Girls’ rights have no price!
GIRLS TRAFFICKED AND SEXUALLY EXPLOITED IN EUROPE
Almost one third of all victims of human trafficking in Europe are reportedly children, and most of them are girls trafficked for sexual exploitation. The actual number of underaged girls in Europe being sexually exploited and raped in the legal and illegal prostitution industry is unknown, partly due to the fact that these girls are often hidden from society by their traffickers and abusers, but also because they are not identified as victims of child trafficking in situations when they do encounter government officials or protective services. Another reason for the lack of data is the cross-border nature of human trafficking, which means that international efforts must be made to obtain such information. Some statistics have been gathered and reported by the ILO, IOM and the EU, but in order to fully grasp the magnitude of this heinous crime, more effort has to be made.
We do however know that young girls are being trafficked and sexually exploited in all European countries. Every day girls are being repeatedly raped in the prostitution industry, completely stripped of their human rights. A little more than half of human trafficking victims are according to EU statistics from countries outside the EU like Nigeria, Congo, Albania and Ukraine, but almost half are EU citizens, many from Eastern European countries like Romania, Hungary and Poland, but also from Western European countries like the Netherlands. One third of the victims are citizens of the country where they are identified. Social media and legal and illegal websites have widened the possibilities for traffickers and abusers to get in contact with vulnerable girls all around the world, making it even more difficult to address this crime.
Girls trafficked to Europe from non-EU countries are sometimes sold by their families to the traffickers or taken against their will. They are often also tricked or lured by their traffickers through promises of legitimate jobs and opportunities for a better life, only to find themselves trapped once they arrive Europe without any support network and too scared to contact the authorities in fear of repercussions to themselves or their families. Reports also indicate that underage girls are given false identity documents showing that they are adults to easier be smuggled across borders. Once they have reached their destination, the girls’ papers and documentations are taken, and they are forced to work as sex slaves and prostitutes. Traffickers often use debt-bondage to control their victims which entails that they tell their victims that they owe money relating to their travel and living expenses and that they will not be released until the debt has been repaid. These girls often have little or no knowledge of their rights and protective services in the countries they arrive in.
Many of these scenarios are the same also for girls trafficked within Europe – especially girls coming from families with less resources in countries with little or no educational and job opportunities, making them vulnerable and easy targets to organized criminal networks. But also girls from seemingly well-established homes, become victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. Girls are for example tricked into a compromising situation and threatened with exposure if they do not comply with their traffickers wishes, or they initiate contacts with traffickers and abusers themselves as a form of self-harm, perhaps as a result of an abusive childhood or pervious sexual exploitation, or they are simply curious after hearing positive stories about “sugar dating” and easy money and become trapped into situations they cannot escape from. Many of these girls blame themselves and therefore do not consider themselves as victims, or they are too scared or ashamed to get help.
Addressing trafficking and sexual exploitation of underage girls requires first and foremost that the victims are identified and given the help and protection that they need, but it also requires addressing the demand for these girls and ensuring that the traffickers and abusers are brought to justice.
Very few organizations working on the ground have the resources and contacts to identify and support these girls. The criminal networks operate covertly and do not hesitate to use violence if their operations are being threatened. Therefore in 2021, Child10 wants to focus on trafficking of girls for sexual exploitation in the prostitution industry in Europe and to support the organizations that are dedicated to ending and preventing such exploitation and protect these girls.