PERSPECTIVE: Out of the Massage Parlour and into the Fire; Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen Examines the Plight of Women Who Think They Are Starting a New Life in a Foreign Country but End Up Forced into Sex Slavery
Byline: Kate Allen
Most of us probably appreciate that many saunas and massage parlours in towns and cities around the UK are thinly-disguised brothels.
But if our lives never bring us into contact with the women 'working' in them or the men using them then we don't give it much more thought.
Police believe that many of these women may have been trafficked - tricked and forced into prostitution against their will.
Trafficking of women is nothing less than modern day slavery, right here in the UK. The question now is - how serious is this problem, and what is Britain doing to protect the victims of this vicious trade?
Home Office research estimated that 1,420 women were trafficked into the UK to be forcibly prostituted in 1998. And the trade is understood to have increased massively over the seven years since then because there is such a lot of money to be made. The women come in particular from countries in Eastern Europe such as Moldova, Romania, the Ukraine and Albania, and also from West Africa and South-East Asia.
At Amnesty our research has found that these women are sometimes tricked into leaving their homes, and sometimes violently coerced and kidnapped. They might be told that they will be found well paid bar or hotel work in western Europe or they might be tricked by boyfriends, policemen and people they thought were friends into making the journey across borders and giving up their passports.
Traffickers target these women and work their way into their lives. Victims are then horribly brutalised, normally raped as a way of 'breaking them in' and weakening any resistance. They are the prisoners of their 'owners'.
And this is a truly national problem. A charity which helps women who have escaped trafficking in the UK (the only one of its kind, as there is so little support available) found evidence last year that the brothels where trafficked women are forced to work in London are linked to a network of saunas, massage parlours and flats all over the country So what is Britain doing to crack down on the trade and protect victims? …