This is the story of Adelina, an Abanian woman trafficked into prostitution in Italy as a child. Since then she has been an advocate and activist for women and girls in prostitution, in the hope that she can prevent others from experiencing the hell she went through.
“Unfortunately, it all started with my kidnapping in Albania. I was about 17 years old and I was just walking near my house when a car came close to me and they grabbed me and took me to a bunker. There, the group started to rape and beat me. I had never had sex before. This is when my hell began. This is what a person who is raped and doomed to a life in prostitution lives: hell.
Before that I was a normal girl from a normal family; poor, but normal. I went to school, I went to the swimming pool – I was even part of a swimming team because I was such a good, fast swimmer.”
This documentary is a particularly challenging watch, but it’s a necessary one. Try not to fall into the trap of dismissing the phenomenon of trafficking as something that happens ‘somewhere else’, but recognise the clear theme among all women trafficked and prostituted around the world: women and girls don’t choose prostitution. Prostitution chooses them. As Lauran Bethell puts it, “trafficking is the exploitation of vulnerability”, something which is ever-present in prostitution, whether on the streets of Bangkok, in a posh hotel room in Las Vegas, or in a brothel in Amsterdam.
“Even the people who promote prostitution will put out helpful fact sheets on how to avoid getting killed. They don’t say it exactly that way, but they put out a fact sheet that says:
-When you go into a hotel room when you’re servicing a john, drop something on the floor and kick it under the bed, so you can look under the bed to see if there’s a gun or handcuffs there -Don’t wear a scarf because that can be used to strangle you -Don’t wear super high heels to an escort out-call because you can’t run fast enough
This is information coming from people that are promoting prostitution as a good job.”
Can you think of any job or profession where these kinds of tactics are necessary to avoid physical violence and even death?
Why does prostitution continue, even thrive, in our modern ‘enlightened’ societies where we claim to protect human rights above all else? Money. It’s as simple as that. By legalising, or even just turning a blind eye, to prostitution, we are not protecting a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body. We are protecting a man’s right to buy a woman. And as long as there are men willing and able to pay money for women and girls, there will be organised crime networks trafficking and selling them.
That leads us to the solution. Block the business model. By criminalising both the pimps and the everyday buyers in prostitution, while offering support and exit services to the prostituted women, the abolitionist model essentially creates a very, very bad business environment for pimps and johns. Traffickers and pimps see Sweden, where this model is implemented, as a bad market. It also has a social implication in the way that people view and value women, creating “an atmosphere of safety, an atmosphere of dignity in the country.”
Sweden has the lowest rate of trafficking in the European Union.
IF YOU WANT TO STOP TRAFFICKING YOU MUST STOP PROSTITUTION
Those of us who work or have worked in the third sector, among victims of violence and their oppressors, will understand the highs and lows that come with the experience. When we come into daily contact with the injustices our society continues to permit – all too often disproportionately against women – the lows are inevitable.That is why we have to embrace the highs! For our colleague, Ruby, the opportunity to attend the Brussels’ Call Conference on 16th October was one such occasion. There is something extremely moving and powerful about being in a room full of feminists and abolitionists, about being surrounded by successful, determined and compassionate women, of all ages and from all walks of life.
The conference, part of the Brussels’ Call campaign for a Europe free from prostitution, was held at the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the EP’s ‘Resolution on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality’(also known as the Honeyball resolution), which represented a turning point in the fight against the sex industry and its inherent violence. This resolution was the recognition that prostitution is a form of violence against women and called for measures to end the demand for sexual exploitation. The conference explored the reality of prostitution across Europe and included contributions from some of those most directly affected and those still fighting for change.
In 2014, in the framework of its campaign ‘Together for a Europe free from prostitution’, and at the eve of the vote of the EP resolution on gender equality and prostitution (Honeyball resolution), the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) developed a leaflet responding to the most frequent assumptions on prostitution. 18 myths are therefore looked at from a gender equality and women’s rights perspective. From “It is the oldest profession in the world” to “We must combat trafficking, but prostitution has nothing to do with it”, EWL’s leaflet wants to provide human rights evidence-based answers to the reality of prostitution and trafficking in women in Europe and in the world.
The leaflet also comprises a comparison of the Swedish and Dutch policies, after ten years of implementation, based on official reports and studies. The last page summarises the demands of the Brussels’ Call, which has been signed by more than 200 organisations from all over Europe and beyond, including IROKO. In 2014, 54 MEPs had already signed it, from different countries and political groups.
