Action against Trafficking in Human Beings

CDEG/CDMM (1998) 010


Workshop on “good” and “bad” practices regarding the image of women in the media

The case of trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation


Palais de l'Europe
Strasbourg, 28-29 September 1998





Opening address by Mr Hans Christian KRÜGER, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Keynote speech by Ms Bernadette VAN DIJCK, Head of the NOS Gender Department The Netherlands
Good and bad practice regarding the image of women in the media
Keynote speech by Ms Teresa RIBEIRO, Chair of the Steering Committee on the Mass Media (CDMM)
Regulation or self-regulation by the media?
Theme A : Media and trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation: what is at stake?
Theme B : The use of new information technologies for trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation: practices and risks
Theme B : The use of new information technologies for trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation: practices and risks
Theme C : Prevention of trafficking and raising awareness among media professionals: possibilities for action
Theme C : Prevention of trafficking and raising awareness among media professionals: possibilities for action
Report of Working Group 1
Theme A: Media and trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation: what is at stake?
To what extent do the images of women and men as portrayed by the media have an effect on phenomena such as trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation?
Report of Working Group 2
Theme B: The use of new information technologies for trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation: practices and risks
Report of Working Group 3
Theme C: Prevention of trafficking and raising awareness among media professionals: possibilities for action
Report of Working Group 4
Theme C: Prevention of trafficking and raising awareness among media professionals: possibilities for action
Closing address by Mr Hanno HARTIG, Head of Division II, Directorate of Human Rights, Council of Europe

* * *

Opening address by Mr Hans Christian KRÜGER, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe

Ladies, Gentlemen,

We are gathered here today, in Strasbourg, under the auspices of the Council of Europe, for an important workshop on the portrayal of women in the media.

On behalf of the Council of Europe I would like to warmly welcome all participants, especially since this workshop will deal with a matter at the heart of the Council of Europe : the protection and promotion of women’s rights.

Our Organisation will commemorate its 50th anniversary next year. Since its creation it has constantly worked to ensure the respect for and the promotion of the human rights of all persons, without any distinction based on sex, age or race.

A good example of this is the holding of this workshop, which is organised jointly by the Equality and Media Sections of the Directorate of Human Rights of the Council of Europe. Another example is the Protocol on non-discrimination to the European Convention on Human Rights, which is under preparation within the Council of Europe.

The 40 member States that make up the Council of Europe have committed themselves to respect the Human Rights Convention. This is a pre-condition for their membership of the Organisation.

However, the basic principle of respecting the rights and freedoms of individuals is not solely a task for States but should also be an attitude prevalent in all segments of European society.

All of you present know that working in favour of human rights requires constant effort and tireless vigilance.

In this respect, I would like to highlight the important role that the media can play in promoting respect for human rights in general, and in particular as regards the image of women, which is the subject that brings us here today.

I welcome the fact that this workshop will explore the portrayal of women in television, newspapers and other media, and examine both the negative examples which create a stereotyped image of women as well as the good media practices portraying women accurately and positively.

One of the keynote speakers will address the question of the possible ways of dealing with sexist media practices : via regulation by the State or via self-regulation by the media ? Without anticipating the results of the discussion, I am convinced that self-regulatory mechanisms can be valuable in dealing with cases of gender discrimination within the media and that there is, therefore, scope for initiatives at this level.

A step forward would be, for example, if all the unions of journalists in our member States appointed officers responsible for equality issues within their organisations and if such unions worked actively towards raising the consciousness of their affiliated journalists on gender issues. Similar initiatives could be undertaken by media enterprises themselves as well as by training institutions.

Press and television codes of conduct do not all include guidelines on the fair and accurate portrayal of women. If they do, their references to gender issues are sometimes scarce. This is also a matter which will be examined in this meeting and is worth reflecting upon.

I also consider it very timely and significant that the workshop will examine the topic of new information technologies, in particular the Internet, which are, unfortunately, being used increasingly for trafficking in human beings for the purpose of prostitution and sexual exploitation.

This is not an isolated event, as it is linked to the work of the Council of Europe on trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Since 1991, the Council has launched a number of activities which deal with this increasingly alarming phenomenon.

On three occasions we have dealt with the sexual exploitation of children. In the spring of 1996 we co-organised with UNICEF a regional preparatory consultation in view of the Stockholm World Congress in June the same year. And in April this year we organised a follow-up conference to the Stockholm World Congress. The conclusions of the last follow-up conference now form a basis both in the legal and social fields of our activities for the protection of children, in line with decisions taken at the Second Summit of the Council of Europe in October 1997.

At the present, the further actions taken by our Organisation are twofold. One activity concerns awareness raising and is action oriented. In this respect, I should like to mention that an important seminar was organised in June this year here in Strasbourg. It gathered 150 participants representing NGOs from more than 40 States. The conclusions of this seminar included a number of recommendations addressed to NGOs, governments and the Council of Europe. Secondly, the Council of Europe is also active in the legal field : a group of specialists is now working on a draft recommendation on trafficking which, once adopted, will be sent by the Committee of Ministers to the member States.

The trafficking of human beings via new information technologies is undoubtedly a very worrying development that needs to be addressed and combated, in particular at the international level, given the global reach of the Internet. The difficulties in tracking down and controlling computer-related crime are well known, but nevertheless some actions are possible. We have recently witnessed, for example, the creation of Internet hotlines.

The existence of such hotlines is valuable because they offer Internet users an electronic address which they can use to report illegal sites. This, in turn, can lead to action by the police and to the arrest of the criminals involved.

The technical advances of the Information Society offer great opportunities. But they also pose new problems that require close attention. This is clearly an area in which much remains to be done.

I am convinced that the conclusions which will emerge from this workshop will be interesting and that they may lead, in particular, to self-regulatory action by the media.

I mentioned earlier the seminar which took place in June. Today’s workshop is organised in the same spirit : exchange of information, awareness-raising and follow-up action. But allow me to add that this workshop is particularly important for the two Committees that decided to organise it : the issues, which will be tackled here, are often difficult and some comprise new aspects for which new solutions need to be sought.

As professionals of the media and of equality you have an extensive and useful experience of these questions. We are eager to benefit from your know-how, but I hope that your discussions will also generate new ideas and strategies. Putting together a strategy against the degrading phenomenon of trafficking in human beings requires all sorts of skills and not the least : creativity. I therefore hope that your discussions, which are meant to be open and informal, will be stimulating and fruitful.

In any case, and to conclude, I consider that putting the subject of the media portrayal of women on the agenda and discussing specific questions in a workshop like the present one is already a positive step which in itself contributes to the promotion and strengthening of women’s rights.

Once again I welcome you all to this institution and thank you for the important work that will be carried out in the course of this workshop.

Thank you very much for your attention.

* * *

Keynote speech by Ms Bernadette VAN DIJCK, Head of the NOS Gender Department The Netherlands

Good and bad practice regarding the image of women in the media

After three decades of women’s movement, the prevailing image of women that European television gives us in 1998 is a great deal more old-fashioned and one-dimensional than reality. What effect does it have on the viewer? And, more importantly, is it possible to break the mould? These are the questions that the NOS's Gender Portrayal Department has been tackling ever since 1991. On the basis of research, we enter into the debate with programme-makers and policy-makers about ways of achieving change and greater diversity. This is no simple matter. Many programme-makers and politicians think that the women's emancipation debate is already old hat. Agreements have been reached, rules formulated, policy developed. But sadly this does not mean that the equal status of men and women is actually reflected in what we see on television. Formally, everyone subscribes to the equality of the sexes, but the way men and women are portrayed has seen very little change. On the contrary, there are signs of stagnation and backsliding in the amount of room that is given to a varied portrayal of men and women by public service television.

The one-dimensional representation of men and women on television is a sign that sexual inequality is deeply ingrained in our society. Regulation and voluntary agreements alone are not sufficient to make a breakthrough for equality. It is time to take concrete action for improvement at the gender portrayal level. The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, at its first meeting to consider follow up to the Fourth World Conference on Women (March 1996), identified Women and the Media as one of the themes for immediate follow-up action by the international community. In the context of this international concern it is remarkable that only a few media organisations have developed a company policy and practice in the field of gender portrayal. The European Union kindly subsidized in 1997/1998 a project of five Northern European public broadcast companies to develop a professional training package on Good Practice in Gender Portrayal on television.

Patterns in gender portrayal

In 1997/1998 comparative research was conducted in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands, working together in the Gender Portrayal Network, to look at the way men and women are portrayed on public service television. (Who speaks, 1997/1998). The criterion adopted was speaking time. In total, 350 hours of television and 10,000 persons were analysed. The study reveals a structural inequality in the amount of time that men and women appear on screen and in the amount of time they are given to speak. The average is 66% men versus 33% women. Any differences between the countries involved in the study are only marginal. Studies from Belgium and Germany show similar results.

In Norway this research has been done for ten years. After an initial slight improvement the average is now the same as it was ten years ago. The same negative tendency can be seen in the Netherlands. There are, however, large differences between the various programme genres: the greatest equality is found in programmes for children and young people and in religious programmes, though the proportion of women nowhere exceeds 50%. The proportions are at their most unbalanced in sports programmes: in the Netherlands, 97% of the people appearing in sports programmes are of the male sex.

From the results of this research we can conclude that women are quite literally less visible on our public service television networks. This means fewer opportunities for recognition and establishing an identity. At a symbolic level it might be said that women are given less space and are regarded as less important. Qualitative research reveals that women are structurally assigned a lower status than men and are treated with less respect.

Aspects of gender portrayal

• Traditional roles: often we see men in the role of expert, politician or scientist: in short, as people in authority. Women are more often seen as victims, mothers or housewives or as a silent background: in short, in positions dictated by physical aspects. Even where a programme has two presenters there is often a conventional division of roles: the woman handles the “cosy” items and does the introductions, while her male colleague conducts the serious interviews.

• Camera angles: women are more often filmed from a higher position so that we as the viewer look down on them. This emphasises their lack of authority. It is worth noting that this happens even in the case of women politicians or experts. However, there is a simple explanation: camera operators tend to be men, and as such they are often taller than the woman they are filming so that the camera angle is unwittingly higher.

• Interview techniques: Interviewers often use different approaches in the way they address men and women. Women are less likely to be given the floor and they are interrupted more often. There is also a tendency for a woman to be addressed by her forename whereas a man is commonly addressed by his surname.

• Commentaries: these tend unconsciously to adhere to the conventional division of roles as their governing principle. Women as experts and men as caring figures are exceptions.

• Setting: women are more often filmed in a “cosy” setting such as a garden or living-room. Men are seen more often against a professional background, e.g. an office.

* * *

The average of women and men appearing on screen. Source: Who speaks 1997/19980

One example

A weekly chat show discusses the theme of “successful immigrant”'. At the beginning of the programme the host introduces the people with whom he intends to discuss this subject. They are immigrants from a variety of European and African countries. A number of academics and politicians have also been invited to take part. All ten guests are male.

A show like this creates the impression that all successful immigrants are men. This is not borne out by reality: there are plenty of immigrant women who have successfully started their own businesses or made careers for themselves in the academic world or in government. It probably never occurred to the makers of the programme to go out and look for these women: their own starting points, their own perceptions, are so much taken for granted that there is no room for other angles. The story of immigrant women might have added a new dimension to the debate, which would probably have benefited as a result.

How to promote good practice?

Gender portrayal is an abstract concept which cannot yet be assumed to be part of a programme-maker's thinking, yet the picture that programme-makers have of men and women - along with their picture of black and white and of old and young - determines what we ultimately see on television.

