Ladies and Gentlemen,
To be present at the Regional Seminar on Trafficking of Human Beings and Sexual Exploitation, here in Brazil — the country where I grew up — has a very special meaning to me. It is also a special honour to speak on a topic so close to my heart and one that I have closely focused on ever since the first World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children took place in Stockholm in 1996. At that time representatives of 122 governments, many NGOs, law enforcement, industry representatives and others gathered in Stockholm. I was Patron of the World Congress and have ever since actively followed the actions to combat the problem. In November 2008 the Third World Congress took place here in Brazil, with First Lady Marisa Letícia as Patron. I was very pleased to participate in and follow the Congress in Rio de Janeiro, and to see that considerable progress had been made since the Stockholm event.
Given this background and also the fact that I am aware that other conference speakers will focus more on adult victims of trafficking, I will highlight the most vulnerable of all: the children.
The first World Congress served as an eye-opener for many of us. Trafficking of children for sexual purposes, child sex tourism and child pornography were issues only rarely spoken of at the time. Since then, in 2002, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography was adopted. I would like to highlight that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which defines a child as any individual below the age of 18 years, recently celebrated its 20th Anniversary.
Almost fourteen years have passed since the Stockholm World Congress, manifesting that commercial sexual exploitation of children has many faces, all equally appalling. One of several insights made is that there are clear links between trafficking of minors for sexual purposes, child sex tourism and child pornography.
We live today in a commercialized world where many people know the cost of everything but the value of nothing. Anything can be bought for a price. The ugliest example of this is when children are used as commodities to be bought or sold. Consequently, when pimps and traffickers become aware that there is money to be made, children will be taken from one destination to another to be sold. It could be from a rural area to a city or from one country to another. In this way buyers of sex from children contribute to creating flows of human trafficking. There is also a clear link to child pornography. For the purpose of maximizing profits, children sexually exploited by foreigners may also be used in the production of child pornography. The three areas of crime are consequently inter-connected and should be addressed accordingly.
Another development is the increased presence of organized crime facilitating and profiting on sexual exploitation of children. As an example, there are today tens of thousands commercial web sites offering child abuse material, largely operated by criminal groups making huge profits from the customers' payments. Every time someone pays to access this material using a credit card or other payment tool, further production of child abuse material will take place. Some of the victims are no more than new-born babies. We must recognize that the demand for sex with minors combined with the huge financial gains made by criminal groups, are the very driving forces behind the child pornography trade and therefore need to be addressed urgently.
In Sweden alone up to 50.000 attempts, every day, are made to access this material. Fortunately Internet Service Providers collaborate by blocking access to many such web sites. I am very pleased that also other parts of the private sector, such as banks and credit card companies, are working together with law enforcement to make it increasingly difficult for consumers to purchase child pornographic material. A Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography is successfully operating in the USA since 2006. Corresponding financial coalitions were launched last year also in Sweden and in the European Union.
Identifying the corporate sector's contribution to combating the trafficking of human beings, I would like to place the Swedish film production Lilya 4-ever, high on that list. This film has raised the awareness of millions of individuals, not only in Sweden, but in 56 other countries, including Brazil. The film was frequently used for educational purposes by schools, police academies, judges, prosecutors, NGOs and others. It has been screened in several Parliaments and has been a compulsory part of the training for all Swedish peace keeping troops. The film, which was nominated for an Oscar award, manifests not only the extreme vulnerability of the victims but also the importance the demand factor has for maintaining this lucrative business in human bodies. Very sadly the film is based on a real case of trafficking to Sweden:
Her name was Dangoule. She was a 16 year old girl from Lithuania with the same dreams and the same hopes for the future as any other teenager. She was enticed by the man she loved and trusted to go to Sweden with promises of a better life and a steady job picking vegetables. She arrived to Kristianstad, a city in the south of Sweden, on the 17th of November 1999. Her passport was taken from her and she was locked up in an apartment and told that she now had a debt of 20.000 Euros for her travel, passport and accommodation costs. Dangoule was beaten, raped, starved and humiliated. Her pimp told her that if she informed anyone of her situation, she would be thrown in prison since prostitution is a crime in Sweden. Moreover, she was an illegal immigrant since her passport was faked. The terror forced Dangoule to be silent and to suffer several customers per day.
On the 7th of January 2000, in utter despair, Dangoule jumped from a bridge to end her life. 16 year old Dangoule died alone and deprived of all dignity in a foreign country. Due to lack of legislation at the time, specifically targeting trafficking of human beings, no one was prosecuted for the trafficking of Dangoule; for raping her, assaulting her, deceiving her, buying her body, or causing her tragic death. Had this case taken place two and a half years later, after July 2002, when a comprehensive law was introduced in Sweden, targeting all phases of trafficking of human beings, that is, the recruitment, transport, providing of accommodation, the advertising and the selling of sexual services, we are likely to have seen prosecutions and convictions.
But let us take a step further back in time: Had Dangoule had a higher level of education, would she not have realized that picking vegetables was not a realistic job offer in the middle of the Scandinavian winter? Had the passport officer in the airport had special training on trafficking of human beings, would she not have inspected Dangoule's passport more carefully, maybe to detect that it was faked? Had the general public had more knowledge of trafficking, would not someone in the building where she was locked up have reacted to Dangoule's screaming and the coming and going of different men? To these rhetoric questions I believe we find some important answers how to combat trafficking. Finally, had not Dangoule's traffickers correctly counted on the demand factor, would Sweden have represented a lucrative market? The answer is of course no. Trafficking of human beings functions like any commercial business: with no demand there is no supply!
Having quoted these examples, I find it imperative that we identify further targeted measures to assist the victims but also to reduce and ultimately stop the demand for commercial sexual exploitation of children. It is important that we recognize that the demand for sex with minors is a very strong driving force behind this global problem and therefore needs to be addressed urgently. The money coming from the consumers create and maintain markets. It is of course also a fact that socially and economically vulnerable children are easily recruited. In many countries the financial despair is so deep that families need the support of all family-members, including children, to make ends meet. The trusting adults may play directly in the hands of criminals.These factors call for increased collaboration between sending and receiving countries of human trafficking, child sex tourism and child pornography.
Fortunately, we see a number of examples of such bi-lateral and multi-lateral collaboration. I would specifically like to highlight the Joint Action Plan for the Strategic Partnership between Brazil and the European Union. This joint action plan provides a platform for intensified cooperation to combat human trafficking in all forms, in Brazil as well as in the European Union.
I also welcome the preventive measures undertaken in Brazil directed at cutting the supply chain; in the long term by decreasing social inequality and improving education, and in the short term through awareness campaigns on the topics of the rights of the victims and on suspicious situations. I understand that many schools carry out such campaigns. Also, we have learnt of extensive government sponsored media campaigns condemning sexual exploitation and increasing public awareness. Furthermore, in an effort to raise awareness and stimulate research, university students are given awards for best thesis on the issue of trafficking. These are very concrete and interesting examples that no doubt can be used as inspiration for many of us.
However, trafficking in humans remains a huge challenge for the world. In conclusion I would therefore like to share with you the following: Our history books at school taught us about the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which regarded as uncivilized, was abolished more than two hundred years ago. The global trade in human beings of today is in fact even more large-scale.
To deny, to turn a blind eye or to passively observe is a contribution to the continuous contemporary slave trade that is manifested by trafficking of human beings. I therefore look forward to renewed efforts from all parties involved in order to save children from suffering the faith of Dangoule from Lithuania.