Interviewer gives interviewee introduction on what she is filming, her organization while she is setting up the camera for the interview.
Its information center, for women from Asia, Africa and Latin America, living in Switzerland. It was set up in 1985,out of experiences of development
groups,and different women's political specific groups. At the time, in the late and mid seventies, early, eighties, a lot of people from Asia, Africa, and Latin America were immigrating to
Switzerland, you know.
They faced many, many problems here. Not only on the base of the gender, but also on the base of race, and work and health and language. In the early stage
of that period, they were researched by a woman who were looking how come the women migrate,so many and so much from these regions to Switzerland?
It was also to find out that alto were kind of, my English is bad, a lot were kind of attracted by people, by men into Switzerland and were promised a job,
or any kind of thing, and as soon as they were here they found themselves having to work in the sex industry.
that was the main foundation and trade for the center. So we started dealing with women and trafficking, with women migration, and prostitution in
What kind of jobs were they usually promised when they came to work? They were usually promised work in hotel,as a housekeeper, in restaurants, jobs like
that, where women in Africa and Asia, they think could make some money. It is the global structure, also that allows women to be at the mercy more or less of the organized gangs of trafficking.
You can't even say also that everyone out continental,non-European, non-western white, person who lives in Europe is trafficked. It is very difficult situation.
Since the women who are involved in trafficking are under so much pressure, not many of them come out and speak of what has happened to them. So to evaluate,
find out, numbers it is very difficult. But the fact is each country, has more or less, a mystery with trafficking. In Germany, the situation is almost the same as in Switzerland,in Austria,in
Holland, in Sweden, everywhere where we are coming from like Africa, Latin America, Asia. How do you say that, take you into the country,..
Imported..like a product...
I think that they are treated like products and strong field because there are so much violence in this, and racism, and sexism in this business. And only
On the other hand, on the governmental level, of the Western European countries, they have so restricted, very xenophobic laws about immigration.
Also about how people come from very far out countries for them.. For instance,in Switzerland, it's people there is this so called three circle model.
The first circle is the Western European.I mean Switzerland, European Union. The second circle in Canada and the U.S., and the third circle is all the
So this is circles if immigration? How are they treated legally?
Very, very bad. I mean, Canada and the U.S. has more or less to Europe, for there, because Europe counts more or less to the states because Europe,they have
the forefathers. But as soon as the Southerners area, like Africa, like Asia, which are other cultures, it is very difficult for people, esp women to migrate to Switzerland or especially
Germany without being bound to any kind of man.
So you can translate more or less that the immigration law of Switzerland like that if the women comes to work as a prostitute she is allowed. Because there
is this special artists Visa you can have that allows this women to be in the country for eight months, in a row then has to go out. Then she can get another Visa but this Visa only allows her
to work in street clothes.
GC: Does the law of the Visa explicitly say, "the artist shall..." do you know the language?
The law of the Visa says that this Visa is valuable for eight months. That this person which is a dance artist is permitted allowed to work in this area,
field, for eight months. It is clear where she is allowed to work for eight months.
GC: How is the field of business defined?
It is not really defined as such. It is a Visa that covered orders and agency have applied for a women. It is clear that is where she is allowed to work for
eight months. But I am not so good,my other colleague is better with laws. I don't really deal with legal issues in the center.
GC: Can you tell me a little bit about how the system works starting with recruitment til they make it to the clubs. In other words,are there recruiters
working in the local areas who have in South American and in Africa who have connections to Swiss organized crime? Or is Swiss organized crime working with organized syndicates in these
individual countries? How does the process...
It is both. I mean, since the phenomenon is twenty five years old now ,maybe more, since people are being sensibilized and they are groups fighting against
that and things have developed also.I think you find as well,Swiss organized crime members who are working abroad as well as you find local people working with you know, and uh, you just have a
case here where a Swiss man has been sentenced for prison for a few years with his wife which is from Cameroon and they has an organized crime of trafficking of women from Cameroon.
So, they were working with people from Cameroon also,and like his own wife,you know. And you can say how and you wanted to know how the women come it's so
many many different ways. The classical way was yeah the guy would travel around the Caribbean and around Africa around Latin America and contact some women and tell them yeah come to
Switzerland and you could work in a hotel and you could make a lot of money very quickly and blah, blah,blah,blah. And when they comes a lot like you know, yeah that's more or less like that.
It's not operating so much on that level but still for caberet street dances it's still, there are a lot of agencies now
which are very professional. There are another field which is set-up also mail order brides where especially women from Asia, Philipines and Thailand and
which is a airport also of -
GC: What have the experiences of the Asian women that you have dealt with been in terms of mail order brides? Is that a front for caberet and prostitution
situation? are there, or is it just that they are coming in and finding themselves in an abusive situation and don't know what their remedies are? How does it work?