Conceptual images usually lag behind the real world. In other words, the picture we are shown on television of the division of roles between men and women is generally a lot more stereotypical than the reality. The best insight into the way in which perceived images come about can be gained from a discussion of actual programme examples with programme-makers. Starting from that insight, it is then possible to take the first steps towards greater awareness of how images are - and could be - shaped. In the package “Promoting good practice in Gender Portrayal” the partners of the Gender Portrayal Network develop two training videos and a textbook with background information. The textbook and the video explain different aspects of gender representation and can be used to start reflection and debate.

A second step is to look for alternatives which are both practicable and practical in the context of the hectic pressure of actual journalism. Seeking these simple alternatives does, however, particularly in the initial stages, take time and effort. It may mean putting extra energy into the search for good women experts and spokespeople, or investing more time in preparing and recording interviews. To promote good practice in gender portrayal we mainly use arguments of quality. Because experience has shown one important lesson: stereotyped images of men and women flower in routines.

Breaking the mould of routine in gender portrayal produces an all-round improvement in the quality of the television programme. This, apart from the appeal to the social responsibility of public service broadcasting, is an important argument for persuading programme-makers and broadcasting managers of the importance and the potency of the whole subject of gender portrayal.

The NOS Gender Portrayal Department forms part of the Gender Portrayal Network, a cooperation between six European broadcasting organizations: SVT (Sweden), NRK (Norway), YLE (Finland), DR (Denmark) and ZDF (Germany). The goal of this international network is to draw Europe-wide attention to gender portrayal as an aspect of programme quality. The GPN has published “Who speaks, a quantative study on gender portrayal” in 1998. In production is an audiovisual toolkit on Promoting Good Practice in Gender Portrayal.

The NOS Gender Portrayal Department was set up on an initiative of the Working Party on Gender Portrayal, first established in 1985 under the name “Women in the Picture”. The Working Party on Gender Portrayal consists of programm- makers drawn from practically all the Dutch broadcasting organisations, and functions as a sounding board and primary advisory body for the Department. The NOS Portrayal Department began in 1991 as a five-year project. In 1996, it was decided to extend the project until October 1999. Three organisations support the project financially: the Dutch public broadcasting organisation NOS, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. The Gender Portrayal Department forms part of the Common Staff and Services section of the NOS, and has a staff of two.


1992 Het Doctor Clavan-complex
An introduction to the Portrayal Department

1993 Mieke, hoe is de stand?
Research results for 1992 of the Portrayal Department

1994 Mooi of meedogenloos
Beautiful or bold, the NOS Portrayal Department looks at Dutch drama

1995 Horen zien en voelen
Viewer identification with female and male characters in television drama

1996 Met het oog op m/v
Five years of the NOS Portrayal Department

1996 Informative programmes
Media portrayal of women and men

1998 Balanced gender portrayal makes for better programmes
Renewing acquaintance with the NOS Gender Portrayal Department

* * *

Keynote speech by Ms Teresa RIBEIRO, Chair of the Steering Committee on the Mass Media (CDMM)
Regulation or self-regulation by the media?

Ladies and gentlemen,

Four years ago, in June 1994, the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG) and its Steering Committee on the Mass Media (CDMM) took the initiative of holding a seminar, here in Strasbourg, on the responsibility of the media for the image that they portray of women.

One of the closing recommendations made by the seminar participants was that the Council of Europe should organise a practical activity to raise awareness of that responsibility within the media, and consider with them ways of promoting a truer image of women, beyond the familiar clichés and stereotypes.

Four years on, those clichés and stereotypes are still with us. Of course, not all the media are to blame and it is not always the same image of women that is portrayed even within a single newspaper or in the various programmes on one television channel. Our worst mistake would be to lapse into clichés about clichés, lumping all the media together and condemning them en bloc.

Many in-depth reports and documentary programmes have served to increase our awareness and understanding of the (sometimes difficult) situations that women have to face in society.

The images, recently seen all over the world, of women forced to wear the veil and excluded from social life by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan are, in my opinion, an eloquent example of how, by providing information, the media can alert us (possibly in a brutal or shocking fashion) to the way that women – sometimes millions of women – are living, or being denied the right to live.

Exposing and denouncing are – and must be – an important part of the media’s role in society. But does this mean that the media landscape in which we live is all that it should be? I do not think so.

How many times have we seen the type of television reports that I mentioned just now preceded or followed by adverts that portray a less than positive image of women? I am certainly not suggesting that they should paint a glorified – and necessarily false – picture but, at the very least, the image should be one that respects women’s dignity as human beings.

In my view, there is still much to be done - in our democratic societies as well as in societies ruled by the likes of the Taliban. There is still much to be done in society generally, but also within the media. By way of evidence, I need only cite the example of something that we see frequently on television in many European countries. If you think I am referring to those oh-so-familiar game shows, in many of which the women’s only function is to be decorative as the prizes are handed over, then you are wrong.

I am thinking further, to the case of television news programmes – which is just as revealing as that of the game shows and variety programmes that we all know. There is a strange phenomenon, not uncommon in European countries, of news programmes using male anchormen on weekdays, when the news is supposed to be serious, while at the weekend, when it assumed that the news content is lighter, the same programmes are fronted by women.

It is obvious that serious efforts still have to be made. But in what direction? That is the question I should like to address in the few minutes I have left.

To borrow a term frequently used in discussions about the place of women in society, should “parity” between male and female news presenters be imposed on the media and on programme editors? Of course not. Regulation cannot be the right way to proceed in this case, for two reasons. In the first place, it would inevitably lead to interference in the editorial independence of the media – a basic tenet of democratic society. And secondly, regulation would only address the issue at a superficial level.

As I see it, the main problem posed by the under-representation of women in senior posts and the misleading, and sometimes degrading, image of them conveyed by some sections of the media is one of attitudes. Things will change only when the problem of attitudes is tackled. And that is something that only the media themselves can do.

That was the thrust of Mr Krüger’s message, in his opening speech, when he floated the idea of voluntary action by media unions to appoint officers responsible for equality issues.

It was also the thrust of some of the practical recommendations that emerged from the seminar I referred to in my opening remarks. Allow me to remind you of a number of those recommendations:

- training of journalists should include programmes on gender equality in the media; [and], in the working environment, gender equality in the media can be promoted through contracts of employment;
- advertisers should be made aware of the fact that the promotion of gender equality might open up new markets;
- self-regulatory bodies should be encouraged to organise hearings, ad hoc consultations etc … on the issue of gender equality and the media.

I believe that self-regulation is still the key, at least in those areas where the behaviour and responsibility of the media is not subject to the common rules of human community that govern us all, and within which civil and criminal law mark the boundary between what is possible and what society will not tolerate.

That is – and always has been – the approach taken by the steering committee that I represent, which, a fortnight from now, is to hold an information seminar on media self-regulation, in this very building. In particular, that seminar will seek to improve awareness and understanding of the value of self-regulation in the Council of Europe’s new member states.

In the sphere that concerns us today, the law steps in when means of communication are used to violate individuals’ human dignity or thwart their free will. Obviously, the case of communication tools being used in the trafficking of human beings, particularly women, for the purpose of sexual exploitation has to be punishable by law.

The authorities must take resolute action to combat this phenomenon. But unless their action has the backing of society as a whole, it will be ineffective. Individuals and the intermediary groups that constitute civil society also have a particular responsibility: they must shoulder that responsibility and not leave everything to the authorities.

On this subject, Mr Krüger told us earlier not only how hard it was to prevent the new, global communication networks being used for trafficking in women and forced prostitution, but also how self-help networks and hotlines (set up spontaneously by groups and individuals and by Internet professionals, including access providers) could play a useful role in the battle.

For my part, I should like to emphasise again how the media – traditional as well as new – can contribute in that battle, simply by informing the public of the nature and ramifications of the human-trafficking and forced-prostitution networks, addressing the message first and foremost to the women who are the potential victims. Likewise, both the traditional and the new media have a unique role to play in raising public awareness of the self-help networks and hotlines that I mentioned earlier: explaining how they work and how to access them.

Lastly, the work of the media can also have a deterrent effect by informing individuals who are involved, or wish to get involved, in human-trafficking networks about the penalties they could incur. I regard the media coverage of the battery of legislation recently introduced by various European governments to combat sex tourism, especially to Third World countries, as a useful point of reference here.

Information, awareness-raising and training – both for the public, through the media, and for the media themselves: these things are, in my view, the key to success in any strategy for guaranteeing the rights of women as human beings and for promoting a more balanced image of women.

The law must remain the dominant regulator only in those areas where the specific nature of the media and communication tools is no longer a factor in the reckoning. And even in areas primarily regulated by the law, I believe that the three-pronged approach of information, awareness-raising and training retains its value, as a means of ensuring that the law is applied as effectively as possible.

I hope that, by the end of this two-day workshop, we shall have identified together a number of lines of action that reflect the three-pronged approach. I hope, too, that after the seminar, when we have all left Strasbourg and returned to our own day-to-day professional and social lives, we shall relay those lines of action to others.

For its part, the Steering Committee on the Mass Media, which I represent here, will not fail to take on board our findings. In that way the seminar can contribute to the work that is currently being done under the heading of self-regulation of the new communication services – at least, that is my hope.

And, on that note, I will conclude.

Thank you for your attention.

* * *

Theme A : Media and trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation: what is at stake?

To what extent do the images of women and men as portrayed by the media
have an effect on phenomena such as trafficking
for the purpose of sexual exploitation?

Presentation by
Director of the Nordic Journalist Centre
Århus, Denmark

I have been a journalist for approximately 20 years. I have worked with newspapers, magazines, radio and television in Iceland, Norway and the USA. During the last eight years I have been teaching and running a programme for future Icelandic journalists at the University of Iceland while I, myself, got my education in journalism in Norway and the United States. During the last ten years I have become more and more interested in the female aspect of journalism and interested in the pictures mass media draw of women. I have done some studies in Iceland on the issue of women and mass media. Through that work, I have become more and more aware of the power of the media and the important role journalists have in modern life, or could have if they decided to use the power in the right way.

Approximately one year ago I moved away from Iceland to Århus, Denmark, to become the Director of the Nordic Journalist Centre. The Nordic Journalist Centre offers extended courses for journalists in the Nordic countries as well as in the Baltic region and Russia.

This change in my professional life has to some extent moved my work away from the gender issue for the time being - but not totally, - as proven today by my presence here in Strasbourg.

This is my background in a nutshell. For my comments today, I draw on my experience as a journalist, as a teacher, as a woman and as a mother.

During my working life I have gradually become more and more aware of the importance of the media in influencing opinion and attitudes. Schools may teach marketable skills, but the media shape perception. I did not realise this when I started in journalism as a young woman. Then I believed I was describing reality. But I did not think about how that reality was defined. Today I claim that the definition of that reality was both rather masculine and a very simplified one. When I first started to work at a news desk, for Iceland's largest daily newspaper, I was taught what was and was not news. It was also made clear to me who could – and perhaps more important who could not – be used as a news source. This became my reality. I felt secure within that framework.

Then after fifteen years as a working journalist I went back to school. Suddenly I was a middle-aged student, having time on my hands to reflect and raise questions, studying in a foreign country and reading literature about mass media and their power to influence change, whether for better or for worse. I began to realise how many pieces of the world had not been included in what I had been defining as news. I realised too how few women my bosses had taught me were acceptable news sources.

I gradually became uneasy about journalism and more and more questions came into my mind about this profession and our power as journalists. What kind of a history are we creating? And how do we affect the society we live in? These unpleasant questions led to me becoming involved in a large study about the coverage of men and women on Icelandic State Television. I wanted to be able to see more clearly how much share women got in the news versus men and what women were asked about or not asked about etc.

My findings were that women are under-represented in the media and, when they are presented, they often suffer from being portrayed as stereotypes and are only interviewed on a limited number of issues.

If we look at the Icelandic televised news in the year 1998, the fact is that only about one out of every five interviews is with a woman. And that is a great improvement on earlier periods in my study, where one out of ten interviews was with a woman. I have done some calculations and found out that, with the same speed, women in Iceland will have an equal share in the daily news around the year 2032. Today, it often happens in the Icelandic TV newscast that you do not hear one single woman comment on what is happening in the world.

