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The Peacekeepers and the Women

Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Karin Jurschick
Directed by Karin Jurschick
VHS, color, 80 min.
College - Adult
Crime, Human Rights, Women's Studies

Reviewed by Ramona Islam, DiMenna-Nyselius Library, Fairfield University

Date Entered: 4/14/2005

Writer and filmmaker Karin Jurschick’s documentary shines much needed light on the dark side of nation-building and peacekeeping, revealing unflattering connections between NATO troops, the United Nations, and sex trafficking in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. Viewers may not realize that human trafficking—the trade of human beings for slavery, prostitution, or indentured servitude—is the third largest criminal industry worldwide, after arms and drugs smuggling. Few films expose the ugly and complicated underpinnings of forced prostitution as unflinchingly as The Peacekeepers and the Women does.

Watching Jurschick’s film is no joyride. Its structure is circuitous, lacking any sense of plot or climax, and it supplies no manipulative background music. After all, it portrays reality - a reality that is neither pretty nor comfortable. Interviewees include trafficking victims, social workers, military officers, business people, United Nations officials, and police officers representing the international community. Some viewers may struggle to understand the heavily accented English, but the effort is worthwhile, because of the wide range of perspectives provided.

A sense of powerlessness pervades many of the scenes: a Bosnian nightclub owner, whose establishment had been investigated for sex trafficking, flaunts his caged bear in front of the camera, seemingly comparing the wild animal to his fellow man (and woman) post-socialism; a whistleblower who was fired for speaking out describes her disillusionment with the International Police Task Force (IPTF); sex trade workers stand by helplessly when police raid their dwelling, asking how much money they make and searching through their drawers. Finally, we see the UN Secretary General’s special representative to Bosnia, Jacques Klein, shrugging his shoulders as he explains the UN’s limited powers to quell the problem. The moral of the story? There is a fox guarding the henhouse.

Vastly more interesting than Klein, Madeleine Rees, High Commissioner for the UN Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Sevima Sali-Terzic, Director of the International Human Rights Law Group in Bosnia, offer their own analyses. Both women consider the problem in the context of militarism and the perspective of desperately poor Eastern European emigrants. Both suggest workable solutions and ideas to halt the trade in women. Additional commentary from organizations like the Polaris Project, dedicated to combating human trafficking, would have been welcome but is not offered. Overall, The Peacemakers and the Women is recommended viewing on a sorely under-reported topic.