THE REPORT highlighting Slovakia as one of the countries involved in the "modern-day slavery" of trafficking in women for prostitution comes as no surprise in itself, although perhaps it is surprising that Slovakia is named not only as an origin and transit country but also as a destination country. The question is, what is the government willing or able to do about these problems?
It is encouraging to see that non-governmental organisations are already offering advice to young women who are at risk of being duped into prostitution abroad through adverts purporting to be for modelling, waitressing, and other jobs.
The police must work with these agencies to root out and prosecute those trying to recruit impressionable Slovak women into this trade. The 17 arrests this year (which have so far led to only six convictions) are just the tip of the iceberg, according to experts in the field.
However, the current campaign is only aimed at reducing the incidence of Slovakia as an origin country for trafficking. It may be hoped that there will be a natural improvement in the situation next year when Slovaks will be able to legally work in more European countries without having to rely on dubious agencies.
Slovakia's position as a potential transit country will also change next year when it joins the European Union. Instead of being one of the countries on the outside, it will then be on the inside, with a much smaller border (with Ukraine) to protect from illegal entry to the country.
This does not mean that trafficking through Slovakia will stop, but rather that traffickers will use different routes. While this will be less of an issue for the country itself, the problem will simply move elsewhere.
It is the destination countries that are the real problem, and it is disappointing to see Slovakia among them.
The solution lies in prosecuting those forcing these women into prostitution. Governments need to take action to break up the criminal gangs involved and punish them to the full extent of the law. And the victims need to be given adequate protection and returned to their own countries.
We should not stop there, though. The "clients" are just as guilty as the criminals who provide these women for their sexual pleasure. Without men willing to pay for the use of these slaves, the trade would not and could not exist. They are accessories to the crime and should be prosecuted as such. When we start seeing "respectable" businessmen arrested for aiding and abetting slavery, we might start to see a reduction in this evil trafficking.
23. Jun 2003 at 0:00