My findings also manifested that often women are presented as sexual objects, although this has nothing to do with the real story. There would be a focus on the age of the woman, her looks, clothes, marital status, number of children, husband etc. The topics they are interviewed about concern issues such as day care, the elderly, social work, and - of course – the question of equal rights.

An international study which my students at the University of Iceland participated in shows that this is not only an Icelandic problem. It is an international problem. A world-wide study focusing on women's participation in the news, called the Global Media Monitoring Project – Women's Participation in the News, showed that women represent 43 per cent of journalists and, at least in some parts of the world, are nearing equality with men. On the other hand, women make up only 17 per cent of interviews, and equality with men is a distant prospect in any region of the world.

Based on these findings, one can say that the women of the world today are a silent but a sexy gender when it comes to the daily news coverage.

I come from a small country, Iceland, and from a very homogeneous nation. When I was a child in my tiny village in the north of Iceland a foreigner was a rare phenomenon. I saw a person with a dark coloured skin for the first time when I was a teenager. During the last 20 years this society has changed a lot. People from Iceland do travel much more than before and a great number of people come to Iceland every year, either as tourists or as immigrants. Sexual exploitation has become a fact of life there as in the rest of Europe, although this issue has not been discussed a lot in the Icelandic media. Therefore, I cannot draw much experience from there on the issue focused on here in Strasbourg today, but rather from my new work in

Last year I was invited to speak at a conference in Latvia. The title of the conference was Women and Men in Dialogue. For the first time I was exposed to the dialogue about gender in Eastern Europe, mainly the Baltic States and Russia. It was a real eye-opener to find out that the discussion we in the North had been involved in for years had just started in this part of the world. The so-called problems we are dealing with in the West were so different from the problems being presented by the speakers from Eastern Europe. Prostitution, sexual misuse and violence within the home were hidden issues and should not be written about in the media. One could still feel a very strong need among the participants from the East to hide the negative sides of life in their countries.

I saw this conference as a very important one, because it built up some bridges between us and journalists and researchers from that part of the world. It also highlighted some of the problems people in the Baltic States had not wanted to discuss openly earlier.

As a follow-up to this conference, The Nordic Journalist Centre decided to run seminars in the Baltic States about women and media.

The reaction from my male colleagues from the Baltic States was “Uff – Sigrun – this is not an issue here”, but then I found some female colleagues who were interested and willing to co-operate and who saw it as a very important issue. We got around 50 female journalists from Estonia and Latvia and around 90 from Lithuania to come and this led to a very lively dialogue about gender issues. For me it was very interesting to be present when female journalists from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for the first time began to ask themselves questions about the picture drawn of women in their own country and what role and responsibilities they have as female journalists.

Last winter I was lucky enough to receive a grant from the Council of Europe which made it possible to run a joint seminar in Kirkenes in North Norway for Russian journalists from Murmansk and for Norwegian journalists living in the northern part of Norway. The idea for this seminar came from a Russian female journalist who felt very strongly about how the Norwegian journalists had been covering the issue of Russian women travelling across the border from Russia to Norway for the purpose of prostitution. She felt that the issue had been over-dramatised and that the consequences could be measured in very negative attitudes towards all Russian women coming over the border. She also claimed that general prejudice towards Russians in general had been increasing and she tied those things together.

The target group was professional journalists operating in the Finmark/Murmansk regions and working daily with the issue of Russian women travelling across the border to North Norway. The Norwegian media have been very preoccupied with this issue and have often conveyed a simplified picture of the problem and given all Russian women who have crossed the border the same negative stamp as prostitutes. This has created an extremely negative approach in Norway towards their neighbours in the East.

Some Norwegian newspaper clippings were presented at the seminar. They were quite one-sided, with the focus on Russian women travelling over the border, and the title of one of the articles was “We are being judged like whores”. In the article itself there was much talk about sex, alcohol, police and a good deal about how useful and good and necessary the Russian women were for the Norwegian men. The women were being talked about as THE GIRLS, although they were said to be around 40 years old. Some extra spice in the story was the question raised in the very beginning of the article about the mafia and how it stood behind the travelling of the Russian women. Easy selling material for a newspaper!

I was in Norway this summer and I found a fresh copy of the newspaper Verdens Gang, the biggest newspaper in the country, where the whole front page was covered with one story: “They are waiting for Norwegian husbands. Russian women in a secret camp.” Big pictures covered the first page where the women were exposed as sex objects.

The general objective of the seminar in Kirkenes was to bring to light the size of the problem of sex trafficking over the border and to compare and contrast the viewpoints of Norwegian journalists and those who come from Murmansk. Where does the truth lie and where do prejudices blind the journalists? How many Russian women travel over the border and what are their objectives? Who is the guilty one in the act, the prostitute or the customer of service? Those were some of the questions the participants were working on in Kirkenes.

The specific objective was to create an understanding about the situation of women in Russia and how their lives have developed throughout the century and their situation in the modern society of Russia today. The objective was also to encourage journalists on both sides of the border to write with more insight about the subject in order to make the general public, both in Norway and in Russia, better informed about the cross cultural problems in the far North and their roots.

Did we get answers to all these questions and did we reach all the objectives? No - we did not, but some answers were found.

The first was that the Norwegian journalists who had been writing so eagerly about the Russian prostitutes did not seem very interested to come and discuss the issue on a serious level with Russian colleagues. That was not hot news and could even become uncomfortable. More knowledge could also make it less easy to jump into a new fresh and exciting story about the selling of Russian sex.

The second answer was that the Norwegian news coverage about trafficking across the border was very clearly causing harsh reactions towards Russian people in general visiting this part of Norway. They were not welcome. This also applied to the Russian journalists at the conference and the attitudes of their Norwegian colleagues.

But the question still remains whether the image of women and men as portrayed by the media has an effect on trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. This is a very difficult question and hard to measure.

But I dare say that the media picture of women as the silent, sexy gender and the oversimplified media picture of women who are selling sex or something else certainly does not help women in general to reach equality and gain respect from the other gender.

I dare also say that this type of media coverage does not lead to increased self-respect by the women involved. I would guess that the very fact of how they are being pictured in the press does not make it more likely that the women involved get possibilities to change and improve their lives.

To sell and buy sex are two sides of the same coin. To expose only one side of the story seems to make it OK in the eyes of journalists to buy sex while it is a crime to sell it. The men caught in the act keep their respect, while the women are stamped as whores. Why did the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang not publish a picture of the men who came to the hidden camp and paid 2,500 Norwegian Crowns to look at the Russian brides-to-be? I wonder! Maybe because the journalist was a man and the photographer also. Or maybe because journalists seem to think it is OK to buy but not to sell? Or maybe it is the fact that the readers prefer to see pictures of nice-looking women rather than a picture of some men who are desperately buying themselves into the camp in the same way you buy yourself a ticket into an amusement park or Tivoli? But one thing is sure. The newspaper coverage of the hidden camp has increased the selling of tickets into the camp, and even led to some Russian-Norwegian sexual relationships. Whether they ended in marriage is another story.

You might think from what I have been saying that I like to put all the blame of media coverage on male journalists. I said earlier that almost half of the journalists working in the world are women. How do they write about the problem and why do they let this type of media coverage be published? I think that women are less likely to write such stories as these, but at the same time they lack the power to change the coverage. Women in power positions within the media are still far too few. If they had the power men have today to make decisions they could – and would - change the media coverage. But while males are in command at the news desks and as long as the audience seems to like to pay for news about sex and violence, I do not predict many changes for the benefit of the women whose destiny is to be selling the most important property in life – their own body - housing their own self respect or the lack thereof.

* * *

Theme B : The use of new information technologies for trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation: practices and risks

Presentation by
Dipl.-Psych. (Psychologist)
President of the Lobby for Human Rights, Germany
Country expert: European Observatory on Violence against Women
(European Women’s Lobby, Brussels)

· Introduction

Information technology (IT), in interaction with sexualised violence against women, girls and children of both sexes, nowadays has reached the status of a “tradition”.

About ten years ago, some specialised policemen, psychologists and human rights experts who were regularly using computers started warning politicians about this new development. They stated and/or predicted that IT can be used to spread and increase sexualised violence. These warnings were due to the fact that in those times the first hard-core porn on CD-ROM was offered to the public, and pictures showing children being tortured by adult men or even dogs had already appeared on the net (e.g. in Usenet groups like “” or even as front pictures of certain mailboxes/home pages).

These people were also warning about future developments concerning organised crime, because they knew that:

1. No other industrial branch had ever been so inventive as the so-called sex industry. They feared the same would happen with IT as with video technology some years before (no other branch like pornographic industry had ever made more profits with these new technical artefacts);
2. Pedocriminals1, child “porn”-producers, child “porn”-traders and others were/are people with a high level of education, social status and money, who had/have a vivid interest in not being detected;
1. The new media and IT tools would precisely fit their interests: almost no possibility of being detected, perfect privacy, a growing offer of children, women or videos and pictures, a growing market etc;
1. Single persons and organisations could strengthen and empower themselves with the help of IT.

It is a dreary fact that these people, warning about the new possibilities and developments, were not heard and were even accused of being hysterical etc. I remember these reactions very well, because I was one of them making public what I had seen on the net or in other media (e.g. interactive hard core porn on CD-ROM or terrible torture scenes in Usenet etc.).

Secondly, it was not until the terrible scandals in Belgium became public that politicians and the media seriously began to consider this problem.

Beforehand, the media had preferred simply to talk about sex in cyberspace: using “sex” and new pornographic possibilities as a topic to increase their sales; of course at the cost of women’s dignity and women’s human rights.

An interest concentrating on increasing violence due to the help of IT did not even exist in those times. The only interest in those days was “sex”, which now proved to be fatal. We obviously “needed” the Belgian case and others to make a conscious shift from “sex” to “crime”. What a sad and cynical reality!

· Developments
It doubtless would be interesting to make a sociological analysis of this special kind of ignorance by the media and the public; but I think it is more important to show what happened during this period in order to make a shift:
1. During the last decade, organised crime circles established themselves nicely and developed perfect strategies to hide their criminal acts against women and/or children.

1. We are now confronted with a new kind of “production of victims”; these are:

      · women/children who are directly abused through the production of videos;
      · surfing children who get into contact with interactive porn or pictures on the net;
      · surfing children who get into contact with and/or are being “groomed”2 by pedocriminals in the Internet Relay Chat (IRC);
      · human beings who survived porn productions can get severely retraumatised because of the new possibilities of the IRC, the World Wide Web (www) and other IT tools. It is simply unbearable for them to imagine that their private documentation of torture now can be seen by millions of people in the whole world;
      · some of the survivors of porn productions dare to speak in public about their torture and some of them are now terrorised by perpetrators, who “inform” them where they can find their own “child pictures” on the net;
      · relatives of victims who see similar pictures while using internet or www;
      · the new generation of kids who grow up learning that documentation on sexualised violence (human rights violations) seems to be “normal”, because nobody really seems to do anything against it; and even “better”: one can produce it on one’s own and even make good money by selling it.

This development of ongrowing violence will not be stopped as long as laws between or within countries are far from being compatible. If one only looks at the different shelter ages for child porn then one can see that these legal incompatibilities help criminals while endangering children and women. Different shelter ages lead to the fact that in one country so-called porn is forbidden because it is qualified as child porn; whilst in another country it is legal because there it is qualified as adult porn.

Criminals know the laws of different countries very well and escape with the help of their knowledge by using the country where it is simply easier with respect to certain laws.

Additionally we observe a development in the www showing that (ab)users are not only informed about (new) laws in different countries but also about possibilities how to “overcome” legal restrictions and/or about the advantages of some laws in certain countries.

With the www we see the latest development of the “fruitful” interaction between IT and sexualised violence against women and/or children.

