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20 May, 2024
 
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Cyprus and the porn industry: High-tech hub exposed

Cyprus faces accusations of neglect

Opinion

Opinion

By Panayiotis Christias

For many years, the Republic of Cyprus, due to its art visa law, served as a hub for white flesh trafficking. Thousands of women from former Soviet countries were funneled into European markets in Brussels and Amsterdam via Cyprus – the initial step into lives marred by pimps and clients.

The degrading institution of separate visas for artists was only dismantled on February 1, 2009, following serious threats from the European Union authorities. However, this change did not sit well with music and dance centers, cabarets, and other business structures. Their owners vehemently protested, claiming it was a hindrance to their operations.

Yet, the harsh reality was that women were trafficked, either through false promises or brutal abductions, and forced into prostitution within Cyprus. Once their circle closed in Cyprus, these women were semi-illegally sold to new markets.

While one might assume that the shameful chapter of the free operation of markets in this virtually non-existent state was closed by the 2009 law, the international Cyprus Confidential survey forcefully restates accusations against the Republic of Cyprus for inadequate protection of the weak, if not outright callousness against women.

This occurs at a time when the MeToo movement has gained significant momentum, shedding light on wrong practices in gender relations. It also exposes the unprepared legislator in the enlightened West, struggling to address the gendered nature of everyday tensions and conflicts in various spheres, including the workplace and field of study. International public opinion today is notably sensitive to issues of trafficking in women and physical exploitation, be it in prostitution or pornography.

On November 15, 2023, French Monde published an article by Damien Leloup, a special envoy to Limassol, titled "Cyprus, a high-tech hub of the porn industry (Chypre, plaque tournante high-tech de l'industrie du porno)." Drawing from the Cyprus Confidential papers, the journalist analyzes the legal stages through which gang rapes in France are orchestrated on pornography platforms, reliant on the involvement of international banking groups in Cyprus, such as Payabl or Crakrevenue.

These groups ensure the marketability of the illicit product. For publishers of adult websites, Cyprus presents a second interest after low taxation, as it has long been home to finance and payment services willing to do business with porn companies.

The French journalist explains that almost all major banks and payment services globally refuse clients from the sex industry, citing image and legal responsibility. In 2020, Visa and Mastercard severed relations with Pornhub following a New York Times investigation, extending the blockage to other subsidiaries.

Surprisingly, legal liability doesn't seem to deter companies in Cyprus, including Wisebits, one of the largest Cyprus-based pornography website companies, and banking firms facilitating the trafficking of pornographic material.

They take control of the critical area of financial support and operation. The Ukrainian war appears nonexistent in Cyprus, where excellent IT technicians from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine collaboratively work to offer the best possible product to global customers.

Simultaneously, the "French Bukkake" case shocks France, with some forty female victims of videotaped gang rape accusing seventeen individuals, including "directors" and adult film partners, of acts of barbarity and insult to sexual dignity.

The current trend in the porn industry seems to shift from large, official production companies to small cells of pimps-filmmakers utilizing social networks to traffic illicit merchandise through pornographic websites.

However, these websites, regardless of their content, aren't viable without support from financial institutions. Once again, as with artistic visas, the Republic of Cyprus bears institutional responsibility for occurrences on its territory, significantly impacting hundreds of thousands of women globally. There is now an urgent need to establish a competent independent body to oversee the financial ethics of companies operating in Cyprus.

It is imperative to protect the name and prestige of the country. Cypriot citizens need to reflect on whether they feel proud of their country's participation in global pornography.

Additionally, an investigation into whether profits from the uncontrolled operation of foreign groups in the Republic constitute a serious counterweight to the creation of a negative, if not repulsive, branding image of the Cypriot product is crucial. If a man is ashamed of the way in which he gets rich, it is certain that at some point, he will pay the price.

Mr. Christias is a professor of political and social philosophy at the University of Cyprus.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

TAGS
Cyprus  |  pornography  |  Brussels  |  Amsterdam  |  global

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