Author: Jojo Poon
Martha (obscured) spent her early years with her mother who worked as a sex worker in the red-light district of Mumbai, India. “At the age of 16, my mother met a guy when she was in Nepal. He said he could refer her to work at better places in the cities, and she ended up being sold to work at the red-light district in Mumbai.” With the help of a generous woman from her hometown, Martha was spared from having to suffer the same fate as her mother’s.
“Every one of us could fall prey to human traffickers with a tiny change of situation,” as expressed time and again by the frontline workers serving sex trafficked victims in Hong Kong, and by our international partners who serve victims in Asia.
The lack of awareness to trafficking practices, limited opportunities to employment and education, and general ignorance to gender inequality and children rights are some of the contributing factors that made the indigenous members in Nepal, India, Myanmar, and northern Thailand, especially women and children like Martha’s mother, vulnerable to enslavement and bonded labour and sexual exploitation.
The threat grew ever worse as human trafficking is now only trailing drug dealing as the second largest illegal trade sector in the world. The “commodities” of human trafficking could be resold and re-abused, while drugs could only be consumed once. How could we sit still and ignore all the victimised individuals who possess God’s image and are cherished deeply by Him?
In 2008, CEDAR started supporting its partner in Cambodia who provides post-traumatic counseling to sold women, assisting them to start a new life. We have expanded our efforts since 2013 to support multiple organisations in Asia, including Nepal, India, northern Thailand, Myanmar, and near the border of China and Myanmar. Our partners have been helping trafficking victims and prosecuting the offenders, while teaching communities to prevent human trafficking and organising restoration projects.
RESCUE: Reach and Rescue Children and Women Victims
Starting from 2013, CEDAR has been partnering with ethnic minority churches in China and Myanmar to build a support network to reach cross-border individuals including Burmese women who were sold as brides and youth who were sold into forced labour. The churches have been able to rescue some of the brides and labourers and helped them to return home. Our Myanmar partners also bore fruits in saving young girls who worked in the red-light districts of Yangon from the control of pimps and commercial sex activities.
PROSECUTION: Arresting Traffickers
Thailand, being an exporter, importer, and port of sex trafficking activities, is the major hub of commercial sex in Southeast Asia. Our partners there cooperate with the local police in search and arrest of human traffickers in red-light districts. “Locking them up prevents more innocent women and children from being sold as sex slaves,” our partner says.
REHABILITATION: Protecting, Counseling, and Training Previous Victims
In Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, our partners provide shelters, counseling, vocational training, and employment referral services for previous trafficked victims. Some of our partners even provide basic livelihood and education support for the victims’ children. “Rehabilitation is a long process since victims will experience bumps along the way… Culturally strong ties to the family is also causing some girls to return to the families who once betrayed them, making them vulnerable to being trafficked again.”
PREVENTION: Raising Awareness and Establishing Support Networks
CEDAR and churches located near the China-Myanmar border have been promoting human trafficking and safety employment awareness among young labourers who wished to work in China. We also refer them to honest companies in China so that they would be in good hands. Our partners established church and community support networks in northern India and in mountainous communities of Nepal to mobilise and train churches to be aware of human trafficking issues within their communities and educate community members about the issue. They also provide small business loans for impoverished families to improve their livelihoods.
When Martha was 7, a life-changing opportunity came up. A kind woman who was also from Martha’s hometown assisted Martha to seek help from our partner in Nepal who serves trafficked women and children. “I was loved and cared for as a family member here, and the most exciting thing was for me to see God’s work in my life—how He sent different people to save me from the dark and rebuilt me. I believe He had a plan for me from day one, that He’ll use me to testify for His faithfulness,” says Martha, who has already finished her degree and is currently working in the same facility that took care of her.
There are over 160 countries where human trafficking activities were reported. Hong Kong is one of them, being the destination and port of trafficking victims. The sold and enslaved are much closer than we think, and products made by these exploited labourers are visible in every aspect of our lives.
Human Trafficking’s ties with the Daily Life of a Hong Konger:
Some factories hire cheap child labourers, or even force them to become bonded labourers, forcing them to work long hours in hazardous environments.
Low-paid child workers, some of them victims of human trafficking, are often hired by cocoa and coffee bean farms. They usually have to work long hours and many of them have never even tasted chocolate.
Hong Kong is a destination and proxy of human trafficking activities. Some initially seek help from loan agencies but ended up becoming bonded labourers after they arrived at Hong Kong. Some migrant maids were greeted with large commission charges from referral agencies after their arrivals, and had to pay their debts with their salaries.
Behind the breathtaking shows in circuses are sold children and young girls who are harshly trained and treated daily.
Anyone could join the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery!
- Refuse to purchase products from sweatshops and unethical companies.
- Raise awareness of the welfare of migrant maids and workers, and learn about their living and working conditions.
- Report forced labour cases to authorities and awareness groups.
- When you’re staying in a hotel, upload a photo of the room to http://traffickcam.com which would be used as evidence when prosecuting traffickers.
- Support awareness groups and their work
What is Human Trafficking?
Trafficking in persons, human trafficking, and modern slavery are common words used to describe the act of trading and enslaving humans. According to the UN’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, “trafficking in persons” is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means such as threat or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
Forms of exploitation include slavery, sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced marriages, coercion to participate in illegal activities or begging. About 21 million adults and children are victims of forced labour today ; and nearly 46 million people are subject to modern slavery .
Slavery is the condition of being under the control of another person/other people, in which violence or the threat of violence, whether physical or mental, prevents the victim from exercising his/her freedom of movement or free will.
Neo-bondage is when a labourer, especially one with limited economic opportunities, being forcibly exploited of his/her labour by the employer’s manipulation of wage advancement or loans for a short-term or a period of time.
Categories of Human Trafficking
- Sex trafficking:
Sex Trafficking is the recruitment and/or movement of someone within or across borders, through the abuse of power/position with the intention of sexual exploitation, commercial or otherwise.
- Forced labour:
Forced labour is work that is performed involuntarily and under the menace of any penalty. It refers to situations in which persons are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation, or by more subtle means such as manipulated debt, retention of identity papers or threats of denunciation to immigration authorities.
- Bonded labour:
The condition of forced employment, legal or illegal, of someone who is in debt of the employer, to which the victim is unable to settle due to culture or outside forces, potentially causing cross-generational bondages.
- Indentured servitude
The condition in which an individual enters into a contractual agreement, freely or involuntarily, binding him/her to work for an employer for a fixed term in order to repay a debt.
- Forced marriage
A union that either one or both spouses have not or cannot give free and full consent for any reason: age, disability, cultural, and/or the use of power/position. They may have been emotionally blackmailed, physically threatened or abused.
- Forced criminality
The act of forcing or manipulating someone to involve in illegal activities such as the sales of copyright infringing materials, stealing, forced begging, unconsented marriage, marijuana cultivation, etc., for monetary or other gains.
- OTC (Organ, Tissue, Cell) trafficking
Human trafficking for the purpose of the forced and/or exploitative harvesting of a living person’s organs, tissues, cells, and/or body parts.