‘Human trafficking’ is “the illegal trade in human beings for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor.” My friend Katy calls it a “dinner party term.” She says “It reveals nothing about imprisonment, abuse, physical pain, slavery, withdrawal of basic human rights like freedom, destruction of trust and of a person’s identity.” I couldn’t agree more.
I first heard about AFESIP while reading Somaly Mam’s The Road of Lost Innocence. Somaly’s memoir documents of her sexual enslavement and escape. I was so moved by her story and already interested in anti-sex trafficking efforts that I contacted AFESIP while planning my trip to Cambodia. This ultimately led me to Katy’s blog and her volunteer work.
In Cambodia, the sex industry thrives. It’s an issue you witness in the streets. A brothel is never more than a 5-minute walk away. And while it may look like the girls “consent,” the truth is most feel like they have no other option and no way out. The rescued girls who come to AFESIP suffer from abuses difficult to imagine. Many experience torture and addiction to drugs such as methamphetamines and heroine. (For more information on the sex industry in Cambodia visit my previous posts: The Issues, The Sex Industry of Cambodia, and Cambodia: Masculine Mentality, Sex Culture, and Gender Based Violence).
So the question becomes: how do you combat an issue so broad and destructive? How do you access girls held hostage in this lifestyle? And if you can reach them and remove them from imprisonment, how do you attempt the recovery process? How do you rehabilitate a girl who’s grown up in an environment where she’s routinely raped, violently beaten, and force-fed drugs?
In Cambodia, AFESIP proves it’s possible. Through legal investigation they find and rescue girls from the brothels and the streets. Then, in three centers, the organization provides rehabilitation, training, and health services. The recovery process is extensive. As you can imagine, most of the girls have lost their trust in humanity. But slowly, with each girl, AFESIP reveals the resilience of human nature. And once rehabilitation is complete the organization attempts to reintegrate the girls into Cambodian society.
I can tell you trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world and generates billions of dollars every year. I can also tell you that while most people associate it with poor, underdeveloped nations, the United States and many European nations play a key role. Yet that still doesn’t convey the severity of the issue and the pain it causes millions of humans.
When you speak with Katy in person, not only is she beautiful and charismatic, you can feel her passion for the issue and these girls. She is an absolute inspiration. Her blog documents her experience in Cambodia and fiercely challenges you to become informed about trafficking and the ways you can help. You can visit her site at http://www.katylostincambodia.com/ and you can find out more about AFESIP at http://www.afesip.org/.