February 5, 1998
Moderator: T. Alexander Aleinikoff, Senior Associate, International Migration Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Panelists: Gillian Caldwell, Co-director, Global Survival Network; Anita Botti, Senior Advisor on Trafficking in Women at the Department of State
Mr. Aleinikoff welcomed the participants to the Carnegie Endowment and thanked them for their important efforts in the fight against the illegal trafficking of women for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Mr. Aleinikoff expressed satisfaction at the large turnout and hoped that the documentary video "Bought and Sold" based on The Global Survival Network's report "Crime and Servitude: An Exposé of the Traffic in Women for Prostitution from the Newly Independent States," would raise awareness of the issue and mobilize resources to combat it.
Before showing the documentary video, Ms. Caldwell addressed the audience and gave some background information on the video. Through mostly undercover work, the Global Survival Network was able to penetrate the underworld of Russian organized crime and observe its involvement in the trafficking of women. Due to rampant sexual harassment of women and high female unemployment in Russia, Russian women often see offers to work abroad as dancers, entertainers, and au pairs as the only solution to their economic problems. Most of them do not realize they will be forced to work as prostitutes, and even if they do, they are unaware of the stranglehold criminal networks will exercise over their lives and their wages. Victims are discouraged from notifying the police because the criminal networks threaten them and their families with bodily harm. Furthermore, in the rare cases victims testify in court, the local authorities often detain them in jail until the end of the trial and deport them immediately thereafter. According to Ms. Caldwell, countries must stop treating victims of trafficking as illegal migrants if criminal networks are to be prosecuted effectively.
After the video, Ms. Caldwell mentioned that the Global Survival Network is working with Congress and NGOs regarding potential U.S. legislation about trafficking in women. Ms. Caldwell also pointed out the recent high-profile international attention focused on trafficking in women. In November 1997, for example, an international conference in Russia on the "Trafficking of NIS Women Abroad" was attended by over 100 participants from around the world, including representatives of the Russian government; NGOs throughout the NIS, Europe, and Asia; the United Nations; the European Commission; the U.S. Department of State; and international foundations. As a follow-up to this conference, Ms. Caldwell stated, and with the help of the Open Society Institute of the Soros Foundation, a workshop will be held in Budapest in June 1998 to train national foundations and NGOs on various ways to combat trafficking in women.
Ms. Botti expressed her gratitude to the Global Survival Network for its consciousness-raising activities. She accentuated the need for a firmer global mobilization against the trafficking in women and the seriousness with which the United States government considers the issue by noting that a senior-level working group on trafficking in women has been convened that includes officials from the Departments of Justice, Labor, Commerce, and State. According to Ms. Botti, this task force has identified three areas of paramount concern: prevention, enforcement, and protection.
Regarding prevention, Ms. Botti noted the need for more intelligence resources and higher public awareness and commended the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for its work to heighten public awareness. The inter-departmental task force is also working closely with the European Union (EU) on U.S. and EU pilot projects in the Ukraine and Poland respectively. An evaluation of these projects will be ready by July 1998. Although consular officers have been instructed to deny visas to all traffickers, the abundance of front companies makes such identification exceedingly difficult.
In conjunction with the Global Survival Network and other NGOs, the inter-departmental task force is reviewing potential new legislation in the United States and abroad that affects trafficking in women. In addition, officials from the various departments are assisting the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement with a program in Budapest whose purpose is to train officials around the world in techniques to fight trafficking in women.
In conclusion, Ms. Botti stressed that the victims of trafficking mostly have been overlooked. Without adequate mechanisms to protect these women, they are not likely to identify the criminals. Both the United States and the international community should review the needs of these victims and evaluate to what degree social resources can assist them.
To contact the panelists:
Global Survival Network
P.O. Box 73214
Washington, DC 20009
Senior Advisor on Trafficking in Women at the U.S. Department of State