My guest today is Phyllis Nutkis. Welcome to OpEdNews, Phyllis. You're working on a very interesting project right now. What can you tell us about it?
photo credit: Norman Nutkis
The project is called "Women to Go." It was conceived by an advertising firm in Israel, in partnership with an Israeli non-profit called ATZUM. The purpose of the project is to call attention to the problem of human trafficking. We're planning to hold a public event in Chicago on Sunday, July 1st, although the date is tentative at this point.
I'd like to hear more. Is sex trafficking much of a problem here?
Yes, it's a big problem in Chicago, just as it is in every other city. There are many statistics, but just as an example, a study of 222 women who work in the sex trade in Chicago found that between 45 and 50% of the women give their earnings to another person (i.e. a pimp or someone else who is in control), and 79% believe that they would be physically harmed if they stopped handing over the money. And even more disturbing is that 100% of the women reported having been abused while in the sex trade: all had been raped, kicked, threatened with a weapon, punched, or slapped.
Isn't it also the case that many if not most of the women in the sex trade were abused themselves in their youth?
I don't have the exact statistics, although I think it's particularly true of teenage prostitutes. But women often become victims of sex trafficking for economic reasons. Poor women are promised jobs, often as waitresses, house cleaners, etc. and have no intention of becoming prostitutes. It's only later that they find out that they've been duped--and by then, it's too late.
The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (C.A.A.S.E.) says this on their website:
"Many prostituted people are homeless women and children. Young girls who have run away frequently lack basic necessities for survival, making them more vulnerable to traffickers. To survive on the street, young people often turn to "survival sex", the exchange of sexual activity for resources to meet basic needs."
In that case, the current economic slump and high foreclosure rate aren't helping. So, what is "Women to Go"? What do you have planned?
It's an event designed to call public attention to this problem, to send the message that women are not for sale. We plan to take over a retail store window for one day. In the window we will have models posing as women literally for sale, complete with price tags and descriptions including age, weight, and measurements. Rather than have them look attractive or "sexy," the women will have their hair and makeup done so as to appear as if they've been abused. There will also be posters explaining the problem and stating that women are not commodities to be purchased, and volunteers will also circulate among the onlookers, explaining the situation. The specific call to action is a petition drive aimed at Village Voice Media, the owners of a classified-advertising website called backpage.com , which is responsible for a large proportion of the online advertising of trafficked women. The volunteers will ask onlookers to sign a petition demanding that Village Voice Media remove the "adult services" section from backpage.com . Here is a link to a YouTube video of the original event in Israel.
Israeli campaign tagline: The Sale of Women According to Personal Taste
from Women to Go - Chicago facebook page
Has this project been successful elsewhere? What are you hoping to achieve?