Saturday night was one of those nights that I know I will not be able to get images out of my head. Saturday night I saw what I've been trying to prevent at UNIFEM. Saturday night I saw actual women being auctioned off—eight girls stood on a stage. One sings in front of the rest and they're all wearing gowns—prom dress-like. Then, a whistle goes off if the girl has been sold. They get a bouquet of flowers and then they sit with the man who bought them on big black leather couches. I felt horrified. People read about stuff like this or talk about stuff like this all the time, but to put an actual face to the girl who is being SOLD for her company and then for sex is just beyond me.
I couldn't really describe how I was feeling right then. And get this—this place is mild compared to the rest in Singapore. Supposedly this is common and accepted in Asian Culture. A woman is used for her company; she can be bought for just that and then used for sex at the very end of the evening.
But my night did not end at the Chinese place where the auction was. Marrise, Peter and I went to this karaoke place Saturday night. But the place was swarming with prostitutes. One girl who was next to us was bought beforehand and spent the entire night with the one guy. Dancing, grinding etc. Her hair long and straight, her outfit was blue and extremely short. Her heels were unbelievably tall. I could not believe what I was seeing. The music was so loud it could make someone's ears bleed. Girls in black outfits (and by outfits I mean inches black cloth.) I could see things I should've have.
The blue neon lights and fog machines created an interesting ambiance. But what made it really interesting was the line of girls sitting and waiting for men to arrive.
I hated seeing how the girls were being grabbed. I went to the bathroom in the back of the place and saw a staircase. I followed the staircase although I knew I passed the bathroom. I kept walking up the stairs and ended up seeing dark purple curtains, the same dark blue neon lighting, black walls and girls giving men oral sex while they were sitting in these red fluffy couches.
It was surreal to see what was going on. I have been to strip clubs before but to see this was even more shocking. Because these women were being bought to go home with these random men.
Although I know this is very common in Singapore and most of the brothels are just around the corner from where I am, it's still different to see it first hand.
"You like to buy?" This elderly woman asks me as she sits down besides me. She must have been the madame who owns the girls.
"Where you from?" asked a man, who is dancing to J-LO and Pitbull's song "On the Floor" or whatever that J-LO song is. I told him near Chicago.
"Oh, Chicago? Well I am the boss. Welcome! You like?" he said. I had no idea what to say. This man owns three of the bars that are just down the street from where I am living. And all of them sell girls.
In the karaoke bar, there was a father and son who were sharing the same girl. This girl looked no older than 13. Grinding and kissing the both of them. And touching them. It was very shocking to see. I didn't really know how to handle the whole thing. Besides to mind my own business. But how could I not care? This is what I am trying to prevent here. I guess seeing it firsthand, like right in front of my eyes, made it very real to me.
It motivates me more to get my work done here and do it as affectively as possible.
Some girls know what they're getting into, but most of them don't.
And then once they're in, they can't get out. These girls are human beings, not numbers on a stage to be auctioned off, or peices of meat that are to be thrown around. Their bosses make 80 percent of their profit. So either these girls are here because of debit they owe, their parents sold them as collatoral to pay off their own debt, or these girls were promised another job and this is what they had.
These are the facts:
- Human trafficking is the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world.
- 1.8 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade though this figure is thought to be much higher due to the underground dealings of the traffickers.
- Reports show that sexual exploitation is the most likely purpose of trafficking
- Trafficking exists in countries all over the world. It doesnt only exist in the poorest countries
There are three stages of trafficking:
- Recruitment: The child or young person is taken away from their home, sometimes by force, but often the trafficker will trick the child into leaving by proming a better life. On some occasions desperate parents will sell their children to a trafficker.
- Transport: Moving the child to their intended destination can often be dangerous and uncomfortable. The trafficker may hide the child in cramped conditions to prevent anyone finding out what's happening. If ever questions, they will lie about their relationship to their human cargo to avoid suspicion.
- Destination: On arrival at their destination, children and young people are often abused, beaten or raped into submission and can be repeatedly sold. They are psychologically and physically damaged but too frightened or ashamed to ask for help. If they try to run away, the traffickers will threaten to kill them or their families. If they do manage to escape, the authorities dont always provide immediate protection, leaving them just as vulnerable.
Please visit www.unwomen-nc.org.sg to learn more and to see what I am working on here in Singapore.