Electronic agencies are offering their services as travel agencies in the real world (rl). They offer so-called “sex tours” for at least 80 countries throughout the world.

But in reality they are nothing more than a big tool for abusing women and/or children, doing so systematically and in a well-organised way.

· Practices and new possibilities

These agencies are spreading more and more because they offer different and obvious advantages for their male consumers. The advantages in comparison with traditional print catalogues are (among others):

· no need of P.O. boxes or other hiding strategies (from neighbours, wives etc.)
· high quality of pictures
· permanent updates of the women to be “consumed”
· possibility of presenting running pictures
· latest information on legal developments (chances or possible dangers) in different countries
· possibility of booking a whole “holiday” as a “sex tourist” from his own PC
· possibility of booking concrete brothels, hotels, women, children with their special “offers” or “abilities” and the costs of these “services” (also information about pimps who offer minors etc.)
· possibility of chatting after such a holiday in order to exchange experiences like:

      · how to reduce costs (e.g. by knowing the economical situation of the country which implies that women will be even cheaper)
      · how to avoid “bad experiences”: that means experiences of men with women or children who were not able to hide their pain or fear
      · streets, cities, brothels with new offers
      · how it was with certain women (e.g. how their flesh felt: if it was young or not)
      · how they abused women and/or children (with descriptions in detail) and how they reacted
      · etc.

The crucial point with such electronic agencies is that phenomena like “trafficking”, “mail order brides”, “sex tourism” etc. cannot be differentiated any more.

They are differentiated in the real world (also from a legal point of view) but in the virtual world that doesn’t make sense any more, because the same woman and/or child is/can be (ab)used for everything.

· That means: it is possible for men to book one or more women (no matter where in the world she may be) and “try her out”. Maybe these “try outs” are the end of this kind of abuse (“sex tourism”).
· But it is also possible to try her out and lead her home in order to marry her (“mail order brides”).
· And it is also possible to lead her home and abuse her by selling her to brothels, pimps etc. (“forced prostitution”).

As far as laws are concerned, this kind of phenomena and possibilities of exploitation have a big and growing chance of survival, because women are by no means sheltered by laws.

In Australia, officials observed that some men abused with so-called “serial sponsoring” of up to seven women over the years. It was easy for them to do and not illegal. They just went into a country of the so-called third world, tried out women, led one home and married her.

At a point where they didn’t want the woman any more (mostly due to the fact that the woman could no longer endure the violence), they got divorced, the woman had to leave the country and the man started with another “investigation” ending up in another marriage.

An American colleague, at a conference held in London two years ago, stated that if agencies offered heroin or other things as openly as they do with respect to women, police and others would act soon and with full power.

I think she is right, and this fact reveals another crucial point of the problem: Women’s rights are by no means human rights in this world.

· Risks

But the development goes on.

One phenomenon – due to new technical possibilities – is “interactive live strip”. This means that you can – from any point in the world – consume a strip e.g. in Manila, and you can even be interactive. You can tell the woman what she has to do or tell others what they have to do to her.

In order to do so, one only needs software for video conferencing, which is available on the www and costs nothing.

These technical artefacts include the possibility to create real-time interactive child abuse as well. From experience we know that technical possibilities sooner or later will be put to use, or should I say abuse?

With all this technical stuff, IT’s further development and IT artefacts, there is one sad and certain truth:
If we are not able to stop exploitation, slavery methods as well as all the traditional and new forms of sexualised violence against women in the real world, we will never be able stop it in the virtual world.

· Literature

Breiner, S.J., 1990, Slaughter of the Innocents - Child Abuse through the Ages and Today, Plenum Press, New York.
Gallwitz, A., Paulus, M., 1997, Grünkram - Die Kinder-Sex Mafia in Deutschland, Verlag Deutsche Polizeiliteratur, Hilden.
Gerstendörfer, M., 1992, Pornos im Computer: Neue Mode oder logische Weiterführung bisheriger Menschenrechtsverletzungen?, Terre Des Femmes Rundbrief 3/4/92, S.19-22.
Gerstendörfer, M., 1994, IT und die Problematik der Gewalt gegen Frauen, In: Arbeitspapiere zur Tagung "Erfahrung und Abstraktion - Frauensichten auf die Informatik", Universität Hamburg, Mitteilung Nr. 233, 1994, S.82-88.
Gerstendörfer, M., 1994, Computerpornographie und virtuelle Gewalt: Die digital-symbolische Konstruktion von Weiblichkeit mit Hilfe der Informationstechnologie (Ein Problemaufriß), beiträge zur feministischen theorie und praxis, Köln S.11-22.
Gerstendörfer, M., 1995, Computerpornos auf CD-ROM-Disketten und sexualisierte Gewalt gegen Frauen und Kinder durch weltweite Computernetze, Kofra 76, Nov./Dez./95, 13.Jg., S.3-10.
Gerstendörfer, M., 1995, Medien - Gewalt - Computer: Computerpornos auf CD-ROM und sexualisierte Gewalt gegen Frauen, TdF-RB 4/95, S.11-17..
Gerstendörfer, M., 1996, Computer as the Place of Violence, Lola Press, international feminist magazine, Berlin, Montevideo, may-octobre, No. 5, p. 40-44
Gerstendörfer, M., 1996, Violencia por Computadora, Lola Press, revist feminista international, Berlin, Montevideo, mayo-octubre, No. 5, p. 40-44
Gerstendörfer, M., 1997, Das Internet: Bühne und Börse für die massenhafte Verbreitung von schwersten Mißhandlungen an Kindern, Kofra 82, Febr./März, 15. Jg, S.3-9.
Gerstendörfer, M., 1997, Violence in information technology (opening speech), conference report: Policing the Internet, ALG London Government (13th and 14th February), p.10-12 (also french short version).
Gerstendörfer, M., 1997, Geisterfahrer auf der Datenautobahn, Frankfurter Rundschau 31. Mai.
Gerstendörfer, M., 1998, Informationstechnologie und die digitale Konstruktion von Frauenkörpern, metis Zeitschrift für historische Frauenforschung, Nr.13, 7. Jg. 98, S. 51-63.
Hughes, D., 1997, Protecting the dignity of women (opening speech), conference report: Policing the Internet, ALG London Government (13th and 14th February), p.13-17 (also french short version).
Milgram, S., 1993, Das Milgram-Experiment, Rowohlt, Reinbek (Orig. 1974).
Spender, D., 1995, Nattering on the Net - Women, Power and Cyberspace, Pinifex, Australien.

The Lobby was founded by women who have many years of experience working professionally in women’s and/or human rights organisations on a national and international basis. Due to their expertise they set up the Lobby on the understanding that - the issue of sexual abuse is still highly mystified and a taboo in the public or political awareness, - the striking effects on the victims and society in general are not acknowledged, - violence will escalate further under these circumstances and consequently it is imperative to combat this state of affairs in order to make a change.

Lobby for Human Rights
Non-profit Organisation (Amtsgericht Bad Urach No. 654)
Against any kind of sexual abuse of women, girls and children.
Office: PO Box 10 30, D-72541 Metzingen, Germany, Phone +7123-606 55, Fax +7123-144 06
Account: KSK Reutlingen, Code: 640 50 00, Number: 99 77 11
R.I.P. Monika Gerstendörfer, Sibylle Schücking Helfferich

* * *

Theme B : The use of new information technologies for trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation: practices and risks

Presentation by
National Computer Crime Unit

There is certainly nothing new about the sexual exploitation of women and children or the dissemination of pornographic or paedophile photographs and texts. But new inventions and in particular the very rapid growth of computer technology have given a new dimension to the problem.

"Bulletin Board Systems" and the Internet have made it much easier to disseminate this kind of material. Everyone anywhere in the world can send or obtain pornography at an incredible speed, virtually anonymously, without leaving the home.

The Internet is without question a medium which offers unprecedented advantages: it is a vast, living, inexpensive library which can be consulted by anyone the world over. The Web is a cultural, economic and social improvement.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous persons use the Internet for dishonest purposes. Paedophiles, pornographers, sects and others have been quick to realise its enormous potential. As the Internet is a medium virtually without mediators or borders, illegal or harmful acts committed on it entail less risk.

Trafficking in human beings under the cover of offers of employment or e-mail based marriage bureaux, sex tourism, trafficking in children through so-called adoption agencies, the sale of pornographic photographs and texts, real time "video conference" or telephone pornography and catalogues of prostitutes are just a few examples of phenomena which have grown enormously thanks to the Internet.


The first question which should be posed is whether the current legal system provides the necessary laws for dealing with the problem.

Most countries have legislation under which the authors, distributors and peddlers of child pornography may be prosecuted, and trafficking in human beings and the exploitation of prostitution can be fought, even when such offences are committed through the medium of the Internet.

But for other phenomena, even if they are very harmful, the legal means available are not always sufficient.

Clearly, in democratic countries the fundamental right to the free communication of thoughts and opinions and the right to secrecy of correspondence are intangible, but all too often, criminals misuse these rights to disguise the real nature of their activities.

The production of pornography, marriage bureaux or advertisements for prostitutes may conceal an organisation that exploits women or children sexually, using threats or violence to force them to submit to what are sometimes inhuman acts.

The authorities and the police will always find it difficult to distinguish between these cases, and the fact that this takes place on the Internet certainly does not make matters easier for them. Hence the need to give investigators more technical and financial resources and provide sound training on the subject.

Even at national level it is no easy matter to deal with criminals who use the Internet, and it is all the more difficult if they are operating from abroad. Sentences may be passed in certain cases, but are rarely enforced in the countries in which such persons are active. Also, most countries are unwilling to allow an application for extradition if it concerns one of their citizens.

In most cases, the sole means open to the police is to send the incriminating evidence to their counterparts in another country via the usual Interpol or Europol channels. If the laws of that country permit, and if the actions are punishable, the perpetrator may be prosecuted.

This is very time-consuming, but currently, owing to the international nature of the Internet, it is usually the only solution.

In any case, if offences committed via the Internet are to be combated, carefully drafted international agreements on procedures, court and police co-operation and law enforcement are needed.

Problems which need to be resolved

It has always been difficult for the police to cope with the problem of sexual exploitation. The world of pornography and of exploitation of prostitution is very closed, and sexual abuse and trafficking in human beings is often not discovered unless the victims dare to speak out, or else by accident.

With the Internet, even if it has made the material in circulation more visible and accessible, things have begun to change: like it or not, criminals communicating on the information highway or using it to ply their "trade" must reveal their identity from time to time. It is possible to monitor, at least in part, what is happening on the Internet and to uncover offences with the help of thorough controls. That way, criminals can be traced, offenders arrested and misdeeds prevented.

How to use the Internet

Electronic mail, or e-mail, is used to send messages and files of all kinds to anyone with Internet access anywhere in the world. E-mail is personal and covered by the secrecy of correspondence and communications, which is why it is often employed by criminals to send photographs or messages.

These individuals sometimes utilise this means of communication to send junk mail or "spam" to Internet users who have never requested it. In so doing, they hope to find customers for their activities.

An electronic monitoring of the content of the electronic messages sent is virtually impossible and is also illegal in many countries. In general, the content of electronic messages is only acceptable as evidence if it was discovered during a house search or was communicated to the authorities by the addressee.

Newsgroups include not only paedophile ones containing child pornography, but also ones with names such as, or These newsgroups contain data on brothels, women (or children) who "work" there, prices, experiences, what to do to circumvent police checks, contact persons etc. Unlike e-mail, these newsgroups can be monitored. Their content is present on Usenet servers, an integral part of the Internet, and is universally accessible, and the messages can be read and downloaded.

Message headers sometimes contain information making it possible to identify the sender by means of logfiles kept by the access provider.

