Thursday, July 10, 2008

'Naked facts' help combat human trafficking in Serbia

On 5 June, a new kind of public awareness campaign to fight human trafficking was launched by the OSCE Mission to Serbia and its local partner ASTRA, a non-governmental organization (NGO) devoted to the cause.

This summer's 'Naked Facts' campaign encourages people to be cautious and aware, and to report any trafficking cases they may know something about.
Since 2001, the OSCE Mission has been helping the country to prevent people from falling prey to traffickers. It has supported the development of a national strategy to combat human trafficking as well as a victim protection mechanism, and has been working intensively with various groups of professionals in their efforts to fight trafficking.

'Naked Facts'

But what makes this campaign stand out are its visuals. "To draw attention to the cause and to challenge the cliché that naked women are an acceptable part of marketing, the images show seven well-known Serbian men who are almost naked," says the Mission's Acting Spokesperson, Ivana Jovanovic.

The men featured on the posters, billboards and TV spots are Zeljko Bodrozic, a well-known journalist, Jugoslav Cosic, a TV presenter and journalist known for his uncompromising attitude towards scandals in Serbia, and Dejan Anastasijevic, known for his investigative writing on both organized crime and war crimes.

Also shown are Milutin Petrovic, the campaign's director, Ivan Tasovac, director of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, Branislav Lecic, actor and former Minister of Culture in Zoran Djindjic's Government, and Vukasin Markovic, actor and front man of a popular Serbian reggae band.

Not just a country of transit

"Serbia has predominantly been a country of transit for victims of human trafficking," says Madis Vainomaa, the Mission's Human Rights Programme Co-ordinator. "In recent years, however, it has become mainly a country of origin, with most victims being trafficked internally.

"In 2007, the State Agency for the Coordination of Protection of Victims of Trafficking identified 60 trafficking cases, including 51 women, 9 men and 26 children.

"The cases identified so far in 2008 also confirm the disturbing fact that Serbia has an increasing number of child victims. Most are cses of sexual exploitation, but forced labour and forced begging are also found."

Previous awareness campaigns have led to an increase in the number of calls to ASTRA's SOS hotline, and as a result, more trafficking victims have been identified and assisted in the last six years.

"Campaigns have been successful in the past," says ASTRA President Marija Andjelkovic, "but their long-term effect depends on the political climate. It is important for the authorities to continuously acknowledge that human trafficking is one of the most profitable organized crimes and that they must do everything possible to tackle it."

Reaching out at the right time

The campaign, which will run until the end of the year, includes TV spots and accompanying radio jingles that will be broadcast in June and September 2008, when young people, for instance, set out to look for seasonal jobs or go on vacation. In addition, billboards and posters will be displayed in selected cities around Serbia.

Leaflets will be distributed to schools, encouraging younger people to be cautious of job, education and travel offers, and advising them to contact ASTRA for free advice. They can, for example, get a background check on particular job ads. The flyers will also explain who could be human traffickers, who are at risk of becoming victims and what they can do to protect themselves.
"Through previous campaigns, the Serbian public has become familiar with the problem, and both citizens and the state seem generally less tolerant of violence then a few years ago," says Andjelkovic. "With this campaign we want to stress that at the beginning of the 21st century we cannot tolerate any form of slavery.

"We need to remind them that women are not meat, children are not slaves and people are not a commodity. These are just the naked facts."

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