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Her mother would never return. At 8-years-old, the uncle began grooming her for prostitution with the intention of trafficking her to Italy. Beaten daily, bruises and welts — cunningly delivered to places that could be concealed by clothes — marked her small frame. She is now years-old and was happily married last year. Yet, thousands of Romanian girls are not as fortunate, and their stories meander into something far darker.
Since joining the EU, the ease of free movement, soaring poverty, and complicit authorities, have caused countless Romanian women to fall victim to sex traffickers. The Romanian mafia is an intricate network, which spans across Europe, specialising in sex trafficking. After singling out his would-be-victim, the trafficker pretends to be smitten with the girl, showering her with attention, affection, and romance.
Once the girl has fallen in love with him, he would pretend to encounter financial difficulties and the girl would be coerced into selling her body to help him. Once she is entrapped in ignominy and the seedy web of prostitution, it becomes difficult to escape. Sometimes, the women are blackmailed so that they are too fearful to attempt to break free.
Beyond that, it then becomes easy for the girls to be transported to different corners of Europe. Yet, the traffickers may not necessarily be at the root of the problem.
Valerie Huxley is the CEO of People against Poverty, an organisation working in the city of Iasi on the Moldovan border, making it the largest area for trafficking in Romania. The children whom they have liaised with often come from the gypsy community and are eking out an existence.