The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that on any given day in 2016, an estimated 3.6 million men, women and chidlren were living in modern slavery in Europe and Central Asia (GSI 2018). People are subjected to exploitation in forced labour, debt bondage and forced sexual exploitation. Government response in Europe is particularly strong with a number of regional bodies holding them account and monitoring responses, and while countries in Central Asia have taken steps to tack modern slavery, more needs to be done.
Cristina, a 15-year-old girl from Romania was forced into marriage against her will at the age of 13 in England. She travelled to Spain and Belgium with her husband where he forced her to steal under threats of violence.
My name is Cristina. I’m 15 and I come from Romania. I lived there, then went to England. I stayed with my little sisters and brother—I took care of them and was always with them at home. And then… one day, my mother married me off. A friend of hers came to our house and said that he wanted to marry me. When I heard this, I cried and did all kinds of things not to marry him. She said, ‘This is my decision and you have to just live by it’. My husband was 18. I was only 13 and I didn’t know how to do anything.
He was mean. He didn’t even know how to act with a girl of 15 or 14. He acted as if I was a woman of 20 or 30 or something like that. Then I went to Romania where they did my passport and stuff. After that, I went to Spain. I stole and he stayed home. I never wanted to steal but I had to because if I didn’t, he would hit me. Then he saw that stealing wasn’t working in Spain, so I left with him to Belgium. I thought what I was doing was wrong and I wanted to stop. Then the police arrested me. I got myself arrested on purpose [voluntarily] because if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be here. They put me in a center and there, I started to live a normal life. When I still think about what happened, my heart really aches. I feel really sad.”
Cristina now lives in a youth shelter and is attending school in Belgium.
Narrative source Youth Underground, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing human trafficking through youth education, awareness-raising and advocacy.
Original narrative can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/YouthUnderground.CH/posts/3337751712926947