June 2013

At Change Purse we believe in making change that lasts. Our mission is to encourage hope through raising awareness and investing into the lives of victims and survivors of sex trafficking. Each year Change Purse and those of you who partner with our mission, not only sell and collect purses, but also dedicate time to educate friends, family, and communities on the injustice of sexual slavery. Raising awareness is integral for putting an end to human trafficking. While Change Purse often shares facts and statistics associated with the current state of trafficking, particularly in the United States, we also find it important to take time to create a global awareness on the issue. We therefore write this issue and future global awareness pieces to deepen your knowledge of the complexities involved with trafficking around the world and further a sense of obligation to be involved in raising awareness on behalf of the men, woman, and children trapped in human slavery.


The first time I was exposed to the issue of sex trafficking I was sitting in an arena amongst thousands of women for an event called Colour Your World Conference at the Sydney Entertainment Center in Sydney, Australia. The three day conference had been filled with motivational speaking, worship, and empowered messages on female potential and humanitarian efforts to change the world. Christine Caine, Founder of the A21 campaign, a global campaign to eradicate sex trafficking through prevention, protection, and prosecution, shared about the millions trapped in sexual slavery and told personal stories of her encounters with the women and children she had assisted in rescuing and rehabilitating. All the accounts she shared left me in utter disbelief but there was one in particular that stayed with me for months and would ultimately lead to my own involvement in pursuing justice. Caine spoke about how in Ukraine one of the most vulnerable populations is orphaned children. In the summer months the state orphanages across the Ukraine shut down and the children are shipped to a distant “camp” where they are left on their own with only their basic needs met. It is at this “camp” where traffickers lurk, waiting to abduct children into slavery. When the orphanages reopen at the end of the summer, hardly any children are left to return. According to the Trafficking in Persons report for Ukraine, 50-60% of orphans and children on the street end up in some sort of trafficked situation. Because they aren’t registered in the country, there is no way of knowing they disappear or even exist. While children can easily be trafficked when orphanages close, it is also often the case that state orphanages will sell children to traffickers. Children aren’t the only ones who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Due to the Soviet collapse, Ukraine faced a major economic decline where one third of the population entered poverty and widespread unemployment occurred, particularly among women. Because of this, many women have entered prostitution out of desperation on the dangerous streets of cities like Kiev or Odessa. Some are even sold by friends or family members. Because of unemployment, women also turn to obtaining work in Western Europe to achieve a better life. However, traffickers often operate through employment and travel agencies, and thousands of Ukrainian women are tricked and become enslaved abroad, taken anywhere from Russia to Turkey, the Middle East, Western European countries, and China and Japan through Ukraine’s port in Odessa. Combating the sex trafficking situation in Ukraine is complicated. The Ukrainian government is currently putting its focus and resources onto other major issues facing the country such as poor public health and high rates of HIV, high unemployment, and government instability rather than the trafficking problem itself. In 1998, Ukraine was one of the first European countries to make a law against the trafficking of people, and in 2001 the government established a harsher punishment for those involved in trafficking. However, there has been little political commitment to tackle the issue and enforce punishments. In 2009, almost all convicted traffickers in Ukraine received zero jail sentences. A major part of the problem is the high rate of organized crime and police corruption in Ukraine following the Soviet’s collapse. Female pimps and traffickers often have “business” relationships with law enforcement, and prosecutors, border guards, and anti-trafficking police are usually heavily involved in the domestic and international sex trade of Ukraine. According to the 2012 Trafficking in Person Reports, "more Ukrainian men, women, and children have been trafficked abroad and forced into indentured labor or prostitution than in any other Eastern European country since the Soviet collapse." It has taken only less than a decade after the collapse for Ukraine to become a major hub for the international sex trade, sex tourism, child pornography, mail order brides, and prostitution. It is clear that the trafficking situation in Ukraine is both tragic and multifaceted in terms of what drives it and allows it to thrive. While trafficking exists all over the world, its characteristics are unique to its geography, culture, and history. As we bring awareness to global issues of slavery such as that in Ukraine, it is our hope that you will not become discouraged and paralyzed over the difficulties and tragic truths. Rather it is our desire that you respond with action and with fervent prayer, continuing to raise awareness and use your individual gifts to fight for freedom.

Sources: Denisova, T. A. (2001). Trafficking in women and children for purposes of sexual exploitaiton: The criminological aspect. Trends In Organized Crime, 6(3/4), 30. Fisher, M. (2005). From orange to red light. Transitions Online, 2. Pyshchulina, O. (2003). An evaluation of Ukrainian legislation to counter and criminalize human trafficking. Demokratizatsiya, 11(3), 403-411. Shuster, S. (2010). Prostitution: Ukraine's unstoppable export. Retrieved from http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2022987,00.html Townsend, M. (2011). Sex trafficking trade forces women from Odessa to massage parlours in Britain. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/jul/02/odessa-ukraine-sex-trafficking-investigation United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Ukraine, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30c8725.html [accessed 26 June 2013]

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.” –William Wilberforce

By Christiana Schuchert