"Roxolanas" for Sale
Taras Romanovich KIAK
Deputy of Parliament of Ukraine - Commission for Foreign Affairs
All of Ukraine cried during the heroic but tragic times of the Kozaks, when the Tartars burned villages, murdered entire families and enslaved young women in order to sell them in the markets of the Black Sea and the East. Today, similar results are achieved without the same kind of brute force. Anything is possible under the present social system - a system many people confuse with democracy. Various opportunities have arisen for Ostap Bender-style lies and false advertising. Rampant corruption can be seen among highly-placed bureaucrats who don't care in the least about the Ukraine and its past history. They cast a blind eye on human suffering. Love and caring, also, often cost money. People have become blind and disappointed slaves of a totally chaotic state of affairs.
Today, there is no limit to the type of goods, which can be bought and sold: signatures, voices, political parties, ideas, confessions, foreign citizenship, our people... The last item on this list is the topic of this paper. For this reason, I would once again like to make an analogy with the October revolution, where slogans such as the following were heard:"we are not slaves, we are not saves!" Unless we want our citizens to become slaves, we must not stay silent. I say this because today, consciously or not, our female citizens are becoming slaves.
Everything appears fine on the surface. Problems arise from the fact that pimps do not use the physical force or the open lies that would allow them to be convicted. Instead, these are used by entrepreneurs abroad, and it is nearly impossible to track down those individuals. That there is no official mechanism, which could be used against entrepreneurs of this kind is partially due to free market principles. Politicians such as Churchill defended this economic system, once saying ,,England has no friends, only its own interests." We must therefore protect ourselves - if there indeed exists an industry to traffic women we must ensure that it is not our women who are being caught in it.
The structure of this industry is similar to the one used for pyramid sales.The first stage of advertising attempts to gain the victim's trust. The second stage exploits the deposit by taking a percentage of the turn-over. In the third stage, the ,,investor" goes bankrupt and the trust pyramid quickly and without reprise fills its turn-over fund with new potential victims screened through tested methods. Individuals - whose documents have been taken from them and who, as a result of the overall trauma experienced, suffer from various degrees of physical and psychological health problems - return home from journeys which have taken them over unguarded border
areas of the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Yugoslavia into Western Europe, putting them through the hands of numerous pimps. The pimps are in the business of sorting,,goods" which are placed in the pimps' ,,businesses"; ,,used goods" are resold several times more... Individuals who are not fortunate enough to escape the cycle are locked away from the world under strict supervision without any possible contact with the outside world.
There is an international non-governmental organization called LA STRADA, which has a branch in the Ukraine. I invited a LA STRADA representative to meet with voters in Chernyivcy. Occasionally, LA STRADA finds its way to young women who are calling for help. Unfortunately, Ukrainian foreign consulates cannot always help in this search - such has been the case in Germany, Holland, Italy, Turkey, and Israel, among others. A company in the Ukraine called Volim te (I Love You) offers potential marriage opportunities to Serbs (in the poorest mountainous regions of southern Serbia where there are antiquated views of women). The local female population's life expectancy is very low, therefore, most youngsters try to leave their parents at an early age. This has encouraged clever entrepreneurs to start a business - supplying Serb men with Ukrainian brides. For some unknown reason Volim te has created a very strong link with the ~erkaska region.
I was surprised in particular by one horrific example. Pimps bait young women with well-paid jobs in restaurants or with rich families in Italy. They convince these women that they must go to Italy through the former Yugoslavia where it is easier to acquire a visa. The end result of this trip is that none of these women make it to Italy; these women are forced to work in sex clubs for NATO and UN military units in Bosnia and Herzegovina or Croatia. These young women are forced to work for these clients. One such woman, whom they were incapable of breaking through starvation and tyranny, was taken to a back field where she had her throat slit in front of her girlfriends. My blood curdles, when I learn that some of this criminal network's paths lead back to Chernyivcy.
One woman from Chernyivcy escaped from a sex club in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the help of Russian soldiers, who were patrolling the area with UN units. After she leapt into their army jeep from a third storey balcony, clothed only in her underwear, they drove her to the Ukrainian embassy in Belgrade.
