A few days ago, I watched a film on the trafficking of human beings through Mexico to the United States. This was not a documentary, but one of the few, Hollywood-like films made on this subject. Even though I work with “victims of trafficking in human beings” everyday, the emotion that filled me yesterday watching this movie reminded me how much I block out all the most painful, dehumanizing details of the pasts of the persons we help here at TAMPEP.
Sometimes we talk about the migratory projects of the girls we help. For example, how this or that girl’s migratory project was interrupted by the strong machine that is trafficking. A girl leaves Romania, Morocco, Brazil, or Nigeria, or many other countries with promises of great job opportunities in Europe. What sometimes happens? Instead of sending money home to her children she is caught in an exploitative situation, controlled by and indebted to her madam or pimp. Should she at least escape from the debt, the possibilities of finding jobs, especially ones with legal contracts, and of obtaining real documents are slim.
Even when I’m not thinking about the more dramatic scenes, like those in the movie, of some of the pasts of these women – walking days through the Sahara to reach an embarking point across the Mediterranean, being raped along the journey before even setting foot in Europe – the everyday reality here of simply not finding work is depressing enough. Immigrants especially face difficulties. Those with documents can search out work in factories, cleaning agencies, homes of elderly people, or among businesses of their cultural community. Racism, or at least strongly held stereotypes, I feel, are relatively still strong in Italy, and limits and makes this search even harder – especially to find dignity and respect, and most importantly, a contract from one’s employer.
Yesterday I went to the court house to hear the testimony of a madam several of the girls under the care of TAMPEP have denounced (see blog “Not Legal, But Tolerated” for explanation of this legal procedure). Again I witnessed disappointment – even though the woman being questioned was possibly a criminal who has profited off the shame and pain of many girls, I still felt the way some of the Italian lawyers and judges treated her and the translator was overly disrespectful. I would argue that even if the judges were already convinced of her crimes, her awfulness, I felt the whole ordeal was not taken seriously by their behavior. Granted, this was my first time at one of these proceedings, but I don’t think it’s ever very polite to laugh at the responses or confusion of someone, obviously throw bored glances around the room, or blatantly not pay attention to the person speaking.
This month I have tried to call attention to the fact that the women we help here at TAMPEP have had difficult pasts, and even when they persevere to denounce their exploiters, seek legal employment, many difficulties unfortunately still await them. Of course, that’s why TAMPEP exists, to help them with all these things, confrontations. It’s just that sometimes it seems so depressing. But we are strong and we want to help, and most importantly, these women are also very strong, and they do not give up easily!
Posted By Michelle Lanspa
Posted Feb 28th, 2009