A demonstration was staged by Oxford Communities Against Trafficking (OXCAT) last Saturday. Primarily concerned with raising awareness amongst the general public of the many issues surrounding the sex trafficking of young girls and women, the demonstration also sought to allow young volunteers a chance to engage with OXCAT’s campaign.

An OXCAT spokesperson said, “We are trying to do as much awareness-raising in the community as possible, targeted at different levels. Saturday was a small and low-key event for a few young people who wanted to know more about trafficking. The main aim was for those young people who wanted to learn about trafficking and wanted to get involved to do so.”

OXCAT have run a number of drives targeted at people throughout the community in order to raise awareness of these issues. In December 2012 they ran a free course specifically designed to raise awareness amongst registered taxi and private hire drivers. In October 2012 they ran the Child Catcher stunt, in which men dressed as the character of the Child Catcher from  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and walked enchained schoolchildren through the streets of Oxford. Their main efforts are now focused on the 2013 Anti-Slavery Day on 18th October.

The Queen’s College Equalities Rep Li Li Tan said, “In general I think campaigns like this are really necessary for raising awareness of issues in the wider world. Especially since I’ve encountered a fair number of people who are sceptical about why we would even need positions like the Equalities Rep, because cases of serious discrimination are not widespread within Oxford colleges.”

Suzanne Holsomback, OUSU Vice-President for Women, told Cherwell, “The Oxford Community Against Trafficking and Salvation Army’s demonstration on 9th March was a powerful statement about trafficking and modern day slavery. Trafficking happens in Oxford and we cannot turn a blind eye to this crime in our community. Bold campaigns such as this force people to see, hear, and know that trafficking is an issue.”

Sex trafficking is an issue which has come to light in Oxford through the Bullfinch trial, which started in mid-January. The trial has seen the prosecution of nine men on 78 separate charges of child rape, trafficking, and sexual exploitation of girls between the ages of 11 and 16.