Born in Armenia but unable to find work there, Amasya was trafficked to Turkey, where victims also arrive from Ukraine and Moldova, and manipulated into a situation of prostitution. As well as Turkey and the UAE, Armenian women and girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation to Russia, Greece, and other European countries. It is estimated that 480,000 people are living in slavery in Turkey. The Turkish government significantly increased its law enforcement response in 2007 by convicting and punishing more traffickers. However, there is a lack of secure and consistent government support for trafficking shelters, hindering Turkey’s anti-trafficking efforts.
Anita was trafficked from Nepal to India in 1998 at the age of 27. Her narrative emphasizes the uniquely female elements of slavery. She describes her pain as a mother separated from her children, mentions the idea that the women in the brothel are her “sisters,” seeks escape by offering an earring to one woman, and finally escapes when another woman accidentally leaves a gate open. She gains empathy from a client by telling him: “I am like your daughter.” Even Anita’s psychological turning-point from freedom to slavery is female specific. “They cut off my hair,” she remembers. “I could not leave the brothel without everyone identifying me as a prostitute…short hair is the sign of a wild woman.” Thousands of Nepali women and children are trafficked every year across the border into Indian brothels, and Nepal has an unknown number of internal sex trafficking victims as well. In response to a dowry practice, where they must offer gifts that could be worth several years’ income, some parents sell their daughters rather than have them married. Other women are drugged and taken across the border, like Anita. Once enslaved, Nepali girls and women are more likely to be arrested than rescued by the police, and most Nepalese victims never leave India, even after liberation. Those who do are often shunned by their families and remain in Kathmandu at shelters. Anita describes such familial rejection in the wake of her experience.
Aulia is an Indonesian woman who was enslaved in Malaysia. Foreign workers constitute more than 20 percent of the Malaysian workforce and typically migrate voluntarily—often illegally—to Malaysia from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines, and other Southeast Asian countries, often in pursuit of better economic opportunities. However, workers can find themselves imprisoned, exploited, and in debt bondage. The law allows many of the fees of migration, which are first paid by employers, to be deducted from workers’ wages, incentivizing employers to prevent workers from ending their employment before fees are recovered.
Aye grew up in rural Thailand but was trafficked to Japan to work in a Tokyo bar with other Thai women who were forced to entertain and have sex with customers. She was told she owed a large debt to the traffickers and the women were not free to leave. Aye managed to escape only after being arrested by police for violating visa restrictions and deported home to Thailand, where she returned to rural life. Thailand is not only a source of men, women and children who are taken into slavery in other countries, but also functions as a transit and destination for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Four key sectors of the Thai economy (fishing, construction, commercial agriculture, and domestic work) rely heavily on undocumented Burmese migrants, including children, as cheap and exploitable laborers.
Bahar was born in Moldova and trafficked into sex slavery in Turkey. Moldova is a country origin for the trafficking of women and children into European sex slavery. Its economic conditions fuel this trafficking. In 2000, the country’s GDP was 40 percent of its level in 1990. Unemployment remains high, especially among women. People are forced to look outside of the country for work and pimps take advantage: some victims are kidnapped but more often they answer job advertisements promising work and then are forced into sex slavery. Most Moldovan trafficking victims are taken to the Balkan countries, though other destinations include Asia, Turkey, Western Europe and the Middle East.
Carissa Phelps is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the organisation Runaway Girl. She grew up in California and, enduring a troubled home life, dropped out of school when she was 12 and ran away. After meeting a pimp, she was forced into prostitution, and later arrested alongside him. After returning home she was arrested for joyriding and sent to a juvenile detention centre, where she began to receive therapy and an education. She went on to graduate from high school, university and obtain a law degree from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). A documentary about her story was released in 2008, named Carissa.
Celena is originally from Mexico, but was forced into slavery in the US performing sex work from the age of 19. In the US, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), as amended, prohibits all forms of human trafficking, but there are still an estimated 57,700 people living in slavery within its borders. According to the Global Slavery Index, “The U.S. attracts undocumented workers, migrants, and refugees, who can be at particular risk of vulnerability to human trafficking upon their arrival and during their stay in the U.S. Research undertaken on vulnerable migrant labourer populations in San Diego, California, and in North Carolina suggests that these populations often include undocumented seasonal labourers who experience significant language barriers, cultural non-assimilation, and fear of deportation.” Here Celena discusses how medical services she accessed while in slavery failed to seize opportunities to understand her situation and act appropriately to remove her from those who enslaved her. The US Department of Justice estimates that of the 14,500 and 17,500 foreign-born individuals trafficked into the US annually, some 80 percent are female, and 70 percent of these women end up as sex slaves. Feeder countries include Albania, the Philippines, Thailand, Mexico (many from the central region of Tlaxcala, a haven for modern-day slave traders), Nigeria, and Ukraine. Often the women are forced to work to pay off the debts imposed by their smugglers—debts ranging from $40,000 to $60,000 per person. They might perform 4000 acts of sexual intercourse each year to meet their quota, at $10 to $25 per act.