It's a, I mean the situation of the woman working in a night club,and the situation of where the abuse of her is more obvious, where you can see it easier,
then the situation where the woman is getting married to a man somewhere, where she's isolated,where often you can't see the abuse of what is being done to her. I mean it's just a difference of
form.. The fact is,the economic situation pressed them to go and then comes the violent situation between them, the woman and her partners, whether it be her husband, or any caberet owner, or
pimp or who else, you know, and often they have families they have to support one way or another.
And often there are cultural differences and honor,a sense of honor, which is different than what is called here honor. So many stay even in a violent
relation just because they can't face the fact to go back,anymore, you know. It's a ...there are so many things playing a big role in determinating role of the background of the situation of
the women. I don't know if I am clear enough.
GC: No, you are very clear. I am not saying so much because the footage will not be usable if I am interjecting while you are speaking,I understand exactly
what you are saying, so I will just be asking you questions when I need you to clarify.
(Camera Zooms) For you what is I think very important to you...it's a...
GC: Go ahead
Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern governments, there is a big Eastern so called mafia which is set up in dealing with any kind of things and
with women also. And there are, you can say in the trafficking of women it is like a joke but it is not funny at all. First they came Black, then they came from Asia, and then they came from
the Caribbean, and now they are coming from eastern Europe. I am asking myself, in the next decade maybe they are going to traffic their own women.
It, I mean since the fall of the wall there is a real, since the fall of the social empire there are very bad, I come back to it every time, it is the
economical, structure problems who push women to migrate. I mean we deal with one thing: trafficking women in prostitution and on the margin with female migration globally. And only those ones
who come to Europe - I mean the inner south migration, which is very, very high also,the inner Asian migration, the inner South American migration, we don't see that, we can't catch it
It's a global, economic problem, and since the western countries and the U.S. are still on this course of exploiting the other countries to get richer and
richer and not giving anything back. These processes are gonna come, they are going to continue. You can close the borders, you can set up the most restrictive laws. People are going to find
ways to exploit, to on go that also. GC: What typically happens when lets say, the police here, I mean how active are the police here when it comes to trafficking? And who are they ordinarily
taking action against and what kind of action are they taking?
You know, I always say the policeman is a potential husband, is a potential trafficker is a potential exploiter, also,so you can imagine that when he is
front of the problem with a foreign woman with a migrant woman, with a Swiss man, with a person who is resident here, for whom he takes part, first of all,he takes part for the man, usually,
even though he is supposed to clear up the scene and be fair. But we have a police department which is called the police of the morals, the moral police.
Which is deals alot with crimal, organised crime, prostitution, everything like that. But, uh...those police officers are the ones more or less also that
just put more weight on the pressure of the migrant women, of the women trafficked the women involved in that business. So that's one thing.
The other thing you must see is that a lot of women find themselves being undocumented illegal in the country and the police again is has some laws to follow
also. So it's not such a big help. So you can't count on the police saying that. There are so mant things behaind that. You can't really say that the police is on the side of the government,and
the government say that we don't want this and this and that?
What happens when the police discover undocumented workers here? Are they deported immediately, are they held in detention centers? Uh...It depends.
Some of them are deported quite immediately We have in Switzerland, I don't know the word in English, it's a law passed one and a half years ago and it's a law who says that any
person arrested by the police undocumented can be put in detention, for fifteen months until his residency can be cleared up.
15 months in detention for being undocumented? Fiz: Yes, it's possible. GBC: Does that happen? Fiz: Sure. That's a law which was passed almost two years ago.
GBC: So rather than forcibly deport women at their own expense, they keep them in detention for 15 months? Fiz: It happens. The detention can go one week, two weeks, depending how long it takes
them to clear up the situation of the person. And after that they decide what to do, but most of the time the person is expelled out of the country.
Do you have stories of what happens, what sorts of pressures women face socially and culturally when they are deported when they have been working here? Is
it common when they get back people actually know that they have been trafficked for prostitution and they are facing that kind of stigma when they return or don't you hear much about what
happens when they are sent back?
That's a pity We don't really have experience with that, with what happens with the women when they go back with women who are forced to go back, since we
can't really work with women who are not documented, only until a certain level. But as soon as social offices and officials get involved we can't deal with that anymore, you understand why?
Because....GBC: You have some government funding? Fiz: Not only because of that, but you put automatically the women in danger. Not because of the funding or whatever, but because we put her
automatically in danger, and we put the center also in danger. If we are trying to help an undocumented woman, and any legal officials or governmental or police officials get to know that, she
has to fear an explution (expulsion?). GBC: Because they assume they're working in the sex industry if you're trying to help them. Fiz: Yes, you understand what I mean. That's also the problem
we face a lot of times, you know. But to go back to your question about what happens to them. The women who go back, I think, most of them are so completely down psychologically, I think they
don't care anymore what people think. They just want to get out of a very, very abusive and violent situation.
