Appeal to punters: report signs of forced prostitution
Launch of Crimestoppers campaign against human trafficking
Commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice, the Dutch equivalent of Crimestoppers, Meld Misdaad Anoniem (hereinafter: M.) today launched the ‘schijn bedriegt’ campaign, which title means as much as ‘appearances are deceptive’. The campaign is being launched to help fight human trafficking; it focuses in particular on forced labour in the sex industry. An animation and banners on the internet will inform punters of signs of involuntary prostitution. The aim is to encourage punters to provide the police or M. (anonymously) with information on such situations.
Human trafficking is one of the most serious crimes covered by the Dutch Penal Code. One of the best-known examples of human trafficking is involuntary prostitution. Mr Opstelten, the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice states: 'Human trafficking is a heinous crime, the full horrible extent of which people have no idea. That is a shame, because it involves abuse of highly vulnerable people, in degrading situations.'
Tackling Human Trafficking
Minister Opstelten has taken several measures to bolster the fight against human trafficking. Amongst other things, a bill has been presented to the Dutch Lower House of Parliament with a view to increasing the maximum sentences for human trafficking. In addition, the minister has drawn up a nationwide anti-grooming strategy. One of the measures from this strategy is deploying the M. Campaign entitled ‘Schijn bedriegt’. The City of Amsterdam is also prioritizing tackling the evils in the sex industry. For that reason, Mayor Van der Laan attended the launch of the campaign.
Substance of the campaign
The idea behind the campaign is: things are not always what they seem, or put differently: 'appearances are deceptive'. Sex sites invite punters to watch a short animation, in which they are ‘seduced’ by provocative images. Gradually, the images reveal more and more evident signs of involuntary prostitution: bruises, fear and no pleasure in work. At the end, punters are called upon to report any wrongs. Guus Wesselink, managing director of Meld Misdaad Anoniem, explains the campaign footage: “Often, victims are so afraid of their traffickers that they dare not report them to the police. Hence, the help of punters is vital.'
'Schijn bedriegt', the sequel
In 2006 and 2008, similar campaigns were run, under the same title ('Schijn bedriegt'). This led to a significant increase in the number of reports on involuntary prostitution and human trafficking. The information provided to the anonymous reporting hotline thanks to the 2008 campaign resulted in 117 official reports on involuntary prostitution; not least thanks to these reports, the police was able to arrest 14 suspects, and the public prosecution service had success with five criminal trials. For example, two individuals were found guilty of human trafficking in November 2011 by the court in Amersfoort.
Human trafficking: background information
Forced prostitution is a form of human trafficking, and is a very serious crime. Often, women are tempted, abducted or taken by force to the Netherlands under false pretences. Once they are in the Netherlands, they are forced to work in the sex industry. Often, this involves (sexual) violence, blackmail and deceit. Dutch nationals - even minors - can also fall victim to such forced labour. These – often vulnerable– girls are put under pressure by their ‘boyfriends’ to prostitute themselves.