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Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 06:34 GMT 07:34 UK
Sex slavery under attack
asian prostitutes
Victims are often coerced into prostitution
By John McLean in Manila

An international conference has opened in the Philippine capital, Manila, with the aim of finding ways to end the "modern-day slavery" of women and children in the Asian and Pacific region.

Organisers believe that in Asia alone, some 250,000 human beings are bought and sold every year, most of them women and girls.

Through coercion or deception these people end up in prostitution, domestic servitude or in sweatshops as bonded labour.

But the conference has heard that trafficking in human beings is a problem that is often ignored, in spite of its being the third largest source of money for organised crime, after drugs and guns.

Massive turnover

American Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who addressed the conference from Washington via a video link, described this practice as one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world.

Anita Botti, principal deputy director of US President Bill Clinton's inter-agency council on women said "close to a quarter-of-a-million" women and children in South East Asia were "bought and sold" like slaves every year for about $6,000 to $10,000 dollars each.

The US Government estimates that 50,000 victims from the former Soviet states, South-East Asia and Latin America enter the United States every year.

The lowest estimates puts the annual turnover at least $6bn, but Ms Botti said the US estimate of one million victims was "very conservative" and the actual figure may well be double.

The meeting is jointly organised by the United States and the Philippines and brings together representatives of more than 20 Pacific rim countries, as well as other interested bodies.

Their aim is to agree on a regional plan of action to prevent trafficking in women and children, protect the victims and prosecute and punish the traffickers.

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23 Feb 00 | Americas
Crackdown on sex slavery
01 Dec 98 | Inside EMU
Crime without frontiers
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