Wednesday, January 6, 2016


A woman borrows about 200dollars from a loan shark in Cambodia; over a space of a year, that loan skyrockets to 10,000dollars. The woman is unable to repay the loan. So one day, the loan shark arrives at her house and says to her, “you have a virgin daughter…we have a wealthy client who would love to have sex with your virgin daughter. He is willing to pay 10,000dollars to cancel your debt.’’ And so, the mother puts her child in a car, and delivers her to be disvirgined (even against her will), in order to save her family. A poor young girl in Mexico is approached by a guy much older than her. He befriends her and overtime, makes her believe that he is in love with her. He buys her gifts on a scale she has never received before- even though in reality, it’s really not much. After a few months, he tells her, “I can give you a better life in the USA. Follow me.” A few months later, she finds herself in an un-familiar territory…her prince charming has turned into a monster…she now realizes he is nothing but a pimp, and that she is now his sex slave. She is forced to “service” over 20men every day, non-stop. In a couple of years, she finds that she has had sex with tens of thousands of men! A young girl in Russia logs into a foreign site promising to bring her to New York and give her a modeling contract. They have seen her “striking features” via the pictures she sent, and they believe she has potential. She is elated. Finally, this is a chance to turn her economic fortune around. She arrives in the USA, is taken to the supposed “agency”, and asked to strip. Her features are noted, and she is boarded up in some house, with a couple of other girls. By night, a “client” is ushered into her room and she is told to sleep with him…according to her “keepers”, this is all part of what goes on in the modeling world to which she now belongs. By a few days’ time, she is fully aware that she now lives in a sex brothel, plying the trade. There is no escape route. She resigns herself to “fate”. Now, these are all real-life scenarios. The first 2 were stories I heard on TV…the last, I made up in my head…but I am 100% sure it occurs that way!
On New Year’s Day, I watched a distinguished panel on CNN, elaborate on the dark world of “human trafficking.” As I listened to the harrowing tales narrated by a few fortunate survivors who were beamed on a large screen in the auditorium via pre-recorded videos, I decided that I was going to make the subject of human trafficking (with an emphasis on illegal sex-trade), my first article of the year. According to Wikipedia, human trafficking is the “trade of humans, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced labor, or commercial sexual exploitation for the traffickers or others.” According to the UN, tens of thousands of individuals fall into the hands of traffickers, each year. They are exploited against their will. It is a violation of their fundamental human rights. But trafficking is a billion dollar industry and because of its lucrativeness, the practice keeps on growing each year. The young girls (some even as young as 12…maybe even younger) who are forced into becoming sex slaves, are deprived of a normal childhood, put in a position where they become highly at risk of getting infected with various STD’s (and even dying); without any regard for their humanity and dignity! They are deprived of any hopes of an education and can become so emotionally traumatized and damaged that future chances of a normal adulthood are completely ruled off, even when (and if) they eventually regain their freedom. They are made to believe that they are nothing more than slaves…objects for sexual pleasure answerable to their pimp masters and clients; and that their bodies are simply economic tools to enrich the pimp masters who took “pity” on them and decided to give them some “semblance of a good life.” Somehow, these monsters paint out their horrible and despicable actions as good…a “service to these low-life women who would have otherwise been sleeping out in the streets if it weren’t for them!” This is nothing but sad; and as a woman, I am terribly pained, disturbed and insulted. When you listen to the stories of brave survivors of sex trafficking; as a woman, you realize that it could have been you…or your sister…or your daughter…or your friend. By sheer providence; luck; fate; or whatever; the forces of life decided to spare you this painful ordeal, and deliver it to someone else…but it could have been you.
As I listened to the panelists, I realized that laws are not always sufficient, even when they exist. In most cases, there are difficulties in “enforcing” the law. And in other cases, the laws are simply flawed. A young girl, who has been trafficked for a good portion of her life, reaches 18 while still in captivity and slavery; then all of a sudden she is now deemed by the authorities to be a “consenting adult.” 9 out of 10 times, it is the victims who are arrested by police officers; not the pimps. It is the victims who receive criminal records. Something is wrong. I am glad to see more concerted effort between governments, NGO’s, civil society and civil liberty organizations, and even religious institutions; but more has to be done. So at the level of individuals, we ask, “what can we do?”
Sex trafficking occurs both nationally and internationally. I am sure that on a fairly regular basis, we come across sex slaves but do not realize it. I’m not talking about the prostitutes who of their own free-will make the decision to sell their bodies in exchange for payment. They have made that decision themselves; for reasons best known to them…I do not judge. And in some countries, prostitution is legal. So as long as the pliers of the trade are of age, and can produce a clean bill of health from time-to-time, they have no problem with law enforcement officers. That’s all fine. But I am referring to the ones who are “forced” into this by other people, against their own free will. Using Nigeria as a case study, maybe the “house help” who is forced by the “oga” (master) of the house; into having sex with him on a regular basis while “madam” is asleep or away, and threatened with being thrown out of the house is she dares report the matter to madam or anyone else! You know, that young girl who regularly passes your house or comes into your shop on errands…the one who is always gloomy and never says much. The one with the “distant look” in her eyes. And then, there are those we walk past at airport terminals…the ones who travel as a group and who we think are traveling as part of some “cultural exchange programme.” Or the ones who are camouflaged to appear as though they are traveling with family (who are in reality, “handlers”)…but who upon closer inspection appear emotionally detached from their so-called “family”, and who appear un-necessarily scared! The truth is that we meet them more frequently than we think. Most times, we are just occupied with our personal hectic situations to even notice; but if we would just take a moment to step outside of ourselves, we may just be able to save a life. If your gut tells you something is wrong, you should follow it. Try and get more information…and then if there is something to report, please report it. Sometimes, law enforcement officials may not take you seriously up front; but I suggest that you look up NGO’s and other civil liberty organizations who are involved in these sort of issues, and go to them for help for the subject. At some international airport terminals, there are organizations with agents on stand-by to save victims of trafficking…if you pass through such terminals and notice something that looks like a trafficking situation, please report it. Put the plight on social media if you have to; but please do not stay silent!
And so, as the world addresses various issues this year- whatever they may be; even though we pray for the best- it must also address more fervently, the issue of human trafficking. May 2016 be the year that brings us one step closer to ending human trafficking and sex slavery…may 2016 truly be “the Year of Humanity!’’

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