Friday, January 9, 2009

The 21st century slavery (Part I)


When we talk about slavery, the first image that pops out is hard labour camps where human beings are being forced to work long hours with very little food or clothing, often followed by harsh whipping. Then, we thought that these days are over as we become a more civilized nation. Unknowingly, slavery still exist today. Unfortunately in many different forms.

In the next coming days, I will attempt to write a series of articles touching on a specific form of slavery which happens to be something which I am working on at the moment. It will not be an intellectual or legalistic piece of article because I believe that I do not have the authority nor the expertise to tackle this topic from those perspectives. What I can offer is the limited knowledge I have learned from working and reading about this topic in the last few weeks. In addition to that, I’ll share my thoughts and feelings on this matter, which has been occupying my mind a lot during these days.

Human Trafficking and Forced Prostitution

When you read the title above, it sounds like a mouthful. Well, it is definitely hard to swallow when you think about the many implications it brings. In fact, if you think further, it is not such a new human rights violation. Centuries ago, women have been trafficked to serve as sexual slaves to Kings and Emperors. At that time, it was normal and expected because there was no laws to prohibit such practice and anyone beneath the King was merely an object with no rights, freedom or independence. The person’s life was at the mercy of the King, an institution to be revered and worshipped at any cost.

Women are often forced into sexual slavery during wartimes. Who will ever forget the images and stories of women who were forced to serve more than 100 soldiers at a time during the second world war? They were not only raped, they were also forced into treating such violation of their bodies and dignities as a duty. Unfortunately, when the whole world is at a brink of a global war, anything that threatens the core of humanity is expected to be senselessly ravaged by those who hold power, no matter how unjustified it is.

So,  it was nothing out of the ordinary but what’s extraordinary is that this abominable act  is still happening today despite legal enforcement of the notion that everyone is entitled to preserve his or her physical integrity and dignity. Now, there are national and international laws which specifically prohibit the trafficking of human beings and forced prostitution.

What entitles it to be called the 21st century form of slavery is that many of the victims will die of HIV/AIDS by their 20s. Besides this, nobody has really paid much attention to forced prostitution until a few years ago. The plight of trafficked women and children  were silenced by the sensitivity surrounding its nature. Those trafficked and forced into prostitution were unable to express their forced volition and violations due to shame and a sense of helplessness. Those who had initially started off as voluntary smugglers and then tricked into prostitution were afraid that they would face criminal charges if caught by local authorities. 

Hence, many people were deceived into believing that these sex workers were voluntary prostitutes who deserve to be ignored and condemned. Since it relates to sex, it should be buried under the sand. And since it was “invisible” to the human eyes, who cares? What you don’t know won’t hurt you. A fate that was sealed by the silence and ignorance of society.

This is no longer true because those who were lucky and  courageous enough to live to tell the tale has managed to gain our attention and hence lend voice to many others who are still subjected to such cruel and inhumane treatment.

The “D” words

I am currently volunteering for an organization that supports the work of a local NGO (named AFESIP) dealing with this issue. As a woman, I naturally feel a lot for this cause but I believe that as human beings, whether you are a man or woman, we have the ability to feel the plight of others. But feeling is not enough because nothing will change unless we learn to do something about it.

Perhaps, we are unable to move mountains on our own, but if we combine our forces together, nothing is impossible. You can make a huge Difference by taking these small actions; Disseminate this information to everyone you know, Discuss this issue vigorously to create genuine awareness and above all Discourage the act of human trafficking and forced prostitution.

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