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By Nikki Junker, Executive Director, With More Than Purpose,
Even amongst abolitionists, Moldova is unheard of which is unfortunate considering that this small country, the poorest in the EU, is a major source country for Human Trafficking, which means that mostly individuals are taken from Moldova into other countries and trafficked abroad. The causes for such trafficking is the prevalence of extreme poverty in the region.
This small former Soviet country is currently ranked as a Tier 2 watch list country in the 2010 Trafficking in Persons report put out by the U.S. State Department. It was ranked as a Tier 2 Country until 2008 when it dipped to a Tier 3 country. Since this time it has raised its status in the rankings by providing referrals for victims of human trafficking. The development of a national Committee led by the Prime Minister has led to law enforcement training to identify victims which are now being sent to government funded assistance centers.
What has held Moldova back from rising above a Tier 2 watch list country is the prosecution and conviction of traffickers. The most notable of those who remain unpunished for trafficking are corrupt government officials. So for the time being Moldova is a country that is making progress through a mediocre effort, which unfortunately in a world where human trafficking is only recently being recognized as the atrocity it is seems to be enough for the United States to applaud their efforts.
By reading the above information, sterilized and removed with legalize and diplomatic nuances no one would understand why when I think of the ugliest scenarios of Human Trafficking my mind travels to Moldova. It is important for governments to communicate about Human Trafficking as a world wide problem, but the above information does nothing for me. I don’t sit down and read the Trafficking in Persons report and feel the tug in my heart that something must be done. That is done when I look at the situation on the ground in this poverty infested country where the average income, according to the International Organization for Migration, is less than US2000 annually. Poverty so rampant that the people are willing to do anything for a chance to feed their family. Including taking incredible risks of migration for promised jobs which turn out more often than not to be a Trafficking scam.
The women and children are sold into sexual slavery and taken to the Gulf States , Western Europe or the Moldovan capital of Chisinau. The men are dent to be forced laborers in Russia. That is what we need to think about when we, as abolitionists and humanitarians, think about Human Trafficking.
We need to think of Moldova. We need to think about a land so poor that a mother would sell her youngest daughter into slavery in order to feed her 7 other children. A land so poor that a promised job with no proof of being actual employment is the only choice a man has besides sitting and starving to death in his Soviet styled tenement. A country so poor that an outsider can travel through an entire village and se the scars of kidney removals on most of its villagers, which gave them enough money for food for a week, when their kidney was sold by traffickers for thousands of dollars in the black market. All of these forms of Human Trafficking are running so incredibly rampant in Moldova primarily because of one thing. Poverty.
Poverty leads the corrupt government official to turn a blind eye while pimps cross out of their country with 20 13 year old girls. Poverty leads the 18 year old boy to believe the factory job he has been offered in Moscow is real. So when I think of Human Trafficking, I think of the places where poverty is most rampant and in the European Union, the poorest country is little Moldova whose people are bought and sold as commodities to be used by the richer nations of the world.
What tier is Moldova? I know, but that knowledge does nothing to drive to me to action as an Abolitionist. The existence of poverty and the horror of the human condition which is eating the country alive in the form of Human Trafficking is what matters to me and I wish that every time a government official picked up that TIP report, all crisp and clean from the printer, that he would have to first look into the face of a mother whose husband disappeared and whose wages never came back and whose daughter was taken to be schooled but has never written home. Only then would he know what Human Trafficking in Moldova really means.
Nikki is the co-founder and executive director of With More Than Purpose Abolitionist Movement. She is passionate about fighting Human Trafficking in the United States. She not only knows the problem from an activist standpoint, but as a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation.