02 February 2012

Lock Up Your Daughters

Mira Kolar-Brown
Mira Kolar-Brown
by Mira Kolar-Brown

Mira Kolar-Brown was born and educated in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslavia, where she graduated in English Language and Literature with post-graduate Business. She came to the UK in 1977 where she tutored at two universities and project managed for an NGO and a QUANGO, and now lives in the north-west of England. Upon early retirement, she has been working as a translator and interpreter for the public sector. This offers ample opportunities for research into the work of police, welfare system, courts, immigration and health organisations. Hiding the ElephantThis first hand knowledge and experience proved invaluable in writing mystery novels, the Simon Grant Mysteries series, Hiding the Elephant and Lock Up Your Daughters, the latter title from which we've drawn another meaning for today's article.

Here's the talented Mira Kolar-Brown.


Endrita

Author Sibel Hodge has written a book Trafficked: Dairy of a Sex Slave, a well researched, factual account of one young woman's journey through a new world of human trafficking.

Before we delve into that complex subject, let's go back to the beginning, back to our understanding and perceptions of the oldest profession in the world. We've all come across it, we've all seen men and women gathered at street corners at certain times and locations, waiting for customers, entering strange cars or disappearing behind buildings for ten minutes or so to render express service to those with little time and even less money. We also know that there are more upmarket forms of the old trade all the way up to designer wear and luxury hotels, caviar and champagne, and the box at Wimbledon, Covent Garden and Ascot.

And we lift our noses and gather our skirts around us and turn away in the knowledge that ours is a welfare state where no one needs to sell themselves to survive or feed their children.

Maybe.

Experience tells us that life is never a set of simple either or options.

I've mentioned the 'new world' of human trafficking even though there's nothing very new about the concept. It pre-dates the Roman Empire all the way back to the caves. What's new is the upsurge in the scale on which it's happening. With so many hotspots erupting all over the world throughout the past three decades, it has reached mind-boggling proportions and in the process it has pushed sex trade to new depths of horror.

I do not intend to go into details of what happens to men and women who fall victims to the trend. Several years ago, reports of girls and boys installed in premises condemned for human habitation, kept there with very little sustenance or breaks and made available for sex with a constant stream of paying clients until they're dead when they're replaced by a fresh asset, prompted several metropolitan police forces to start a counter-action and print leaflets in a variety of languages inviting victims to seek their protection. There was very little response. Some victims can't read, most of them are drugged to their eyeballs, and they're all scared stiff of what might happen to them and their families if they run away. But, more than anything else, the leaflets rarely reach the victims. What little response there'd been mostly came from clients.

There's a school of thought that none of the victims would have got caught in that trap if they or their families didn't have ideas above their station. Their decision to leave their homes and travel abroad to work in bars or as au pairs or cleaners is always based on the expectation of better earnings and higher standard of living.
Lock Up Your Daughters
Perhaps.

As I've said, nothing is ever that simple.

After early retirement I've been freelancing as a translator and interpreter for the public sector. I've spent a lot of time in police custody suites, category A prisons, Immigration interview rooms and appeal hearing centres. I interpreted for people serving life sentences for genocide and for their victims. I also interpreted for a few young women seeking asylum after they were raped. In all instances, the rape itself was, for the lack of a better word - straightforward. The man or men forced the woman to have sex with them and left. Horrendous as those incidents were, the true horror came afterwards. Their families didn't want to know them any longer because the girls became soiled goods and brought shame on the family. In one instance, the male members of the girl's family believed that only honour killing would save their face in the community, so her mother and grandmother spirited her away. Their stories prepared me for the encounter with Endrita to some extent.

Endrita was born and grew up in Pristina, Kosovo, She came from a family of ethnic Albanians. Her father was a doctor, her mother was pharmacist and Endrita and her younger sister considered themselves destined for university education and independent, comfortable, modern living. But then came the '90s, the Balkan war, the fighting and the bombings, and their world changed forever. The parents were suddenly stripped of their role in the family and replaced by family/community elders and the revival of ancient values and way of life. The elders in Endrita's extended family clan were aware that none of their members had been particularly active on the Albanian nationalistic front, the fact that was threatening their safety and well-being in the new order. They concentrated on rectifying the position and one of the avenues to an improved status was to marry off the girls to people in power. As long as they had a few teenage virgins to trade in exchange for safety and profit, they were into a winner.

