk
Representatives of the authorities and public organizations from Sweden, Norway and the Murmansk Region took part in the conference.

Participants of the conference spoke about measures to stop illegal traffic of women from Russia and the CIS who, as the OSCE states, are in greatest demand on the international prostitution markets.

According to estimates of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), about 50 thousands of Russian women are delivered to Europe every year for further sale. In majority of instances, the traffic is connected with prostitution in which women are forced with threats and violence. Women trafficked from Russia are delivered to Israel, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the US, Japan, Egypt and other countries. According to a number of studies, over 80 percent of sold women believed they were being employed for legal a job abroad. According to unofficial data, trafficking in human beings is third most profitable business after trading in weapons and drugs; every year international criminal syndicates earn about $7 billion of dollars from this illegal trade. 

The problem was touched upon during the international conference "Stop Sex Traffic!" in Murmansk organized by Moscow's Angel Coalition, the IRIS Crisis Center (Sweden) and the Congress of Kola Peninsula Women under assistance of the Sweden International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). Together with representatives of the organization, officers of the Swedish criminal police, the Swedish Ministry for Industry, Employment and Communication, the migration office of the Murmansk Regional Police Department also took part in the conference.

It is not accidental that the city of Murmansk was chosen for the conference. Over the past several ears, trafficking of women from the Murmansk Region to Finland, Sweden and Norway has considerably increased due to active frontier relations between citizens of the regions as well as the poor living standards found on the Kola Peninsula.

In summer, independent agents and unreliable traveling agencies offer work abroad or cheap voyages which in fact turn out to be designed to take young women from the Kola Peninsula to private homes and camps for sex services. It usually happens so that these women may be exploited within a weekend and then sold to rich foreigners as slaves. According to information provided by the police of Norbotten, Sweden, over 70 women from the Murmansk Region have been employed as prostitutes last year. However, Sweden's Crisis Center IRIS has been fighting against human trafficking for several years and insists that actual scale of the problem is even several times greater than the official statistics.

Sweden is actively fighting against prostitution. Head of the IRIS Crisis Center Millan Hedberg states that three years ago Sweden adopted a law prohibiting use of sex services. The law calls for imprisonment for the period of up to 6 months or a fine. These measures are imposed on clients, not prostitutes. Millan Hedberg says the law however does not stop men from using services of prostitutes. Unfortunately, the majority of countries have no clear definition of human trafficking and no legislation to bring criminals to account for this form of violence. As a result, it happens that even the obvious violations are seldom brought to court. 

Russia has only recently taken turned its attention to this serious problem. Marianna Solomatova, the development director from the Angel International Coalition informs that a draft bill "On Counteraction to Human trafficking" was submitted for consideration of the State Duma in February. The Duma is expected to consider the legislation during its autumn session. Experts believe that the document will be signed as it has considerable social importance and. The Angel International Coalition, in turn, is actively lobbying for passage of this new law. According to this group, "Adoption of the document first of all depends upon awareness of the deputies of the sex traffic problem and of the sex slavery scale."
 
In the absense of proper legislation, public organizations are making attempts to at least warn potential victims, young unemployed women, students and school leavers, about the sex traffic. 

Millan Hedberg says that informing girls at the age of 17-21 of sex trafficking is the most effective method to fight against the problem today. "Being aware of the problem, girls cannot be deluded into great expectations about employment abroad and realize what problems they may face."
 
Here are several recommendations for women to follow. 

- Be sure that you have a license in your native language and an agreement concluded between the mediator company and your employer from abroad.

- Consult the embassy of a country where you plan to go about a work visa which is traditionally obligatory for legal employment abroad.

- You must conclude two contracts (in your native language) with a mediator company and a foreign employer.

- Have copies of your passport and other documents and place them between clothes and things packed in luggage.

- Give copies of your documents and recently taken pictures of you to the relatives before you go abroad.

- Agree with friends and relatives about regular telephone calls. 

- Find the telephone number of the Russian consulate in the country
where you plan to work.

- Show your documents to police and customs officers only.

Gennady Yefimov

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