Sunday, September 11, 2011

Saving Women and Children

"It is long past time for the international community to realize that women and children in many parts of the world are being sold on the international market like any other justification whatsoever exists for presuming the consent of the victims to such treatment or for failing to hold their abusers accountable"

It has been an emotional day across the globe but one that still requires focus on what we are doing. The “human trade industry” here in Burma is huge and although we make some strides the reality is our efforts are but a ripple in the ocean. We target the individuals that target those who can’t help themselves…the women and the children who are the victims in this perverse world. I can’t tell you how many victims there are but I can tell you that our initial efforts have not only raised awareness but also reunited those held hostage in an industry that never sees a measure of success for those oppressed.
How it happens…The trafficking of Burmese women and girls into Thailand is appalling in its efficiency and ruthlessness. Driven by the desire to maximize profit and by the fear of HIV/AIDS, agents acting on behalf of brothel owners infiltrate ever more remote areas of Burma seeking unsuspecting recruits. Virgin girls are particularly sought after because they bring a higher price and pose less of a threat of exposure to sexually transmitted disease. The agents promise the women and girls jobs as waitresses or dishwashers, with good pay and new clothes. Family members or friends typically accompany the women and girls to the Thai border, where they receive a payment ranging from 10,000 baht ($400) to 20,000 baht ($800) from someone associated with the brothel. This payment becomes the debt, usually doubled with interest, which the women and girls must work to pay off, not by waitressing or dishwashing, but through sexual servitude.
Daily life…The women and girls face a wide range of abuse, including debt bondage; illegal confinement; forced labor; rape; physical abuse; exposure to HIV/AIDS; and in some cases, murder. Initially, young girls like are kept in what is known as the "the room to unveil virgins." Later they are moved to the "selection" room, where they are displayed in windowed enclosures wearing numbers. The sex occurs in small cubicles where the women and girls also live and where the bed is often little more than a concrete bunk. Working conditions are inhumane. The women and girls work ten to eighteen hours a day, about twenty-five days a month. They average between five and fifteen clients a day. Health care and birth control education are minimal. In some instances, pregnant women are forced either to abort illegally or to continue to service clients well into their pregnancies. Many of the girls and women are brought to Thailand as virgins; most return to Burma with HIV.
What we are doing…The international community must step up pressure not only on the Thai government, to meet its international obligations, but the Burmese government as well. Just as the Thai police raid the same brothels they patronize and arrest women as illegal immigrants whom they may have hired the night before, Burmese officials arrest deported women and girls for illegal departure whose recruitment to Thailand they may have facilitated by taking bribes from brothel agents. It is incumbent on the Burmese government to investigate and prosecute those involved in trafficking on the Burmese side of the border. Just as important for the safety and well-being of the women and girls, however, is pressure on SLORC to allow regular access to Burmese villages and detention centers by international human rights and humanitarian organizations.
None of the measures needed to stop trafficking and related abuses will take place without concerted international pressure as well as tactical applications like LOPC…but like everything else that is illegal…there is too much money to be made from the practice.
We continue the fight from the jungle…hitting hard and hitting often…keeping those that prey on women and children on the defense. In over 60 years of this type of activity there have been very few successes…until now!
More to follow...from the jungle

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