Brides and prostitutes sold on Internet

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The Independent Online
The Internet is being used to market women for sex in an "unprecedented" way, according to a psychologist who has carried out a detailed investigation of trafficking of women on the World Wide Web.

Users can browse through catalogues of mail-order brides from Asia and Eastern Europe; select guides to the best prostitutes on offer in capitals around the world; and swap information on where to buy pre-teen girls and what price to pay.

Dr Donna Hughes, a lecturer in women's studies at Bradford University, said she was "amazed and appalled" at how quickly the global sex industry had seized the opportunities offered to it by the Net. "There is often very detailed information being given, telephone numbers and names of people to contact in cities in more than 40 countries in order to procure women," she said.

One site on the Web amounted to an "etiquette guide" for first-time visitors to a brothel, she said, outlining how to behave, how to pay the bar bill, and how to approach a woman for sex.

The findings of Dr Hughes' one-year investigation, presented at a conference on women's research into pornography in Bristol yesterday, included detailed descriptions of what men had done to the women they had bought.

"These were actual accounts not fantasies," Dr Hughes said. "The amount of detail included did not come out of their imagination. There were the names of pimps selling under-age girls and where to find young girls available for sex."

The Mail Order Brides catalogue on the Net included pictures of the women with their weight, height and bust measurements, and highlighted their domestic skills.

Women from the Philippines, Costa Rica, Eastern Europe, and South America were popular candidates, Dr Hughes said. The personal details usually appeared with the woman's permission and her address would be sold by a "middle man" for correspondence with a prospective buyer. Tours could also be arranged for buyers to meet all the women they had written to, so that they could choose the most suitable wife.

"There are wife-seeking tours when men can meet lots of women, have sex with as many as they want, and then choose one for a wife," Dr Hughes said. The women were very vulnerable because they believed a life in the West was preferable to their own existence. Dr Hughes said there was evidence from Australia of "serial sponsorship", in which men buy one bride, take her home but drop her after a while, and then return to pick another wife, leaving the first destitute.