Endrita had a couple of problems with that plan. She was in love with Jak, a man of no power or consequence and therefore ineligible, and she wasn't a virgin. When she caught the eye and attentions of a senior police officer, the situation became very serious. Her parents, unwilling to see their daughter married to someone she didn't love and aware of the dire consequences for herself and everyone else in the family if she was found to be 'damaged', they sent the younger daughter to relatives in Croatia and put together whatever money they still had control over to send Endrita to the UK and Jak.

They liked Jak.

Everyone liked Jak.

Some ten years Endrita's senior, he'd entered the UK illegally a few months earlier, applied for asylum and worked in London bars, mixing mostly with models, fashion designers and PR agents. Life was great. Jak was going to secure the beautiful, tall and slim Endrita a few modelling contracts and they were going to get married just as soon as his immigration status was sorted out. In the meantime, there were the bright lights and London night life to enjoy. And drink, And drugs. Soft drugs, at first. Then the harder stuff. Then one or two or three photographers and agents expressed an interest in getting to know Endrita a bit better before offering her a modelling contract. Jak saw no harm in that. That was the way of the world that they lived in. Then Jak got arrested for drug dealing leaving Endrita in the hands of his best friend, the human trafficker and the owner of one of the establishments offering 24/7 sex.

Endrita became available for sex 24/7.

A couple of moths later a Mancunian on a trip to London availed himself of her services, took pity on her, brought her up north with him and helped her to apply for asylum.

There's no fit ending to this story. Interpreters rarely learn the outcome of individual cases. I don't know what's happened to Endrita.

At the time of her immigration interview she was drug-free.

That's something.

13 comments:

Tania said...

Most frightening article, Mira.

When I was in the US about 4 years ago, I saw a documentary about a news reporter that saved a petrified young girl. I don't recall whether it took place in India or where, but it was a dangerous situation. I now wonder how the girl fared since then.

Mira Kolar-Brown said...

Hi Tania
Thanks for reading and responding.

Yes, you can't but wonder, can you? We take so much for granted.

Janice said...

A very timely post.
Welcome to Sleuthsayers. We're happy to have you on board.

Anonymous said...

Thank you (and Sibel Hodge) for increasing awareness of this horror.

Sibel Hodge said...

Thanks so much for the lovely shout out for Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave.

It's a fantastic post, Mira, and it's wonderful that you've shared it. Trafficking is such a global problem, and yet it's hardly ever in the media.

And one of the truly scary things is, most people think it only affects third world countries, but it’s going on right under your nose. The US Department of State estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States alone each year. Sophie Hayes, a British woman, has recently written about her own horrific ordeal of being trafficked. That woman working on a street corner or in a sauna or massage parlour that you see every day could be trafficked.

Together we can all do something to raise awareness. Modern-day slavery shouldn't be going on in the 21st Century.

Mira Kolar-Brown said...

samitufThanks for the lovely welcome, Janice.

Pj, Sibel is a former police officer. She's a popular writer of chick lit but her serious stuff is very solid too.

Hi, Sibel
Gload you like it

Mira Kolar-Brown said...

Sorry about the typos.

I'm just back from a long trip to Yorkshire; dog tired.

David Dean said...

Welcome aboard, Mira. This was a very thought-provoking post on an under-reported subject. You're quite right, of course, on its prolific growth; it has the plague-like ability to spread quickly and knows no national boundries. We had a recent case in my area involving Vietnamese immigrants.

Thanks for the article.

Dixon Hill said...

Permit me to add my own excited “Welcome!”

I really enjoyed your terrific article, and it reminded me of an incident in my own town a few years ago. When two girls on their high school newspaper learned of the death of a young Asian teen, they wondered why the girl hadn’t been attending their school. Upon investigation, they discovered she was a local sex slave who’d been illegally brought into the U.S. from overseas. When the Arizona Republic finally covered the story, some time later, the high school girls wound up getting credited for breaking it. Police then raided the location, where several more sex slaves were recovered.

Really does make you think. And, thanks for the great post!
--Dix

Leigh Lundin said...

Sibel and Mira, this was an enlightening and chilling article. We think we're in the 21st century but find ancient, animalistic behavior still hides in ugly and unexpected corners.

Thank you both!

Louis A. Willis said...

Welcome to SleuthSayers. I enjoyed you informative article.

John Floyd said...

Welcome, Mira. Interesting column!

Mira Kolar-Brown said...

Hi David, Dix, Leigh, Louis and John

Thanks for the welcome and the interest.

I just love this blog. So much interesting stuff going on here.