Put down that apathy sandwich - trafficking is your problem

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With an increasing amount of uniformity in our lives, and the global village ever shrinking until, I suspect, it will become one big global cottage in which we all get drunk, have a row and shoot each other, we seem to be picking up some very nasty habits from other parts of the world. One of them is that we are failing to stop the flow of individuals being trafficked into this country for the sexual use of this country's citizens.

With an increasing amount of uniformity in our lives, and the global village ever shrinking until, I suspect, it will become one big global cottage in which we all get drunk, have a row and shoot each other, we seem to be picking up some very nasty habits from other parts of the world. One of them is that we are failing to stop the flow of individuals being trafficked into this country for the sexual use of this country's citizens.

Now think hard. Are we talking trafficking in men, women or children here? I know it's a stupid question. But it's because it is so obvious who the victims are going to be, that it's hardly worth asking. Yes, once again women are the sexual currency in the lives of men, and although we are beginning to dis- cover that children are involved in this trade, the fact that the "goods" are women means it is possible for most people to continue on down the road of indifference, stopping off occasionally at the "Not My Problem" café for an apathy sandwich. Although if it comes to light that enough newsworthy - and more importantly, "attractive" - children are involved in this human smuggling, I'm sure the tabloids will get going in a, "Glitter is an evil, bald pervert" sort of way.

Does his baldness make him any more of a pervert, I asked myself as I perused that erudite headline this week. Would a fine head of hair have brought this receptacle of hate back into the fold? Nope, that's about as likely to happen as a lorryload of Albanian hod carriers being found in a juggernaut at Dover bound for prostitutional penury on the executive estates of Surrey. Calm down there, Mrs Guildford! It's not your lucky day.

But perk up Mr Guildford, it's women on the receiving end of exploitation again. And that's so common, it's almost banal. Some men in this country must be rubbing their hands in glee that the recent backlash against women has allowed the expansion of the sex trade to the point where they're being delivered yet more fresh young meat from pastures new.

And if you're offended by the word meat, choose yourself a more attractive word, "totty", "bird", whatever you like. And if you don't think there's been a backlash against women then ...

a) see if you can find a men's magazine with a zero tissue count.

b) listen to the way women are discussed by certain Radio 1 DJs.

c) look at the rise in sexual crimes against women.

If anyone has doubts that women are really just objects for others to make money out of, the relationship between trafficking of women and the criminal fraternity is all you need to know about. Two kilos of cocaine or a couple of schoolgirls? What's your pleasure, mate?

"But how do these daft women get themselves into this mess?" the sensible colonel types with no conception of life outside the golf club may well be asking now. Well, criminals play on people's naivety and their desperate need to start a new sort of life in the West . Once they have paid the equivalent of a small fortune to get here, the women are told that that's not enough and they have to work it off in kind. The sex industry in this country is booming. Oh, isn't it lovely to know that all parts of the economy are flourishing. Because we all know, according to one once very popular economic theory, that profit will trickle down on to the rest of us - apart, of course, from the women in the sex industry. They are just being pissed on.

It has to be said that the Government is concerned about the recent rise in the number of women being trafficked and it is taking seriously a report that charts the increase in the numbers of trafficked women and girls over the past 10 years. New legislation is being considered, which will specifically focus on this unique crime.

But the report also highlights the fact that the police are largely unaware of the scale of the off-street sex industry. That's apart from the ones who turn a blind eye to the goings-on regularly happening on their patch, of course. I do wonder, however, just how the blue-rinse brigade will react to this influx of unwelcome ladies of the night from Eastern Europe, because let's face it, they've got pretty apoplectic about your common-or-garden asylum seeker. Still, maybe a 15-year- old Albanian girl occasionally keeps the old man happy on a Friday night after a particularly wearing meeting in the city.

I do apologise for sounding so cynical, but it's always the seemingly respectable face of prostitution use which keeps the whole thing going so successfully.

As ever, this whole shebang is about money, and the trafficking of humans is leading to increasingly violent turf wars for the control of the business. But gangsters in our minds can equal romance. There are, after all, enough films about them to suggest this, whereas women in these films are decorative silly things who, when they cease to be decorative, are no longer of use and are replaced by better models.

Perhaps you think this is a small problem, easy for a feminist to bang on about. In fact, three-quarters of "street" women in Soho are from Eastern Europe, some of them working under coercion. They are forced to work in this way because on arrival in the UK their documents are snatched, leaving them powerless - or should we say more powerless than they were already. It is extremely depressing to read in this report that these women may be asked to engage in activities which are refused by other prostitutes, such as unprotected sex and God only knows what else.

Still, at least there is going to be a national conference on this topic on 6July at the Barbican Centre, in London, and one hopes that we will tackle this problem head-on - instead of resorting to our normal British response of tutting loudly and doing absolutely bugger all.

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