Posts tagged Palermo Protocol

Met Author of “Two Kyrgyz Women” (Part II)

What’s interesting is the sex trafficker’s advantage.  This business is very lucrative.  There may be some high investment initially with travel costs but low risk at being caught or even fined once the girls are doing their jobs as prostitutes.  For example, if one is in the narcotics trade, the risk is much higher if one would be found out crossing the border with drugs on his person or belongings.  Guilty, caught red-handed.  However, if a man transports 20 village girls from Kyrgyzstan to Dubai, he may get off very easily. This criminal may sit cozily in business class all suited up, but the girls are back in the “cattle section” of the plane.  If the girls so much as suspect their future employment and say anything about what the trafficker is really doing to the customs authorities, that is, if they know where they are really being taken to, then he would say, “I’ve never seen these girls before in my life!”  Very difficult to pin the blame on those who transport the girls to other countries for this illegal activity.  Three are involved, the unsuspecting girls, the transportation go-between and the madame who runs the girls lives once they are “trained.”

Thailand has a problem with this sex industry but it used to be that Ukraine and Moldova had a HUGE problem with sex trafficking.  Marinka stated the ratio of girls who were brought into the sex slave trade and brought to countries like Turkey, Dubai or Europe.  Now that there are better laws that protect these girls and go after the handlers, these criminals have moved their operations to Central Asia.  Some are so confident in what they are doing that if a Kyrgyz girl is wise to what is happening, they will use the line, “I’ll tell your relatives what you did” and that keeps the girls from turning the handlers in.  In the case of the Kyrgyz woman interviewed in the book that Marinka wrote, she was threatened that the border guards would gang rape her if she didn’t comply with the madame’s wishes.  Oh, the ugliness of it!!!

It used to be that the borders between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan were very open. I know this is true because I lived in Bishkek from 1993-1995 and my courtship involved my husband coming from Almaty in his “trusty” red Niva to visit me. Only a pole for an arm to stop cars going through and maybe one guard.  But NOW there is an arduous checkpoint and it can take hours to get to the other side.  I was surprised when Ken and I returned to Kyrygzstan in the fall of 2007 to visit our friends who still live in Bishkek to find out about this extra layer of paperwork of getting visas and having them checked.  Perhaps because of all the illegal activity between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, the border guards perhaps make a profit by turning a selective blind eye to this.  I was saddened to see that little Bishkek had all the casinos lined up along the main road because it was outlawed throughout Kazakhstan.  Why can’t the strict outlawing of prostitution be enforced in Kazakhstan? Why?

Back to our Book Club discussion, we were wondering if the two women who were featured in Marinka’s book were back with their families, if they were okay.  Marinka confirmed that both women were with their husbands again.  After what we know they went through, it is unfathomable that they went back because they were treated so poorly by their husbands, then became slaves, then back to pitiful marriages.  It defies western logic, as Marinka told us.  The one driving force for both women she interviewed was the welfare of their children.  One was at the shelter for the span of six months but she eventually went back to her husband.

Marinka quoted the sum these women who are involved in the sex trade make.  To us, it seemed a large amount but they were always threatened with having to pay back their transportation fee of $7,000 airfare and of course the handlers get a big percentage of the money too.  In the case of the second woman in the book, Gulmira, it was her “client” who helped save her.

What I liked best is that Gulmira had memorized from her Russian/English dictionary. “I am not a prostitute. I am a mother of 4 children. I want to go home to Kyrgyzstan. Help me.” Learning those words in English and repeating them often enough is what convinced the French journalist to help her get to the Kyrgyz consulate in Dubai.  As an English teacher, I can say that English saved her life!

