This is a guest blog provided by The Purple Teardrop Campaign. Note that the figures given in this post have been challenged by some readers. If you have any queries or comments regarding this please contact the Purple Teardrop campaign direct.
Modern day Slavery
Slavery died out two hundred years ago, didn’t it? Eradicated. The world saw the error of its ways and freed all the slaves. No more mass shipping of Africans to the plantations in the USA and West Indies. The trouble is, evils that we think we have eradicated, from tuberculosis to racial and religious persecution, have a habit of insidiously creeping back.
And slavery is no exception. There are more slaves in the world today than there ever were in the centuries leading up to its ‘abolition’. Incredible, isn’t it? But sadly all too true. Why? The same old reason – its a great money spinner. Slavery, or human trafficking as it tends to be referred to these days, is the world’s third most lucrative illicit trade, after weapons and drugs. It is a trade that is largely hidden, surrounded by the silence of fear of violence and reprisals. And it is happening in a town near you right now.
Slavery past and present
Before ‘the abolition’, people were kidnapped from their towns and villages and sold into slavery. Today, poverty in the third world and less developed countries, forces people to leave home in search of a good job, a better life elsewhere and the opportunity to send money home to their families. Nothing new in this, nothing wrong so far. But this is where the slave trader steps in. All he or she has to do is to offer a way to that better life and the slave-to-be is unwittingly hooked and reeled in.
How it happens
The slave trader, usually referred to these days as the human trafficker, offers a young woman passage to a western country, a job and somewhere to live. She will have to repay the cost of her travel out of her wages. Seemingly nothing wrong so far. What a wonderful opportunity! But the reality is very different. When she arrives in the UK, her passport is immediately taken away from her and the nightmare begins. Typically she will be beaten and raped several times on her first night in England and then imprisoned in a house or flat the next day. She is forced to have sex with multiple clients every day, not allowed to leave the house and the beatings will continue to break her spirit. Quite often she is also made to take drugs to make her dependent and therefore more compliant.
My name is Marta. I’m going to England. These good people have got a job for me at a hotel in London. I’m going to be a waitress. I’ll work hard so I can send money home to help my family. I’m so excited! I’ll learn English and make new friends. My family are so happy for me”
A wonderful opportunity for a girl from a poor country, on the face of it. However a very different Marta picks up her story just a few weeks later.
“My name is Marta. I work 16 hours a day. I am raped by up to 30 men each day. I learn English words – for sale, whore, hurt, sex, client. This room is my prison. I was beaten again today after. I tried to escape. They say they’ll kill my family if I try again. I am so alone, so frightened. I have no hope any more”
And Marta is just one of many girls and women who are tricked into a life of sexual slavery. These girls are not prostitutes. They are the unwilling victims of human traffickers, exploited, enslaved, beaten, threatened and raped.
No-one knows how many Martas there are in this country. The Home Office made an estimate of 4000 women. Independent research suggests up to 10,000 women are trafficked into the UK every year.
The number of times each girl will have to have sex will depend on her age and appearance. The younger and prettier she is, the more the traffickers can charge and the less frequently she will be used, to keep up her value. The average per year is probably around 4000 times. If you take the conservative figure and multiply 4000 girls by 4000 times, that equates to 16 million rapes a year. A commodity, bought and sold, a girl is worth £150, 000 a year to her traffickers. Multiply that by 4000 girls and you can soon see why slavery is alive and well today.
It could be in your street right now
It is happening today in towns all over Britain, not just in the cities. It could be happening on your round. Typically the traffickers will legitimately rent a small house in a residential street. It could be in a middle class area, not necessarily in a red light area or one known for drugs. Small and discreet, probably only the one girl enslaved there. No other criminal activity goes on at the address. Not the sort of thing you expect to be happening in your area, so it doesn’t cross your mind that it might be.
Modern slavery is a shaming indictment of life in the 21st century. We are not going to stop it overnight, but the more people who know about it, the more women and girls can be rescued. And you as landlords are uniquely placed to spot potential trafficking.
Watch out for these signs
What are the signs to look out for?
- Are the people in the property the same ones who signed the lease?
- Has it been sublet?
If a property is being used by people traffickers
- The women and girls staying there will rarely be seen, will not make any contact with their neighbours and
- there may well be frequent changes of women and girls staying in the house.
- The curtains may be closed all day and
- the occupants will not be seen maintaining the house or garden.
- The women will be foreign, unlikely to speak English, unsmiling and fearful .
If you have any suspicion at all of somewhere that trafficked women may be kept, then ring Crimestoppers on 0800 555111. You do not have to give your name. You could be saving one woman from being raped thousands of times.
About the Purple Teardrop Campaign
The Purple Teardrop Campaign against sex-trafficking was set up to do something about this appalling crime. It aims to make people aware of what is going on and let them know how to report any suspicions of women being held against their will and sexually exploited.
The Purple Teardrop Campaign also raises money to support the safe houses which provide practical care and support for those who have been rescued. Traumatised by their experiences and terrified of everyone, victims usually do not speak English and need specialist care.
If you can keep an eye open and report any suspicion of trafficking to Crimestoppers, you are helping enormously. If you would like to do more and help the Purple Teardrop Campaign to raise funds, we would very much welcome your support. For more information or to contact us, please visit www.purpleteardrop.org.uk.