Thursday, January 03, 2008


Ordinary street, hidden horror. A trafficked woman was moved between three Cardiff brothels, one in West Bute Street, pictured above. Forced to see seven clients a day, her earnings were split between traffickers and brothel owners. David Rose / Panos Pictures

Behind the doors of ordinary-seeming flats, houses, hotels, a brutal form of modern slavery is taking place. And it’s happening worldwide. Vanessa Baird wonders why – and what can be done about it.

When I was 23, I responded to an ad that read: ‘Go-Go Girl Wanted.’

To be honest, I was not altogether sure what was meant by ‘go-go girl’. But I went – got the job and started straight away.

The hours were nine-to-five – the other nine, the other five. The pay wasn’t great, but I needed the money. I was living in Athens at the time and language-teaching opportunities had dried up as the long summer began. My rent was due in a few days’ time.

All I had to do, said the disco-bar owner – a balding Greek named Ringo – was talk to customers. That’s all. Talk to them and encourage them to buy drinks. And sometimes dance with them.

If I wanted to leave the establishment with a customer before the night was up, the latter would have to buy a bottle of champagne.

I didn’t see why I should want to do that.

I’ve been thinking about this interlude in my life quite a bit recently. And it fills me with horror.

Not because the experience was gruesome or exploitative, shameful or even regrettable – it was none of these. But because many of the young women who appear in the pages of this issue of the magazine did what I did: answered an ad in a paper and went for a job that might be a bit dodgy, because they needed the money.

The advertisement that Louisiana, a 26-year-old from Lithuania, responded to was innocuous by comparison. It was for cleaning and catering jobs in Britain. She travelled to England with a man from the job agency. ‘I had my own passport. But when we arrived he took my passport away and more...
Original article featured in NEW INTERNATIONAL September 2007, Issue 404.
Courtesy: New International

No comments: