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5th March 2014

Sex trafficking is still thriving in the UK

The sex trade is flourishing across the country; including in Manchester. Lauren Wills argues that we need to act now to win the fight against slavery

You may not know that the award-winning action-thriller “Taken” is closer to fact than fiction. We watch it and find it utterly terrifying, but perhaps subconsciously see it as a fairy story. It is, however, a startlingly similar representation of reality – women in our cities are living in the nightmare that is the sex trade. They are tricked, manipulated, beaten, sold and raped for profit – and it’s happening here in Manchester.

There are over 27 million slaves in the world today; that’s more in the world than ever before, despite the majority of people believing slavery was eliminated years ago by the 13th amendment to American constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. The National Crime Agency actually reported last week that child sex trafficking in the UK is second only to Vietnam – perhaps an astonishing statistic for a crime so unheard of in modern-day society.
As stated by the Manchester Evening News, government figures estimate there are 5,000 women in the UK who have been trafficked for sex – but those working to battle the trade in Manchester believe this figure is ‘the tip of the iceberg’.

February 27th saw the beginning of the #Enditmovement ‘Shine a Light on Slavery Day’ – a worldwide campaign to raise awareness to end human trafficking. Raising awareness is so important, as this is an issue we perhaps associate with foreign countries, but never our own. I began to research trafficking after reading the autobiography “Slave Girl’ in which a regular girl from Newcastle was offered a job in Amsterdam as a nursery teacher. There were various formalities; paperwork, background records and multiple interviews, just like a regular job application. However, upon arrival, through a number of circumstances she was horrifically sold and forced to work the Red Light District. Unfortunately this is true for so many women who are trafficked both from and to the United Kingdom.

In her article “Legalizing Pimping, Dutch Style”, Marie-Victoire Louis writes, that “80% of prostitutes in Amsterdam are foreigners and 70% have no immigration papers”, heavily suggesting that they are trafficked. The reality is that women are raped for profit and robbed of their dignity multiple times a day for years upon end. This puts a ‘harmless’ trip to Amsterdam in another light. Funding a weekend with the best of intentions could actually be fuelling this poisonous trade. Unquestionably this is also going on closer to home. The M.E.N reported last year that Medaille Trust’s safe-house is a Manchester-based charity working to rescue women. The charity comments “Men who are paying for sex with trafficked women also need to use their own moral compass. It will be obvious from the language barrier, a person’s body language, if they are there willingly. These women are someone’s sister or mother who are being forced to have sex”.

In a growing age of the clubbing and drinking culture, internet pornography, and prostitutes readily available for relatively little cash, we can be falsely led to think there is no danger in paying into this system. Furthermore, reading the chilling story of Benjamin Skinner, an individual who spent four years researching modern-day slavery by posing as a buyer at illegal brothels on several continents is utterly sickening and would cause most people to question their sexual integrity. On one occasion, the individual was offered a young girl with Down’s Syndrome in return for an old, used car in Romania. Raising awareness about the reality of trafficking is so important and necessary, as although it cannot end the problem instantaneously, it will inevitably lead to a more informed society when it comes to sex and prostitution.

Organisations such as Hope for Justice exist to help bring an end to Human Trafficking. Based in Manchester, their aim is to “uncover and abolish” the hidden crime of modern-day slavery. As a non-governmental organisation, they are involved with gathering intelligence and they assist in the process of removing victims from exploitation within the UK. The charity comments, “Human trafficking is not someone else’s problem, it’s happening in our communities, in our neighbourhoods, in our country. Hope for Justice was created to be the practical solution to human trafficking with four areas of operation”. Indeed, Hope for Justice have been actively involved in a number of cases involving rescuing women and children from this horrific trade as well as raising awareness on it. You can be part of the rescue mission; you can volunteer, raise awareness, campaign, and give financially.

There is much more going on behind closed doors in our cities than we think. Help join the fight to end slavery. To get involved and help end sex trafficking in the UK and worldwide, visit

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