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Grace

Grace was educated until the 10th grade in Nigeria, after which she was sent to work to help support her family, who lived in poverty. She worked for three years at various jobs, during which time she was raped and gave birth to a son. Her father told her that as a woman, she was “predestined by God to save her family from poverty by going to Europe to earn money.” He introduced her to a woman whose sister lived in Germany. Grace was told that she would have to repay the travel costs by working for the woman’s sister, after which she could work as a babysitter or in a restaurant to send money back home. Grace didn’t have an understanding of the amount she would have to repay, because the amount was in German currency, but she decided to take the chance because she didn’t have better prospects for her life in her country and her family was pressuring her. As is typical in her community, she underwent a Juju (Voodoo) ritual where she swore never to betray the contact in Germany and that she would pay all the debts. Grace talks about how she believes the problem of sexual exploitation should be addressed, based on her experiences.

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Ayesha

Experts estimate millions of women and children are victims of sex trafficking in India. Traffickers use false promises of employment or arrange sham marriages in India or Gulf States and subject women and girls to sex trafficking. In addition to traditional red light districts, women and children increasingly endure sex trafficking in small hotels, vehicles, huts, and private residences. Traffickers increasingly use websites, mobile applications, and online money transfers to facilitate commercial sex. Children continue to be subjected to sex trafficking in religious pilgrimage centers and by foreign travelers in tourist destinations. Many women and girls, predominately from Nepal and Bangladesh, and from Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and Asia, including minority populations from Burma, are subjected to sex trafficking in India. Ayesha was sold into sexual slavery by a man she fell in love with as a child, and had three children. Although pressured into prostituting her two daughters, she and the other women in her brothel resisted, and Ayesha left sex slavery with the help of an organization named Apne Aap, which also managed to find work for her eldest daughter. Ayesha’s story makes clear the vital role that organisations can play in bringing people sustainably out of slavery.

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Sina

Sina was born in Vietnam and enslaved in Cambodia, where she was forced into prostitution and drugged to become easier to control. Sina recalls that the Cambodian police, rather than help her home to Vietnam, took her to another brothel. At the time of narrating her story, she worked for the Somaly Mam Foundation as leader of its Voices for Change programme, and she reflects on both the satisfaction and difficulties of her work helping others escape their enslavement. Many Vietnamese women and children are misled by fraudulent employment opportunities and sold to brothel operators on the borders of China, Cambodia, and Laos, and elsewhere in Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. Some Vietnamese women who travel abroad for internationally brokered marriages or jobs in restaurants, massage parlors, and karaoke bars—mostly to China, Malaysia, and Singapore—are subjected to domestic servitude or forced prostitution.

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Sabina

Born in Bangladesh, Sabina was 12 years old when she was taken to a brothel in India. She was locked up and raped repeatedly until she managed to escape. Experts estimate millions of women and children are victims of sex trafficking in India. Traffickers use false promises of employment or arrange sham marriages in India or Gulf States and subject women and girls to sex trafficking. In addition to traditional red light districts, women and children increasingly endure sex trafficking in small hotels, vehicles, huts, and private residences. Traffickers increasingly use websites, mobile applications, and online money transfers to facilitate commercial sex. Children continue to be subjected to sex trafficking in religious pilgrimage centers and by foreign travelers in tourist destinations. Many women and girls, predominately from Nepal and Bangladesh, and from Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and Asia, including minority populations from Burma, are subjected to sex trafficking in India.

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Rita

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.”

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Pot

Pot was introduced to an agent in Bangkok in 1990 at the age of 27, and was flown to Tokyo via South Korea. There were up to 20 women working in her brothel at any given time, and she was held there for 18 months. Her pimp was female. Of the estimated 600,000 to 800,000 individuals trafficked across international borders each year, some 80 percent are women and girls. Pot was one of the thousands of women trafficked annually out of Thailand for sexual exploitation. The major destinations include Japan, Malaysia, Bahrain, Australia, Singapore, and the US. Internal trafficking occurs within the country as well, usually from northern Thailand (where hill tribe women and girls are denied Thai citizenship). In Japan, where she was enslaved, women are trafficked from Thailand, the Philippines, Russia, and Eastern Europe, and on a smaller scale from Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Burma, and Indonesia.