Marinka said that often it is the “clients” who help sex trafficked girls to their freedom.  They can see that the girls who are sent to them are merely slaves and put in this job against their will. In this case, the male hero of the book had a wife and family back in France and his Dubai hosts would send him girls.  He in turn would pay the girls the expected money but let them go free without any sex.  If only the “Johns” who exploit these girls would wise up and not be a part of the demand, then the supply would decrease.  Perhaps if the clients were penalized, it would lesson the supply as well. One would hope that such painful suffering and anguish would stop especially where there is already so much poverty in countries like Kyrgyzstan.

Marinka is a lawyer by profession when she was asked what started this passion of helping girls in shelters who had escaped from the sex trafficking.  She mentioned something about the Palermo Protocol which I’ll have to look up but that gives the definition of what trafficking really is.  We live in a sad world where morals and values are all to shreds when the institution of marriage is broken down and sex is used in this despicable manner.  Our book club touched on the fact that women’s issues are so taken for granted by those in developed countries when polygamy is on the increase in places like southern Kyrgyzstan, especially in Osh where the latest unrest had happened in June.

I had a very good day yesterday because I realized anew how very fortunate and blessed I am as an American woman.  I am married to a wonderful man and teaching very bright Kazakh students who love English and want to read whatever they can get their hands on.  May they rise up and be informed of how they can help their own countrymen and women.  May they right these wrongs by writing about it!!!

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Met Author of “Two Kyrgyz Women” at Book Club

Yesterday was a busy day for me, but rewarding.  First, at work, there was a birthday party for a 23-year-old male, and we all trundled down to the conference room to help celebrate with three cakes and other food. Then I went to the Book Club meeting, then I took another taxi to meet my ten students at the American Embassy Resource Center.  The highlight of the day for me was to meet Marinka, with about 10 other international women. She is the author of the book “Two Kyrgyz Women.” However, the highlight for my students was to see the wealth of books (about 800 volumes) and magazines at the Resource Center.

*Much misery is all around us that more westerners should be awakened to if only they cared about their fellow human beings!!!

I’ve looked back a week ago to when I blogged about the eloquence of Marinka’s  writing. She was just as articulate and passionate in speaking on this topic of human trafficking yesterday.  She started talking about internal trafficking that was inside of Kazakhstan.  Many of the saunas that are in the suburbs of Astana really serve as brothels.  Because of the huge gap between the famously wealthy people in Almaty and Astana and everyone outside in the villages or what is referred to as “regions,” Kazakh girls are lied to, thinking they are going to the big city to make some money.  Instead, they are fooled into being victims of sexual exploitation.  Some girls may be at bars where something is dropped into their drinks and they wake up to find themselves in this terrible, compromised situation.

Not only is there sex trafficking happening in epidemic proportions in Central Asia but there is labor exploitation as well.  Many men from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan who can’t find a job in their own country will try to find work in Kazakhstan only to find they are virtual slaves working long hours for very low pay — like $50 a month.  Some are illegal immigrants. Without papers, they are defenseless against the system but they are so desperate to send home money to their families.

Marinka had interviewed one Kyrgyz man who had been virtually a slave in Russia for 3 years.  He was working at a construction site and was with other illegal immigrants who were housed in a barn with animals. These men were barely fed and when he finally returned home to his wife and children, he looked 20 years older.  So, the men we see in busses who are carted around the city from one construction site to another don’t look happy.  One obvious reason would be especially when it starts getting very cold in Astana, they are in harm’s way with not only being malnourished but freezing in the cruel winters of the north.  They are closely guarded property, as if on a chain gang, because whoever hires them extracts much labor without having to pay what they are worth.

Because Central Asian countries are shame-based societies, whether those trafficked people are men or women, once they DO gain freedom and return to their families, they will rarely speak up what tragic ordeals they went through.  Those are the fortunate few who do re-enter their old world of poverty.  For many, that is what got them involved in unwittingly becoming slaves in the first place.  Sadly, deep prejudice goes against those girls who have been sexually exploited so they especially will never say anything about being in the sex industry. A self-perpetuating problem because of the silence.

(to be continued)

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