Tuesday, 7 May 2013
Voice for Justice Conference on Fighting Sexual Exploitation
We will start with a large number and a small one.
The large number is 27 million. That is the number of people still held in slavery in the world, most of them in Muslim countries. The small number is 120. That is how many people bothered to attend the Voice for Justice UK Conference on fighting human trafficking, held at St Aldates Church, Oxford on Saturday 13th April. Most of the established churches ignored it. Luckily most of the papers given by leading professionals who are researching these topics, can still be accessed on the internet.
Children in UK schools are taught that slavery was abolished two hundred years ago. Wrong. In fact there are now more people globally in slavery than at any other time in history. In America this year two women sex-slaves were rescued from the home of a Saudi-Arabian diplomat. The mainstream media ignored it.
Slavery is alive and well and it is flourishing here in the UK. At least there are organizations trying to combat it. Ben Cooley, CEO of the anti-trafficking charity Hope for Justice, spoke at the conference about human trafficking going on in England today. He described horrifying cases of people of all ages and sexes brought in to this country illegally to work as slaves and prostitutes. Without a doubt the EU's open borders policy has made this far easier. Teenage girls were imported in large numbers last year to feed the demand for prostitutes from the tourists who came here for the Olympics. Some of the victims of sex trafficking are children, of both sexes. They are trapped in prostitution because they have no passports, usually cannot speak the language and are terrified of their pimps. A gang from Romania brought in an adult man, a qualified electrician, promising him work. When he got here, smuggled in the back of a van, his passport was taken away and he was made to sleep on the floor of a shed, with no heating. He got no wages, only his basic food. When he tried to run away, his captors subjected him to horrific beating and homosexual assault.
The papers given related to each other, revealing that human trafficking is interlinked with prostitution (which I am not going to call "the sex industry") and with pornography. Many trafficking victims are used to make pornographic images and videos, for profit, and this sort of material generates more demand for prostitutes. Who are their customers? Men we know, men who are our friends, our fathers, husbands, brothers, sons and colleagues. Pornography teaches them that it is normal to abuse women and that there is no such thing as vice or perversion. Well that is not true! Dr Lisa Nolland talked about how school sex education lessons aggravate the problem. Instead of teaching good moral values, they have been hi-jacked into teaching perversion and grossly anti-moral attitudes. Things that would twenty years ago have been regarded as hard-core porn are now pushed at 12-year-olds in their "health and social education" lessons as normal. The genuine health risks are not mentioned. No wonder there is an epidemic of sexually-transmitted and sex-related disease in this country, most of it in the 14-21 age group. This is one legacy of our Blair-Brown government, which did so much long-term harm in so many ways. One thing parents can do is to vote for an "opt-in" policy on internet pornography, so that there is a default filter. Write to your MP and tell them that this ought to be implemented.
There is a government committee that is supposed to be enquiring into the issue of human trafficking. One of these MPs, Michael Connarty, attended the conference and dismissed Lisa Nolland's research as "right-wing propaganda". With such a closed mind, he is not much use on the committee.
The media too often give a glamourized, reassuring picture of prostitution. Films show girls going with rich, considerate customers to plushy hotels and being highly paid, even treated as human. The reality is that girls are appallingly exploited, raped multiple times a day, and often so psychologically damaged that they need long-term counselling if they escape. Towards the end of the conference, a woman gave some glimmer of hope, when she said that she herself had been a victim and had left the life of prostitution, married and settled down. She had now recovered her self-esteem.
This issue deserved the attention of a lot more than 120 people. I hope lots more go to the site and read the papers.
A few hours after I wrote this the news emerged of three women in Cleveland, Ohio, found after ten or more years' as "missing". They had been abducted and held in captivity as sex slaves in a suburban house by three brothers. They had spent more than a decade being tied up and raped, two of them kept in chains in the basement. The Guardian report does not use the words sex-slaves, rape or perversion. But then it wouldn't would it?