The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that on any given day in 2016, an estimated 3.6 million men, women and chidlren were living in modern slavery in Europe and Central Asia (GSI 2018). People are subjected to exploitation in forced labour, debt bondage and forced sexual exploitation. Government response in Europe is particularly strong with a number of regional bodies holding them account and monitoring responses, and while countries in Central Asia have taken steps to tack modern slavery, more needs to be done. Cristina, a 15-year-old girl from Romania was forced into marriage against her will at the age of 13 in England. She travelled to Spain and Belgium with her husband where he forced her to steal under threats of violence.
It is estimated that there are 105,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Spain (GSI 2018). Spain is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Women from from Easter Europe, particularly Romania, South America and Nigeria are subjected to sex trafficking, while men and women from South and East Asia are subjected to forced labour in the textile, agricultural, construction, industrial and service sectors. Unaccompanied migrant children continue to be trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced begging. Andrei took up an offer for a job in Spain, however upon arrival he was forced to beg on the streets under constant surveillance and threats.
There are an estimated 11,700 people living in modern slavery in the United Kingdom. It remains a destination for men, women and children from countries across the world including Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, often seeking opportunities for a better livelihood. The latest government statistics derived from the UK National Referral Mechanism in 2014 reveal 2,340 potential victims of trafficking from 96 countries of origin, of whom 61 percent were female and 29 percent were children. Of those identified through the NRM, the majority were adults classified as victims of sexual exploitation followed by adults exploited in the domestic service sector and other types of labour exploitation. The largest proportion of victims was from Albania, followed by Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania and Slovakia. In 2005 Ope met a man offering to help her leave her life in Nigeria and find employment and a better life abroad. Promised work as a nanny or in a factory, Ope was taken by boat to Tenerife and then flown to mainland Spain where her trafficker was waiting for her at the airport. It was then that she found out she had been trafficked in to prostitution. After being physically and sexually abused in Spain, Ope was later trafficked again to the UK where the abuse continued. Ope was finally able to escape one day when she used money and ID from a wallet found at a market to get a bus to Kings Cross station in London.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been plagued by conflicts over control, extraction and distribution of natural resources such as coltan, diamonds and oil. In this exhibition, photographers Isabel Muñoz, National Photography Award 2016, and Concha Casajús present the struggle of Congolese women in the face of the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. The show is a series of portraits and testimonies of women from Bukavu, in the province of South Kivu, in the east of the country. The exhibition aims to make the situation of these women visible, as well as the violence they suffer. But at the same time, it invites us to reflect on the way in which these women face such suffering, rejecting in many cases the status of victims and trying to survive with dignity. Many have managed to get rid of this stigma and have struggled collectively to become activists and successful women. All a song to those women who have broken the silence and, from mutual support and sorority, have become true heroines of this twenty-first century.
Romania is a significant source of sex and labor trafficking victims throughout Europe. Romanian men, women, and children are subjected to labor trafficking in agriculture, construction, domestic service, hotels, and manufacturing, as well as forced begging and theft in Romania and other European countries. Romani children are particularly vulnerable to forced begging and sex trafficking. Corruption is a prevalent issue: government officials have been convicted of human trafficking crimes, and there have been reports of local officials obstructing trafficking investigations. Married against her will at 13 and forced to steal by her husband in Spain and Belgium, Christina now lives in a youth shelter and is going to school.