Colombian soap opera raises awareness about human trafficking

Everyone wants to be with Marilyn, a soap opera produced and broadcast in Colombia, sends a message against human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation to an audience of over 7 million people.

The soap opera describes the adventures of a group of prostitutes from a human and real-life perspective. It illustrates the lives and travails of these often socially stigmatized women. The title carries a sexual conno-tation: the desire of many men to seek pleasure with Marilyn, the show’s main female character.

Having identified in the soap opera an extraordinary opportunity to carry out prevention work, UNODC Colombia—with the support of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice—approached the RCN television channel to create a partnership aiming at introducing the issue of human trafficking as a secondary storyline. The TV station decided to deal with this modern form of slavery in the last 25 episodes of the series, working closely with UNODC to develop the script. This segment of the soap opera informs the public on how the trafficking business operates, what work is being carried out by UNODC and the Government, and how to avoid becoming a victim.

Soap Opera Specifically, the final part of Everyone wants to be with Marilyn follows the story of a young woman who travels abroad thinking she will become a model, only to end up working—against her will—as a prostitute. Marilyn, in the meantime, sets up an NGO that assists victims of trafficking and offers support to women wishing to abandon the world of prostitution. Combining reality with fiction, the soap opera’s main male character plays a UNODC staff member who is working on a national campaign that is part of its Anti-Human Trafficking Project. The campaign and the project are both managed by UNODC Colombia.

With the leadership of UNODC, the conviction and support of national institutions, and the commitment of the private sector, Everyone wants to be with Marilyn has become much more than a story centred on the subject of prostitution. The soap opera has also raised awareness on human trafficking and served as a vehicle to prevent this crime. Thanks to a medium of mass communication, this powerful social message has entered the homes of millions of Colombians and also has the potential to reach an international audience.

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