Tell me a little bit about the situtation at the clubs here? What are the major clubs, do different clubs specialize in different ethnicities, when they're
brought to the clubs are they usually living in the clubs, and are their passports confiscated like what's happening in the actual cabarets here? Fiz: You have any kind of setting. You have the
setting you just said, you have the setting from where you have different ethnicities represented in one club, you have the same thing where the women just live upstairs or not far. But the
situation is that in the clubs they have to work, to make a certian amount of show a day, they have to animate the clients to drink alcohol, which makes them very quickly alcoholics, the women,
very quickly. And they have to generate at least $10,000 of alcohol a month, each one, you know. And to have to work every day, many have to work every day, or six days, at least a week without
any day off.
Especially this pressure of alcohol and drugs which is very corrupt (?) makes this woman very quickly an addict. GBC: Are the women paid or are they
living on credit, how does it work? Fiz: They are paid, there are contracts, but it depends, they have a lot of expenses also, like their [costumes] for the show, they don't get any help for
that, you know, they have to do their shows themselves, buy everything themselves, and they don't have any money even if they say they're paid this and this amount for each show or for each
month, it's a very...the expenses are too high, because usually they are new in the place where they go, and they have to have any kind of place, room to live, so the owners cut some kind of
rent, since he finds the place for her, he looks for her and since they have to change the night club every month, that's in the law also. GBC: Oh...tell me about that.
Fiz: They have to change the club each month. The woman is not allowed to work more than one month in the same club. GBC: Why is that? What's the
justification? Fiz: I can't tell you. I really can't tell you. That's what the law says.
And I'm coming to the conclusion that this law was set up with the government and caberet owners. I mean who does it profit? It profits them that each month
you have somebody else. GBC: So they're circulating, they're here for 8 months..And what area of town are the clubs operating in, is it spread out?
Ah its spread out all over the city more or less,but the big concentration is the area here, but its all over Switzerland in any little village you found the
kindof men with dancers and strip shows. GBC: talk about the problems of changing every month;islolated, money involved, etc. raminfications for the women
this is a big hassle first of all, its a bighassle, you are never somewhere at home,you cant really feel settled somewhere. For your psyche, this is a
big(how do you say it in English) ... you are never secure because each month you have to get another job, this isnot secure at all. GBC: what do their contracts typically say?
FIZ: Their contracts say you have a period of trial for 3 days in which period the dancer as well as the owner can say if they want to work together or not
for the first three days and if after those 3 days dancer accepts it its ok and [face out of frame/caner reset)and then that the owner has to pay the .. salary for the dancer, but all those
night club owners they have an association, they know each other, its like a gang and as soon as a woman is not at their taste, I mean it goes around and this woman has a lot of difficulty to
find another job. GBC: So if they rebel at all and they are brought in on these visas, they are basically blacklisted and they aren't going to be able to work anywhere.
who owns the clubs, what nationality? FIZ: Swiss, mostly. GBC: How big of a presence is the Russian mafia here?
That's something I really can't talk about because we really don't deal with that that much, but I think the Russian mafia has quite an influence here Zurich
because we get more and more calls here from Russian or Eastern Euorpean women but since we are not explicitly for that region, we don't have any study about that or any experience at
all. We don't tell to the women that they can't come because ... this is an information center for women but we did specifically Asian, Latin American, we don't refuse to help any other women,
but we can't go out and dealing with the problem Eastern European women because we don't have a lot of experience with that.
But I think in terms of trafficking in terns of violence in terms of abuse of women that the patterns are more or less the same. GC: are you the only org in
Zurich that's addressing trafficking? FIZ: We are the only one addressing trafficking specifically[GOES OUT OF FRAME] GC: And when you talk about providing info and referrals,what kinds?
I mean we inform the women about their rights first of all, here, we do a lot of public relations in terms of interview like this or radio and discussion and
the center is going to publish a second book now also on the analytical base... we do counselling direct counselling, like the women can come here and we help her in any kind of difficult
situation she is in. And we do network, a lot of ... that involves the communication and exchange with similar organizations abroad or organizations targeting, dealing with the topic of
trafficking and the immigration, in Asia, Africa Latin America and the US. GC: In your estimation how big is the problem of the trafficking of Russian and Eastern European women, do you
have any sense of the numbers?
I can't tell you the number but I can tell you that it's more and more increasing.... Its very , its like a new market , you can say, you know. and the
demand also its very much increasing and since you know ... 4 years ago there was a very determinate law was passed, a law of residency or citizenship law. Before 1992 women who got married to
a Swiss citizen became Swiss automatically and men, non-Swiss men that got married with Swiss women, got first a residence permit which has to be .. renewed each year and then after 3 years
they were allowed to have and on the base of so-called equality of men and women, instead of bettering the situation [camera off for a minute].
