(Washington, DC--June 16, 2003) A lack of moral leadership in the Moldovan government allows human traffickers to operate with a free hand in Moldova, said Victoria Cusnir, secretary general of the Christian Democratic Women's Society (Moldova). In her report on human trafficking, presented at a RFE/RL briefing last week, Cusnir said the current government of Moldova lacks the will to interdict or prosecute those trafficking in women and children, which has left Moldovan women and children particularly vulnerable to the international sex trade.
International monitoring agencies rank Moldova's economy as the least successful in Eastern Europe and its government the most corrupt of all former soviet republics. The resulting poverty has forced hundreds of thousands of Moldovans to seek work abroad, Cusnir said. In most cases, these victims of desperation have left illegally, without work permits, and often lose or give up their identification documents. She said the majority are poor, uneducated women and girls, and many end up victims of the sex and slave trade. The women are lured through misleading advertisements purporting to offer legitimate employment, or are kidnapped.
More than half of the women ensnared by traffickers are under the age of 18, very few are over the age of 30. Women from Moldova are sold into bondage in Southern and Western Europe, Turkey and Israel for between US$50-200, said Cusnir.
"There is no viable national strategy oriented toward the prevention and eradication of this social vice" according to Cusnir. Cusnir said that existing legislation in the Republic of Moldova deals comprehensively with the crime, but that these are not enforced by "corrupt and cynical" officials. Traffickers are rarely charged and in the few cases to be investigated, they have been given amnesty. She said a lingering Soviet mentality of apathy, cynicism and inhumanity pervades Moldova's government and only a fundamental change in the country's politics will eradicate the problem and focus on sustainable economic development.
Cusnir presented concrete proposals for dismantling slave networks, including the enforcement of existing legislation, educational outreach and victim rehabilitation. A federal witness protection program is essential to encourage victims to file charges, she said. Prevention awareness campaigns and training programs for legal professionals are also needed. Additionally, cooperation with the countries of destination to establish anti-trafficking networks is crucial. NGO's have provided the most consistent support to the country so far, but greater funding is needed to expand outreach into Moldova's rural areas, where more than half of the recruiting occurs.
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