The Malta Independent 16 May 2022, Monday

Trafficking of women for sexual exploitation fast increasing - NCW

Sunday, 23 July 2017, 08:30 Last update: about 6 years ago

The National Council of Women says it strongly supports and looks forward to the proposed steps to be taken by the Office of the Attorney General and the Malta Police Force to review and propose reforms on current procedures concerning the identification of victims of human trafficking before the initiation of prosecution proceedings.

However, NCW is also calling for stronger measures to address these issues in a more comprehensive manner.

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The Council has been advocating addressing human trafficking seriously for many years and is looking forward to reforms when it comes to the trafficking of women, “as there is no doubt that trafficking of young women for sexual exploitation is fast increasing in Malta”.

Media reports of young women from Russia and Eastern European countries working in the ‘entertainment’ industry seem to simply gloss over the real situation, according to the NCW.

Although the authorities attach a lot of importance to drug trafficking, they tend to treat trafficking of women differently. While Catholic Malta condemns prostitution on moral grounds, our society is not really aware of the circumstances that drive Eastern European women to prostitution. The women who come to Malta to earn money are often enticed by the myth that they can have a better life in Western Europe. Coming from a life of poverty and no opportunities for employment, they are often offered the choice to make use of their physical appearance to make money fast.

NCW Vice President Grace Attard explains: “The disillusion sets in when it is too late, when they start working and find that they get a very small share of the earnings negotiated in the transactions. They often end up as ‘slaves’, losing their freedom, sometimes not even allowed to leave the place of accommodation provided for them. Visa permits which expire after six months are taken from them and this makes it easier to get rid of them without leaving any trace.”

She says that certain questions need to be addressed, such as “Is there enough evidence to charge individuals of human trafficking? If not, is it because of lack of adequate laws or lack of evidence? What legal protection is offered to these young women? There is the need for the Police Force to change its attitude for the better, coupled with investigations into the ‘entertainment’ industry and the links with trafficking and sexual exploitation.”

She points out that the United Nations Palermo Protocol, which Malta has signed and ratified, clearly states that: “Trafficking in Persons means the ‘recruitment, transfer, harbouring of receipt of persons by means of threat, use of force, or other forms of coercion, fraud, deception, abuse of power or of vulnerability or of giving or receiving payments of benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation’. Moreover, it stresses that The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation is irrelevant’.”

NCW joins its counterparts in Europe, members of the European Network Against Trafficking in Women for Sexual Exploitation (ENATW) from Hungary, France, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and Italy.

The Council strongly urges the government to ensure that measures regarding legal protection as well as all forms of protection through social support structures are in place.

It urges the government to include in Maltese legislation the buying of sexual favours a crime against human rights. The Council believes that strengthening law enforcement measures and administering heavy penalties for all those involved in the chain of organised crime, including individuals who are financing these activities, are key to the elimination of this form of ‘white slavery’.

NCW also urges the government to ensure that civil society organizations, that is, representatives of NGOs that have been working in this field are also appointed to the task force as their experience can result in procedures that are more effective.

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