Vixely loves sharing stories from real women around the world, particularly when they shed light on significant issues women face. Recently, we met writer, researcher and women’s rights activist Lis Najmy, who offered to share the eye-opening stories of women sex slaves in Asia as told to her by the women who experienced them.
By Lis Najmy
We sat in a dusty, sweltering, unmarked shanty on an unknown road 20 miles West of Bangkok. Fragmented afternoon light slipped through cracks in the boarded windows.
I was a 22- year-old Colorado College senior who had been given two grants and five weeks to make my way through the ping pong sex shows of Bangkok’s red light district. Five weeks to sit before the living victims of arguably the most pressing human-rights violation of the twenty-first century: human-trafficking.
“From the day I arrived, I was forced to sleep with a minimum of five men a day,” she began with a raw composure.
I was there to ask questions, but mostly to listen, to hear her story.
“When I was on my period, they made me shove a sponge inside myself and work. If the men found out I was bleeding I was required to pay 50,000 yen to my agent. I tried to kill myself by drinking bleach, but when my agent found out, she forced me to throw it up, as to not lose me as a source of income.”
Pom is just one of the 30 million virtually invisible Asian women who have been trafficked over the past 30 years. While slavery is illegal on every continent, there are currently 27 million humans living in slavery worldwide—more than any other time in history.
Deceived and sold by family members or friends, girls as young as five-years-old are carted to brothels, chained to filthy beds, subjected to brutal beatings, and forcibly raped as many as forty times a day. The sex trade is not merely a story of poverty or economic desperation; it is the embodiment of an extreme culture of gender discrimination that has effectively stripped millions of women of their dignity and basic human rights.
From the moment of sale, the future of a sex slave in countries such as Thailand is grim: those who make it out of the hell of slavery alive and free of AIDS are shunned by their villages, and often shamed into taking their own lives. Pom herself bravely and miraculously escaped her brothel only to return home to family, friends, and neighbors who spit in her face and threw rocks at her. “I don’t want to see your face; you’ve been there to sell your body! How dare you!?” her husband berated her. “How was it?” he mocked.
Over my next five weeks in Bangkok, I would hear story after story from courageous survivors– women, who like Pom, had become victims of the global sex trade.
The $32 billion-dollar-a-year trafficking industry is no secret in cities like Bangkok, where streets, hotels, and cafes teem with middle-aged men who go shamelessly hand in hand with timid teenage girls. Men travel from across the world to play out racist fantasies about highly erotic, submissive LBFM (Little Brown F* Machines) who are “hot for” sex with sex tourists. Discourse surrounding Asian sexuality paints pictures of racially superior dominating sexual encounters, encouraging often violent and disturbing rapes within brothels.
In addition to being a critical human rights issue, sex trafficking is rapidly reaching the charts as a public health crisis. The lethal consequence of sex trafficking is slowly becoming apparent as coerced, unprotected sex in brothels results in fueling Asia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. (It is not uncommon for brothels to offer unprotected sex with girls for an additional fee of merely two U.S. dollars). As the threat of HIV/AIDS becomes of greater concern, the demand for younger and younger sex slaves grows. Every year, over 1.2 million children are trafficked and sold into slavery worldwide.
Despite the increasing awareness of the trafficking of live humans, the number of those living in slavery has continued to climb. In the U.S. alone, there are an estimated 17,000 people living in slavery at any given time. Sex trafficking is just one of the numerous heinous gender-based crimes that currently threaten women across the globe. The growing incidences of female genital mutilations, sex selective abortions, bride burnings, ‘honor’ killings, acid attacks, maternal mortality, and sex trafficking reveal the extreme culture of gender discrimination that pervades worldwide.
Follow the Vixely team as we continue to share stories of the inspiring women who have been to the “frontlines” and back. Join the movement to end human slavery!
Currently residing in Sydney, Australia, Lis has spent the past six years exploring her passion for women’s rights issues, writing, travel, yoga and music. Inspired by her time practicing medical anthropology in women’s shelters and HIV/AIDS clinics in Cape Town, South Africa, Lis traveled to Bangkok, Thailand to complete her thesis on gender inequality and human trafficking. Following her graduation from Colorado College in 2010, Lis founded the Travel Yoga Project, an organization dedicated to using the art of yoga to creatively address the tragedy and violence that exists in the world today. Lis traveled to Indonesia to launch the The Travel Yoga Project last May. Lis will return to the Northern Hemisphere this summer to continue her work as a writer and musician in Los Angeles. Email Lis at email@example.com for more information.
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