Yesterday I attended the Ottawa premiere of “The Price of Sex”, a documentary film by renowned photojournalist Mimi Chakarova. In the film Chakarova, who was born in Bulgaria and emigrated to the United States in 1989 after the fall of Communism, documents the horrors of sex slavery in her former homeland and other countries in Eastern Europe. After earning the trust of victims over the course of many years, she was allowed to film several of the girls and young women affected by human trafficking as they recounted their heartbreaking and horrifying firsthand accounts. She also put herself into incredible danger by going undercover into the sex clubs where the women were being exploited. For this work, she was awarded Human Rights Watch’s 2011 Nestor Almendros Award for Courage in Filmmaking.
Hundreds of thousands of young women have been tricked into sex slavery. Many of them are single mothers, trying to support their families, and they jump at the promise of decent jobs elsewhere doing work such as waitressing or factory work. In fact, they become a commodity in the same illicit market that includes trafficking of narcotics and arms and they are treated with unbearable cruelty and indifference.
It is almost inconceivable to me that human beings could treat others with a level of cruelty that, were they to treat a dog like this, would land them in jail in the United States or Canada. The film opened my eyes to the scope and scorching pain of the human trafficking problem. While it is difficult to watch – you should see it. Ask your local library to obtain a copy of the film, or go to www.priceofsex.org to view an extensive multi-media presentation of her work. The best weapon against this blight is awareness.
Afterward there was a lively Q & A session with Chakarova. Julie and I then joined her for dinner, along with representatives of organizations in Canada and the United States including Human Rights Watch and Equal Voice as well as some of the people in the U.S. Embassy who work every day at combating human trafficking. We were able to continue the discussion about various aspects of the sex trade and possible solutions.
The President and Secretary Clinton have both forcefully condemned human trafficking as modern-day slavery and made its eradication a high priority. I’m glad that our Embassy was able to contribute to the very important effort to educate and inform the public about this issue.