Modern Day Slavery – Time For The Eu To Act – By MEP Marina YANNAKOUDAKIS

“The trafficking of women and children is one of the most devastating human rights related issues both modern societies and the developing world have to face. Either as source countries or as destination “markets” all countries involved are called to find solutions in dealing with this modern form of slavery.” MEP Marina Yannakoudakis, one of the most proactive and dedicated members of the European Parliament on female protection, is actively backing and promoting the Modern Slavery Bill. This Bill is a new initiative currently being introduced in the UK, which targets at combating every form of modern slavery, sexual or labor, and which MEP Yannakoudakis says could also be implemented in Europe. .
The new UK Bill, which is the first of its kind in Europe, contains provisions that aim at increasing the maximum custodial sentence for offenders, traffickers and abusers, from 14 years to life. The draft bill would also create a new post of Anti-Slavery Commissioner to hold law enforcement and other organizations to account, while it provides for automatic life sentences to offenders who already have convictions for very serious sexual or violent offences.
As UK Home Secretary, Theresa May said, this is putting in effect a new policy intending to “get tougher on the slave drivers who force thousands of people into a life of servitude”. She added that “slavery has no place in Britain. It is an affront to the dignity and humanity of us all and it is the responsibility of us all to help stamp it out. The best way to protect and reduce the number of victims is to disrupt and imprison the organized criminal gangs behind much of the modern slave trade. It also requires tireless and coordinated effort across government and law enforcement, work with other countries to tackle the problem at source and increased awareness within all communities, including the business community…”. According to estimations alone in the UK there are about 10,000 slaves, many of whom are young women or girls.
Organized systems exist for forcing females, adults and minors, into prostitution, with actual “exhibition” markets for victims to be bought and sold. Women are being trafficked for prostitution into Iran and Afghanistan, and Pakistan is a trafficking destination for persons from Iran, Afghanistan and to a lesser extent Bangladesh. There are also indications of child sex trafficking between Iran and Pakistan. At a statement made a few days ago during a ceremony organized by the International Organization for Migration, the Economic Minister of the Maldives admitted that his country is a destination country for human trafficking, especially for forced labor, and acknowledged that this fact is a cause of serious economic drawbacks to the Maldives.
According to the findings of the US State Department’s 2013 report on Trafficking in Persons women in Pakistan are forced by circumstances or by criminal gangs into prostitution. The report reiterates that boys and girls as young as five are bought sold, “rented” or kidnapped. Not only are they forced into the sex trade, they are also placed in organized begging rings and sold into slavery “assisting” with household or placed into factories.
Most disturbing however, is that this situation is not only limited to Asia or ‘other parts of the world’ but it also reaches our own societies, it extends to our own neighborhood, perhaps it affects the house next door. Girls coming from families with background originally from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh are actually sold, being forced to enter into marriages with people located in these specific countries. This form of women or child trafficking has seen an increased number of cases come to light in recent years.
According to the UK Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), there are probably between 8,000 to 10,000 forced marriages or threats of forced marriage in the UK every year. Even more shocking, according to the FMU, of those, nearly 1,500, or thirteen percent involved victims below 15 years, 22 percent involved victims aged 16-17, while one victim was merely two years old. These children are being sold out back to their countries of origin merely to settle old scores or simply to comply with family “tradition”. Almost half of these cases involve Pakistani families, many of whom reportedly take advantage of dual nationality rights so that British officials cannot intervene once the girl is on Pakistani soil, according to reports from the BBC. In order to force them out members of their families use either violence, involving the girl being beaten and locked into her room until she agrees to marry, or deceit with the girl being told she will be attending a wedding in Pakistan during her summer holiday, only to find out that it is actually her own wedding she is attending. Sometimes, these young girls return back home pregnant and no one even makes questions about this.
In dealing with this highly important issue, the UK has criminalized forced marriages following the steps of Norway, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Malta, Belgium and Cyprus. In many of these countries, the government has since noted a 50 percent increase in reporting of cases. Further, authorities at airports have been provided with guidelines on being on high alert of young girls traveling to the above mentioned destinations. Civil society NGOs have also put in place help lines, where young girls and women can call and report such incidents to alert authorities.. All these measures have been applied and proven in practice to bring in results.
The important next steps now are to ensure that these measures will be applied not restrictively in one country but to all European counties collectively. The EU needs to put in place a framework that will guide Member-States in enforcing such policies and at the same time will incentivize foreign governments to take measures that will be directed at effectively dealing with women and child trafficking. Both source and destination countries must be targeted and civil society’s contribution is this fundamental.
The International community has also been dealing with this issue for some time now. The UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime entered into force in September 2003. The accompanying Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children received its 40th ratification in September 2003 and entered into force on December 25, 2003. The Trafficking Protocol contains the international consensus definition of trafficking and sets forth State obligations to prevent trafficking, to protect victims and to prosecute perpetrators of trafficking.
The Trafficking Protocol defines “trafficking in persons” as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” Exploitation is defined as “at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” (Article 3). This definition is broad and detailed and represents the accepted international consensus that the key element of trafficking is the exploitation of the victim, rather than the movement of victim across borders or “means” by which the trafficker involves the victim in trafficking.

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