From a young age one of my biggest fears has also been ridiculously irrational. It used to grip me late at night or midday watching a film. It had no interest in time or place, but would sneak up and cause my mind to spiral into an abyss of negative possibilities. It fed itself and distorted a lot of my perceptions on friendships, relationships and human beings. The fear of the possibility of being violated, raped, taken advantage of. It is something I have never experienced, but that irrational fear bred a deep sense of righteous anger and justification in me, and led to my fascination and interest in one of the greatest forms of slavery that governs our world as a rapidly growing economic industry: the sex trade.
Sunitha Krishnan defines it as the 3rd largest organized crime act in the world, and a $10billion industry. It is lucrative, it is expansive and it dominates the shadows of our modern world. In a TEDIndia Lecture Dr. Krishnan brings up three case studies. Children named Prantha, Shaheen and Anjali. Prantha is an example of children who are born into this immoral trade. His mother was a prostitute and when she contracted AIDS and was effectively ‘laid off,’ resulted to selling him to a broker. By the time Sunitha’s organisation had reached him, he had been raped by three men. Shaheen was found in railway tracks, so badly violated that her intestines where outside of her body and she needed 32 stitches. Shaheen is 3 years old. Anjali’s drunkard of a father sold her for pornography. These children are a new cycle in commercial sexual exploitation.
Sold under the facades of adoption, organ donation, forced labour or camel trade, in the space of a few hours the forced migration of these optionless people puts them into a world where human rights doesn’t exist.
Dr. Krishnan speaks emphatically and factually in her lecture. Herself a victim of an 8-man gang rape when she was 15, she has experienced first hand not only the deep anger she describes at the memory of the event, but the stigma that was attached. The social alienation and isolation that transpired because she was a victim.
I know that often when we hear stories of prostitutes or see the trade glamorized under the precarious job description of ‘escort,’ we assume these women enter this trade for easy money, because they are nymphomaniac’s or as a short cut to fame, glory, attention. But Dr. Krishnan paints a far darker and more humanly realistic image. The majority of these women and children resist and as a result are either killed or are censored in brutal, inhumane ways. They succumb to an everyday torture consisting of cigarettes being stubbed out on their skin, chili in their vagina’s, being whipped, being beaten, and being bestialized, their humanity discarded like their identities. After a while their bonuses kick in: STI’s, substance abuse and addiction and lastly their spirits are broken and their minds normalize to this terrestrial hell. Daily rape and assault become their ‘destiny’, living in a shelter and rehabilitation a fading mirage of obscurity.
Yet within these women, and one can see the fiery belief in her eyes, Dr. Krishna proclaims their immense amount of courage that enables them to exist in a man’s world, to realize their latent potential and to offer them a new reality as bricklayers, welders and security guards, building on their experience to rebuild their life experience.
The only difficulty it seems, is us. The Civil Society. It is our social barriers that prevent us accepting these victims of trafficking and the sex industry as our own. I wonder – would you invite a rehabilitating prostitute to your home, to eat dinner with your family, to share a cup of tea with your mother, or even a room with your child? Would you acknowledge a woman who you support through charitable donations as your friend in reality? It has become, as Dr. Krishnan states, so fashionable to talk about Human trafficking – here I am posting about it. But we still have an internal barrier that says – they are not one of us. As much as they are dehumanized by the bestial men who have assaulted them, they are further reduced by our reproach, our fear at their ‘uncleanliness.’
Sunitha Krishnan stood up as a voice for the victims and survivors of human trafficking. In my personal statement to university, I said i wanted to use my degree in English to find a way to give a voice to the voiceless either through fiction or journalism.
I hope, whatever it is you do, today we make a conscious decision to break that culture of silence that makes us create euphemisms like – the red light district – in order to avoid confronting the immoral industry of prostitution which is fed by the human sex and trafficking trade. We need to embrace as Dr. Krishnan calls, these victims as part of our world, our lives, our hearts and accept them as humans that deserve support, because they certainly don’t deserve the violence they have suffered.