Thursday, April 03, 2008

Combating sex trafficking: UNC conference

Today I've been in another world. I've been to central southern Nigeria, a region so poor, where the future is so bleak, that families send their daughters into sexual slavery. Many of them end up in Italy, where they are sold to madams, Nigerian women who too have done their time in enforced prostitution. In elaborate juju ceremonies they are sworn never to reveal the identities of their traffickers: "If they betray this, they and their family are going to suffer some kind of unidentified horrid thing," said Esohe Aghatise, a lawyer and activist working to support these women.

Through Dorchen Liedholdt I've gotten acquainted with Sigma Huda, a Bangladeshi lawyer and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, whose work is so threatening that her government has put her in detention.

I've met Jeanette, a 13-year-old runaway at a bus station in Boston, and watched her become seduced by Billy, an "entrepreneur" who cons her into joining his "family" of working girls.

All of these stories and much more are being told at an international conference taking place at the Friday Center, sponsored by the Carolina Women's Center at UNC: "Combating Sex Trafficking: Prevention and Intervention in North Carolina and Worldwide." Tomorrow I'm on as moderator of a panel on legal advocacy.

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