News/Bulgaria: International project to protect women

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Subject: News/Bulgaria: International project to protect women
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Thu Jun 22 2000 - 09:02:04 EDT


                  International project to protect women
The Associated Press.

    SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) -- Some 10,000 Bulgarian women, many under age 18,
have fallen into the sex trade, a human rights group announced Tuesday.
    As a result, the International Organization for Migration has now
launched a campaign to prevent women from being exported as sex slaves.
    "The IOM sees women trafficking as a growing threat. It is becoming an
issue of concern for this region," the IOM coordinator for Central Europe,
Irena Voyachkova, said, launching project "Open Your Eyes," funded by the
U.S. State Department.
    According to reports by Animus, a Bulgarian organization which seeks to
protect women, most victims are tempted by advertisements promising
well-paid work as models, dancers, waitresses and cleaning ladies.
    But the human rights activists report also about cases of girls as young
as 14 who have been kidnapped and smuggled over the border.
    Along with Bulgaria's political transition during the last ten years
economic hardships have hit strongest the women and children.
    According to latest U.N. statistics, Bulgaria ranks first in East Europe
in terms of sustained unemployment and impoverishment of women.
    "Women and their children represent two-thirds of the poor in Bulgaria,"
reads a statement of the Women's Development Alliance.
    Impoverishment and unemployment are the main factors that have forced
women to go out on the street.
    The IOM coordinator for Bulgaria, Maria Stefanova, said the campaign
would target some 450,000 young Bulgarian women who according to the IOM
were most likely to take a risky job abroad.
    The campaign foresees the distribution of more than 200,000 posters and
leaflets and special radio and TV clips.
    Bulgarian women are smuggled into the international sex trade through
three main channels, Stefanova said.
    The so-called "northern" channel goes to the Czech Republic and Poland
to Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. The "eastern" channel is
through Turkey to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and the
"Balkan" channel goes to Greece, Macedonia, Albania and Turkey.
    Bulgaria is also a transit point for international sex traffic. Some
1,230 women, including 560 Romanians and 420 Moldovans, were stopped last
year at Bulgarian customs as they tried to make their way westward.
    Bulgaria itself does not ban prostitution, but those "who force others
into debauchery" risk eight years in prison.
    (vt/rp)


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