Since the creation in 1992 of "Computer Crime Units" by the Belgian police, newsgroups with pornographic and above all paedophile content have been regularly monitored. This has already led to the identification and arrest of a number of paedophiles and other sexual offenders. In certain cases, e-mail and messages from newsgroups have been secured while examining the content of disks, thereby allowing the investigation to be pursued and other implicated persons to be identified.

Monitoring the content of pornographic newsgroups is very time-consuming. Anyone who is familiar with the Web knows that some of these newsgroups contain dozens or even hundreds of new messages every day. Reviewing them manually becomes an endless undertaking.

For this reason, the Belgian police have had a programme developed which can scan these newsgroups. With it, parameters can be created to examine the content of a newsgroup, headers or even the body of the messages themselves. The search produces a much shorter list of files for manual monitoring.

As the header of the message sent indicates its source, some users employ anonymous remailers, not only for messages in newsgroups, but also for e-mail. These computers remove data from the header which reveal the source of the message before it is sent to its true destination, thus making it impossible to know where it originated. The anonymous remailer stores in its database an identification of the message sent as well as the real electronic address of the sender, to whom any replies can then be directed.

The only way to retrace the origin of such messages is to be able to access the anonymous remailer's database. Since these machines are often located abroad, the police depend on the good will of the operators of these systems for the communication of necessary information.

Another solution is to send requests for judicial assistance to the authorities of the countries in which these machines are located. As this takes considerable time, the information requested may have already been deleted before the request is approved.

In my view, the only solution is to pass legislation making anonymous remailers illegal or requiring them to retain information making it possible to identify the authors of messages for communication to the authorities upon requisition by a judge in the context of a court inquiry. But this can only work if all countries from which the Internet can be accessed take the same decision.

I am aware that such measures will be regarded by some as an invasion of privacy or a violation of the secrecy of correspondence, but I am convinced that these fundamental rights must not be misused to ensure impunity for individuals who care little about the rights of their fellow citizens.

Another problem with which the police authorities must increasingly contend is that messages are ciphered, making them impossible to read. A number of solutions have already been proposed, ranging from legislation prohibiting encrypting by individuals to a databank containing encrypting keys.

Each method has advantages and drawbacks, but as I see it, given the enormous sums of money involved, any punishment which may be imposed in response to a violation of legislation or utilisation of a non-registered key will not deter criminal organisations. In my opinion, the only solution to the problem is to try to have specialised laboratories develop decrypting programmes and high-performance computers. Clearly, these laboratories will need budget funding, although 100% results cannot be guaranteed, at least not in the beginning.

Turning now to Web-site monitoring, a number of these sites offer free access to some of their pages, but require a subscription to access the more hard-core material. So it is very difficult to know what the exact content is of a site under surveillance.

Some sites merely offer to sell erotic CD-ROMs, books, catalogues or holidays, but do not give many details on the products sold. For this reason, the only way to learn about criminal offences is if subscribers are annoyed by the material or information and report what they know to the police authorities.

Consequently, in 1996 the Belgian police created a Web site ( with a “child pornography hot-line” in order to offer all Internet users the possibility of anonymously providing information on offences relating to child pornography. All usable information is processed by our services or forwarded to the responsible foreign authorities.

In view of the success of our “child pornography hot-line”, we are now planning to set up a general hot-line through which it would be possible to communicate any offence. Experience has shown that many people have very useful or revealing information but are afraid to pass it on directly to the police. Our hot-line would make it easier for them to do so.

The last aspect of the Internet that I would like to discuss, and not the less important, concerns "Internet Relay Chat" (IRC) and the ICQ. These real-time multi-user conversation systems, which are perhaps less well known to the average Internet user, are frequently employed to exchange (child) pornography, set up FTP servers linked to the Internet or hold "video-conference" sessions. Specialists claim that most child pornography transits through this medium.

IRC is also often used by paedophiles to try to enter into contact with children. There have been several cases of sexual abuse of children following encounters arranged via IRC. Paedophiles promise all sorts of gifts and trips and have even been known to send children money for a train ticket. They encourage children's natural curiosity for the unknown or the forbidden. Some even reveal their true intentions to the child.

Unlike messages sent via newsgroups, IRC conversations do not leave any trace. Files sent or exchanged during communications sessions are not saved anywhere on the Internet; they are sent in real time directly to their addressees. For the police, the only way of responding to everything happening on certain IRC channels is to be present while the conversations are going on and to try to identify the individuals violating the law.

One major problem is that in many countries entrapment is illegal. Even if the police are present during a conversation, they must be very cautious. In some countries, certain forms of entrapment are legal. For example, it is more likely that a paedophile looking for sexual contact will make a proposition to someone who pretends to be a ten-year-old girl than a balding 40-year-old man with a beard. In certain countries, for example the United States, a paedophile may be arrested as soon as he shows that he wants to have sexual relations with a child.

Some people disagree with the use of such methods. But if a paedophile makes a proposition to a policeman pretending to be a child, he would do the same with a real minor. I am convinced that in the case of child pornography, and trafficking in human beings in general, this constitutes a good working method for combating sexual abuse, one which the police should be allowed to use in all countries.

Pornography, and with it the sexual exploitation and trafficking in human beings, has become a real industry. In the United States for example, it generates an annual turnover of ten billion dollars. In Denmark, it is the country's third biggest industry.

As the Internet is an inexpensive and readily accessible medium, some use it like a real mail-order company, not only for peddling pornographic material but for actually selling human beings. The Internet has real world-wide catalogues and guides on red-light districts and brothels, so-called marriage bureaux, sex tourism agencies etc.

It is thus clear that many people will defend their lucrative trade to the death and will make the work of the police authorities as difficult as possible. We still have a long way to go, and it is a never-ending battle.

The Internet is relatively new in many counties, and so appropriate procedures and legislation are still wanting.

Every country should be able to have applicable legislation concerning the Internet which makes it possible to root out sexual exploitation. But in view of the international nature of the Internet and other means of communication, national legislation alone is not enough. Really attacking the problem calls for carefully drafted and standardised international procedures, including minimum rules. Here are a few suggestions:

► Good police training on using the Internet is needed, as well as good international procedures and agreements between national police authorities. Communicating via the Internet is so easy and works so fast that certain current procedures are no longer applicable. Sometimes it has to be possible to intervene immediately, without losing a single minute.

► Agreements between the authorities and Internet service providers must be further improved; this concerns the communication of information on illegal data on the network.

► Legislation must be passed defining minimum data to be kept accessible for the authorities by access and service providers so that the source of material sent by the Internet can be identified. Such legislation should also stipulate how long these data must be saved.

► A solution must be found for problems of encrypting and anonymous remailers.

► In the future, the content of the Internet as well as all new technical developments used must be closely monitored; this can be done by setting up hot-lines.

► A solution must be found for data sent from "Internet havens", countries without legislation for prosecuting certain types of crime.

► In many countries, legislators and decision-makers are often oblivious to what really is happening on the Internet and must be made aware of the issues involved. To enlighten them, a photograph that appears on the Web is sometimes worth more than ten pages of text.

It should, however, be borne in mind that the Internet does not operate in a legal vacuum, as many seem to think. Every person involved may be held accountable for his acts. But it all depends on how we tackle the problem in the future.

* * *

Theme C : Prevention of trafficking and raising awareness among media professionals: possibilities for action

Presentation by
Ms Natacha HENRY
President of the Association of Women Journalists

In her film “A Vendre” (For Sale), Laetitia Masson portrays a young woman who is paid for sleeping with men. Initially, she does it as a way of avoiding forming attachments; then it becomes an occasional source of income. When the film came out, the press gladly talked of "the prostitution of society" and "the price of a woman". What is striking, however, is the romantic world in which the woman works as a prostitute. There is no violence, no drugs, no racket, no pimp and no dangerous perverts. She meets another young woman, a single mother who is a "professional" prostitute: beautiful and independent, she refuses to change her way of life when the opportunity to do so arises. Why has the press failed to underline the potential dangers of such an image of a young amateur prostitute?

So how is prostitution dealt with? First of all, it seems to me that it is not talked about enough.

In order to prepare this speech, I went to the documentation centre of the Women’s Rights Service in Paris. I discovered that, since 1994, prostitution has been the subject of nine articles in Le Monde, 1 article in Le Monde diplomatique, 1 in L’Humanité and two in Courrier International. Then, of course, there are the specialist magazines. This month, Marie Claire has published a survey by Catherine Durand on prostitution in California. I will come back to that later.

The most recent articles, published in 1997 and 1998, have been on trafficking in young women from Eastern Europe, the relocation of prostitutes in Lille and the debate between abolitionism and regulation, which Marie-Victoire Louis wrote about.

We will leave Marie-Victoire Louis to one side, since her work is that of a committed researcher, on a theoretical level rather than in search of a scoop.

I should point out straightaway that the situation is not entirely gloomy. Some articles genuinely set alarm bells ringing with regard to the economic situation in East European countries and the fact that trafficking in women is a dramatic consequence of that situation.

I have two comments to make, having read these articles: one says that, according to a policeman quoted in Le Monde on 26 April 1998, the growing sex industry "is a long way from the image of the Marseille pimp exploiting one or two girls". Another states that "some women live with men but their partners are not regarded as procurers: they are more like part-time fancy men than ‘pimps’" (Le Monde, 19 March 1998).

The trouble is that prostitution forms part of the landscape of the French novel. Descriptions of brothels produce nostalgic sighs, the kind-hearted whore has become a classical film character, while prostitutes represent a sexual freedom far removed from the restrictions and tedium of marriage. The smell of cigars, red basques on burgundy velvet – these things mask the virtual imprisonment and the violence to which women were often subjected.

The closure of brothels is lamented on account of this fantasy, not because it meant 20,000 women were thrown onto the streets. And now the pimps enjoy the friendly image of bad boys!

We should also note that the New York Times and Courrier International were the only publications actually to quote a prostitute! The French press interviews policemen, UN officials and town councillors. Here we have men speaking to men.

Le Monde uses the vocabulary of prostitution. It talks about "girls". Of course, saucy language would be out of place here, but the tone is sordid and paternalistic. It stresses the violence inflicted on these young women to force them onto the streets, the economic problems they face in their East European or Asian homeland, and the drug problem in France. We read that "often beautiful and blond, easy to please and generally well educated, they are attractive because they represent something new". This is deep-seated voyeurism.

That is not typical of the way prostitution is dealt with. In any case, the press portrays society from a masculine viewpoint.

When journalists quote one in four women anonymously, as opposed to one in 34 men, and call women by their first name, how can they possibly get away from the patriarchal folklore and what I call the “myths of prostitution”?

The terms used convey stereotypes in articles written by non-specialists. It is not very different from the way women are treated in general by the media.

And what about the clientele of prostitution? According to the International Organisation for Migration, 500,000 East European women are working as prostitutes in Western Europe, particularly in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Italy. Some of them "are fourteen or fifteen years old". Who is exploiting them, apart from Mafia networks? It is even reported that "the prostitutes questioned by Stéphanie Pryen (sociologist) think that, through their activity, they are playing a part in social cohesion and can therefore lay claim to a place in society". We are not told how or why they are vital to social cohesion, but we have to fear the worst. We must write to the media and ask them questions.

We know that the media tend to encourage consumerism, if indeed it is not their main purpose. Advertising in particular makes us think that women can be bought in exchange for presents, a car or a fitted kitchen.

In a world where the press is dominated by men, where women journalists adopt the stereotypes of a press tailored to men, it is hard to challenge its fundamental processes. If ever the authorities take an interest in the way women are portrayed in the media, or if ever the press becomes aware of its archaic practices, journalism may become progressive. Meanwhile, individuals and organisations can choose to react in a systematic way.

What is expected of the press? It is expected to provide information on two levels: about what is happening and about what perhaps ought to be happening. In a way, it is expected to anticipate events in order to direct society towards better times.

It is interesting to note that, in this sense, the press takes no risks.

