EU is launching a platform against human trading

How can organizations in society get together and become a driving force in eradicating trafficking?
A small step was taken May 31 in Brussels as non-profit organizations from EU countries gathered for the first time in the new forum to lay the foundation for what will help to make a change. The originators, Cecilia Malmström and her team led by Myria Vassiliadou, EU’s coordinator in the fight against trafficking, have good intentions.
Realstars was one of approximately 100 participants from 100 organizations; from actual anti-trafficking organizations to organizations that work with human rights, equality, children’s rights and the rights of migrants. It was met with great interest. (RealStars are happy to be one of the chosen organizations.)
The organizations represent various interests and reflect a divided Europe. Realstars believe that the words from EU about ”increased protection for the victims” are hollow as long as many countries have legislations that protect sex buyers and pimps.
It is clear that Realstars’ voice, a Swedish voice, is even more needed in a Europe where trafficking grows and where organizations need to cooperate in order to get to the root of the problem.
The day began with presentations from several EU institutions and continued with workshops dedicated to priorities, information exchange and future activities using the Internet. I became concerned when the Hungarian EU parliamentarian Lívia Járóka spoke about how vulnerable Romani people’s situation is. (Járóka is the second Romani elected to the EU parliament).

Trafficking is increasing and few people mention the demand
Also on this day, the EU commission presented new facts. I learned that 96% of the victims of trafficking for sexual purposes are women and girls, and that sex trafficking is increasing. There is a decrease in human trading with the purpose of labor. It’s notable that Europe is divided when it comes to discussing how trafficking should be combated. It’s a basic level put in by the EU strategy of 2012 and today with the platform for the civil society 2013. We know that trading continues concurrently 24/7 around in the cities of Europe. We also know that the most effective plan in getting a hold of the problem is to strike against the great profitability and demand. The money does after all come from the sex buyers. And yet, the word sex buyer was not mentioned once during the presentation. The new EU directive which will realize tasks focused on reducing the demand is considered to be progress (paragraph 25). It is difficult for us at Realstars to trust this work when there are countries where sex trade is allowed and the sex buyer is free regardless of the psychological and physical damage they have caused the woman and child (under 18) in prostitution.
But I want to believe in change. Many committed organizations meet and strengthen each other. The message Realstars promotes is one of stricter legislations which exists in a number of organizations such as the European Women’s Lobby and Mouvement du Nid, who are ahead in addressing prostitution and ask for a law which prohibits sex buying in Europe.
The EU commission is facing a great challenge when they choose to balance the voices from people who consider prostitution violence against women (“abolitionists”) and pro-prostitution organizations with strong economic interests. The EU commission also chose not to put the foot down when it comes to the connection between prostitution and trafficking.
I want to be optimistic and it did feel like a small step had been taken in the right direction at the end of the day. The fact that we all gathered is positive on its own, a “Power house” as someone said, and a place where we can exchange experiences, good ideas and learn from each other.
For the next forum, the goal is to work towards an even more clear-cut agenda and focus on specific areas within EU’s strategy for combating human trading.

Just like EU’s anti-trafficking coordinator, I hope this platform becomes an effective instrument. It should be used to get people more engaged, have debates and to put pressure on politicians so they can make decisions that aren’t too obtuse to turn the increase in trafficking into a decrease – so they can make a difference. We need a more comprehensive view and more discussions about the sex buyer, the one who drives the market forward.

Malin for Realstars

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