In the film “When the Peacekeepers Arrive,” the issue of sex trafficking in Bosnia is investigated and linked to the presence of international militarization forces beginning in 1995. Troops from the U. S. , Germany, France, and the Netherlands established a military presence in Bosnia due to the Serbian-Bosnian conflict. Because of the influx of male soldiers in the area, the demand for prostitutes and their sexual services increased and the market for sex trafficking in the region exploded. According to LARA, U. S. oldiers created a free market called the “Arizona Market” where they could buy and sell goods, believing that bringing capitalistic practices into Bosnia would bring peace. However, many aspects of this “free market” were not-so free. The smuggling and trading of women for sex work was made easier due to the open market and posed a financial lure not only to the women who were trafficked, but also to the traffickers. Not only were women trafficked into the region, but night clubs and discotheques were customized for their clientele based on their nationality.
German soldiers were catered-to with clubs named “Arche” and Americans found comfort visiting bars named “Chicago. ” While German and Bosnian military personnel denied any inappropriate behavior on the part of their soldiers, in October of 2000 an American female UN officer discovered information quite to the contrary. She interviewed women who came to her office seeking help and uncovered an underground sex trafficking operation in the area which was frequented by male UN officers.
After informing her UN superiors of this devastating issue, she was fired. The film addresses the issue of corruption and mismanagement in the international peacekeeping community; the UN is designed to help countries in crisis of war and conflict, not to create new human rights problems such as human trafficking. The insensitivity to female sex workers during brothel raids and interviews revealed the common theme in places where sex work is criminalized: women are not treated as potential victims, but as criminals.
During a raid, the S. T. O. P. team damaged belongings of the sex workers and treated them harshly. Once processed, a sex trafficking victim must reintegrate into society and find work in an economy which is hostile toward the working class, where the wage disparity between local workers and international peacekeepers varies dramatically. Jobs involving hard manual labor outdoors or intensive textile work in garment factories are some of the few, low-wage jobs available. The film uccessfully unfolds the complex set of problems in public and international institutions, social structures which should be a reliable means of combating human trafficking and providing support for victims, but oftentimes fail. Larger social, economic, and political issues play a role in shaping the treatment of victims and facilitate their status as sex workers, sex trafficking victims, or illegal immigrants. Is there one single solution for this complicated issue? No. But the fired UN officer revealed a need for higher standards and more accountability within the international peacekeeping and public services community.