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Frontpage News 2009 Fighting human trafficking

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Fighting human trafficking

With support from the EEA and Norway Grants, the Hungarian NGO fund is blowing new life into the country`s civil society sector. One of the initiatives supported by the fund is a project to protect women from trafficking and prostitution.

The Foundation for Women in Hungary (MONA) is now looking to recent legal reforms in the Nordic countries in their quest for legislative change in the fields of trafficking and prostitution. "We want the judicial system to reflect the strong links between prostitution and trafficking. Currently, the law deals with these closely linked issues completely separately", said Andrea Matolcsi, who manages the project.  

Based on the findings of an international research project carried out by the European Network Against Trafficking in Women for Sexual Exploitation (ENATW) for which Betlen Anna of MONA carried out the Hungarian research, the project aims to break down obstacles to combating trafficking and sexual exploitation. In addition to lobbying for legal reforms, the project is also aiming to establish an interdisciplinary support system for victims of trafficking and women in prostitution. The organisation will facilitate the coordination between law enforcement officials, social workers and other state and civil actors working within these fields to encourage more effective measures to combat trafficking, prostitution and violence against women in Hungary. Two conferences aiming to foster interdisciplinary cooperation have already been organised, and a third is planned in the autumn of 2009.

"In Hungary, we only have one shelter for victims of trafficking, and there is very little information available for agencies working with women in prostitution, despite the fact that internal trafficking is prevalent," said Matolcsi, who hopes this project will serve as a first step towards long term change in Hungarian legislation on prostitution and trafficking.

Promoting social alternatives

At close to €6 million, the Hungarian NGO fund is one of the biggest funding sources for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the country. The fund provides financial support to NGO projects within environmental protection and sustainable development, civil liberties and capacity building, social cohesion and health and childcare, and cultural heritage. "Our primary goal is to make the NGO fund a model to be used for other grant schemes, bringing to life truly civic activities and social alternatives - what we believe civil society should really be about," said Veronika Móra, Director at the Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation, which manages the fund.

The fund proved extremely popular among civil society organisations, with some 900 applications received under each of the two open calls. "Even though the fund was popular, we saw that a large number of applications were for 'business as usual' projects," continued Móra. "It was important for us to select those projects that were innovative, creative and alternative - we want the NGO fund to support real civil society initiatives," she said. Some 180 NGO projects were eventually selected for funding, and are now ongoing across the country.

The project involving MONA received its funding back in 2008, but even today, the organisation is still focusing on the link between prostitution and trafficking. In September of this year MONA, together with the Norwegian, Swedish and US embassies, initiated a conference dealing exactly with this topic. At the conference, the organisation praised the Norwegian and Swedish ban on purchase of sexual services.