In 1993, Dina Chan was exploited in northern Cambodia. Women are internally trafficked for sexual exploitation in Cambodia, usually from rural areas to the country’s capital, Phnom Penh, and other secondary cities. Cambodian women are also brought to Thailand and Malaysia for commercial sexual exploitation. An orphan who got into debt for overdue rent payments and tuition fees, Dina was trafficked from Phnom Penh to Stroeung Treng at the age of 17. Her narrative describes police corruption, starvation, and gang rape. She points out the irony that she fought for others’ freedoms as a soldier, “only to become enslaved,” and rejects the response of “pity” to her story. She also issues a call for prostitutes to unionize and “fight for basic rights.” On behalf of herself and her “sisters,” Dina demands recognition of her humanity: “We are people, we are women and we want to be treated with respect.”
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.
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.
Flor was trafficked into the US from Mexico and enslaved in forced factory labour. She travelled into the US willingly with a “coyote,” or people smuggler, after being offered well-paid work in the US. Instead of the job promised, she was kept prisoner and abused, working extremely long hours. She told her story to another survivor, Ima. Both women were part of the Survivor Advisory Caucus attached to the Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking in Los Angeles (CAST LA). Flor talks about her the pride and satisfaction that working with Ima as part of the Caucus has brought her. Another narrative from Flor can be found in the archive.
The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that there are approximately 129,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in France. Women and children from African nations being held in domestic servitude, like Henriette, often by relatives, is a recognised problem in France.Henriette, originally from Togo, became an enslaved domestic worker after her arrival in France at the age of 14. She was eventually helped by the Comité contre l’esclavage moderne (CCEM) (Committee against Modern Slavery), which works with victims of domestic slavery and forced labour in France. She was able to face some of her enslavers in court, and see their conviction.
Masha was trafficked into Germany from Russia, where traffickers abduct an estimated 55,000 women each year. Corrupt police officers and border guards reportedly accept bribes to facilitate trafficking. She was kept prisoner and her passport was withheld from her to prevent her from escaping, but was later arrested in a police raid, which gave her the opportunity to return to Russia. Masha recalls that the German police did not try to understand her situation but simply treated her as a criminal. Another narrative from Masha is available in the archive.
Masha was trafficked to Germany from Russia and enslaved in sex work when she was 24 years old. She was kept prisoner and her passport was withheld from her to prevent her from escaping, but was later arrested in a police raid, which gave her the opportunity to return to Russia. Masha recalls that the German police did not try to understand her situation but simply treated her as a criminal. Another narrative from Masha is available in the archive.
Egypt is a transit country for women trafficked from sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union to Europe and Israel for sexual exploitation. Internal trafficking occurs as well: Ragaa is an Egyptian woman trafficked into sex slavery within Egypt in 1995, and children are trafficked from rural areas to work as laborers in the agriculture industry. Each year over one million children between the ages of seven and 12 work 11 hours a day for Egypt’s agricultural cooperatives on cotton pest management. They face routine beatings by their foremen, and exposure to heat and pesticides.Ragaa’s experience included the offer of a “pleasure marriage,” which is a temporary arrangement to permit sexual intercourse, and a “temporary marriage,” because brothels are forbidden by law and Islamic Sharia in Egypt. Then she explains that her escape brought no sense that the experience was over. The problem of freedom after bondage was an ongoing fear of her traffickers.
Rita was drugged and trafficked from Nepal into India in 1998 at the age of 19. She was eventually helped by the NGO “Maiti Nepal.” Here she narrates a series of experiences that are rooted in her identity as a woman. The traffickers tricked her by explaining that they needed her to help smuggle diamonds—because “girls were not checked as thoroughly as men” by border guards. One of the first incidents in India is the replacement of her trousers for a long skirt. She notes that when women are enslaved they are “made ‘sisters.’” She goes on to observe the psychology of women who refuse to leave because they “will not be accepted by society.” She describes the horror of public questioning about her experiences in sex slavery. And she tells the stories of two other women—Vidhya and Maili. 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 Rita. 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. Another aspect of this enslavement is HIV and AIDS. Some 50 percent of those who return to Nepal are HIV-positive, and Rita makes reference to these “girls with AIDS.”
