Human trafficking for sexual exploitation is the most insidious and evil form of enslavement. This is because it is so personal and inflicts such human degradation and suffering on individuals day after day, year by year. It is one of the most serious kinds of human rights violations.
Earlier this year, 26 teenagers aged between 14 and 17 were rescued from several resorts and hotels in the Philippines' Pampanga province. The children were victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation by traffickers and hotel operators and foreign and local sex tourists.
The children were rescued and 20 of the victims were brought to the Preda Foundation’s home for trafficked girls. They were traumatized and conditioned by relatives and traffickers to work as sexually exploited children.
It is very important that we all understand what is going on in Asia and the world where human traffickers are vicious criminals. They are enslaving women and children in the sex trade and making them work long hours to satisfy the lust and devious sexual fantasies of immoral men for little or no money.
They control and virtually imprison the victims with threats and intimidation. Many are lured from poor villages and remote towns to the sex industry in cities and sold into sex bars where they are held in debt bondage. They are afraid to leave with unpaid debts for board and lodging and drugs.
That is what is insidious about the crime of human trafficking. It is lifelong bondage and control where victims are condemned to suffer a life of sexual violence. The sex abusers, foreign or local, can rape and abuse with impunity.
Young women and children are afraid to complain or run away. They are drug-dependent and have debts to the drug pushers. If only Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte would crack down on the pushers and drug peddlers inside the sex bars and brothels that run on mayor’s permits and who enslave our young people, it would be a great act of statesmanship.
In today’s world, slavery is common. In every country, there are enslaved people. Most of the 24.5 million victims are women and 33 percent are children. They are almost always very poor, unemployed, not well educated and vulnerable.
They are victims of organized crime syndicates and used for forced labor or underpaid work that includes working in factories, on fishing vessels and as farm laborers or held in sexual enslavement.
Many are fighting back
Other victims of human trafficking in Europe are refugees, asylum seekers and migrants fleeing poverty and violence.
The exploitation and abuse of these people happens in migrant reception centers and refugee camps on the doorsteps of Europe. Many of them and their families are ruined by war and having sold their land and property to speculators and paid traffickers to get them to Europe, while many more borrowed money and are in debt bondage to traffickers.
They will have to pay the traffickers and end up enslaved for years. Along the trafficking journey, hundreds of minors have been sexually exploited. It is part of their survival and out of shame and fear they almost never report it or admit it happens.
As many as 33,000 migrants died while trying to enter Europe between 2000 and 2017 and many more since then. It is an ongoing crime by human traffickers.
According to Emmaus International, after the arms and drug trade, human trafficking is the third most lucrative and widespread form of criminal activity and exploitation. It generates 32 billion euros a year. Every year, around 2.5 million new victims — mainly women and children — are recruited and exploited worldwide.
It is not all doom and gloom. Many are fighting back and confronting the evil trade. More and more traffickers are being brought to justice and some are convicted. Much more needs to be done though.
The 20 minors rescued from the sex industry in Pampanga province are recovering and have broken out of their “enslaved mentality.” That is the conditioning whereby they are made to believe that they are good for nothing except sex work.
Now, they feel free and have a new enlightened outlook about themselves and their future. This is due to anger and pain release therapy that they choose to have several times a week at the Preda home.
The therapist encourages them to challenge and confront those people, the traffickers and abusers who hurt, humiliated and abused them. The teenagers are urged to release their pent-up buried feelings of hurt emotions, of anger and frustration at them.
In the session, the girls began shouting out their anger and pain and even hatred erupted as some screamed as they punched the cushions. In their imagination, they were punching their abuser and tormentor.
After weeks of this, with support, counseling, comfort and encouragement from the all-female staff, the teenagers began to recover and change. They grew in self-confidence and self-esteem.
The positive reinforcement therapy built up their self-image as good persons with rights and power to get justice.
They are attending court hearings and testifying with courage and determination. It is only when the victims are rescued, protected, healed and testify against the traffickers and abusers will the scourge of human trafficking for sexual exploitation end.Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of ucanews.