The Slovenia Times

End of a Tragic Life



Hardly anyone would have ever heard of Olena Popik if it were not for her "owner" from Mostar, who brought her to hospital in the most pitiable physical condition anyone could imagine on the evening of All Saints. She died the following day of tuberculosis and complications arising from other infectious diseases such as syphilis, hepatitis C and AIDS. Immediately after the police and state prosecution service of Bosnia & Hercegovina released details of her medical condition, the panic-button was hit in several areas of the former Yugoslavia. The police investigation has already uncovered a chain of people operating in the region who have been involved in trafficking and supplying various night clubs and pimps with young and beautiful girls from impoverished Eastern European states. Many of them have been, just as Olena Popik was, trying to escape the misery of a life lacking any prospects. Unfortunately, most of them end up addicted to drugs and enslaved by people earning fortunes from their bodies. According to the police, Olena Popik plied her trade in Serbia, Bosnia & Hercegovina and also in Slovenia. For the past three years she had been constantly on the move, often entertaining clients from higher social spheres such as businessmen and politicians. Before she died, she told authorities that on average she had eight clients per day and rarely used protection. Police released her picture as a public safety measure appealing to anyone who had ever had sexual contact with her to get tested for HIV and hoping that this will help prevent the further transmission of this deadly disease. Initially, there was little response to the appeal but there have now been over 50 people who have turned up at the hospital in Mostar to be tested and it is believed that many more have decided to take tests elsewhere to keep their anonymity. Doctors estimate that many hundreds of people could have been infected, amongst them many young men 'initiated' by Olena. Apparently, Olena worked in Celje's Rolex nightclub two years ago. The club has already been closed down but obviously she is well remembered because the number of people turning up for HIV tests in Celje has more than doubled since the beginning of November. According to Jozica Zibrat from Celje's Health Protection Agency, all the results have been negative - so far. A similar phenomenon has been noticed at the infectious diseases clinic in Ljubljana. None of the results have been made public but some say the situation here is not nearly as alarming as it is in Mostar. According to experts, practitioners and clients involved in the sex trade in Slovenia are more aware of the danger of being infected and prefer to practice safe sex. However, there are at least 137 HIV-positive people living in Slovenia, most of them homosexual males, 32 of who have already fallen ill. The most profitable economic activity of the 21st century Slovenia is used as a transit country for human trafficking to Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.ÿTo a lesser extent, it also serves as a destination country for Eastern European trafficking victims. Trafficking in women has been not criminalized as such,ÿbut may be punishableÿunder Article 186 of the penal code "Presenting Persons for Prostitution". A proposed amendment has been drafted, which would criminalize trafficking in human beings and punish anyone with prison sentences of one to ten years, who, "for the reasons of prostitution or other forms of sexual abuse, servitude or trafficking in parts of the human body, buys, takes over, lodges, transfers, sells, hands over, or other ways has another person in disposal". While prostitution is still illegal, it is no longer a misdemeanour and prostitutes may not be imprisoned. While the national coordinator for Trafficking in Persons has created a response plan for trafficking victims that enables them to receive assistance and information, Slovenia is, nonetheless, still without a comprehensive protection and shelter programme. However, in response to calls from the non-governmental organization, Klux, the Interior Ministry has agreed to grant victims of human trafficking immunity from prosecution, as well as temporary status, working visas and similar 'benefits'.


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