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Nordic-Baltic knowledge overview

Action plan for removing obstacles to health care access in sexual trafficking

image of Nordic-Baltic knowledge overview

In accordance with the agreement at the Roundtable Meeting of the Ministers of Social Affairs of the Baltic Sea Region in 2006 to co-operate on the social consequences in the fight against sex trafficking, the Nordic Council of Ministers for Social Affairs and Health (MR-S) initiated the project Nordic-Baltic knowledge overview and action plan for removing obstacles to health care access in sexual trafficking. The project consisted of three parts, a Nordic-Baltic expert meeting to review the current knowledge, a Nordic-Baltic case study conducted in all eight countries, and a concluding international conference in Riga 2010. The project focused on the damage of both physical and mental health as the consequences of sexual exploitation in trafficking. As sex trafficking crosses borders joint frameworks are needed for tackling the problem and to improve access to health care for the victims, both during the act of trafficking as well as post-trafficking (”Safe Return”). The report reveals that every country has chosen its own way on how to apply international legal measures into their national legal systems, and that there is a need of policies for long term rehabilitation. Further, a more in-depth knowledge on prevalence and types of mental and physical disorders over the different stages of sexual trafficking is needed for tailoring the health care.

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Sex trafficking and health

Silverman et al. have shown in studies in South Asia the increased health risks women trafficked for sex work experience compared to women in sex work. Sex trafficking and forced sex work creates high vulnerability for the women because of their lack of control of their situation. It is a situation sometimes initiated by rape, an inability to refuse sex, continuous sexual violence, and with no control over condom use as it is often hard for them to negotiate condom usage with clients. They are also specifically vulnerable to HIV because of their young age. As HIV infected they are more likely to be infected with other STI’s, specifically syphilis and hepatitis B (Silverman et al. 2008, Silverman et al. 2009). The debt bondage the women end up in makes them take risks such as serving more clients and having longer working days in order to repay their debt faster. During this stage the women in the study had extremely limited access to health care information, services and medical care. This was due both to their restricted movements, lack of knowledge of available options and fear of local authorities because of the uncertain legal situation (Zimmerman 2006, Silverman et al 2009).

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