“We all want to find ways for the women to be safe. But we know that the women and the men, the boys and the girls can never be safe in prostitution. We can only reduce the harm. That’s not good enough. We don’t talk about reducing the harm for sexually abused children or women who are raped. We talk about ending it. And yet, when you talk about ending the sex trade, many people laugh at you and say ‘we can’t stop prostitution’. I say ‘really? Do you not think that we can end poverty?’ and they’ll say yes. ‘Do you think that we can end child sexual abuse?’ ‘Well, yes.’ ‘Do you think we can end racism?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Well why can’t you imagine ending prostitution? Men are not born with this innate desire to have sex with a woman who isn’t consenting. We call that socialisation and patriarchy. Of course there is no innate need for men to have one-sided consensual sex with a woman who doesn’t want to be there. The propagandists that spin the mythology that leads people to say legalisation is the only way, know very well that, if they say prostitution is inevitable, it’s always been here and it always will be here, people somehow absorb this and believe it. If I hear the phrase ‘the oldest profession’ one more time, I might have to do some damage. Of course it’s not a profession. Of course that isn’t the case. Children have been sexually abused forever. Does that make it natural and inevitable? Of course it doesn’t.”
Julie Bindel, Convention on the Sex Industry and Human Trafficking, Rome, May 2018.
To read Julie Bindel’s speech in full, as well as others from the convention, click here.
A great step forward in the fight against human trafficking in the Nigerian region of Edo State
This action brings together governmental forces, through the task force of which Iroko is a member, and the most important traditional and spiritual leader of Edo State and has triggered a positive mechanism for change in the region, where a large majority of those trafficked from Nigeria to Europe come from. We are dedicating every available resource towards continuing this process, which represents a concrete opportunity for change for many Nigerians.
On 9th March Oba Ewuare II, during a well-attended ceremony held in the royal palace in Benin City, revoked the oaths imposed on victims of trafficking by native doctors in Edo State, putting a curse on anyone who creates or collaborates with underground criminal gangs who force people to take an oath. It is these criminal activities, which are not part of Edo culture and society that the Oba has distanced himself from. Read More
The law against trafficking was recently passed by the Edo State House of Assembly. The Edo State Task Force has been carrying out Town Hall Meetings to raise awareness about the risks of trafficking.
After this first and important step, the Edo State Task Force Against Human Trafficking is supporting campaigns to penetrate the several Local Government Areas of Edo State. Officials of the taskforce distribute information materials and speak to the people to make them aware of the dangers of exposing their children, teenagers and girls to the hazards of illegal migration to Europe by land.
The Town hall meetings will continue as part of the Edo State Government commitment to end trafficking through awareness raising programmes, development of the state in order to provide employment opportunities for young people and through support for returnees from Libya and from Europe.
These pictures are from the town hall meeting at Oredo LGA (Edo State).
Oba Ewuare II, the King of Benin (current Edo State, Nigeria) has ordered native doctors of Edo State to revoke all of the curses and oaths placed on victims of trafficking, himself invoking a curse on all those native doctors who continue to force or coerce victims into taking oaths.
This important event took place on 9th March during a ceremony, held in the Royal Palace of Benin City, to which many priests and native doctors were invited, as well as representatives from NAPTIP, the government agency which works to tackle human trafficking and members of the government task force that is fighting against trafficking. Iroko is an active member of this task force (here are some pictures from the ceremony taken by representatives of the task force). Read More
Last July we announced the creation of a Task Force to fight trafficking in Edo State, during the 4th Edo Women’s Conference, as reported here.
The work is in progress and the Edo State Task Force is putting in place development programmes, appropriate training and employment insertion or creation for returnees from Libya – 500 Libya returnees so far – and from European countries, as a means of eradicating trafficking from the state.
I am pleased to announce that the Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki has announced the creation of a Task Force to fight trafficking in Edo State, during the 4th Edo Women’s Conference.
Results must be seen within the year, he said.
EWDI and IROKO are working to support his administration and the Edo State Attorney General Yinka Omorogbe (EWDI’s erstwhile Chairwoman) in their activities to create the Task Force.
Executive Director of Iroko Onlus
In the picture: Esohe Aghatise, an Edo Women trustee, the Attorney General, the Governor, the UNODC delegate, the Director of NAPTIP Edo zonal Office, the Nigerian investigative reporter Tobore Ovuorie – who experienced trafficking undercover – and the Swiss Ambassadress.