Conservative Women’s Organisation: Trafficking Forum

27 06 2011

The following is a write up of the recent ‘Conservatives Women’s Organisation’ Trafficking Forum attended by one of our volunteers…



‘We are where the Demand is’


This comment was made by former MP Anthony Steen, who chaired the Conservative Women’s Organisation event ‘Will the Legacy of the Olympics by Victims of Human Trafficking?’


Steen spoke about the demand for modern day slavery, and how people are trafficked to the United Kingdom because of the large market for everything from prostitutes to domestic servants in restaurants and Embassies. He also emphasized how this was a ‘no vote’ issue- politicians aren’t bothered because the electorate won’t push them to act on this important cause. A Camden Councillor pointed to the fact that men are also the primary clients for this business, and effort should be made to increase the need for men to shame men. When women raise this issue constantly in the public forum, it can often be labelled as a ‘women’s issue.’ Highlight was given to groups, such as The Good Men Project in the United States, which can give aid to this.


Human trafficking is a crime that is hidden in plain sight. Because of this, the exact number of trafficked victims is largely unknown, and this point was re-enforced in the forum discussion. Due to the intricate nature of gang networks and the multiple types of human trafficking, it can be extremely difficult to accurately pinpoint the number of victims in the United Kingdom. The UK Border Agency is the primary organisation that can stop and control this crime, but general inadequacies in both internal bureaucracy and staff training have made this goal increasingly difficult. Panellist Kit Malhouse AM, Deputy Mayor of London, noted that London has a 50% higher victimisation rate compared to the rest of the UK and he, along with Boris Johnson, are keen to address this. Furthermore, London attracts this type of market because of the ‘fiscal and cultural success’ of the city and must work hard to address this issue.


Malthouse went on to explain that women, especially in brothels and massage parlours, are forced into believing and claiming that (1) the police are corrupt, (2) their pimp is their boyfriend, (3) they are paid for the work that they do, and (4) they enjoy their work. These statements often make it difficult for the police to help victims of human trafficking because they can’t take them from these establishments if they are claiming everything is fine.


Legal issues were also touched upon during the discussion, namely the loophole filled legislation in the area. The Coalition Government have signed up to the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive and continues to craft legislation both unilaterally and cooperatively with other nations and with the EU, as was stressed by Panellist Margot James MP.


Furthermore, the forum concentrated on how the 2012 Olympic Games will affect the numbers of trafficked victims as well as the level of demand in the United Kingdom. Sceptics of trafficking data at these events, including the Home Office, believe that the demand will not change, and evidence from the games in Athens was ‘anecdotal’. Comparison was also made with the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where the level of prostitution arguably rose. UK Government bodies are of the persuasion that the Olympic Games are not comparable to the World Cup, because the World Cup has a primarily male attendance which created the market. Furthermore, the Olympic Games are a ‘family event’. Panellist Jonny Hollins, academic and humanitarian, who spent time in South Africa, rebutted this statement claiming that the views of the authorities in South Africa were similar to those in the UK because, prior to 2010, they felt that the World Cup was a ‘family event’.


General public apathy to this growing problem is the greatest barrier for groups, such as Stop the Traffik.  As discussed at the forum, newspapers and television networks can be reluctant to publish stories about trafficked victims because they don’t see what the story is. Community action and awareness is the key to tackling this crime. One anecdote shared was about an elderly woman who knew about a brothel with trafficked women on the high street of her city. She got a chair and a camera and camped outside the brothel all day, snapping furiously at customers.  The brothel was shut down in five days.
Anti-Slavery Day is October 18th, 2012 in the United Kingdom. Please take this opportunity to plan or attend an event and contact your local and national representatives.



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