The movie The Whistleblower stars Rachel Weisz as Kathryn Bolkovac, a police officer from Nebraska who gets a job as a UN Peacekeeper in Bosnia. However, she soon finds out that her UN colleagues are involved in using and providing children for the sex trade.
The movie is a true story, based on the book The Whistleblower by Kathryn Bolkovac, which details her experiences as a human rights investigator. It started when Bolkova spotted a recruitment flyer from military contractor DynCorp, posted at her police department. A mother of three, with two of her children in college, Kathy signed up to be one of 2,000 police officers from 45 countries to work as peacekeepers. During the training process at DynCorp in the United States, she already became aware that at least one man in her immediate group knew about the use of young girls aged 12 to 15 for sex in Bosnia.
Upon arrival in Sarajevo in 1999, she found restaurants or dance clubs that were fronts for brothels–where young girls were forced to dance naked and have sex with customers–that catered to international clientele, including her fellow UN peacekeepers. She was appalled to find that the Bosnian police knew about the practice and turned a blind eye.
She uncovered evidence of girls who, when they refused to have sex, were beaten and raped in bars by their pimps while peacekeepers stood and watched. She discovered that one UN policeman who was supposed to be investigating the sex trade paid $700 to a bar owner for an underage girl he kept captive in his apartment.
After reporting her findings to her employers in October 2000, within days she was demoted. Six months later, Kathy was fired and found out from fellow workers that her life was in danger.
Madeleine Rees, the head of the UN Human Rights Commission office in Sarajevo, believes trafficking in little girls started with the arrival of the international peacekeepers in 1992.
A recruiter would go to Ukraine, Poland, Georgia or Russia, and offer ten students the opportunity to go on a field trip to Italy. The recruiter would usually be someone the girls knew personally. They would take the girls to a place where for a period of two to three weeks they would be “desensitized,” in other words, repeatedly raped and burned behind the ear or under the feet, so the marks weren’t visible. Sometimes, if the girls weren’t cooperating, the recruiters would shoot one, to send a message. They were told that after working in the sex trade for two or three years, they would be able to buy back their freedom and go home. But the only way a girl ever returned to her home town was as a recruiter, starting the cycle over again.
After a two-year battle, on August 6, 2002, an employment tribunal ruled that Bolkovac was unfairly dismissed by DynCorp. Bolkovac’s book, The Whistleblower, was made into a movie starring Rachel Weisz. It opens August 12 in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, then expands to Ottawa on August 26. Kathy lives with her husband in Holland. ~Alexandra Heilbron
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