Sex trafficking refers to the movement of persons facilitated by means of compulsion and deception for the purposes of sexual exploitation and slavery. It is closely associated with slave trade and slavery, which is accomplished through ‘acquisition, movement and exploitation’ of human beings (Kara 5). Sex trafficking is a growing concern to many countries in Europe and the other continents of the world. Therefore, this paper aims at establishing the causes, effects and measures that can be taken to avert sex trafficking in Europe. The paper will also explore the trends in the European sex trafficking market that has seen the malpractice flourish in the continent.
Nature of Sex Trafficking Market in Europe
According to the United Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), human trafficking is very common in West and Central Europe, and 84% of victims are trafficked mainly for sexual exploitation (44). The majority of victims initially came from the Balkans and the former Soviet Union, specifically Bulgaria, Romania, the Republic of Moldova and the Russian Federation (44). However, the dominance of these groups in sex trafficking market has changed due to the emergence of new supply from the other parts of the world such as African and Asian continents.
South America victims, for example, have their destination in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, where sexual exploitation takes a greater percentage of trafficking (UNODC 44). Trafficking from Africa occurs mainly in countries such as Uganda and Kenya (East Africa), West African communities, especially the Nigerian women and kids, and even in North African countries such as Morocco and Tunisia (44). Majority of victims from Africa are sexually exploited in the United Kingdom. This has seen a greater number of Africans lured to the United Kingdom (44).
Eastern Asia is no exception to sex trafficking. Chinese nationals are exploited among the other women from Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia (44). These women are usually engaged in indoor prostitution at the saunas, beauty centers and massage parlors (44). There are different causes of sex trafficking, and its effects are far-fetched as discussed in the following sections.
Causes of Sex Trafficking
Poverty has predisposed women and girls to sex trafficking around the world. Factors such as displacement, desperation and poverty drive many families to sell their children into slavery so as to earn a living (Kara 8). Girls are most vulnerable to the practice since most parents prefer investing in boys rather than girls. According to Kara, slave owners send good amounts of money to parents who are willing to sell their children in time in order to entice the other parents to get into the business as well. Kara gives a scenario where a young woman named Bridgette was forced to remain in sex slavery for years simply because her master was sending money to her parents back at home on a monthly basis (8).
Most of sex trafficking victims move from developing countries to the developed ones with an aim of getting a job (Kara 10). This kind of migration is common Between Africa and Europe whereby most Africans move to countries like the United Kingdom in search of well-paid jobs and better living conditions. However, if they fail to secure a job for a long period of time (as is always the trend in Europe), women yield to sex trafficking as the ready source of livelihood.
In Eastern Europe, the fall of Soviet Union led to decline in the availability of jobs and fast deteriorating living condition for most families. As a result, young women leave their homes to look for work in the major cities of the world. This makes them easily fall prey to opportunistic sex traffickers. More often than not, agents with promises of better employment opportunities abroad trick and airlift young women to Europe where their documents are confiscated on arrival, and thereafter they are forced to work as sex slaves (Kara 103).
Education and Immigration Policies
It is a common knowledge that most students from Asian and African continent have a strong desire to study in Europe given that the continent has a fair share of the best universities in the world. As such, Europe has turned out to be the destination of choice for most people (Manian et al. 86). To this effect, young women have been lured to go for postgraduate studies in Europe only to end up trapped in sexual exploitation. Immigration policies of some European countries such as Italy that favor indiscriminative immigration of women from world over also fuel sex trafficking, because they increase the number of women who are prone to sex trafficking (Freedman 8). It is estimated that women make up more than half of the migration population in Europe courtesy of the common European immigration policies.
Effects of Sex Trafficking in Europe
Corruption: traffickers have direct influence on immigration agents in both the country of origin and in the country of destination by bribing them to facilitate unauthorized movement of the victims (Kara 125). Sex trafficking in the East European countries offers breeding grounds for corruption, especially in the government, judiciary and law-enforcement agencies (Kara 125).
Labor deficit: migration of productive segments of population from the third world countries to Europe in search of jobs and scholarships leads to the decline of manpower in labor market in the country of origin.
Prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases:sex trafficking leads to increased prostitution in Europe due to the high percentage of female immigrants. Additionally, the victims of sex trafficking are highly exposed to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. The United Kingdom (UK) is a destination for sex trafficking victims from Africa. Freedman shows that a higher percentage of Africans in the UK are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. In cases where the victims go back to their country of origin, the rates of HIV/AIDS infection is likely to increase.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Sex trafficking takes a greater share of human trafficking in Europe (UNODC 44). Countries such as the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Germany serve as a destination for 84% of the victims, most of who come from as far as Africa, Asia, Southern American and the former Soviet Union. Sex trafficking is facilitated by factors such as poverty, unemployment, relaxed immigration policies in Europe coupled with the victims’ urge to access higher education in Europe. Increased incidences of sex trafficking has led to higher rates of prostitution in Europe.
The European Union (EU) has established laws protecting the right of an individual’s movement in the EU territory and “legal obligations preventing and combating trafficking in human beings (THB)” (Manian et al. 71). Secondly, the EU nations should embrace the EU mitigation measures and comply with the law of the Council of Europe (COE) to combat sex trafficking. Additionally, both European nations and the countries of origin should step up cooperation of the police and judicial authorities to contain the illegalized human movements.
Lastly, creating awareness among victims is also a commendable step towards averting sex trafficking in Europe. The governments of countries characterized by sex trafficking should educate parents and girl children on the effects of sex trafficking through media and involvement of non-governmental Organizations (NGOs).