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Olga

Olga was lured to Israel from Russia by a female acquaintance in 1998. After socialism was dismantled in the USSR in 1991, “transition countries”—nations that moved from socialism to capitalism—saw an explosion in the export of men, women and children as slaves. The US government believes that as many as 100,000 women are trafficked throughout the 15 former Soviet countries annually and sold into international prostitution. Russian women are trafficked to over 50 countries for commercial sexual exploitation, including countries in Central and Western Europe and the Middle East. In Israel, where Olga was trafficked into sex slavery, women are trafficked from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Uzbekistan, and Belarus. NGOs estimate that in 2005 between 1000 and 3000 women were trafficked into Israel for sexual servitude. Olga’s narrative recounts the experience of forced drug addition. This is one of several control mechanisms used by traffickers, along with intimidation and threats, violence, torture and rape, starvation, blackmail, debt bondage, and social isolation. Another control mechanism is identity control: victims of sex trafficking are often given new names and appearances to demonstrate that the traffickers not only own them but have created a new person for sexual exploitation. Olga’s narrative includes details of this particular control mechanism, describing the loss of her name. One final moment of identity loss then comes toward the end of her narrative, with her pretence of being Muslim in order to seek protection.

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Nuch

Of the estimated 600,000 to 800,000 individuals trafficked across international borders each year, some 80 percent are women and girls. Nuch was one of the thousands of women trafficked annually out of Thailand for sexual exploitation. The major destinations include Japan, Malaysia, Bahrain, Australia, Singapore, and the US. Internal trafficking occurs within the country as well, usually from northern Thailand (where hill tribe women and girls are denied Thai citizenship). In Japan, where she was enslaved, women are trafficked from Thailand, the Philippines, Russia, and Eastern Europe, and on a smaller scale from Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Burma, and Indonesia. Nuch left for Japan in March 1992 at the age of 27 and was held in Tokyo. She explains that she apparently owed money for the trip and had to work off her debt with clients. After three months in slavery, she was taken to a police station, detained for several months in solitary confinement, and transferred to an immigration detention center, where she was held until the Thai Embassy issued travel documents. She flew back to Thailand in March 1993. Her narrative describes the involvement of other women in the process of enslavement. Her experience was at the hands of a long series of women: a Thai woman who got “extra points” by betraying her, a female agent, a woman who was the “boss,” and the Taiwanese “mama” (brothel manager). The percentage of female traffickers is rising. Some have been trafficked themselves and then reappear as recruiters or pimps. Others are blackmailed by criminals. Female traffickers are often the most convincing at deceiving women and girls into accepting fake job offers and so beginning the journey into slavery.

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Nu

Of the estimated 600,000 to 800,000 individuals trafficked across international borders each year, some 80 percent are women and girls. Nu was one of the thousands of women trafficked annually out of Thailand for sexual exploitation. The major destinations include Japan, Malaysia, Bahrain, Australia, Singapore, and the US. Internal trafficking occurs within the country as well, usually from northern Thailand (where hill tribe women and girls are denied Thai citizenship). In Japan, where she was enslaved, women are trafficked from Thailand, the Philippines, Russia, and Eastern Europe, and on a smaller scale from Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Burma, and Indonesia. Nu was repeatedly raped by a relative and escaped to Bangkok at the age of 15 to work as a prostitute. She was tricked into leaving for Japan with the promise of waitress work. She spent ten months enslaved in a “karaoke bar” in Shinjuku, a Tokyo district, and another four years working as a prostitute after her escape. Her narrative describes the involvement of other women in the process of enslavement: a hairdresser friend and the “mama-san” (brothel manager). The percentage of female traffickers is rising. Some have been trafficked themselves and then reappear as recruiters or pimps. Others are blackmailed by criminals. Female traffickers are often the most convincing at deceiving women and girls into accepting fake job offers and so beginning the journey into slavery.

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Miranda

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, Miranda was trafficked into Belgium, where by some estimates Albanian girls aged 14 and 15 make up nearly half of the foreign women forced into prostitution. Many women are trafficked into richer Western European countries from the poorer Eastern countries, including Albania.

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Maria C.

In 1997, at the age of 18, Maria 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 Maria 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. Maria now observes that she is “in fear for my life more than ever.”

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.

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Kaew

Kaew entered Japan on a tourist visa in May 1992 at the age of 31, after meeting an agent in Bangkok. She was kept in a “snack bar,” or brothel, in Nagano prefecture, west of Tokyo. Of the estimated 600,000 to 800,000 individuals trafficked across international borders each year, some 80 percent are women and girls. Kaew was one of the thousands of women trafficked annually out of Thailand for sexual exploitation. The major destinations include Japan, Malaysia, Bahrain, Australia, Singapore, and the US. Internal trafficking occurs within the country as well, usually from northern Thailand (where hill tribe women and girls are denied Thai citizenship). In Japan, where she was enslaved, women are trafficked from Thailand, the Philippines, Russia, and Eastern Europe, and on a smaller scale from Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Burma, and Indonesia.

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Isra

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.

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Dara

“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.

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Dalyn

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.

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Chariya

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.

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Chantha

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.

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Aye

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.

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Aulia

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.

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Anita

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.