EU Anti-Trafficking Day | Children exploitation intensifies during the pandemic. What hinders anti-trafficking fight

The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) issued on Friday a statement which warns that online children exploitation has intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic and that fewer victims are identified and helped. Certain attitudes and realities facilitate the phenomenon. Information and awareness can save lives.

On the European Anti-trafficking Day, GRETA asked EU member countries to cooperate with the civil society and the private sector to fight human trafficking, abuse and exploitation.

Human trafficking is flourishing on the Internet, the EU officials said. They also saw a “reduced numbers of identified victims, gaps in the provision of services to victims, and delays in criminal proceedings”.

A recent report by the US State Department says that in Romania “services for child trafficking victims remained inadequate” and that “authorities investigated, prosecuted, and convicted fewer traffickers”.

Most of the Romanian trafficking victims are minors and women, coming especially (but not exclusively) from poor or disorganised families.

They are practically cheated into prostitution. The preferred recruiting method is the Loverboy method: the trafficker pretends to have fallen in love with the victim, makes her fall in love with him, then he forces her to prostitute by various forms of coercion or blackmail.

Or he simply sells her once he has won her confidence.

Sobering statistics

  • 74% of the EU’s trafficking victims come from Romania.
  • 61% of the EU’s trafficking victims are recruited for sexual exploitation.
  • Only 0.2-0.4% of the victims manage to get out of a trafficking situation and an even smaller part of them seek compensation in a court of law.
  • Only 1 in 100,000 traffickers are convicted.
  • A quarter of the victims are minors.

Attitudes that facilitate the phenomenon

His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, said last year that human trafficking is a form of modern slavery and a deep degradation of the human person as “God’s creation.”

How is possible though that an Orthodox country like Romania provides most of the girls and women trafficked in the European Union?

An analysis explains the phenomenons and attitudes leading to this unwanted reality:

  • lack of information on the issue in the public square, combined with the victims’ reluctance to speak;
  • the dissolution of families through divorce or work migration abroad;
  • increased acceptance shown to the habit of starting intimate life before marriage: seeking love, the girls who grow without a father or who miss love in their families are easy prey for traffickers;
  • the artificial separation (based on ideological reasons) made “between human trafficking and the sexual exploitation industry. By legalizing various forms of prostitution (pornography, video-chat, brothels) a false perception is being consolidated: that women are doing this freely, as any other job; that men are just some clients, buyers of products, while pimps are respectable businessmen, with families and children of their own, who contribute to the public budget by paying their taxes. As a consequence, the status of the women in this branch is not carefully examined anymore.”

What can we do?

  • Seek and share information on the phenomenon, including online, on social media.
  • Pay attention to those around us and talk to the teenagers about the risks or even organized information sessions for them.
  • Change our attitude regarding intimate relations and educate children accordingly: if the boy cannot wait until the marriage, he is not the right partner for her.
  • Law- and policy-makers need to understand that the women selling their bodies are essentially victims. This approach proved successful in the Nordic Countries, where solicitation of such “services” has been criminalized.
  • Train certain professional categories to identify victims of human trafficking: public transport workers, border patrol workers, police workers, doctors and priests.

The Romanian civil society is active on this issue: 15 organizations announced on Thursday the launch of a collaborative online platform, (“humantraffic” dot to).

It is open for all those who want to get involved in the fight against modern slavery: through information and prevention activities, support for the victims or advocacy for appropriate laws.

The Church gets involved as well. On Sunday, October 18, the European Anti-Trafficking Day, all the parishes and monasteries from the Archdiocese of Suceava and Rădăuți mark the day through information activities. Also, webinar for youth workers was organized on Saturday in cooperation with the county school inspectorate.

Foto credit: Pexels

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