I’m privileged to be able to go many places, see many things, and hopefully provide some help along the way. One thing that is most difficult to articulate on this blog are the people with whom I work, the people I serve. There are of course the dramatic stories of girls being kidnapped, kept in cages, and servicing 20 men a night. That really does happen, but all too often the real stories of human trafficking are not dramatic – just plain ugly. I share a few of them here – real people with real stories, real lives.
In a slum village in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, there is a woman with nine children, including four teenage daughters. The father is lost to follow-up. The eldest daughter has “gone missing”, or perhaps the mom refuses to admit where she is or that she doesn’t even know. Unfortunately, I can only assume the worst: that she is working in the flesh trade, and worse yet, that she will probably not be able to leave when she wants to. The pressure on female children to help provide for their family is a strong cultural disposition. While not necessarily a fundamentally wrong value, the forces of culture can lead to evil and harm to children.
Boys and girls, children of Middle Kingdom fathers and women trafficked from the pariah state directly to my south, live in foster homes scattered throughout this part of my host country. The mothers, having been once sold as wives for the local men have since been captured, arrested, run away, or killed. The unaccompanied minors have no option to go elsewhere. Many of them do not have an official registration, although some are helped to get one. They suffer from the affects of abuse, trauma, and abandonment. While not trafficked themselves, these children are still directly affected by human trafficking because as children they lack autonomy, are stateless, and remain extremely vulnerable.
A woman working the fields in rural India makes half as much money as a man for the same amount of work. Suppose her husband divorces her, forcing her to lose all status. Or, suppose her husband is a deadbeat guy who is a drunk. He sells her sewing machine for booze, and then she has no way to make a decent living. I’ve told you what working in the fields will get her, so to support her children and her husband (because she isn’t allowed to divorce him) she may decide to spend some night in a nearby town earning money in the flesh trade. Technically, she may not be considered a trafficked person, but could she not be a considered a sort of slave to the societal violence under which she must live?
These stories give us good questions – questions of who is enslaved and why. Not just how we can get people out of it, but how we can approach prevention. Human trafficking does not start with the victim being rescued – it starts in culture, society, history, and sometimes, just plain complacence.