Last December, the Association of Women Journalists held a colloquy in Paris on a subject which is taboo in France – the clientele of prostitution. It was called "Is buying sex a human right? "

The clientele? The French press is not used to dealing with this issue or tackling it from this angle. It has never spoken about it. What is worse is that in a packed conference room there were social workers, militants and people who worked with prostitutes, but hardly any journalists. At last, Marie-Claire has tackled the subject, discussing the sentences passed on clients in California.

When Sweden decided recently to make resorting to prostitution an offence, the reports in the French press were few in number and terribly neutral (L'Express, 20 August 1998), as if Sweden was, in any case, different socially from the rest of the world.

As far back as 1949 the UN adopted a convention "for the suppression of the traffic in persons and of the exploitation of the prostitution of others". France ratified it in 1960. In 1983 the UN described prostitution as a persistent form of slavery. Fortunately,
Marie-Victoire Louis is there to remind us of these dates, which everyone seems to have forgotten.

Often, the media tacitly entertain the notion of women as sexual objects. Leaving advertisements, Minitel sites, etc aside, clearly nobody is offended by expressions like "busty Monica" or, as recently appeared in Le Figaro, "Female attractiveness: weight is more important than the ratio of waistline to hips". Not to mention certain women’s magazines which, rather than rallying their readers, show them how to be more desirable than their neighbour. They talk blandly of prostitution, deploring the fate of the young girls in Thailand.

The coverage that the film "A Vendre" received, which ignored the negative consequences of a purportedly social film, shows clearly that the press is oblivious to the (rational) issues raised by prostitution.

What can be done? The media can be told about the work of organisations that exist to help prostitutes; press conferences and debates can be held. The general movement towards improving the image of women in the media should be supported by referring to women by their surnames, by talking to them as survivors rather than as victims and by interviewing them with respect. Fantasies and consumerism should be discouraged. If need be, readers should also take action and write to journalists criticising some of their habits. Finally, send the dates of your events, details of publications, etc, to the AWJ, which will print them in its monthly newsletter.

* * *

Theme C : Prevention of trafficking and raising awareness among media professionals: possibilities for action

Presentation by
Ms Bettina PETERS
Deputy Secretary General
International Federation of Journalists


Trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation is a crime. It is also a lucrative business operating around the globe.

While until recently the sex trade in people focused on south-east Asia, an ever-increasing number of women now come from countries of the former Soviet Union. In Ukraine, for instance, more than 400,000 women have left the country since 1990 according to the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior. It is assumed that a large percentage of them are now forced to work as prostitutes in Western Europe, in Israel and even in Thailand and Japan.

Few figures are available for Europe, but if the situation in south-east Asia is anything to go by the sex sector can represent between 2% and 14% of the Gross Domestic Product3. Criminal gangs across Europe have identified the trafficking of women as a highly profitable business. As Michael Platzer of the Vienna-based UN Centre for International Crime Prevention puts it:

“The gangsters are not stupid. The earnings are incredible. The overhead is low – you don’t have to buy cars and guns. Drugs you sell once and they are gone. Women can earn money for a long time.”4

Prosecution of those of who organise the trafficking of women is difficult. Prostitution is semi-legal in most countries. There are few control mechanisms in place to monitor the working conditions of prostitutes. If sex-rings are exposed, treatment of the women is punitive. Those without valid papers (and that is the case for most of the victims) are sent to prison and deported. Women who manage to escape the trap of sex exploitation might file a complaint, but they are afraid to do so because they know there will be little protection for them. In most cases they face deportation.

Europeans are still the main customers of the sex industry worldwide. An increasing number of the victims are European women. There is an urgent need for European policy-makers and police to address the issue. Media can play a role in putting the problem on the agenda by raising public awareness of the problem, by focusing attention on the way women are treated and by exposing those who are mainly responsible.

Raising awareness or sensationalising: a two-edged media knife

Trafficking of women in Europe is still a relatively new phenomenon. At least its terrifying growth rate is fairly new and, as such, holds news value. In the last years there have been a number of media reports dealing with trafficking of women. Most have exposed trafficking for the crime it is. Many western European public service channels have broadcast documentaries on the issue and one can find reports on trafficking and forced prostitution in most newspapers across Europe.

The important role these reports can play in raising public awareness of trafficking in women is well understood. But the issue is not as clear-cut as many would like; while media coverage can shine the spotlight on those directly responsible, the victims are all too often also caught in the glare of publicity.

Some of the findings of the report of the Council of Europe's Committee on Crime Problems5, which dealt with sexual exploitation and trafficking of children and young adults, also apply to reports on trafficking of women:

The Committee of experts warned:

“Often the mass media function as a two-edged knife in this area of concern. The unravelling of sensational sex and crime cases involving children and young adults tends to overemphasise the issue and to blur the picture. Sometimes, though, it is the media which help to uncover cases of sexual exploitation and to raise awareness of the problem.

But it is also the media that generally infiltrate the public with liberal and tolerant attitudes towards child pornography and prostitution or provide the ways and means (for example advertisements) by which this sex gratification may be achieved. Therefore, their co-operation and their orientation towards safeguarding the rights and the dignity of children and young adults is extremely important.”

On January 11th the New York Times published an extensive article on trafficking and sexual exploitation of young women from eastern Europe6. The article followed the traffic patterns, highlighted the plight of the women concerned, interviewed officials and called for more public initiatives in the area.

But the headline “Traffickers’ New Cargo: Naïve Slavic Women” and some of the pictures portray the young women as helpless, gullible and somewhat reckless girls.

Media researcher Nancy Signorielli sees two sides to sensationalism:

“Although human rights advocates may argue that sensational coverage distorts and exploits a serious problem - perhaps doing more harm than good - sensationalism solves several editorial problems; that is, it can be the response of reporters and editors trying to fulfil the responsibility to cover serious social issues, while continuing to turn a profit. Sensationalism permits an important but unpleasant topic to be covered in such a way that it still captures the readers’ attention - and sells magazines.”7

While the New York Times article in itself is not an example of sensationalism, it illustrates how the rights of the victims are often forgotten in the quest for gripping news coverage that will help sell the paper.

Coverage of trafficking in women often focuses too much on the individual whose case provides the news angle. Media need to broaden the scope of reportage. The story of sexual exploitation in general and its commercial aspects in particular is not being told in full. To examine how this can change requires a look at the professional freedoms which journalists require to work effectively, a summary of the principles or guidelines journalists and programme-makers should follow, and the pressures – legal, financial, or cultural – which are standing in the way.

Setting standards

In exposing trafficking of women the normal rules of professional journalism apply. Journalists are also faced with four closely allied ethical dilemmas surrounding professional conduct and investigation of the subject:

· Confidentiality of sources;
· Undercover journalism and use of subterfuge to obtain information;
· Co-operating with, and making information available to, law enforcement agencies, and intervening in events under observation;
· Identification of individuals.

Confidentiality of sources

Most European countries provide for the right to protection of sources in law. The Swedish law, which is one of the strongest, even states that a journalist who reveals his or her source without consent is subject to criminal liability. The constitutional protection of sources includes state and municipal employees, who are thus free to give information to the press without fear of legal repercussions or intimidation.

Journalists recognise that betraying sources not only inhibits their own ability to investigate; it also makes it more difficult for every journalist to work, and may even put their lives at risk, as well as the safety of the informants. The exploitation of women is such a sensitive issue that many abuses would never be revealed unless the people who provide the information: prostitutes, help-line organisations, and sometimes those operating the trafficking networks themselves, could be confident that their anonymity would be preserved. Strengthening the journalist's rights in this area should be an element in any strategy aimed at creating the best professional conditions in which to examine the process of commercial sexual exploitation of women.

b) Undercover journalism

Ethical codes are useful and they work most of the time. But sometimes genuine conflicts arise between values, and confidence of ethical decision-making is required. This difficult skill is like other skills of journalism: it takes training, time and effort to become good at it.

The classic conflict of values comes when a journalist believes it is necessary to abandon the rule of truth-telling, by telling lies or using subterfuge in order to obtain or confirm information, especially about illegal activities. In her review of 28 codes of ethics in 26 European countries, Tiina Laitila found that 86% made reference to the use of fair means in information collection.8 However, the definition of “fair” is open to debate.

Deciding when the public interest becomes “overriding”, and what “other means” are permissible, is left up to the conscience of the journalist, or often to the employer. This clause affirms that journalists are entitled to exercise a personal conscientious objection to the use of such means.

But the conditions in which “other means” apply need to be carefully monitored. It must be borne in mind that the pressure of commercial competition, and the consequent imperative to be first with sensational news, often contributes to a climate in which subterfuge and “cheque book” journalism become standard practice, not for reasons of public interest but primarily for reasons of circulation and commercial advantage.

The challenge facing journalists and those who support high standards of journalism is to create the conditions for sound professional judgement. Sometimes decisions may coincide with commercial advantage, often they will not.

Most ethical guides would acknowledge that it may be ethical to lie, but any journalist who faces such a dilemma must be convinced of the relevance and weight of the public interest, conscious of the harm it might do to credibility, and willing as soon as possible to face a “publicity test” –public scrutiny of the circumstances. Journalists investigating the commercial sexual exploitation of women should consider carefully whether it is justifiable to lie to, or deceive, either the exploiters, or the victims, in order to uncover the facts.

There is an ethical line to be drawn between subterfuge required to uncover the largely illegal activities of exploiters, and investigation of the women themselves. This may not be easy, given that working “undercover” generally means total secrecy. But the fact that so many of the women are eager to find someone they can trust and who will listen to them, underlines their vulnerability. Experience of deception will further damage their self-esteem, and their relationship with others.

Journalists and media organisations need to apply the highest possible standards of honesty and openness when dealing with exploited women.

In practical terms, this means a greater emphasis on ethical questions in journalists’ training, to encourage “a more finely tuned moral sense”9. This should focus on concrete examples of specific dilemmas, including the coverage of children’s exploitation. It also requires a constructive and supportive debate within newsrooms about these issues, as well as a greater awareness and sensitivity within the media about public attitudes on child pornography and exploitation.

c) Co-operation with the authorities

Just as journalists are committed to “truth-telling” they are, as citizens, called upon to respect notions of community. Should journalists work hand-in-hand with the authorities and law enforcement officers in reporting on trafficking of women? It is a complicated question, on which little guidance is given by formal ethical codes.

It is vital that journalists do not become identified in the public mind with security forces, for exactly the same reasons that apply to the protection of sources. But does this mean that journalists who discover evidence of illegal trafficking or exploitation of women, for example, should not pass it on to the authorities?

Again, this is not an unusual dilemma, but it is one of the most difficult to resolve. Convincing arguments can usually be marshalled for and against in almost every case. It is a dilemma that depends upon the circumstances, and the conscience of the individual journalist.

The BBC’s Chief Advisor on Editorial Policy, James Boyle, said the Corporation would allow supplementary material to be taken away only if it were clearly in the public interest, and that no danger to any member of staff would result. Brazilian journalist Roberto Mader judged that he would pass on information only to help the girl prostitutes he interviewed in Latin America. In general, media professionals agree that criminal investigation itself is the job of the police and should be clearly separated from the exercise of journalism.

d) Identifying the victims

If journalists have a duty to the truth in their reporting and to independence in their work, they also have a responsibility to minimise harm from their actions, particularly to people who are themselves the victims of injustice and abuse.

The Guardian, which generally adheres to a high standard in its news coverage, is not alone by any means in publishing photographs of prostitutes, even under arrest. This is particularly true of western media images of women in developing countries, although the technique of obscuring part of the face is now sometimes used. However, more often it is the suspected abuser whose identity is hidden.

One should also remember that ethical standards vary widely between reporters covering different beats. Most media reports on this issue originate in arrests and thus from the police, and are filed by reporters on crime beats, who are generally less likely to consider the interests of the women involved, or make serious efforts to protect their identities. Journalists covering disadvantaged groups in society who are generally sympathetic to the movement to abolish trafficking of women, take greater care in their reporting not to add to the harm already suffered by the women.

