Sunday, July 12, 2009

If you aren't angry about this, you aren't paying attention.

Originally uploaded by dno1967

While brunching with a couple of my very favourite fellow YUPBs this lovely Sunday morning, our conversation turned from our usual obnoxious and inappropriate subject matter to something far more serious: the trafficking of women and sexual slavery. Now, I have always said that if I were ever to lend my efforts to any cause, this would be it. 

Why, you ask? Why not Africa or racism or cancer research? Because the fact that people can and do repeatedly steal women from their homes and families, beat them, drug them, rape them and even murder them with little to no consequence makes me physically ill. More than once, I have fathomed what it would be like to be kidnapped and forced into a brothel in a strange place, having people treat you like an animal and having to find some distant hope to sustain yourself until one day, either through death or miracle, you can escape. Just try and imagine if you can. 

Horrifying, isn't it?

 The lack of action in this matter is nothing short of astounding. No country is innocent or unaffected by this worldwide problem, Canada included. A short visit to the Coalition Against Trafficking Women website gives dozens of examples of Canada's contribution to sex trafficking. Shame.

ANYWAY, imagine my surprise tonight when I stumbled upon a documentary on this exact topic while idly flipping through channels before bed. CBC's The Passionate Eye (love it) was showing the simply titled "Sex Slaves", and wow, it was truly heartbreaking. The documentary focuses primarily on a Ukrainian man whose pregnant wife, Katya, has been tricked into sex slavery in Turkey by a man named Vlad. The husband goes all the way to Turkey to retrieve his wife, harassing the pimp until they finally send Katya home on a plane. Only time will tell whether or not she contracted HIV from any of her rapists. 

Katya's is not even the worst story. There is also the story of two young sisters, Olga and Oksana, one of whom has already been lured into the sex trafficking industry by false promises of employment abroad only to have to escape eight months later; and the other who has no choice but to leave her country to try and make money for her extremely impoverished family, not knowing if she is walking into the same situation as her sister. We also meet Tonya, who sells herself into prostitution in hopes of paying the medical expenses and saving the life of her critically ill younger brother. There are several more women profiled in the documentary, each story alarmingly similar in content to the next.

So here is my YUPB call to action: as women who are lucky enough to have been born into relative wealth and safety, I think it is our duty to be aware of this disgusting practice and get involved in one way or another. Even if that means as little as spreading the word or as much as volunteering for an organization that works to fight female trafficking, any little bit helps.

By the way, Katya's kidnapper, Vlad, was arrested and tried. He got five years probation. He said the judge was " good guy who understands my situation". Katya had to have an abortion because the fetus was so badly damaged from the beatings and rape she suffered in captivity.

Tonya was sent to "work" in Turkey, but was arrested in a police sting and sent back to the Ukraine. Her brother succumbed to his illness only a month after the documentary was shot.

For more information, check out or pick up a copy of The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade by Victor Malarek, a Canadian journalist.


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