The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Sex-slave trade in United Kingdom

Two hundred years ago, British Parliament decided to abolish slavery and the trade.Despite the illegal status of slavery, a recent investigation by British police has shown that it is still present in 21st-century England, albeit in a form different from forced physical labor.

The present victims are often women from overseas, who are sexually exploited and forced into prostitution.
Sophomore Kat Siladi, who recently participated in “The Vagina Monologues” and played a “comfort woman,” women who were forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II, was very struck by the reports of forced prostitution.
“It’s a microcosm of the treatment of women in Western society,” Siladi said. “There are many overlying problems and, to stop human trafficking, we must also address the issue of verbal abuse at home, because they are both ways to dominate women.”

The young women, nearly half of whom are between the ages 18 and 25, are tricked into coming to England, often by a boyfriend under the guise of finding work. The women may also be kidnapped or forced to go to England.

According to The BBC, in 2003, as many as 4,000 women were trafficked into the U.K. for sexual exploitation.

Sophomore Jen Banich was most surprised by the fact that human trafficking, or sexual slavery, was happening in Britain.

“I’ve only ever heard of sexual slavery in Asian countries, so I’m a shocked that this is going on in England. But, no one deserves that kind of life,” she said.

According to The BBC, most of the girls come to England from Eastern Europe, West Africa and South Asia under the belief that they will find better lives. Others arrive in England thinking they are on a vacation.

That is what happened in the case of Jiera, a 19-year-old from Lithuania.

Jiera said to The BBC that she and a friend thought they were headed to England for a vacation only to discover when they arrived that they were being sold into sexual slavery.

“When I was with clients I tried to pretend I was doing something else, but I couldn’t. It made me so angry that I was often violent towards the clients.” Jiera’s “owner” beat her and eventually had to sell her because she caused trouble.

Auctions to purchase sex slaves often occur at the airports, especially Gatwick Airport in Sussex, according to The BBC, and reports show that many prosecuted cases of sexual exploitation began at Gatwick.

One woman, a Romanian named Nicoleta, was tricked into going to England by a friend of her stepfather.

“When I was 18, I was trafficked into prostitution in the U.K. where I worked 11 hours a day, seven days a week, for over three years,” Nicoleta said to The BBC. “I was made to work during my period, was often not fed so I did not become ‘fat’, and had to have sex without a condom.”

Many of the stories mirror other reports of forced prostitution, which come from all over the world. Women are raped and beaten, denied food and condoms. Many contract STDs and are left both physically and psychologically scarred.

Nicoleta’s story left an impression on Kat Siladi. Siladi was most appalled by how desensitized the men at the brothels must have been.

“The men who were having sex with these women must have known they were not enjoying it,” Siladi said. “And the men who sell these women and force them into slavery, they must have had mothers, grown up in homes with women, and yet they so willingly sexually oppress women.”

Both the police and private agencies have been working to help women who find themselves the victims of sexual exploitation.

One group is the Poppy Project, a London-based program, which offers support and accommodations for victims of human trafficking. Since its inception in 2003, 581 victims have been referred to the group.
Another agency is Citylight, which offers service in Brighton and Hove. Citylight was set up by Naomi Cohen and other church volunteers in the city.
Cohen got involved because of her desire to help and support these victims.
“It horrifies me that this is happening in this day and age when most of us have our freedom,” Cohen said to The BBC. “I just wanted to be a part of something that changes that and can help women to rebuild their lives.”
While the efforts of such projects have helped remove women from their situations and are attempting to help them through what they’ve experienced, many are still haunted by the abuse they endured while forced to work as sex workers.
Nicoleta said to The BBC, “I can’t eat, I can’t concentrate and I can’t sleep, although I am very tired. I have nightmares in the day as well as in the night.

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