This problem is further compounded by the fact that the women concerned are considered criminals. In most cases they are illegal immigrants and in some countries they have violated laws regulating prostitution. If their identity is not protected they will not come forward and give journalists information that may assist in the fight against trafficking of women.

The issue of identity is at the heart of journalistic endeavour. It is in the nature of journalism, from the first lesson in journalism school onwards, to provide facts, including personal details about whoever is involved in a story. The decision to suppress information has to be carefully considered, but the nature of commercial sexual exploitation of women should always encourage a journalist to respect, above all, the rights of the victim.

The problem of classified advertisement

While those sexually exploiting women can use the Internet as a means of exchanging information, it is through classified advertisements in the printed press that most women start their harrowing journey into exploitation and forced prostitution.

One typical ad used by traffickers in Kiev last year read: “Girls: Must be single and very pretty. Young and tall. We invite you for work as models, secretaries, dancers and gymnasts. Housing is supplied. Foreign posts available. Must apply in person.”

Some ads are almost honest, suggesting that the women can earn up to $1,000 a month as “escorts” or nude dancers.

Media owners and managers of their advertising departments will argue that it would be impossible to check every classified advertisement that is posted in the newspaper. They need to be alerted by local police investigating traffickers.

But police are often complacent about the issue or not sufficiently equipped to deal with the problem.

“Women’s groups want to blow this all out of proportion, says Gennadi Lepenko, chief of Kiev’s branch of Interpol10.

But Mikhail Lebed, chief of criminal investigations for the Ukrainian Interior Ministry does not agree:

“We have a very serious problem here, and we are simply not equipped to solve it by ourselves. Gangsters make more from these women in a week than we have in our law enforcement budget for the whole year.”11

While media cannot be made liable for the contents of classified advertisements they could adopt a code of practice that requires them to reject those advertisements that are easily identified as aimed at luring women into prostitution. A more vigilant advertising policy should be adopted.

There is a need for better co-operation between media, police and NGOs involved in the fight against trafficking of women.

The IFJ at a world conference on Media and the Rights of Children which took place in Brazil in May of this year, endorsed the following statement:

The IFJ is deeply concerned at the creation of pedophile Internet sites and the fact that certain media publish or broadcast classified advertisements promoting child prostitution.

The IFJ calls on its member unions to:
intervene with media owners over the publication or broadcasting of these advertisements;
to campaign with public authorities for the elimination of these sites and advertisements.

Prevention of trafficking in women: possibilities for action

Prevention of trafficking in women for sexual exploitation is a problem that public authorities across Europe have to address. Professional journalism of the highest standards can make a valuable contribution towards raising public awareness of the problem and exposing those who are mainly responsible.

Within media, standards of professionalism should be promoted that will assist journalists in addressing the ethical dilemmas they confront when reporting on sexual exploitation of women.

1. Training for journalists

Ethical questions should have a higher profile in journalists’ training, particularly with regard to standards of conduct in reporting issues like children’s exploitation.

2. Codes of conduct and self-regulation

While codes of conduct and guidelines appear not to be effective, they can be useful in demonstrating that something needs to be done. Such codes are weapons in the hands of journalists and campaigners who can use them to take up issues with editors, publishers and broadcasters.

3. Media organisations and media professionals

Journalists should adhere to the highest standards of professional conduct when confronted with dilemmas such as professional secrecy, the use of subterfuge, and the identification of victims, in the course of their duties.

They should avoid, or challenge, the myths and stereotypes that surround women prostitutes.

Media professionals should recognise that freedom of expression must go hand in hand with other fundamental human rights, including freedom from exploitation and intimidation. They should give careful consideration to the facts when weighing up the relative merits of the different claims, and not allow themselves to be swayed by commercial or political considerations.

Journalists should never publish details which help exploiters to find their victims, or which undermine the safety of victims. Journalists should take particular care not to reveal information that could lead to the collapse of criminal proceedings against exploiters.

Journalists and programme-makers should look for innovative ways to respect the dignity of women victims, and avoid identifying them, while at the same time telling their stories in a compelling and newsworthy way. For instance, by consulting them on the content or showing ways in which they can escape from their situation. They should try to focus attention not only on the victims of commercial sexual exploitation, but on the perpetrators and clients.

4. Co-operation between public authorities, civil society and the media

Both national and European authorities have vouched to educate young women about the dangers of working abroad. Media in the countries of origin of the exploited women could work with police and organisations in civil society in providing women with information about the risks involved. In western Europe media has a role to play in making the general public and often the police understand that these women are not criminals but victims of exploitation. As long as there are virtually no witness protection programmes and women have to fear for their lives or at best face deportation, they will not come forward with the information needed to prosecute the criminals.

The Council of Europe could support initiatives that bring together media professionals, police and civil rights organisations to create better co-operation in the fight against trafficking and sexual exploitation of women.

* * *

Report of Working Group 1

Theme A: Media and trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation: what is at stake?

To what extent do the images of women and men as portrayed by the media have an effect on phenomena such as trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation?

Chair: Ms Teresa RIBEIRO
Rapporteur: Ms Françoise VINTROU

The group acknowledged that it was very difficult, if not impossible, to answer the question raised. The media could not only be seen in terms of black and white. There were many grey areas in between. Although the media did have a great influence, some participants stressed that it was much less noticeable than that of poverty, for instance, which often forced women or girls to leave their own countries and work as prostitutes in order to survive.

The discussions first highlighted the ambiguity of the media. The media had both a positive and a negative impact:

- the negative impact resulted from the way they tended to reproduce the opinions that were dominant in society;

but this was offset by

- the key role they played in providing information and condemning unacceptable practices.

In the course of the discussions, the group identified three tendencies in the way the media reported trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

1. The first tendency was to show prostitutes as criminals, with images that criminalised the women who were the victims of trafficking. Those actually organising the trafficking were rarely shown.

2. Several participants drew attention to another way of presenting trafficking, which showed it as a normal process and suggested that prostitution was a risk-free profession. The images conveyed in this case trivialised the problem.

3. Other participants pointed out that there was also a tendency to glorify prostitution because of the success that could be achieved in making quick and easy money. The image conveyed here was thus one of “glamour”.

Whatever the case, the way prostitutes were shown was too often sensational. The information tended to lack in quality and was sometimes incomplete. It was stressed several times that readers and viewers virtually never had any information on what lay behind the images or the descriptions of prostitutes.

The group formulated a number of recommendations on steps which it seemed could play a significant part in improving the situation and which could possibly be undertaken with the assistance of the Council of Europe:

- conducting serious studies and disseminating the findings among journalists to make them understand the reality of trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation;

- raising awareness of the issue among journalists and media professionals;

- promoting education in human rights, as trafficking was a violation of human dignity – a fundamental right enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights;

- keeping these issues on the agenda of media professionals;

- fostering exchanges of information between journalists;

- encouraging dialogue between journalists, NGOs and the authorities so that the media could present comprehensive and objective information on the situation. If policymakers had reliable information and were fully aware of the situation, there was more likelihood of the necessary political action being taken.

There had recently been changes in legislation in certain countries such as Sweden, which now treated the customers and pimps (and no longer the prostitutes) as criminals. It was too early to assess the impact of this kind of legislation. However, it seemed that measures of this type could help lead to a different understanding of prostitution.

In conclusion, it was necessary again to stress how difficult it was to answer the question put at the outset. The group had established certain facts, but had not come up with a scientific answer.

To close on a positive note, the following quote from a participant illustrated how difficult it was to make progress and how complex the issues were:

“We must all have a close look at our own stereotypical opinions and at the side of the story that has not been told.”

* * *

Report of Working Group 2

Theme B: The use of new information technologies for trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation: practices and risks

Chair: Ms Annie DE WIEST
Rapporteur: Mr Roland WALRAET

The group noted that much information was available on the “abuse” of the Internet, but people did not know how to react or whom to contact. A number of official points of contact did exist and could serve as “clearing houses”, but awareness-raising measures were needed to inform people about the possibilities at their disposal. For instance:

- a directory of useful sources at European level should be published;

- an Internet user guide for parents and children should be produced;

- a Web site with useful links should be created;

- the activities of NGOs which did work of this kind should be supported;

- the Belgian example of the European centre for missing children should be followed elsewhere;

- user-friendly telephone help lines (“freephone numbers”) should be made available.

The group stressed the importance of the contribution the media could make to raising public awareness, in particular by:

      - distributing information about what the Internet was and emphasising its positive aspects;

      - publishing articles to inform the public about the negative aspects of the Internet and the ways they could react;

      - teaching people how to “protect” their computers (with filters);

      - reporting on the principle of extraterritoriality;

      - discouraging people from visiting “dubious” sites (supply and demand). (NB: would that not actually encourage people to do so out of unhealthy curiosity?).

With regard to the filtering systems currently in existence, it would be interesting to study the use made of them, as well as alternatives. The existing systems were:

      - blacklisting (software that blocked access to certain sites);

      - whitelisting (definition of sites to which access was allowed);

      - rating of sites by category.

The difference between the Internet and conventional pornography was that material on the Internet travelled more quickly, was less easily identifiable and could come from countries where it did not constitute an offence. This created huge problems for the police, in particular because:

- there was a lack of uniform, co-ordinated legislation;

- some countries had no legislation on certain acts that were offences elsewhere.

It was necessary to make a distinction between what was illegal (prosecutable) and what was harmful. There was a need for common legislation and for co-operation between countries at legal, technical and judicial level. It was also important to consider the Internet as a whole and not focus only on certain aspects.

The Council of Europe could play a role in international co-ordination and encourage countries to pass legislation, sign agreements or adopt international procedures. Codes of conduct that existed in certain countries could serve as the basis for legislation or guidelines at European level, which could be prepared by experts within the Council of Europe.

Given the ease of the methods of payment on the Internet, the group wondered whether there were ways of “countering” firms such as VISA and MasterCard which collaborated with sites that sexually exploited women and children. Until there had been a court ruling, it seemed that it would even be illegal in certain cases for such firms to refuse to provide services.

As far as awareness raising was concerned, the group recommended:

- the launch of awareness-raising campaigns for the general public, teachers, all people in contact with children, police forces and judges, etc, in order to alert them to the problem of the sexual exploitation of human beings;

- the organisation of conferences and seminars at European level to bring together all the professionals concerned, in particular in the context of events such as the European Year against violence towards women.

Lastly, the group stressed the importance of using language that showed that the actions concerned were criminal (for instance, “paedocriminal” instead of “paedophile”).

* * *

Report of Working Group 3

Theme C: Prevention of trafficking and raising awareness among media professionals: possibilities for action

Rapporteur: Ms Rubina MÖHRING

The Group began by discussing newsroom reality. The major problem identified was working conditions. Journalists were not given enough time and money, they had to produce news quickly and were more or less told to be sensational, because of commercial factors. Young women journalists were initiated by men. It was agreed that the media had an important role to play in raising public awareness about the issue of trafficking in women for sexual exploitation and the fact that it is a criminal activity and a violation of fundamental human rights. Therefore, new journalists needed to be sensitised to the fact that women victims of this crime are severely exploited.

- This would mean that it was necessary to get many more women into the decision-making positions in the media, at least 30%.

- It was emphasised that not only the number of women in high positions (decision-making positions) has to increase, but the general management must also be sensitised to support such a policy.

- It was thought that the support of general management and of media owners is extremely important for a higher sensitivity in the news and among programme-makers and is, for example, necessary to set up education seminars for journalists.

- Many participants were of the opinion that male journalists do not have sufficient knowledge of this issue. Some said that this was due to a lack of information, and that men were willing to change their attitudes, while others thought that they were not.

The Group then discussed how journalists could be instrumental in combating trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation by producing quality information. It was thought that one of the most important actions in terms of results was building networks.

