Human trafficking a “human-made disaster”
At 10 a.m. on 14 April a documentary called “Prostituida” will be shown at 10 a.m., in Cocal room, as part of the programme of ancillary meetings. The documentary, which is 50 minutes long, was produced and directed by Frida Spiwak, a Colombian clinical psychologist who has been working on the issue of human trafficking for 15 years.
This afternoon Frida walked into the ancillary meetings office in a bright lime-green skirt, a gold handbag hanging on her arm and a pile of posters about the documentary. A couple of hours later, we got talking and she told me that her interest in human trafficking developed out of her work on trauma and from talking to women who were in therapy with her. “Many of the women had suffered from abuse of power, domestic violence and sexual abuse”, she explained.
“Then, between 1996 and 1998, I worked in Colombia in a government programme on people who had been kidnapped or who had disappeared”. It was during that time that she realized that a significant number of young women had disappeared from a relatively poor area of Bogotá; although she and her colleagues worked with law enforcement officers to find these women, they were never found. Frida stresses that everywhere in the world, “it is the poor and vulnerable” who are at risk. Those with more means are more protected.
In her view, the problem lies in the fact that many of the activities in which trafficked women are involved are, in fact, legal or socially accepted in much of the world: “Brothels, exotic dancing venues, Internet pornography: they are all legal. Also, for example, in Colombia and many other countries, the legal age of consent is 14, which makes it very difficult for minors who have been sold into prostitution to get recourse: they cannot go to a judge by themselves, they cannot leave the country…”
Among the solutions Frida proposes are to make brothels etc. illegal and to increase the age of consent to 18. In addition, governments should not focus only international trafficking, but also on domestic trafficking. Efforts should be made to raise public awareness so that it becomes unacceptable for women to be exploited sexually. Frida sees human trafficking as nothing short of a “human-made disaster”.