They worsen the situation of women .. a lot of Swiss citizens with permit or residence permit in Switzerland can just take any kind of woman marry them for a
year or 2 and get divorced and know that she has to go out of country after one or 2 years of marriage, you have to be 17 married at least 3 or 5 years to get a permanent residence permit, your
residency is dependent of your status of matrimonial, so we get more and more cases, of women who face these problems, like any kind of men marry a woman for I dont know where, they like, and
they put them many times on very pyschotic relations, and then they get divorced and they marry again for another woman,and its like a free pass for changing women like changing your handbag,
and this situation is very hard, but that's the new law
Presume we had police that cared to do something about this, how would you change things structurally? FIZ: I would give any woman a the first thing we want
is that any woman has the right to migrate, first of all,and that she has the right to get an independent permit where, independent of work, independent of their [marital status] and
undependent of the man ... but it doesn't seem like the govt of W. European countries want to do that. I mean, it's a male world, and like I say that are all potential traffickers you know
But I gave you here our newsletter ... [talking about newletters, off camera]
There is a former worker of the center which was from Brazil who worked here for a few years and we setup, because we have a lot of Brazilian women coming
and 18 living in Switzerland and as clients of the center and it was also urge to set up a kind of prevention center in Brazil, another one it would be an urge to do it would be in Cameroon,
because a lot of women are coming also from Cameroon. GC: What about Asia?
Philipina, Thailand, and Dominican Republic and these former member of the center she's head of this prevention center in? It's called Charmen, a center who
tried to prevent migration under false illusions, into Europe and especially into Switzerland. GC: What do you notice in terms of the age? FIZ: You have everything but the tendency is
going younger and younger and they have false papers saying that they are 20 since the Swiss law wants them to be 20 they have to be 20 years of age to be able to work but you get [camera
moving] but you get many times women which are under 20. Especially from Asia.
GC: What ages are you talking? FIZ: 15, 16, 17. GC: What about the demographics, poorer and haven't completed high school? Yes. GC: Because a lot of the
Russian women are very well educated.
That's the facts of communism, where every body were allowed education at the same level, and then now 19 comes the economy where even with your education
you can't do much, that's more or less usual that the Eastern European women falling into trafficking they are very well educated because the communist system gave the education to everybody.
That's the big difference with the more capitalized society where education is a factor of who has money. Now, I think in 15 years you won't find any Russian women undependent of the class very
well educated either because the Communist system is break down but that's a merit of the communist system.
[Talk about communism/market economy)
Does Interpol play any role in terms of trafficking? FIZ: We don't have any experience with that, no. GC: So it's just the morals division in the
police dept? [talking about Sylvia Steiner.. partner in the office talking in German to Kuoh.]
shot of the office
FIZ logo on the wall
written materials/reports in the office, ZURICH
Hotel Happy Love (Zurich)
Naked women in window
Long street (famous club)
Red lips caberet
Go-go striptease, women pictures.
Happy love, MacDonalds truck goes by Hotel Happy Love (Zurich)
[Interview with Koyo Kovott (FIZ) and b-roll of red light district in Zurich]
Interview with Koyo Kovott from Frauen Informations-Zentrum (FIZ) / Women's Information Centre for Women from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe in Zurich. Kovott talks about the situation of women who are trafficked or who migrate to Switzerland and end up having to work in the sex industry. She says that Swiss immigration law makes it difficult for women, from Africa and Asia especially, to come to the country without a man unless she gets an artist visa to work as a dancer in a strip club. Kovott explains that women are recruited in many different ways, and that there are many professional agencies recruiting for cabarets and strip clubs. She also talks about the mail-order bride industry, another part of sex trafficking that targets women from Asia. Kovott says that the migration and trafficking of women is a global issue brought on by economic structural problems. She then talks about how migrant women are treated by police in Switzerland, Swiss laws about deportation, and how these laws affect trafficked women. Kovott also talks about the situation of migrant women who work in nightclubs, and the pressures they face. Kovitt talks about FIZ's services, including providing information and direct counseling. B-roll of the red light district in Zurich, including shots of nightclubs, sex shops, hotels, and naked women in a window.
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Gillian CaldwellRole: Interviewer
civil and political rights--women's rights
economic, social, and cultural rights--economic and labor rights--sex workers
economic, social, and cultural rights--economic and labor rights--human trafficking
laws, justice, and judicial proceedings--immigration procedures
armed conflict and persecution--sexual violence
civil and political rights--discrimination--gender discrimination
North America--United States--New York--Brooklyn
Type of Resource:
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