Invisible slavery: prostitution and sexual exploitation in France

They are volunteers and try to make exist the collateral victims of a modern slavery network. Meeting with Christians who refuse to close their eyes.

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Hearing abolished since 1848, slavery has not disappeared. More discreet, he reduces his victims to silence. But, to those who know where to look, this reality becomes startling. It rages every day, under our windows.

Entretien avec Daniel Mattioli, pastor and vice president of the association "Hope & Joy".

A tortuous life course

You have seen them before. They are young (sometimes minors), of foreign origin and sell their bodies on the main avenues of metropolises. From a distance, it is their near-nudity that is obvious. You have to dare to approach to grasp the reality of their humanity, and the sadness of a look that speaks volumes. Deceived, transported, trapped and used: the story of a life course that you only hear once.

Fooled by the promise of a work contract, the love or the hope of a better life elsewhere, they leave their native country for Europe. In a foreign country of which they do not master the language and of which they do not have the nationality, they have no other choice but to rely entirely on their smugglers.

This vulnerability is the breeding ground for malicious mafia networks. A process of progressive dehumanization will make it possible to create real “sex slaves”. Morally broken by daily threats of reprisals against their families, but also physically by repeated gang rapes and violence, young women gradually lose any sense of dignity or freedom.

Daniel Mattioli, vice-president of the “Hope and Joy” association, evokes a real “dressage” approach.

The business of fear

slaveryAccording to Siddarth Karta, an expert in the field of research on human trafficking, global prostitution generates an annual turnover of between 5,4 and 7,6 billion euros. The sex business is extremely successful because, "unlike drugs or a gun, a girl can sell herself multiple times."

The raw material of this trade is fear. More precisely, it is the effect of fear on uprooted young women, a fear that paralyzes people's minds. This fear is above all that of the members of the network, but also the fear generated by the activity of prostitution itself.

« When, constrained to ten passes (sexual intercourse) per day, a young girl sees herself isolated in the countryside with a violent client, this inevitably leads to fears and trauma ”, explains D. Mattioli. Thus, in Montpellier, nearly 95% of people in prostitution sell themselves under duress.

The powerlessness of traditional protection mechanisms

The situation seems almost unrealistic. How to explain that young women, sometimes minors, can be forced to sell their bodies in the land of Human Rights? Why does this crime go unpunished? How can we fight against this “open shame” that D. Mattioli fervently denounces?

“The action of the police offers a certain reassuring presence; however, as prostitution is not prohibited in France, their means of protection remain limited, ”he explains. There are many shelters and legal mechanisms designed to protect victims of human trafficking. It would still be necessary for the victims to dare to testify, a fortiori to denounce their torturers, and for the truth of their words to be recognized. Thus, pimps are only very rarely condemned by the courts, for lack of proof: it is the story of a crime that leaves no trace.

In addition, most of these young women find themselves in an irregular situation, condemned to live in the shadows and in fear of those who should be able to protect them. The image of the policeman remains associated with that of the man, that is to say of the client or the pimp: how could they trust him? Trained to recite the lie of a life they have not lived, they very rarely obtain the right of asylum to which they could legitimately claim.

"We seek to bring them joy and hope in their unspeakable universe"

flower 1“One of the first girls I met had the name Joy as a pseudonym. Along the way with her, very early on, we saw hope appear in her eyes and in ours: the name of the association had been found ”, explains D. Mattioli. “We seek to bring them joy and hope in their unspeakable universe. »Where violence, declined in all its forms, wanted to create objects,« Hope and Joy »endeavors to give birth to women, human beings in their own right: children of God, loved as such.

"Hope and Joy" strives to give birth to women, human beings in their own right: children of God, loved as such.

Present on the main boulevards of the metropolis at nightfall, on country roads during the day, they seek to tear teenage girls away from the cruel daily life in which they live, at least for a few minutes. The male volunteers set out to destroy and then reconstruct their representation of the masculine: "They can tell them that they love them with unambiguous love", affirms D. Mattioli. Through progressive and regular work, the volunteers of theassociation « Hope and Joy Were able to transform fear into confidence.

Having realized the truth of God's love for them through the distribution of Bibles and accompaniment through prayer, some of them now come to church on a regular basis.

"Taking the measure of abuse, seeing these still childish faces crying for help, not being able to get them out of their hell, all this weighs a lot", admits D. Mattioli. However, he says he learns a lot, especially from their extraordinary life force despite their chaotic journey: "When a young slave girl, abused and torn from her family sings a Gospel a capella in the street, when yet another, instead of praying for her ailments prays for me and my family, I get hugewent. »

Slavery is not dead, its victims are very real. A handful of people from Montpellier try to make them exist as human beings. There is still a long way to go to overcome a crime which, despite being exposed to everyone's eyes, remains invisible. While waiting to be able to sanction the puppeteers of this large-scale slavery, only a change of outlook on prostitution will allow the shame to be driven out of those who exercise it, every day, in spite of themselves.

Lise hurpy

Contact : [email protected]

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