Prostitution and Trafficking

Study Details Sex-Traffic in Post-Saddam Iraq

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq thousands of women and girls have been trafficked for sexual exploitation, finds a report published today by the London-based Social Change Through Education in the Middle East.

(WOMENSENEWS)-- Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, as many as 5,000 women and girls have been trafficked for sexual exploitation, with most ending up in Syria, according to a preliminary report released today by the London-based Social Change Through Education in the Middle East.

Jordan is the second-ranking destination for trafficked girls and women, according to the Nov. 9 report.

These two bordering countries have maintained a relatively liberal policy of granting visas to refugees while also subjecting them to labor restrictions. That combination, the report finds, puts girls and women at high risk of seeking money through prostitution and also being prostituted by families and organized networks.

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"Both the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government have failed to address the problem of sex trafficking," the report finds, also noting that the Iraqi constitution prohibits the trafficking of women and children, as well as the sex trade and slavery.

Despite that, the study charges the Iraqi government with failing to identify and prosecute traffickers or to protect victims. Instead, the government "often punishes victims of trafficking for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked."

The study, "Karamatuna" or "Our Dignity" in Arabic, serves as the first stage of a project to measure the full extent of trafficking of Iraqi women and the way in which women are exploited. It analyzes existing literature and data collected by nongovernmental groups and international organizations. In the next stage, researchers will interview victims.

"What is stated within the pages of this report is just the tip of the iceberg," says Iman Abou-Atta, founder and director of Social Change. "We will continue to work to uncover more hidden truths; conduct vital field investigations; challenge authorities and spread awareness internationally so that the world can stand up against the trafficking of women and girls in the Arab world."

The report describes the plight of Leyla, an Iraqi refugee, last known to be living with her mother and brothers. "Prevented as refugees from working legally in the country (Syria), her family had run out of its savings. By the age of 14, her mother had forced her to work in a nightclub as a prostitute in order to generate income for the family."

While Syria and Jordan are the top-two sex-trafficking destinations, other countries in the region are also involved: Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

"Our Dignity" finds that while chaos and anarchy have made all people more vulnerable to trafficking, women and girls have been most affected. "The neglect of authorities to deal with this problem effectively had fostered a state of impunity in which crimes against women are neglected and offenders go unpunished," it says.

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More reading on this topic: Toni Morrison writes of centuries later, black American women are still struggling to teach their children, and especially their girl children to be strong and to feel good about themselves, to know of their African culture, to be proud to be African women, all in a dominant culture that still works against them; that is how long it takes to recover from the horrendous ravages of slavery, including sexual slavery. Andrea O'Reilly's Rocking the Cradle discusses Toni Morrison's ideas of African mothering to show how important Morrison's work is to understanding mothering and grandmothering for any disadvantaged group. O'Reilly's book begins with her own (white) experiences in attempting to be a mother while beginning an academic career, and how many road-blocks she found. She found support in Toni Morrison's ideas for mothering. Her section on African American mothers and grandmothers discussing Toni Morrison's ideas on how slavery still haunts and needs to inform their everyday, all year long, mothering and grandmothering. The attempts to cut off their heritage, and their attempts to keep, revive and teach these is a lesson for everyone today in our apparently global world where only newness matters. Andrea's attempts to strongly be a mother while not sacrificing education and work plans, and all the existing 'ways' that tried to mitigate against that. How does that relate to sex trafficking? In normal times, it is difficult for women to be mothers and have a life outside their homes. If you are trafficked as a teen, the chances of you becoming pregnant are great. When you become a mother, you are useless, and now have no resources and no where to go, no culture to stand by you at all. When this is as frequent as it is today, the mothering side of cultural transmission is cut off, killed; thus, the culture is effectively dead in that area and where the trafficked women are, and is so, possibly for centuries. This is an epidemic that needs to be stopped.

This is abject slavery! Girls and women, formerly while with no life outside of home, were at least almost revered at home. This is one of the worst examples of effects of war, especially a lop-sided war, where the invaders are a wealthy nation that allows contractors and military a kind of freedom that shows complete lack of respect for the nation they have invaded. Life for these women and girls is undoubtedly worse than before that war. This has established a culture that has destroyed the strengths of the existing culture, while not replacing them with a true respect for one another that would enable the development of a true democracy that includes women. Read Kathy Bolcovac's "The Whistleblower" about this problem in Bosnia. It is a very difficult problem to stop once begun, and the United Nations is not yet doing its part to stop it.