To be honest, I first joined this group on a whim. Vani The Queen Silly sent me one of her late-night, out-of-nowhere smses: Join this. Because men suck. (Guys, she was kidding about the men bit) The funny thing was that I did her bidding (I usually just ignore the girl), and I found myself wholly unprepared for just how emotionally involved I would get with this cause.
I never fully understood the implications of being objectified till now. I never truly grasped what it means to have a right to life - something as basic as a right to your own life, and to not have your choices taken from you.
It started with our screening of the documentary Anonymously Yours - a film that weaved the accounts of 4 Burmese women into a chilling picture of the underground trafficking trade not far from home.
One account was by a beautiful, lively Burmese child (she looked no older than 12) who told of how she was sold when much younger by her parents into a brothel, and later, again, by an aunt.
At one point, she was sold into a business where she and other girls were lowered into a pond for hours at a time - to feed leeches. These leeches were then sold at the market, and the girls would be fished out of the pond unconscious each time from the blood loss. A friend at the movie screening pointed out that, in order to be used this way, these girls must have been cheaper than pigs or cattle; they were mere commodities. She eventually escaped, but I quickly realized that in her story there are no happy endings; to rescue herself, she had to sell her body in exchange for assistance along the way.
She didn’t cry while telling of the years of pain she went through: how 4 men forced her into sex at once, how she had hurt afterwards, how her own mother stepped on her belly to abort her unwanted child, how the foetus fell out of her the next day on the road, how much she bled.
Her composure in narrating what must have been unspeakably traumatic belies an unimaginable suffering. But she cried while telling about the kindness of people who would feed her for nothing in return.
She was repeatedly conned on promises of food or clothes, and repeatedly sold into the trade. I cannot imagine what you must first go through to trust unquestioningly on a simple promise of food. Despite what they’ve been through, these are children.
It was a horrific cycle that repeated itself generation after generation: men gather at tea shops to use the girls in the back rooms; boys grow up and emulate their fathers. It was the way of life in these impoverished villages, and despite the overwhelming odds, the thing we must guard fiercely against is allowing these odds to tarnish our belief in this cause. At a seminar our group attended today, Daniel from CAMSA-Coalition pointed out that just because it is difficult to make a difference doesn’t make that difference not worth striving for. You do not have to lose your idealism in order to make a practical difference; in fact, it is this idealism you must keep to keep you going.
Bridget, the President of HOME at today’s seminar, somehow managed to sweep away all our conditioned skepticism and our suspended disbelief in view of the paltry statistics available by saying: This is not about the statistics. This is about the persons who have become victims of trafficking.
We had the privilege of hearing the first hand account of an Indonesian girl who, after being married off at 10 years old and consequently sold into the sex trade for about 8 years after, had finally escaped. She spoke of how she was sold by her stepmother, how she was transported from place to place within Indonesia, and then to Singapore to be exploited for sex. She has been held captive, starved, forced into serving up to 5 men at a single time, and up to 30 men a day.
Finally, she was asked what her dreams were for her future, and her earlier composure crumbled: I never dreamt of being a prostitute. Other people took me and made me this way, but I am not a prostitute.
There is so much to think about, and I think, foremost on many of our minds is the question: we are just students - what can we do about this?
The answer we left with from today’s seminar was a resounding PLENTY.
Daniel shared 5 steps open to anyone:
1. Volunteer (NGOs really appreciate the help)
2. Become more aware of the issue yourself, but hold onto your ideals in the process
3. Share this awareness
4. Use what skills you have. Lawyer/accountant/economist/businessman/woman-in-training? You know what to do.
5. Raise funds.
As Bridget noted, all this advocacy amounts to nothing until it becomes a personal fight. She sees each abused girl as someone who could have easily been her own child.
If you feel that this cause speaks to you, we invite you to come down for our seminar on Wednesday to allow yourself the chance to turn what might begin as a whim into something that spurs you on to make a difference.