Seema was one of an estimated 4 million domestic workers in India. The domestic sector is informal and unregulated, obscured in private homes, and workers are not recognised as such but rather as ‘informal help’. Their wages are, on average, only a third of those in other sectors, they have very limited social protections, and commonly suffer poor working conditions, exploitation, abuse and slavery. Many domestic workers are migrants from poorer states and are among the most marginalised and socially discriminated populations in India. Most of them are Dalits or come from other disadvantaged castes and tribal minorities, many are landless, illiterate and innumerate, which increases their vulnerability and disempowerment.
Sumalee was trafficked from Thailand to Japan in 1995, where she was forced through debt bondage into prostitution. She was able to return to Thailand after being arrested by Japanese immigration police. Some men, women, and children from Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, South America, and Africa travel to Japan for employment or fraudulent marriage and are subjected to sex trafficking. Traffickers use fraudulent marriages between foreign women and Japanese men to facilitate the entry of women into Japan for forced prostitution in bars, clubs, brothels, and massage parlors. Traffickers strictly control the movement of victims using debt bondage, threats of violence or deportation, blackmail, passport retention, and other coercive psychological methods; victims of forced prostitution sometimes also face debts upon commencement of their contracts.
Sex trafficking exists throughout the United States and across the world. Traffickers use violence, threats, debt bondage and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. According the US Federal Law, any person under the age of 18 years old persuaded into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking – no matter if the trafficker uses force, fraud and coercion or not. In many cases of sex trafficking, victims become romantically involved with someone who then forces or manipulates them into prostitution. Young people who run away from home are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation by traffickers: the Department of Justice estimates that 293,000 youth are at risk. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) estimates that “1 in 5 of the 11,800 runways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2015 were likely sex trafficking victims.” In 2015, the most reported venues/industries for sex trafficking included commercial-front brothels, hotel/motel-based trafficking, online advertisements with unknown locations, residential brothels, and street-based sex trafficking. Beth was just 16 when she met a man who said he wanted to be her boyfriend. He invited her to a party in a different state, however on the way there Beth was beaten and drugged. On awaking Beth was threatened with a gun, had her identifying documents taken from her and forced to perform commercial sex work.
The UK National Crime Agency estimates 3,309 potential victims of human trafficking came into contact with the State or an NGO in 2014. The latest government statistics derived from the UK National Referral Mechanism in 2014 reveal 2,340 potential victims of trafficking from 96 countries of origin, of whom 61 percent were female and 29 percent were children. Of those identified through the NRM, the majority were adults classified as victims of sexual exploitation followed by adults exploited in the domestic service sector and other types of labour exploitation. The largest proportion of victims was from Albania, followed by Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania and Slovakia. Grace was just 10 years old when her parents died and she was forced to live on the streets of Lagos. A few years later she met a woman who said she was looking for someone to help her around the house. Grace stayed there for 2 years. At the age of 15 she was taken to England where she was forced to work as a prostitute. Grace was able to escape after 3 months; however, she was taken to a detention centre by authorities after her asylum claim was rejected, despite being told by the police she had been trafficked.
Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States. Traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. The situations that sex trafficking victims face vary, many victims become romantically involved with someone who then forces them into prostitution. Others are lured with false promises of a job, and some are forced to sell sex by members of their own families. Victims of sex trafficking include both foreign nationals and US citizens, with women making up the majority of those trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. In 2015, the most reported venues/industries for sex trafficking included commercial-front brothels, hotel/motel-based trafficking, online advertisements with unknown locations, residential brothels, and street-based sex trafficking. Crystal grew up in a dysfunctional and abusive household. Having been sexually assaulted from a young age, Crystal points to her childhood experiences as the source of her vulnerability. It was as an adult that Crystal was trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation by her second husband who exploited her drug addictions and forced her to sleep with other women for money. Though she was able to escape her husband, the cycle of trafficking continued. It was after her arrest and the subsequent loss of her son to child services that Crystal was able to break the cycle and escape, going back to school and regaining custody of her son.
