Disclaimer: Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative awareness and education organization. Some of the issues discussed in the following article are legislatively-affiliated. Including links and discussions about these legislative matters does not constitute an endorsement by Fight the New Drug. Though our organization is non-legislative, we fully support the regulation of already illegal forms of pornography and sexual exploitation, including the fight against sex trafficking.
Since February 2022, the war in Ukraine has caused millions to flee across Europe and other parts of the world. Unfortunately, there have been reports that human traffickers are targeting and exploiting refugees.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNRA) reports that 90% of those who have fled and continue to flee Ukraine are women and children. “Although no confirmed figures are available, it is estimated that thousands of children are traveling unaccompanied by their parents or guardians, placing them at a heightened risk of trafficking and other abuses,” their report also says.
According to Fernand Cohen of the volunteer group Rescuers without Borders, the issue of human trafficking has become exceedingly common at the Ukraine-Poland border, where he and his team were stationed, YNetNews reports.
“[They were] like a small mob. They looked for women with very small children, usually beautiful women. We have seen several such cases… The police cannot contend with the influx of people, no one can,” Cohen told YNetNews.
Other activists and volunteers are witnessing the same thing.
“What we’re already beginning to pick up on the border across Poland, Romania, and other countries that surround Ukraine is stories, evidence of people traffickers operating and people disappearing,” the CEO of anti-trafficking organization Unseen UK, Andrew Wallis, told EURACTIV.
Human traffickers, Wallis said, are often first on the ground, “looking to exploit this vulnerability, to ensnare these people and put them into situations of unimaginable brutality often as they’re forced, especially and unfortunately because it is predominantly women and girls, into trafficking for sexual exploitation.”
EURACTIV reports that the country’s latest Trafficking in Persons Report, published by the US State Department, said that, while the government has made efforts to combat human trafficking, convictions remain rare and sentences weak. Looking at historical reports, a trend can also be identified with trafficking rings being discovered in Moldova, but also in Italy, Poland, and other EU countries.
In other words, the trafficking infrastructure is already in place between Ukraine and various states, and access to potential victims has just significantly increased.
Maria Dmitrievka, a Ukrainian social activist and director of a gender equality organization, told YNetNews, “The situation is not easy, and will probably deteriorate further… Near the borders, there are men and women looking for distressed women for the [commercial sex] industry. We have received several messages from women about abduction attempts.”
“We see from the data in the world that the vast majority of people who have become victims of sex trafficking are women and girls… Apparently, women choose not to report their condition. In reality, the numbers are much higher,” she told YNetNews.
Still, an increase in trafficking during times of war and crisis is, unfortunately, nothing new. Traffickers have taken advantage of other refugee crises as well, as has the rest of the commercial sex industry.
Ultimately, traffickers can find ways to exploit vulnerable individuals whose basic needs aren’t being met and entice them with false promises of employment, housing, or financial security. This is one reason why they target refugees.
UNRA’s latest report on trafficking of Ukrainian refugees explains why this population of people are so vulnerable to traffickers:
“In these settings, criminal networks operating between Ukraine and countries in Europe and Central Asia may take advantage of people separated from their support networks and with an acute need to identify alternative methods of income generation. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime research has found that economic need is one of the most often identified vulnerability factors for trafficking in persons.”
Porn makes fantasy out of these real nightmares
The abuse that many refugees endure is unacceptable. And yet it appears that the porn industry capitalizes on these heartbreaking and exploitative situations and sells them as graphic fantasy.
Also, there were reports in February when Russia’s attacks began that “Ukrainian girl” was a trending term on Pornhub.
The absolute depths of human suffering and misery is just another “category” for the porn industry. It takes every aspect of our humanity, turns it into the most depraved and dehumanised product imaginable, and then sells it back to us. It is a truly horrific industry. pic.twitter.com/6QaOwncq2z
— Tom Farr (@uracontra_) February 25, 2022
Exploiting real-life tragedies and reinforcing them as a fantasy is in character for the porn industry. The porn industry didn’t invent exploitation, but it certainly profits from it.
“Fantasy” mingled with reality
No one deserves abuse, and that it is unacceptable for some of the most vulnerable individuals in society to be exploited by traffickers and the commercial sex industry.
The fact is, the exploitation of refugees wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a demand for it. Porn depicting the dehumanization of refugees wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t also a demand for it.
Every view, click, and download fuels the demand for the continued production of violent porn and reinforces attitudes and behaviors of degradation and objectification.
Supporting the industry further perpetuates abuse and will continue to drive pornographers to create content that exploits and fantasizes about abusive situations.
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