This afternoon I went to the Library and Archives Auditorium for the screening of a rather grim documentary called 'The Price of Sex'.
This feature-length documentary is about young Eastern European women drawn into sex slavery - tricked into becoming prostitutes, imprisoned in brothels, abused and discarded. It is narrated by Mimi Chakarova, a woman who grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Bulgaria and later emigrated to the United States. She returns to Eastern Europe to find out why so many women from Eastern Europe were become victims of sexual trafficking. Her story is deeply personal and very courageous. Working for over a decade, filming undercover and risking her own safety to gain access to people and places controlled by sex traffickers, she pulls back the curtain on the horrors of human and sex trafficking.
It was an honour to have the filmmaker, Mimi Chakarova, there at the screening today. After the film, after the applause had died down, she spoke a little about the film and then fielded questions from the audience.
After hearing theses stories (like that of a woman who fell more than 3 floors trying to escape her brothel prison, only to be returned to her pimps half-paralyzed, still forced to service clients), the audience not surprisingly wanted to know what we can do. How can we fix this problem? How can we stop this travesty??
Sadly, there are no clear answers. A rep from Human Rights Watch spoke about the challenges faced in addressing sex trafficking, such as the economic depression which has left many young women without any options to earn a living, and the corruption among police and intergovernmental agencies. There is no simple thing that we could go home and easily do in order to feel better and forget that women as young as 10 are taken from their homes to become sex slaves in foreign countries.
Yet while there is no easy solution, there are things we can do, such as support the work of those NGOs who help trafficked women and lobby our own governments to effectively address human trafficking. But to be honest the problem is much bigger than all of us. It will take many hands and many voices to make real and lasting change.
But I, for one, want to be part of it.