Australia is a destination country for women from Southeast Asia, South Korea, Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and reportedly Eastern Europe trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Some men and women from several Pacific islands, India, the PRC, South Korea, the Philippines, and Ireland are fraudulently recruited to work temporarily in Australia, but subsequently are subjected to conditions of forced labour, including confiscation of travel documents, confinement, and threats of serious harm. Some indigenous teenage girls are subjected to forced prostitution at rural truck stops. Czar flew to Sydney from the Philippines on the promise of a successful boxing career. However, upon arrival Czar was forced to hand over his passport and was told he would be working as a cleaner in the mornings and evenings. Czar's work as a cleaner went unpaid and when he did box, his earnings were deducted for visa and travel expenses. Eventually Czar and the other boxers being exploited went to the police who helped them escape.
The internal migration of Chinese people seeking work has created an opportunity for human traffickers in China. Moreover the gender imbalance caused by the One Child Policy and the cultural preference for male children, has caused a shortage of women which has led to the trafficking of women to be sold as brides. As a result many women find themselves either deceived by promises of employment, sold or abducted and forced into marrying Chinese men who have paid for them. The prevalence of poverty in China makes the poor more vulnerable to enslavement. With the National Bureau of Statistics estimating that 70,170,000 are still living in poverty, people are more desperate and thus more likely to be receptive to fraudulent job offers. Mai, 16, was trafficked from Vietnam into China to be sold as a child bride.
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 business for organised criminal syndicates. The demand for sex with children among both local and foreign men has continued to fuel child sex tourism. Rising internet usage rates, the availability of mobile phones and poverty has fostered online child sexual exploitation. Remy was 12 years old when she ran away from a verbally and sexually abusive family. During a night out with friends she was introduced to a man who offered her a job in a club in Cotabato City. Upon arrival Remy was sold to the manager of a sex club where she was forced to provide sexual services for men under the threat of violence. Feeling hopeless, Remy was finally rescued by police when trouble at the club led the manager to move her and others to Cebu City.
The United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, transgender individuals, and children—both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals—subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. Trafficking occurs in both legal and illicit industries, including in commercial sex, hospitality, traveling sales crews, agriculture, seafood, manufacturing, janitorial services, construction, restaurants, health care, care for persons with disabilities, salon services, fairs and carnivals, peddling and begging, drug smuggling and distribution, and child care and domestic work. This individual was sold into to slavery from Mexico to the US by her sister at the age of 13. Denied access to her baby, she was forced to provide sexual services for both men and women. Though she was promised her baby would be taken care of, neither she nor the baby were provided medical care and the baby died of leukaemia. This individual was finally able to escape out of a window and go to the police, however, after being deported to Tijuana returned to the US where her trafficker told her he was finally in love with her.
The Netherlands is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour. It is estimated that around 175, 000 people are living in conditions of modern slavery in the country. It is reported that many women are trafficked within the country in to forced prostitution. Victims are often trafficked by so called ‘pimp boys’ or ‘lover boys’ – men who seduce young women and girls, gaining their trust and then forcing them in to commercial sexual exploitation. Sameena was 18 years old when she left home and became homeless. Sameena got a job in the catering agency where she met her boyfriend, Jim. One evening Jim invited Sameena to his apartment, where she arrived to a number of his male friends. That night was the first time she was raped. After that, for two years Sameena was forced to work as a prostitute. Even after physically escaping, Sameena still struggled to mentally free herself from her past exploitation. In this narrative Sameena tells of how running helped her overcome her past trauma