Women protest global sex trade

Par P.A. Sévigny le 26 juin 2008

As Formula-One festivities were taking over the streets in the downtown core, a small but determined group of women stood their ground against the passing crowds on the corner of Montreal’s party central- Crescent and Ste. Catherine Street. While the women, all dressed in solid black, stood out among the crowds, they still managed to convince hundreds of people to sign their petition and to send signed postcards to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking him to do something about the globe’s flourishing trade in human flesh.

 “We’re not interested in bashing the Grand Prix,” said  Sharon Di Fruscia. “We’re just trying to point out what major sporting events like this one mean to girls and women who are forced into prostitution against their will.”

As a member of the Montreal coalition against human trafficking, Di Fruscia knows what she’s talking about. Citing numbers from a five year old American State Department report, she believes the international traffic in women (and girls) for the commercial sex trade can be now be defined as the slavery of the new millennium.

The report cites how an estimated minimum of 700 000 to a maximum of 4 million women and children are trafficked across international borders every year. Not only are thousands of women and children shipped into Canada every year to supply the nation’s ubiquitous ‘massage parlors’, but thousands more are being shipped through the country on their way to a similar fate in the United States. Police authorities also estimate human trafficking for commercialized sex brings in a minimum of $400 million per year for the nation’s organized crime cartels. While the trade is in third place behind drugs and illegal weapons, it is growing as fast as its consumer markets can be diversified and exploited for further profits. While new girls are always a priority item, there’s a growing sexual demand for pubescent boys for the city’s booming gay trade. Montreal’s reputation for its easy tolerance of gay lifestyles has turned it into one of the continent’s prime destinations for the gay tourist trade.

Di Fruschia knows her campaign has a long way to go before the authorities will get serious about human trafficking and other criminal activities involved in the illicit sex business. Crescent street was jammed and the bars were doing gang-buster business while she and her colleagues kept handing out postcards on a hot and sweaty Saturday afternoon.

“We’re forced to use a direct approach,” she said. “If nothing is done, we’re no further ahead and there will be no one there to help these girls.”

While the woman and her organization are trying to get the Harper government to do something about the century’s new slavery,  Di Fruschia is also looking to find and buy an empty house to use as a shelter for victims of human trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation.

“It’s not easy,” she said. “There’s lots to do and lots to pay for.”

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