Chantha became a child sex slave in Cambodia at age of 13. Freedom brought no restored sense of self: she observes that her life has “had no significance, no value” (though hopes that it might finally achieve “meaning” through the telling of her story). Instead, freedom brought rejection by her family, prostitution, AIDS, and—six months after she told her story—death from an AIDS-related illness.
Chariya became a child sex slave in Cambodia at age of seven, trafficked with her four-year-old sister. She was rescued after four years. She notes that the dreams of a “little girl” were over when she entered slavery. Her enslavement continues to cast a long shadow: freedom includes “nightmares.” Despite endemic corruption that contributes to slavery in various sectors in Cambodia, including with vulnerable demographics, the government has done little to investigate, prosecute or convict complicit officials.
Dalyn told her story at the age of 17 while living in a shelter. She was enslaved at the age of 12 after a woman made false promises of a job in a garment factory. Instead, she was sold to a brothel and abused physically and psychologically until the brothel owner was arrested and the children rescued by the AFESIP (Agir Pour La Femmes en Situation Précaire, Acting for Women in Precarious Siutations). Like many other survivors, she expresses a desire to tell her story in order to prevent the enslavement of others. Despite endemic corruption that contributes to slavery in various sectors in Cambodia, including with vulnerable demographics, the government has done little to investigate, prosecute or convict complicit officials.
“Dara” was enslaved for sexual exploitation as a child in Cambodia. Here she discusses her enslavement and the psychological impact that this has had on her, explaining the difficulty of reintegrating into society after her enslavement, and that she feels “finished” and “dead.” She also talks about her work as a volunteer helping other survivors of slavery to train and take control over their lives. Despite significant attempts to curb the commercial sexual exploitation that Cambodia became famous for in the 1990s, NGOs report the industry has been pushed underground and sex offenders are still able to purchase sex with children through an intermediary rather than more overt selling of sex in brothels.
Born in Albania, Elira was trafficked into Italy, where trafficking victims also arrive from Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria, China, and South America. One NGO estimates that 48 percent of the prostitutes in Italy are from Eastern Europe.
Many women are trafficked into richer Western European countries from the poorer Eastern countries, including Albania. The fall of communism in 1991 led to a rise in organized crime in Albania: in 2001 it was estimated 100,000 Albanian women and girls had been trafficked to Western European and other Balkan countries in the preceding ten years. More than 65 percent of Albanian sex-trafficking victims are minors at the time they are trafficked, and at least 50 percent of victims leave home under the false impression that they will be married or engaged to an Albanian or foreigner and live abroad. Another ten percent are kidnapped or forced into prostitution. The women and girls receive little or no pay for their work, and are commonly tortured if they do not comply.
Born in Albania, Flutura was trafficked into Italy, where trafficking victims also arrive from Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria, China, and South America. One NGO estimates that 48 percent of the prostitutes in Italy are from Eastern Europe. Many women are trafficked into richer Western European countries from the poorer Eastern countries, including Albania. The fall of communism in 1991 led to a rise in organized crime in Albania: in 2001 it was estimated 100,000 Albanian women and girls had been trafficked to Western European and other Balkan countries in the preceding ten years. More than 65 percent of Albanian sex-trafficking victims are minors at the time they are trafficked, and at least 50 percent of victims leave home under the false impression that they will be married or engaged to an Albanian or foreigner and live abroad. Another ten percent are kidnapped or forced into prostitution. The women and girls receive little or no pay for their work, and are commonly tortured if they do not comply.
Ganggang was enslaved in the Philippines at the age of 18 and then trafficked to Japan, where she was imprisoned and expected to entertain and have sex with bar customers. In the Philippines, women and children are subjected to sexual exploitation in brothels, bars, and massage parlours, online, as well as in the production of pornography. The Philippines is an international hub for prostitution and commercial sex tourism – a highly profitable businesses for organised criminal syndicates. The demand for sex with children among both local and foreign men has continued to fuel child sex tourism.