For daily work and efficiency, networking was both important for female journalists and NGOs, as well as public authorities and decision-makers/media professionals.

The Group then went on to discuss targets and possible definitions of quality. It was thought that it could be counter-productive to actually define what quality journalism is – but quality could be achieved in many ways.

- First, journalists would need to be trained in ethics and human rights and warned against racist presentations. They would also need training in gender mainstreaming in order to be able to take into better account the gender perspective. They should, in addition, be informed about relevant research.

- Students in journalism should be confronted with practical cases and examples of trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation.

- Such questions should be focused on in the newsroom, both in conferences and when the programmes are discussed and prepared.

In order to increase the quality of information, journalists should look for the hidden story behind trafficking and prostitution. Reports would therefore have to focus on the traffickers and on the clients. That would be a major shift and enable people to see this issue in a new light.

Clients of trafficked women should be described as criminals – not only the traffickers are criminals. It will be interesting to see the results of the change in legislation in Sweden, which has had as a result to place guilt with the client. Denmark is discussing such a change in its legislation as well.

When reporting on trafficking, care should be taken not to show the women as second-class persons, speaking about the "poor girl" who was abused when she came to earn money in this or that country. On the contrary, sensitivity is necessary when discussing or describing the plight of women/victims.

The Group also discussed information campaigns about the dangers of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. It was considered very important to improve the distribution of information material. Some participants emphasised the possible boomerang effect of campaigns, and that women who were in a situation of poverty might see prostitution as a way out. The Group thought that campaigns against stereotyping in fiction programmes, advertising and sensational reporting needed to be initiated.

At the same time, journalists should take care not to present stereotyped information which may give a false impression and increase prejudices. Participants gave examples of such stereotyping, eg news/articles in newspapers in Eastern Europe presenting the "golden West" or the "dangerous West". It was emphasised that, as was the case for reporting on trafficking, this was mostly a matter of sensitising general management.

The example of Spain, which is the only country with an effective observatory on sexist advertising, was cited as a means to combat this stereotyping.

Finally, the Group endorsed the recommendations made in Bettina Peters' report, as follows:

1. Training for journalists

    Ethical questions should have a higher profile in journalists’ training, particularly with regard to standards of conduct in reporting issues like children’s exploitation.

2. Codes of conduct and self-regulation
While codes of conduct and guidelines appear not to be effective, they can be useful in demonstrating that something needs to be done. Such codes are weapons in the hands of journalists and campaigners who can use them to take up issues with editors, publishers and broadcasters.

3. Media organisations and media professionals

Journalists should, in the course of their duties, adhere to the highest standards of professional conduct when confronted with dilemmas such as professional secrecy, the use of subterfuge, and the identification of victims.

They should avoid, or challenge, the myths and stereotypes that surround women prostitutes.
Media professionals should recognise that freedom of expression must go hand in hand with other fundamental human rights, including freedom from exploitation and intimidation. They should give careful consideration to the facts when weighing up the relative merits of the different claims, and not allow themselves to be swayed by commercial or political considerations.

Journalists should never publish details which help exploiters to find their victims, or which undermine the safety of victims. Journalists should take particular care not to reveal information that could lead to the collapse of criminal proceedings against exploiters.

Journalists and programme-makers should look for innovative ways to respect the dignity of women victims, and avoid identifying them, while at the same time telling their stories in a compelling and newsworthy way. For instance, by consulting them on the content of the programme or showing ways in which they can escape from their situation. They should try to focus attention not only on the victims of commercial sexual exploitation, but on the perpetrators and clients.

4. Co-operation between public authorities, civil society and the media

Both national and European authorities have vouched to educate young women about the dangers of working abroad. Media in the countries of origin of the exploited women could work with police and organisations in civil society in providing women with information about the risks involved. In western Europe, the media has a role to play in making the general public and often the police understand that these women are not criminals but victims of exploitation. As long as there are virtually no witness protection programmes and women have to fear for their lives or at best face deportation, they will not come forward with the information needed to prosecute the criminals.

The Council of Europe could support initiatives that bring together media professionals, police and civil rights organisations to create better co-operation in the fight against trafficking and sexual exploitation of women.

* * *

Report of Working Group 4

Theme C: Prevention of trafficking and raising awareness among media professionals: possibilities for action

Chair: Ms Natacha HENRY
Rapporteur: Ms Jutta KRUG

The group noted that:

- paedophilia and crimes against children were making headlines at present. As a result, trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation had been pushed into the background;

- the emergence of new freedoms in the countries of central and eastern Europe had created new situations. The disappearance of control by “the party” and the poor economic conditions made the problem of people selling their bodies more acute.

On top of this came the working conditions of journalists: lack of time and resources made it difficult for them to conduct proper investigations, and this problem was compounded by the pressure of circulation figures and audience ratings, which demanded that the wishes of the public were satisfied.

Lastly, as the subject of trafficking in women was very controversial, it was important not to fall into the trap of nostalgia or voyeurism.

Trafficking in women included an element of forced prostitution: it was neither a subject of entertainment nor a trivial news item. It was a social phenomenon. It was necessary to reveal the hidden face of prostitution. This involved analysing social conditions and investigating networks of procurers and pimps. It was also necessary to consider associated aspects such as the consequences that the victims of trafficking, and eventually their children, continue to bear throughout their lives. At the same time, their customers needed to be made aware of the issues and encouraged to act more responsibly. Exhibitions or media campaigns could, for instance, be used to raise awareness.

With a view to analysing the problem, documentation centres (for example, the Scelles Foundation in Paris) and associations should be asked to help produce a directory of reliable sources.

Similarly, self-regulation by journalists was essential, and their mottos should be:

- NO to voyeuristic, paternalistic and sensationalist reporting;

- NO to the presentation of the victims of trafficking as guilty criminals;

- NO to the stereotypical presentation according to which women victims of trafficking are shown to have made a “free choice”.

It was necessary to mobilise the media and colleges of journalism and tourism by presenting the issues to them objectively and generating feedback. Another possibility would be to organise competitions for colleges of journalism on sexual exploitation or gender equality.

Lastly, harmonisation of legislation was needed. For instance, there was no legal definition of pornography in Poland and pimping was not prohibited in all countries.

The group supported the preparation by the Council of Europe in 1999 of a recommendation to member states on combating trafficking in human beings.

* * *

Closing address by Mr Hanno HARTIG, Head of Division II, Directorate of Human Rights, Council of Europe

Ladies and gentlemen,

In speaking to you today, I must admit that I feel almost guilty or embarrassed to be a man. Your workshop was opened by a man, the Deputy Secretary General, Mr Krüger, and will also be closed by a man. This fact seems to confirm everything that we have heard about the representation of men in the media and the fact that 75% of speaking time in the media is taken up by men. Of course, we could also mention the other side of the coin, namely that there are men at the Council of Europe who are receptive to the issue of equality and respect for women’s dignity and who are involved in work in that area.

It is therefore a pleasure for me to address you briefly at the end of this extremely rewarding workshop. I believe that this event was significant in more than one respect. Firstly, because it was a joint operation run by the Media Section and the Section on Equality between Women and Men, both of which form part of the Division which I head within the Directorate of Human Rights. Secondly, because the theme is one by which we set great store at the Council of Europe, namely the fight against trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

We wanted this workshop to serve mainly as a working meeting for media professionals and NGOs involved in the fight against trafficking. We therefore gave priority to the informal and practical side in order to stimulate rewarding, in-depth discussion providing all the participants with the opportunity to express themselves freely. I think we will all agree that the workshop has been a success, thanks primarily to the outstanding quality of the speakers’ contributions. I would like to thank the main speakers and the rapporteurs for their contributions and the Chairs who helped the discussions along. We learnt a great deal about the subjects discussed, your discussions were frank and open, and you made some interesting proposals.

1. It is not my role to draw conclusions from your discussions, but I would like to make a few comments. Personally, I regret that these discussions took place almost exclusively between women and that too few men were present. As is the case with all questions linked to equality between women and men, it seems to me that the subject of this workshop requires more involvement on the part of men. It is by working together to promote equality that women and men will achieve the aim of equality of the sexes. In the area of the media, this aim implies equal prominence, equal responsibility and equal participation at all levels, including decision-making. That may seem a distant goal after all that we have heard during the workshop. But to realise this aim, effective co-operation between women and men is essential.

2. A few moments ago we heard the conclusions of the working groups and many good ideas were put forward. What are the most important points and how can the Council of Europe follow up on these different proposals? These proposals will be incorporated within the compass of intergovernmental co-operation which, in this field, centres on the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men and the Steering Committee on the Mass Media. I am sure that the representatives of these committees who are present will insist on the importance of this workshop and its proposals. I welcome the fact that this session was chaired by Ms Ribeiro, the Chair of the CDMM.

3. At this point, I would like to take up one of the concerns expressed in all the discussions which seems to me to be fundamental, namely the need for information, awareness-raising and training. People who receive information about trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation or the use of the Internet in this connection are faced with an unfamiliar problem and often do not how to cope with the situation. Our initial task should be to launch awareness-raising and information campaigns. We will have to organise activities (seminars, conferences or other events) bringing together not only media professionals but also police officers, legal staff and political leaders. Information and awareness-raising are vital to ensure that anyone who comes to know about such a serious problem is able to react in an appropriate manner.

The need to train journalists and other media professionals in human rights and how to use language and present facts in a way that respects the dignity of women is a major priority. In the area which we have been discussing, there is a danger that journalists will resort to sensationalism. What is important is that they realise that in most cases major human suffering is involved and that they should talk about these issues with the respect which is owed to all human beings. Of course, some account has to be taken of the economic environment in which they are working. Perhaps the Council of Europe might consider producing a handbook for journalists explaining the importance of respect for human rights in this area.

4. Regarding one of the other themes discussed, I can announce a quite specific follow-up measure which has been taken: the Steering Committee for Equality is planning to set up a group of specialists on the impact of the use of new information technologies on equality between women and men. This group will undoubtedly take account of the ideas emerging from this workshop, particularly the idea of codes of conduct and guidelines such as those that already exist in some countries.

Finally, you were informed that the Multisectoral Group on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings for the purpose of Sexual Exploitation was currently drawing up a draft recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to the member states. This recommendation will help to promote effective co-operation in this area between European countries, a vital factor in tackling what is essentially an international problem. We hope that the adoption of this recommendation, scheduled for next year, will provide an opportunity to alert political decision-makers and the public at large to the problem of trafficking.

In conclusion, I would like to thank you all once again for your contributions, particularly the rapporteurs, the session Chairs, the interpreters and the Secretariat.

I wish you all a safe journey home.

1 I don’t say “pedophiles” but “pedocriminals” because:

1. no-one would call a man “francophile” after he had violated a French woman or child...

2. what these men do has nothing to do with sex; it is simply a criminal act.

2 “Grooming” is the technical expression for the way pedocriminals are getting slowly into contact with children. First they choose them (e.g. in school yards), second they get into contact, third they try to build up confidence etc., last: they abuse them.

3 Figures taken from a report of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on the sex industry in four south-east Asian countries, ILO/98/31, published August 19th, 1998.

4 Quoted from, web-site on current social issues in Ukraine.

5 Council of Europe, Select Committee of Experts on sexual exploitation, pornography and prostitution of, and trafficking in, children and young adults.

6 Traffickers’ New Cargo: Naïve Slavic Women, by Michael Specter, New York Times, January 11th, 1998

7 SIGNORIELLI Nancy; Magazine Coverage; in Abuse, an Agenda for Action, Gerbner et al.

8 LAITILA, Tiina; The Journalistic Codes of Ethics in Europe; Dept of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Tampere, 1995.

9 BOK, Sissela; Lying: Moral choice in Public and Private Life; Quartet 1980.

10 Quoted in: Traffickers’ New Cargo, New York Times, January 11, 1998.

11 Idem.