Joint effort to fight trafficking of women and children
A consortium including the Australian Catholic University (ACU), the Brigidine Sisters and other organisations, is working to tackle the complex and hidden problem of the international trafficking of women and children in the sex industry in Australia.
"It's an area that both disturbs and alarms us," ACU National counsellor Dr Maree Marsh told more than 50 individuals and representatives of some 15 Non Government Organisations (NGOs) who gathered recently at ACU National Strathfield Campus (Mount Saint Mary) for a Forum on the Trafficking of Women and Children.
The forum heard that up to 1000 trafficked women were currently working in Australia in legal and illegal brothels and in escort agencies, victims of a pattern of poverty, coercion, abduction, exploitation of ignorance about migration procedures, and deception through half truths.
Women who thought they were travelling to Australia to a better life were starved and beaten, said guest speaker Kathleen Maltzahn, director of Melbourne-based anti-trafficking NGO Project Respect, which focuses on issues of violence against women in the sex industry.
The women were trapped into thinking they were "under contract" to perform up to 1,000 sexual acts, day and night, and whether healthy or ill, in order to "earn" their freedom in Australia, she said.
Such contracts are illegal, but with neither money, English, nor freedom, the women felt they had little choice, and periods of brutality followed by kindness also served to blind them to their fate.
While some had believed they were coming to Australia to be nannies, others had agreed to be topless waitresses, dancers or strippers, and even prostitutes, at no stage did they expect the degree of violence and lack of freedom they experienced.
"Trafficking clearly is a gross violence against women - verbal, physical and financial abuse," Kathleen said, warning that "traffickers are smart". "They make a lot of money, and as the police start addressing what they are doing and chasing them, they will change their forms. It is important we keep our eyes open, and listen to the stories."
Forum participants agreed to work together to educate the community, and lobby for legislative change.
Pictured: Team Leader at forceten, Kirsty Robertson; ACU National Counsellor, Dr Maree Marsh; Director of Melbourne-based anti-trafficking NGO Project Respect, Kathleen Maltzahn; Congregational Leader of the Brigidine Sisters, Sister Louise Cleary.
ACU National joins forces to fight trafficking of women and children (Australian Catholic University 11/11/04)
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