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A new ‘commodity’ in Kosovo
(original source)

Young, ill-educated women lured and sold as sex slaves for 700 to 2,500 euros, IOM reports

Young single women who have little education and are victims of physical abuse by their parents are being trafficked into Kosovo from across the Balkans and ex-Soviet republics as sex slaves, according to a recent report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“All around Kosovo trafficking in women for sexual exploitation is happening,” the IOM notes in its Counter-Trafficking Report, adding that “women from Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Albania and Russia are forced into prostitution.”

The report, released on June 7, is based on the testimonies of 303 women and minors assisted by the IOM in Kosovo from February 2000 to April 2002, and establishes a detailed socioeconomic profile of the victims.

In reference to the victims’ country of origin, the report notes that 52 percent of the women assisted by the IOM came from Moldova, 23 percent from Romania, 13 percent from Ukraine, 5 percent from Bulgaria, 3 percent from Kosovo, 3 percent from Albania and 1 percent from Russia.

In terms of their age, the report reveals that the average age of the women was 25, while 38 of the 303 victims were minors. Moreover, some of the victims have a very basic education while only a few are university graduates. More specifically, slightly more than 50 percent of the victims had a primary-school level of education, 16 percent had completed high school and only 2 percent had been to university.

From their in-depth interviews to the anti-trafficking unit of the IOM in Kosovo, it appears that the majority of them had been taken from urban areas in their countries — as 14 percent of them came from their country’s capital city — 51 percent from urban areas, and 33 percent from rural areas.

The majority, 65 percent, of the victims were single when they were lured into trafficking, but almost 38 percent now have children which they are raising on their own.

The report also found that almost 25 percent of the victims had experienced physical abuse, and 12.5 percent rape within their family.

“A man from my neighborhood raped me when I was 15. I went to the police, everyone knew what happened to me. I started having problems with my friends and my family. I was ashamed,” a 16-year-old girl from Peja told IOM fieldworkers. Like others, a friend later told her about a job abroad, a chance as she said, “to leave all the bad things behind.” Little did she know that the worst was yet to come.

Trafficking methods

The IOM notes that trafficking is often based on deception and lies, while increasingly networks use other women and friends to lure their young victims.

“The woman, my neighbor, told me she would find a good family in Spain where I could work as baby-sitter. She said I could earn $500 per month,” one of the victims told the IOM.

According to the report, 83 percent of the women fell into the hands of traffickers as they were pushed to search for a job abroad due to poverty and lack of job prospects at home. Some 79 percent were lured abroad under false promises for a job and almost 9 percent were kidnapped.

“He is a friend of mine; he was! He invited me over his place for a coffee and never let me go back to my family. The day after he sold me to a woman for $200,” another victim said in her interview with IOM staff in Kosovo.

The report reveals that in almost 50 percent of the cases the recruiter was a woman, and in 45 percent the victim knew the person who tricked them into accepting a phony job abroad.

“Women are usually offered a job as a baby-sitter, cleaner, waitress, or as a carer for the elderly, which normally do not require a high level of education or language skills,” the IOM underlines in its report, stressing that 41.6 percent of the women were offered a job in Italy.

A false job promise abroad is usually accompanied by promises to arrange everything from travel documents, visas and transportation, to a job and comfortable accommodation. This in turn explains why 25 percent of the women assisted by the IOM left their countries without a passport. Some 47.9 percent of the women helped by the IOM had never left their countries before being trafficked.

According to the report, only 23.8 percent of the women were partially or fully aware of the possibility of being involved in sex-related activities.

Traffickers appear to prefer crossing into Kosovo from routes inside the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), as 22.3 percent of the women assisted by the IOM reported that they had used those specific routes. Other less-preferred routes cross into Montengero (5 percent) and Albania (4 percent).

In interviews conducted by IOM staff in Kosovo, trafficked women declared that they were bought and sold three to six times on their journey to Kosovo. Many of them are sexually abused or exploited already in the transit countries where they might remain up to few months before arriving in Kosovo.

Their “commercial” value in Kosovo varied from 700 to 2,500 euros.

Working conditions

The living conditions while in Kosovo for the trafficked victims are “dramatic” according to the IOM, with 77 percent of the women reporting beatings by their traffickers or exploiters, and 57 percent saying they had been sexually abused by their traffickers and exploiters.

“Accommodation is always collective and normally used also to receive clients,” the report states. “In most of the cases the shared accommodation is in the bar, sleeping on chairs or sharing a sofa between three to four women. Hygiene conditions are usually poor and access to food is limited.”

In most cases, 74 percent, profits were not shared with the women, who never received any payment during their stay in Kosovo. Only 4 percent of the women reported receiving regular payments for the services provided.

Interviews also reveal that in many cases the women are forced to have unprotected sex, while medical care is scarce. Specifically, 62 percent of the women were forced into unprotected sex, and a third of the victims were completely denied medical care.

“Medical care is normally given on an emergency basis only, especially when the symptoms could affect the ‘performance’,” the report states, adding that 33 percent of the women were denied medical attention.

The majority of the women assisted by the IOM were found to have vaginal infections and other sexually transmitted diseases when examined once back in their countries of origin.

The report notes that more than 63 percent of the victims were rescued during police raids on bars and nightclubs which operate as brothels. At the same time, an increasing number of victims, 33.6 percent, managed to escape and seek help from authorities.


"In about 85 percent of
cases, sexual assaults
occur between people
who know each other."

Source: Diana Russell,
The Prevalence and Incidence of
Forcible Rape and Attempted Rape of Females, Victimology: An International Journal 7, 1-4 (1983).