28 October 2011

Street art vs. evil

Some subjects are so toxic that we tend to avoid them altogether. Everyone from citizens to media, police and politicians turn a blind eye on human trafficking. We all agree that slavery is bad, obviously, but it is thriving in the open, with women forced to prostitute themselves on every corner of the Meatpacking District. When someone attempts to bring the subject up, it immediately gets muddied with the issues of prostitution, women's rights and personal freedom. It is a minefield too messy to enter, and this fear of confrontation plays right into the hands of evil. I find it really hard to see women in the street forced to be with men who couldn't give less of a crap about their human rights.

The issue is a constant source of frustration to me. If I pretend they are not there, it is showing these women that they are not human beings, and if I acknowledge their presence, as women forced to please men, I somehow accept it? I don't know how we put an end to slavery, but I do know that staying silent is not an option. There are many ways to spark a debate and get your points through, fear mongering and violence are the most common, and ultimately also the most ineffective. In this case, humor is a sophisticated way of detoxifying the subject. And in its own way proof that the change we want must come from us. From the street level.

Reserved for trafficking

Reserved for trafficking

Sidewalk for rent

Sidewalk for rent (link to City of Copenhagen)

Reserved Nigerians

Reserved for Nigerians

Reserved for Nigerians

Reserved for Nigerians

Reserved Lithuanians

Reserved for Lithuanians

Street art against human trafficing

Brutally honest. Street art at its best.

The Danish organisation in aid of trafficed women Hope Now.

A link to the video documenting the project.


  1. Yes Sandra this is a very uneasy and tricky subject. I like the blunt approach. One friend of mine was working with an agency dealing with slavery in the US, and what she told was unbearable.

  2. Portland is apparently one of the worst cities in the country for sex trafficking. But the issue is almost completely absent from public discussion.

    It is really difficult - and I think there probably is no complete solution to the problem. Some things might help - legalizing (and regulating) prostitution as in the Netherlands may make it harder to trap someone into doing it, since it is technically legal - but I'm not sure this problem will ever be completely solved. It's an unfortunate truth about humanity that many of us enjoy manipulating others and using them for personal gain, at their great expense. And we will find all kinds of tricky ways to do it.

    I don't think that by acknowledging the problem (or the people involved) you are accepting it, except in the sense that you are accepting that the problem exists. That isn't the same as condoning it, or just saying "oh well, let it be". I think it's important to recognize a human as a human, always. The worst thing that can happen to a human is to believe themselves that they are only an object, and if you can be the only person in someone's life to acknowledge them as a human, imagine what that might do.

    Interesting that they specifically chose Lithuanians - do you have many Lithuanian immigrants (legally or illegally)?

  3. Hi Carole, it is too hard to deal with, really. I just learned that there is an upcoming event educating the public on human trafficking, it is free, but you must promise to fill the seat you book, and I just know it is going to be unbearable. The ones who should (be forced to) attend are the men who keep this business alive. They should see the damage they do, up close.

  4. Hi Dave, it is so strange, when I read your stories from Portland I often think it sounds similar to Copenhagen in some ways, and now with the blossoming slavery too.

    My approach is to show them that they are there, but at the same time not to make them uncomfortable. When I am in doubt, I always try to put myself in the other persons shoes, and in this case I would be extremely uncomfortable if anyone even looked at me, I think. They must detatch themselves so much to stay alive.

    I don't know their exact nationalities, but I have heard that there are a lot from the eastern part of Europe. And there are Asian and African women too. It may sound naive, but I have a really hard time understanding how any man can support this evil? How he can bring himself to be such an active part of the abuse? It makes me sick. Which is one of the reasons I would rather not deal with it. But have to, of course. Poor women.

  5. http://vimeo.com/30152921 - the video 4 this

  6. Hi Casper,
    Thank you so much for the link. Much respect to your project!


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