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This statue on Copenhagen streets highlights horror of human trafficking

By Sharat Pradhan
May 17, 2016 22:13 IST
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The statue put up by victims of trafficking and prostitution failed to draw attention of delegates at 'Women Deliver 2016 Conference', reports Sharat Pradhan.

Even as 5,500 delegates, largely women, from 169 nations sat together at the opulent Bella Center in Copenhagen to deliberate over gender discrimination and exploitation of women across the globe, a few anonymous victims of trafficking displayed a bare-naked statue of a woman, depicting the blatant exploitation of women at the hands of traffickers.

The white statue, scribbled with tales of exploitation and messages by the victims, was tied in chains and put up at the city’s main thoroughfare, overlooking the Copenhagen railway station.

It condemned the open exploitation of young girls and women by traffickers right under the nose of governments, who are doing little beyond lip service to provide them justice.

'Equality Now!’, read the opening line written on the neck of the statue, followed by, ‘It is my body not yours’. ‘Sex trafficking is a human rights violation,’ it said. ‘Women and girls make up 98 per cent of the victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. They are promised employment as house keepers. Instead, the traffickers rape them, lock them and force them to have sex in brothels (sic),’ the text written on the statue read.

It also asked people not to pay for sex or ‘buy’ trafficked women and girls. ‘If people wouldn’t buy girls for sex they wouldn’t be sold and if they couldn’t be sold they wouldn’t be trafficked and abused (sic),’ it read.

It further stated, ‘Traffickers believe victims to be their property. To use them how they want and whenever they want (sic).’

Narrating the horror of trafficking and the subsequent exploitation, a victim wrote, ‘They forced me to have sex with as many as 50 customers a day. I had to give the pimp all my money. If I did not earn a set amount, they punished me by removing my clothes and beating me with a stick until I fainted. Sometimes, I had to have sex with more than one (person) at a time.’

While pointing out how many young girls suffer severe mental trauma, it also talks about how the helpless victims easily fall prey to sexually transmitted diseases like acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS.

Questioning the legalisation of prostitution, it said, ‘By legalising prostitution, we are being told by the government that it is perfectly ok to purchase a woman. Women are not commodities to be bought and sold. Legalisation normalises something that is far from normal (sic).’

And very specifically, it adds at the tip, ‘This crime can be stopped. It must be done.’

When the attention of Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen was drawn at this, he only came up with a wishy washy reply, declaring how his government was committed to ensure that gender discrimination ends. He also claimed that his government had allocated a substantial amount towards gender issues and embarked upon how proud he was to host a grand conference on the issue in Copenhagen.

The three-yearly conference, hosted by leading international women’s group, Women Deliver, was chaired by Denmark’s Princess Mary and addressed by Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen as well as by top dignitaries from the United Nations.

However, the voice of the poor victims of prostitution got drowned in the loud and flashy discourses on other mundane gender issues like child marriage, maternal health, water and sanitation, economic empowerment.

The four-day meet will conclude on Thursday.

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Sharat Pradhan in Copenhagen
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