When Marcel Ellis chained together a number of undressed mannequins in his Mosta shop window with an accompanying leaflet to raise awareness about sex trafficking, little did he know what was in store.
At around 5 p.m. last Friday, two policemen walked into the DNA Emporium outlet in Eucharistic Congress Road and instructed the owners to dress up the plastic figures.
Mr Ellis, the co-owner and founder of the DNA Emporium Foundation, was incredulous: "These are normal plastic mannequins with no particular 'details' showing. There is nothing sexual about it, apart from the fact that it is highlighting the problem of sex trafficking."
One end of a metal chain has been attached to the male mannequin's hand and the other end is tied to the woman figure's waist in a symbolic message against the oppression of sex slaves.
Yet the police instructed the owners to cover up the mannequins after they said they had received a report from "someone influential" that the models were too explicit.
Mr Ellis said: "It is absurd that a couple of plastic dolls should cause such mayhem. Should we pull down all the manifestations of nude portraits and sculptures spread around the world, including places of worship? Should we ban our children from changing their doll's clothes? People should be more concerned about the real plight of the illicit sex industry than about a couple of harmless mannequins."
Mr Ellis said the idea behind the campaign was to expose reality whereby 29 million people worldwide are forced into modern day slavery. The vast majority of these are forced into the sex trade industry.
"Sex trafficking exists everywhere, even in Malta, where little seems to be done to counter it. Just look at the Eastern European prostitutes in our streets."
The foundation is planning a high profile campaign to raise awareness on the problem and is working in conjunction with the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem - Malta and the Rotaract Club Malta La Valette, as well as local personalities.
Mr Ellis considers the police complaint so absurd that he intends to ignore it. Questions sent to the police last Friday night were not answered.
Last month in Iran, police warned shop owners against displaying female mannequins wearing underwear or showing off their curves as part of a government campaign against Western influence.
To read about the DNA Emporium campaign go to http://www.dnaemporium.com/en/sex-trafficking .
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