Last night I watched 'The Whistleblower', a recent release thriller I borrowed from the library. It is a powerful and shocking story inspired by actual events. Kathryn Bolkovac (played by Rachel Weisz) is a police officer from Nebraska who accepts an offer to work with the UN International Police in post war Bosnia. She plans to go for six months and for the large amount of money she will earn. She urges and helps police develop an angle by which a Muslim woman can seek justice through the court system for the brutal domestic violence she has been subject to. The trial is successful. Following this Bolkovac is made head of a department for gender affairs. She becomes involved in the case of a young Ukranian woman named Raya who has been sold by her uncle to a sex slave trafficking ring. Through this case she is then able to uncover a wide scale sexual slavery and human trafficking ring that various international personnel, including that of the US have participated in. Furthermore, when she brings the scandal to the attention of the U.N., she discovers that they have covered it up in order to protect lucrative defense and security contracts. Kathryn finds allies in Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave) and Peter Ward (David Strathairn), authority figures who support her investigation and once she is fired encourage her to go to the UK, where Democra Security (her employer) is based and expose the scandal through the BBC.
It is said in the ending credits that following Kathryn's departure, a number of peacekeepers were sent home, though none faced criminal charges because of immunity laws. It is also noted that the U.S. continues to do business with private contractors like Democra Security, including ones worth billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kathryn Bolkovic wrote a book, The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors And One Woman's Fight For Justice. This article about Kathryn and what she discovered in Bosnia is definitely worth reading. Sounds like the movie toned down the real story. Unlike those who had been quietly sent home, Bolkovac’s professional record was blighted by her dismissal and she’s been unable to find work in international law enforcement since.
The movie leaves us with a sense that the horrific stories of sex slavery are still continuing in Iraq and Afghanistan. What we saw in the movie was that it wasnt just 'sex' either' but really degrading, violent, brutal stuff, often in public for the amusement of a bar full of men. The young women are treated really, really badly. One of the officials in the film refers to the 15/16 year olds who have been abducted and sold, usually by someone they know - father, brother, uncle for sex as "the whores of war. All wars have them' . This comment made me furious. The so called ' whores of war' have no choice in the matter. No rights at all. In fact it is gross abuse of Human Rights.
Bolkovac believes trafficking is still not taken seriously. 'You should see the amount of money that’s put into training for anti-terrorism and gun-smuggling,’ she says. 'But when it comes to human trafficking and violence against women you don’t see the same resources being generated.’Using the internet to find out more on the issue of sex slavery and human traffiking I discover that it happens here too, right in my own back yard. Up to 2000 women are trafficked into Australia every year and effectively forced to work as sex slaves in Sydney and Melbourne, a new study has found. Four Corners also ran a story of this issue last year. Find it here
Sex trafficking is not, unfortunately, confined to areas with a military presence.
The New York-based Somaly Mam Foundation, set up by a Cambodian woman who was trafficked as a child, estimates there are 2.7 million people enslaved globally, 85 per cent of whom are women and girls in forced prostitution.
The most recent figure for England and Wales is 12,000, which Abigail Stepnitz of the British anti-trafficking organisation Poppy Project, calls 'a tip-of-the-iceberg number’.
'For me the idea is to go after the demand end, to stop focussing on the victims,’ says Bolkovac. 'We have to focus on prosecution of the perpetrators.’
This is starting to happen.
Joseph Yannai, an author based in New York State, was convicted last June of trafficking girls from Europe, tricking them with adverts seeking editorial assistance. He’s facing a sentence of up to 80 years.
Also last year, a Romanian father and son operating a huge forced prostitution ring in Britain were given 21 years. - from The Telegraph
What to do about this dreadful issue?
The Australian Federal Police have a community resource on their website found here
World Vision Australia have an information page and also receive donations here
Stop the Traffik website lists things ordinary people can do to help stop the traffiking of other people
Project Respect has suggestions on their website
the Not for sale campaign has suggestions on their website, too.
United Nations Victoria are showing a film and holding a forum on this issue in Melbourne on the 29th Oct details here