Campaign against forced prostitution in Kosovo

PRISTINA, May 25, 2000 -- (AFP) NATO-led troops and United Nations workers in Kosovo have fed a mushrooming sex trade in which young girls are being forced into prostitution by criminal gangs, officials said Wednesday.

The explosion in prostitution in the Yugoslav province was largely down to the international presence there, said Pasquale Lupoli, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Lupoli was launching a campaign against forced prostitution from the regional capital Pristina to raise awareness among UN workers, KFOR troops and aid agency employees of the violence and intimidation used against the women.

Many had been lured from eastern Europe with the promise of jobs in the catering or leisure industry, but had then been forced into prostitution, said Lupoli.

"Once they cross the borders, the victims can be beaten up, sold, and their documents seized," he added.

There had been a "mushrooming of night clubs" and brothels in Kosovo since 40,000 KFOR troops and thousands of United Nations workers arrived in June 1999.

The Yugoslav province had not previously been known as a center of the sex trade, said Lupoli.

"The large international presence in Kosovo itself makes this trafficking possible," he added.

Seventy percent of the women had never been prostitutes before arriving in Kosovo. Aged between 16 and 25, they were living in Kosovo in difficult conditions "maltreated and with very little medical attention", said Lupoli.

The IOM helped repatriate women trying to return to their home country, said Lupoli. So far, it had helped 50 women, but he added: "It's the tip of the iceberg."

Nearly half were from Moldova, while others were from Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria.

The UN deputy police commissioner Gilles Moreau for Pristina said no brothel-keeper had so far been caught despite the fact that pimping is illegal, even though prostitution is not.

"We're making progress on this matter, but we are not yet a force with 25 years of experience," said the Canadian officer.

Some brothels simply moved when police started gathering information on them: others were based in people's homes.

He said organized crime was behind the sex trade in Kosovo, pointing the finger at expatriate Kosovars.

Some of the people behind the trade had offered their prostitutes to former KLA members the now-disbanded ethnic Albanian guerilla force, for free.

The IOM campaign is also being run in Bulgaria and Hungary, using leaflets, posters and radio messages.

The campaign carries the slogan: "You pay for a night -- She pays with her life."

Original article