An OxCAT organised flash mob in protest against sex trafficking took place on Cornmarket street on Tuesday afternoon.
The protest was in response to the jailing of two men by the Oxford Crown Court last month, for managing the “Fun Girls in Oxford” escort agency. At least three of the young women involved had been trafficked from Romania. It was designed to coincide with National Anti-Slavery Day.
At 1pm, students and townspeople gathered halfway up Cornmarket, dressed in black and wearing pink blindfolds, freezing for five minutes in silent protest. A mock market stall had been set up with girls standing in metal cages. The slogan, “Pretty girls for sale”, was spoken into megaphones by “sleazy salesmen”, as described on the invitation sent to several college JCRs.
OxCAT (Oxford Community Against Trafficking) represent various Oxfordshire churches. Their mission statement is “To expose modern slavery in all its forms and to fight any human trafficking”.
OxCAT volunteer Owen Gallacher commented, “Girls are often taken from those countries with abject poverty, given the dream job of their life, they think, and then they show up in Heathrow and they’re sold on to somebody else and the next day they’re working in brothels.”
St John’s JCR sent a contingent of students, complete with pink blindfolds, to head down to the protest together. Second year John’s Historian Thom Jee said, “I got involved with the flash mob through St Aldate’s church. Owen told us about what was going on under our noses, and a few of us volunteered to come and help out. It’s sickening to think that slavery is thriving right here in Oxford – hopefully the event will raise awareness in the community so that sex trafficking can’t slip under our radar any more.”
Linda Ludlow, of Oxford Human Trafficking Group explained, “The blindfolds mean open your eyes to what’s going on around you. You might not know it but look for the signs.”“I think it’s fabulous. we’ve got so many people here and so much interest. I think by having this event, it’s actually opened people’s eyes.”
One passer-by, who participated in the flash mob despite not having a pink blindfold to hand, said, “I thought it would be a really good way to make a visible impact. I hope that everyone who’s been walking past will have seen what’s going on and picked up a flier.”
According to the Home Affairs Committee there are at least 4,000 sex trafficking victims in the UK. The majority are girls aged 12-25.