Trafficking and prostitution: special report

“You totally forget what happiness is like. All you can wish for is death.”

These chilling words are spoken by a young woman trafficked into prostitution and supported by the Poppy Project.

She speaks in a new short film created with women trafficked from Lithuania, Russia and Sierra Leone into the UK sex industry. Sold Feelings is part of a new exhibition on prostitution at the Women’s Library in London.

It is timely because a report on human trafficking is to be published by the Joint Committee on Human Rights on Friday.

MPs and peers from the all-party committee are expected to criticise the government for treating women trafficked into the sex trade as illegal immigrants, rather than victims.

The report is likely to call for more services to support trafficked women, such as the Poppy Project. Run by the charity Eaves Housing for Women, Poppy provides accommodation and support for 25 women and is funded by the Home Office. Women stay for nine months on average.

Trafficking now supplies virtually all sex industries, fuelling and expanding sex markets, according to the exhibition.

Tower Hamlets in east London has at least 30 brothels and flats. A survey of women working in them in 2006 found only one in four were UK nationals, the exhibition reports.

Young people at risk of sexual exploitation from six Barnardo’s projects also contribute work to the exhibition. The young people explore their feelings through diaries, poems and art and have produced thoughtful and powerful work.

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