Sex was billed as a key topic of conversation when filmmaker, photojournalist and intrepid reporter Mimi Chakarova visited the UBC School of Journalism on Monday. But in this case, there was nothing light or pleasurable about the subject matter.
Chakarova has devoted the last decade of her life to an investigation of sex trafficking and slavery in Eastern Europe, and has even posed as a working girl in order to gain access to some of the seediest recesses of the industry. Her resultant film, “The Price of Sex”, spotlights the dismal situation of women and girls, many of them from former Soviet Bloc states, who are sold as sexual slaves in Europe and the Middle East.
The film, which I watched on Tuesday, reminded me of this brutal reality, and alerted me to how widespread and common the trafficking problem has become for girls in poor European countries, like Moldova and Bulgaria.
However, I was most inspired to read further by a comment from one member of the audience at the film screening. The woman, who had worked with organizations providing support services to sexual assault victims, emphasized the severity of the domestic sex trafficking issue in Canada, whereby aboriginal women are frequently victimized.
While few statistics exist to elucidate the case, many of the extant data are frightening.
-According to Ottawa-based researcher Anupriya Sethi, roughly 75 per cent of aboriginal women under 18 have experienced some form of sexual abuse.
-The Urban Native Youth Association reported in 2002 that 60 per cent of sexually exploited youth in Vancouver were aboriginal.
-Gang researcher Michael Chettleburgh’s research indicates that as many as 90 per cent of urban, teenage prostitutes in Canada are aboriginal.
-Several sources express that the average age for trafficked aboriginal girls is very young, sometimes 12 or lower.
Unfortunately, not enough studies exist to allow for a thorough analysis of the issue, and government response has not been sufficient to curtail the trafficking of aboriginal girls.
So in sum, I salute Mimi Chakarova for her courage and assiduity in bringing the issue of sex trafficking and slavery to the forefront. But Canada is certainly not exempt from a scourge that afflicts many of the former Soviet states, and in our country, this phenomenon is both under-reported and under-addressed.
For more information:
The Institute for Advancement of Aboriginal Women – http://iaawcanada.com/
“The Price of Sex” website – http://www.priceofsex.org