The Russian Assembly of NGOs has announced that the level of human trafficking within the country and out of the country is so high that it threatens national security and the country’s gene pool. Two thousand cases of human trafficking were brought before the courts last year alone. Official statistics show that no less than 500 000 cases of women being sold have taken place in Russia.
Experts are convinced that the worrying figures that Human Rights organizations speak of are only the tip of the iceberg. According to the UN, 800 000 women are traded each year. Russia’s role in this process is simply pitiable. Independent sources say that Russia makes up 60 000 of this staggering number.
The first thing that comes into people’s minds when they hear the statistics is that it could probably be happening in Chechnya. However, the Caucasian factor does not account for the statistics.
Who could believe fifteen years ago that in the Moscow suburbs a criminal group would be on trial for having taken young girls from Voronezh and placed them in a Moscow brothel? The girls were promised work as shop assistants. The men took the girls to the building, threatened them, took away their documents and then forced them into the sex trade.
An Omsk farmer was recently sentenced for violently beating four unfortunate girls, whom he treated like his cattle, over a number of years.
There are other similar stories; it is just that in the past Russia preferred not to use the unpleasant word “slavery”. In 1954 the Soviet Union joined the International Convention against People Trafficking. However, when signing the document Moscow did not fail to say, “There is not trafficking in the USSR and there cannot be since we have certain social conditions in place.”
Half a century has passed since then and Russia has completely changed as a country. Those, who before would have thought it sinful to engage in people trafficking, are the ones who are taking part in this vicious business. Scandals in the Astrakhan and Volgograd regions have roused much attention. Local policemen came up with a scheme to take illegal migrants from arriving transit trains from Central Asia and sell the women into slavery to local landowners. They then split the profits between themselves.
Russia has for a long time been sending its “Natashas” abroad. The plot to turn Russians to the slave trade has been worked out to the very last detail. At first women are offered “highly-paid” work abroad. They are helped in attaining visas, crossing the border and they are given a roof over their head. Soon all becomes clear and the girls are told that all the jobs as waitresses, models, au-pairs and shop assistants have been taken. The girls are then offered the opportunity to make money in a brothel. Very few girls manage to avoid working in the sex trade.
The State Deputy of the USA called Russia “one of the leading sources of the international trafficking of women”. One must consider whether it is threatening national security and Russia’s very existence. 90% of the women who are transported to brothels are under 25 years old.
The countries where the slave trade is prospering ought to ask themselves harsh questions such as who has allowed it to take place and what immediate steps should be taken.
However the answers to these questions are not simple. International observers say that out of five million people arriving in Russia a maximum of one million are forced into hard labour, which in the civilized world is classed as one form of slave trade.
Human Rights organizations have for a long time been commenting on the fact that no new legislation has been created relating to the slave trade. Articles were published in 2003 in the penal code which condemned people trafficking. Up until then the authorities had not taken an interest in the issue. The police have stated that “Russian law forbids both human trafficking and the slave trade”.
Will Russia remain as the leader in human trafficking for long? A representative of the State Duma, one of the coordinators of the Russian NGOs against human trafficking Elena Mizulina said, “Besides articles being included in the penal code, a law has been made for the protection of people who have suffered from the slave trade. A treaty against the crime has been ratified. However, in the main the situation in Russia remains as worrying as before. As yet there is no body which can coordinate all the departments which are working on the issue. What is important is that not everyone has noted that human trafficking is no less an evil than terrorism.”
Translated by Michael Simpson
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