Holly Austin Gibbs (formerly Smith) is a survivor of child sex trafficking and an advocate for survivors of all forms of human trafficking. In 2011, Holly submitted joint testimony to Congress with labour trafficking survivor, Ima Matul, in support of reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Holly also testified before the U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations on the connection between sporting events and sex trafficking. In 2015, Holly testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of two bills: Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act and Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act. Another narrative by Holly can be found in the archive.
Born in Armenia, Iliona was trafficked to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where an estimated 10,000 women from sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, South and East Asia, Iraq, Iran, and Morocco are victims of sex trafficking. In addition, victims of child camel jockey trafficking still remain in the UAE: thousands of young boys have been trafficked from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan, and Mauritania to work as camel jockeys, and though the UAE enacted a law banning the practice in July 2005, questions persist as to the effectiveness of the ban.
The US Department of Justice estimates that of the 14,500 and 17,500 foreign-born individuals trafficked into the US annually, some 80 percent are female, and 70 percent of these women end up as sex slaves. Feeder countries include Albania, the Philippines, Thailand, Mexico (many from the central region of Tlaxcala, a haven for modern-day slave traders), Nigeria, and Ukraine. Often the women are forced to work to pay off the debts imposed by their smugglers—debts ranging from $40,000 to $60,000 per person. They might perform 4000 acts of sexual intercourse each year to meet their quota, at $10 to $25 per act. In 1997, at the age of 18, Inez was trafficked from Mexico into sex slavery in the US. She was transported into Texas, then to a trailer in Florida. Up to four young women worked in the same trailer, each of them having sex with up to 35 men a day, for 12 hours a day. They were constantly guarded, and beaten and raped by their bosses. After she had been enslaved for several months, FBI agents, along with agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and local law offices, raided the brothel. Some of her captors were tried, others escaped and returned to Mexico. Inez now observes that she cannot “seem to get past the ordeal” of slavery. The turning-point from slavery to freedom has not occurred: Inez’s narrative is filled with phrases like “I will never forget,” “I try to act like a normal girl, but it is not always easy,” “I lack confidence and never feel secure.”
Irina V. was trafficked into Germany from Russia, where traffickers abduct an estimated 55,000 women each year. She was taken along the so-called “Eastern Route” through Poland. This is a key overland corridor for trafficking women into the EU from Russia, Ukraine, Romania, and the Baltics. Her narrative grapples with the fact that her enslavers “continue to traffic women” and also outlines a more practical problem. Upon her escape, she “began a long, terrible process of multiple questionings and misunderstandings,” was placed in prison for three months, and only received assistance from an NGO.
Jaroslava is a Slovakian woman who travelled to the UK on the false promise of a job in a sandwich factory but instead enslaved in prostitution in London. She managed to escape to Glasgow and was put in touch with the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA), which has provided support to allow Jaroslava to establish a job and aspirations for the future. The majority of those trafficked to the UK have been identified victims of sexual exploitation, followed by adults exploited in the domestic service sector and other types of labour exploitation.
Isra, a Thai national, was a sex slave in Canada. She is one of around 600-800 trafficked people who arrive in Canada each year. A further 1500-2200 people are trafficked through Canada into the US. Canadian officials note that both these estimates are conservative, for very few victims of trafficking report the crime. Most trafficking victims who arrive in Canada come from South Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, and most are women trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. In the global market for people, the vulnerable are trafficked from poorer countries to richer countries, and many thousands of these trafficked women arrive in Western Europe, the UK, Canada, and the US. Between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, according to the US State Department. Some NGOs claim the figure is four million, and the UN puts the average estimate of international organizations at two million. Perhaps the most well-publicized form of this international trafficking is sex trafficking. By some estimates, as many as two million women worldwide are currently trapped in forced prostitution. And for those who are trafficked across international borders (many of them from Eastern Europe, South Asia, and South America), there is a double bind: not only of the brothel owner’s restrictions, but the restrictions of a foreign country where they cannot speak the language, have no knowledge of their legal rights, and often fear the police. In 1996, Canadian law enforcement officials learned that a Toronto-based sex trade ring was procuring young women from Thailand and Malaysia aged 16 to 30. Agents sold the women’s services to brothel owners for $16,000 to $25,000 each. Then, before they could keep a percentage of their earnings, the women had to work off the cost of their transportation and a “debt bond” that ranged from $30,000 to $40,000—which meant servicing 500 customers. Their travel documents were confiscated and their movements were restricted. On December 2, 1998, police officers arrested 68 people at ten brothels in Toronto, including Isra. One of the charges laid against the brothel owners was forcible confinement.