Chernyivcy residents are also becoming pimps in an area that functions as a transit place for young women from the southern and eastern part of the the Ukraine; women who are being shipped further South and West. In the first ten days of this year, for instance, a group of young women, and one nineteen-year old boy - all supervised by pimps - were detained in kmivcje. The group was heading to Greece with false passports which were made to order by an employee of a certain Ukraini-
There are very well-organized gangs, here, which date back to pre-perestroika times. These gangs generally mix the sex business with other forms of criminal activity, like drug trafficking and arms sales.'lhe gangs often force their victims to participate in this trafficking, which complicates the situation in the Ukraine. Our
government pretends not to see this problem and the country to which all these young women are shipped acts as if the problem were not its own. The issue can be likened to a ball of fire, which is being thrown from department to department - all fear they will be burned o_r sullied if they take initiative to solve the problem. In the Czech Republic this industry is called ,,the white meat market". Once again, I am reminded of revolutionary St. Petersburg after 1917. The writer A. Merezhkovskij wrote about the so-called ,,Chinese meat market" in his tale The Devil's Czardom. He was referring to meat found outside the apartments of murdered residents, meat supplied to markets by Chinese concierges. Please excuse the harsh comparison.
Where are the sources of this phenomenon which have more than an economic base? As a result of the fact that our female citizens lack even a basic standard of living they decide to accept any type of job offer. Without knowing all the details of a job, they believe companies, newspaper advertisements, wedding promises, or offers to work as dancers, waitresses, singers in womens' choirs, aupairs, and fruit pickers. The present laws allow companies, pimps, and middlepeople to escape conviction. Because intergovernmental agreements are non-existent untouchable criminals continue to traffic and cannot be found in the countries to which these young women are transported. In the end, every country suffers from this problem because sexual slavery migrates to various countries in the world and is a tragedy shared by all European countries. Some experts claim that over 500 000 women work in the sex trade which ranks as one of the most lucrative businesses. Other experts state that statistics in this business are elusive. Organizations attempting to solve this problem and help its victims claim that the statistics are much higher than those mentioned above. In any case, the issue was put forth at an international seminar on the trafficking of women which took place in Prague at the end of 1997.
Central Europe has finally come to understand the need for uniting on this issue. Speaking on behalf of the Ukraine, I emphasized the need to pass, as soon as possible, a law which would reflect international norms. The existing laws are so conceptually different at the present time that criminal use this to their advantage! For this reason, new relevant laws are being reworked for discussion at the highest level of government. There are also terminology problems, which we avoid with embarrassment. I am pleased to announce that there were representatives from the Ukrainian Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, and Social Services at the seminar. It is necessary to point out that the seminar was organized by LA STRADA - Czech branch of the Programme for the Prevention of Trafficking of Women in Central and Eastern Europe.
In this way, via the mediation of non-governmental organizations, the problem is being pointed out to the highest government officials. It is a good sign that in the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, and the Ukraine, plans are being made to sign a special cooperation agreement - specifically to exchange information, create a database, and school specialized police units. At the international conference on the trafficking of women, which took place in the Hague on April 26, 1997, spoke about the responsibility of government officials who help shelter these criminal activities.
I also protested the universal material help that is given to all women who claim to be victims and want to return to the Ukraine. A certain percentage of these women knew exactly what kind of business they were getting into. Nonetheless, it is necessary to secure humanitarian conditions for the returning victims of sexual exploitation. The same message is put forth in an American documentary film, which the Czech LA STRADA is kindly making available, and which we will be able to view soon in the Russian language. The film discusses the trafficking of women in Moscow, from where even Ukrainian women are sent to the West and South.
My conclusions are as follows: At a time when our government is working on legislation against the trafficking of women it is necessary to put into place preventative measures in the spheres of education. We need to establish a rehabilitation programme for the restoration of the traditional family unit. Also, in cooperation with the Health Ministry, it is important to create an anti-aids programme inclusive of all religious denominations. It is crucial to secure basic human rights from childhood (often even under-aged girls are used as ,,goods") in order that people not become beggars due to our contemporary bad reforms.
We give out LA STRADAs phone numbers in order that women who have made the decision to leave their homes can have a place to turn to, should they find themselves in a situation where they need help.