Monday, November 06, 2006

Women for sale ... life is cheap

I wrote Trading Tatiana in 2002/3 and it was published in Jan 2005.

As soon as I'd signed my two book deal with Orion, I knew I wanted to use the opportunity to draw attention to the horrors of the international trade in women's bodies. The subject was all over the media. I hoped that in my own small way I could contribute to a raised consciousness that would surely result in a tidal wave of public revulsion. If people really knew, I reasoned, their demands for an end to the global trafficking of women and girls would be unstoppable.

Here's an excerpt from Trading Tatiana:

Facts were delivered with no dramatic embellishment. They needed none in order to invoke horror and disgust. Statistics leaped from the paper and bludgeoned me with the stark reality of human misery they represented.

• Fifty two billion dollars – the annual value of the global prostitution industry.
• Five hundred thousand – the number of women smuggled into Western Europe by the sex trade.
• Ten thousand – police estimates of the number of illegal immigrants working as prostitutes in Britain.
• Seventy – the number of walk-up flats in Soho worked by prostitutes of whom ninety per cent are from eastern Europe.
• Twenty-four hours – the time within which women picked up by Immigration are flown home, having been seen as illegal immigrants rather than victims who could potentially give evidence against the criminal networks that brought them here in the first place. The traffickers often meet the women at the airport and bring them straight back to Britain.
• Two years – the Court of Appeal’s recommended sentence for pimping.

My tea grew cold and my toast lay uneaten as I read through case studies of girls – teenagers most of them, but some as young as ten – tortured and exploited, isolated and terrified. Like the sixteen-year-old whose pimp had taken out her front teeth, so she could give better oral sex. I learned about ‘seasoning’ – a pimping term for raping and beating a girl until all resistance has been knocked out of her.
I was beginning to understand Mags’s concern. The men controlling this human trade were not part of an organised Mafia. They were more dangerous than that. They operated in small groups held together by blood or tribe. Their own backgrounds were often ones of abject poverty. They had little to lose and untold riches to gain.

So here we are, nearly 5 years after I wrote those words. Have the hoped-for changes come about? Has the situation I depicted been consigned to the dustbin of history?

Here's an excerpt from an Amnesty International leaflet I received last week:

... Victims of trafficking have little real protection. Most women - even if they manage to escape their captors - are frightened of going to the authorities. When they do, they are all too often treated not as victims but as criminals. That can mean deportation to a homeland where they may be shunned by their own family or - worse still - fall back into the hands of the traffickers.

What is urgently needed are new international laws and guidelines ... Amnesty International, together with other organisations, has been campaigning for the introduction of a Europe wide convention against trafficking ... The Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings has finally been drawn up.

However, before it can come into force it must be ratified by 10 states.

So far the UK has refused to sign.

If, like me, you feel sickened and ashamed to live in a society that allows this suffering and exploitation to continue unchecked, go here to contact Vernon Coaker, the Home Office minister responsible for preventing human trafficking (!)

Either compose your own email or copy and paste the following:

I am calling upon the UK government to sign the European Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings as a matter of extreme urgency.

The Home Office's own sources suggest that at least 1400 women are trafficked into the UK and sold into the sex trade every year. This sale of women and girls is utterly unacceptable. People who are trafficked are not criminals - they are victims of a most horrific human rights abuse and deserve our protection.

Unless enougn people demand change, it won't happen.

And thousands more Tatianas will have their lives stolen from them ...


Unknown said...

It is appalling and shocking, yet what is more appalling and shocking is our failure to stop this from happening. We have become so apathetic, so involved in our own small lives that we seem to have ceased, for the most part, to care about others and anything around us. Don't I just know with my tree campaign.
The sad irony too is that we write and hope our words will change the world in some small way and inevitably they don't. Take a look at this article for a view on the "uselessness" and point of writing - it makes some excellent points and is a good piece.

Anonymous said...

Debi. You're a wonderful, wonderful woman for bringing this to the attention of our blogging community. It's such an important issue that must never be forgotten. And yet it's so easy to put these things out of our minds, isn't it? I know I'm as guilty as the next person and that's why we need these wake up calls now and then.

There but for grace of God...

Marie said...

As you know Debi, I've read Trading Tatiana and thoroughly enjoyed it. It also made me sad and angry about how something so terrible and shocking as the trading of women can exist.

Well done for bringing it to bloggers' attention.

Anonymous said...

I love fiction that makes me think. I love fiction that makes me want to find out more. You are doing your bit Debi and I have just done mine.

The Wandering Author said...

Debi, if I were a British subject I'd be on them in a minute. Sadly, I don't think they'll care what an American thinks.

As for the US, I know a lot of terrible things are allowed to go on here as well. I'm not very optimistic about persuading the government to do anything, however. This is, after all, the same government that has covered up so much. Perhaps in 2009, after the next election...

Debi said...

Thanks all. We could fill libraries with discussions about why we write, authors' responsibilities etc.

Aty - I love that Paul Auster speech re why we tell stories and the intimate relationship between writer and reader. Go check the link, everyone, in Aty's comment.

Though I DO think books have the power to change the world sometimes ... pen mightier than sword etc etc

I've just realised the link to Vernon Coaker in my post isn't working. If you want to email him, the address is:
coakerv at parliament dot uk

Anonymous said...

Thank you Debi for highlighing this issue. And thanks to John Baker through who's blog I actually found it. I just sent the email to the UK parliment. I can't even bring myself to comment further on this issue, it's so appalling, your words and description are greatly effective, people need to hear this.

Debi said...

Thank you, anonymous! This is exactly what's needed. Your response makes everything worth while. It means that we know if we shout loud enough and in the right places, we just might be able to force a change ...

Anonymous said...

Startling post Debi ! I can't believe the government's stance ? Have they given any reasons for it ? Seem's completely unjustifiable to me.

Debi said...

It does seem unbelievable, doesn't it? It's hard to imagine any possible justification ...