Sex traffic is Europe's shame
(Guardian, 9 March 2001)
Italy's sexual slave trade
(BBC News Online, 2 August 2000)
Headlines such as these have become regular features of British and international media reports. Trafficking in women for sexual exploitation is now 'big business' for the criminals who profit from these activities, for the 'clients' who use trafficked prostitutes and for the news organisations who benefit from the public's appetite for titillating human interest stories. The only people not to benefit are the women who end up as victims of human trafficking in what has been described, in the worst case scenarios, as virtual 'slavery-like' conditions.
The recent high profile given by the media to cases of human trafficking for the sex industry is reflected in the national and international response to this problem from governmental and non-governmental organisations. Within Europe, sex trafficking has been on the political agenda since the 1990s with an array of recommendations and guidelines promoted, from the European Commission (EC) through to the Council of Europe, 2 to tackle the problem. The European Commission has also made funding available, through the STOP and DAPHNE programmes, for a range of initiatives that can be utilised for victims of sex trafficking. While there are European recommendations, guidelines and funds to combat the problem of sex trafficking, there has been, as Kelly and Regan state (2000:12), a sense of 'much talk but limited action'. The Guardian report of 9 March proceeds to outline an 'open article' by the European Commission's social affairs commissioner which berates the EU's lack of progress in combating, and supporting the victims of, trafficking for the sex industry. As the remarks of the commissioner illustrate, there is little sense of progress and, as non-governmental and police intelligence sources indicate, 3 the problem of sex trafficking, if anything, appears to be on the increase.