Cabaret owners lash out at sex trafficking claims

By Nassos StylianouCABARET owners launched a scathing attack against the authorities as the House Equal Opportunities Committee yesterday found that there were too many loopholes in attempts to tackle the sexual exploitation of women.

The Association of Cabaret Owners was furious that they had not been invited to yesterday’s meeting of the Equal Opportunities Committee on the issue of human trafficking in Cyprus. In a statement released by the Association, they said they were victims of public misinformation.

“In a democratic state, a thorough discussion should be had, something that is not taking place in Cyprus since we are not allowed to answer criticisms made against us,” their statement read.

They also condemned the police for allegedly using false declarations from witnesses, while the Justice Ministry was not immune from criticism either, with the cabaret owners claiming that refuge centres for victims of human trafficking were a “witness hatchery”.

The House committee said yesterday that they may consider inviting the cabaret owners to a meeting in two or three weeks, but first wanted to hear from various government departments in a bid to get to the root of the problem.

During yesterday’s meeting, it became apparent that sexual exploitation through human trafficking was not being tackled effectively, as court cases against suspects of sexual exploitation could take more than a year to be examined, meaning that the victims may have already left the country.

Rita Superman of the Cyprus Police’s Anti-Trafficking Unit Police confirmed that some victims were also being blackmailed and threatened by former employers into not giving evidence against them, while she added that nobody had been sentenced on the grounds of sexual exploitations and the length of sentences for people found guilty of similar crimes were not harsh enough.

Asked why cabarets and other nightspots notorious for sexual exploitation of women that were found guilty were not closed down, Superman said:

“Cabarets have been closed down in the past, but their owners always seem to find ways of getting around this, for example we have had cases where they simply changed the name of ownership and open the same business again,” she said.

The Mediterranean Institute of Management last week announced that trafficking of women for sexual exploitation in Cyprus has taken on dangerous dimensions after the latest US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report placed Cyprus on what is called the Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year.

Cyprus is the only EU country in that category.

Maria Poyiadji from the Social Welfare Service said that it was a serious problem of mentality on the island that gives Cyprus such a bad name in Europe when it came to human trafficking.

“There is a serious issue of a problem when it comes to mentality,” she said. “Victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation are not only found in cabarets, they can also be found in other places, even in village coffee houses,” she added.

According to Superman, the Anti-Trafficking Unit had noticed a shift in the countries of origin of victims of human trafficking, with a significant number of women who suffer from sexual exploitation on the island coming from the Dominican Republic.

“Fifteen out of the 41 victims this year are from the Dominican Republic. As the standard of living in Eastern Europe has gone up and awareness has increased in those countries, human traffickers are moving to other countries,” she said.

A Justice Ministry representative confirmed that victims of sexual exploitation from the Dominican Republic were told that they would be taken to Spain and have no idea of the kind of work lined up for them in Cyprus.


Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008


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