Human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation must be one of the most abhorrent abuses suffered by people (mainly women and children) today. A modern form of slavery, women and girls are kidnapped, beaten and raped by traffickers who make huge profits by selling women to men, who are willing to pay for sex.
The 2000 Protocol on human trafficking, aimed to prevent, suppress, and punish the offence, forms part of the Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.
But what happens if this organized crime is being perpetrated by those working in international organisations?
What happens if those involved in exploiting and raping women are UN peacekeepers with immunity?
And what happens to the person brave enough to report what is going on?
Whistleblower (2010), directed by Canadian Larysa Kondracki, tells the fictionalised story of Kathyrn Bolkovac (played by Rachel Weisz). Bolkovac, an American police officer, was sent to Bosnia under a contract with Dyncorp, a private contractor as a peacekeeper. When in Bosnia, she uncovered the involvement of UN peacekeepers in the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women.
The film dramatises the protection that the United Nations gave the soldiers and policemen involved in the exploitation of the women, both in their roles as traffickers and as patrons of the women forced into prostitution.
Whilst a blind eye was turned to the rape and exploitation of the women in post-war Balkans and the men involved were protected from the scandal, Bolkovac was fired, in what a British employment tribunal later determined to have been an unfair dismissal on account of her investigation and reporting of human trafficking.
Whistleblower – an excellent and hard-hitting movie with big-name actors including Vanessa Redgrave and Monica Belluci – is a must-see for those interested in gender issues in postconflict situations and in accountability (or lack thereof) for the criminal actions of UN personnel.
For a followup on the real-life events since the film was released – including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's staging of a special screening last year at the United Nations – see the Guardian article here.
(Cross-posted at Human Rights Film Diary blog)