Do you know that human trafficking is a $9 billion to $31.6 billion business across the world, according to a 2010 UN Global report? This is a business of slavery, sex and oppression. Another UN report on crime and drugs that came out in 2009 showed that women constitute a massive 66% of all humans trafficked, and the total number includes 12% men and 22% children. It is a gory image to look at considering all that the trafficked women go through in their lifetime — from sexual abuse to mental and physical abuse.
At a recent event, some survivors of human trafficking spoke, giving us a glimpse of their traumatic journey and the lifelong scars that remain.
Fatima Khatoon is an Apne Aap Women Worldwide survivor leader based in Bihar. Khatoon was born into the Nat community, a denotified tribe. She was married off at the age of nine to a 40-year-old man, who ran a brothel with his mother (a pimp). Initially, she struggled to understand the life around her at her husband’s house. But when she realised that women were forcefully thrown into prostitution, she rebelled and helped rescue the women.
“When a daughter is born in any other community, the parents take care of her education and her responsibility. But in our community, when a girl is born, she takes the responsibility of the entire family,” said Fatima signifying that young girls are normally bought and sold in her community.
She fought against sex trafficking and got beaten up by her husband and his mother for revolting. She added, “I wanted to break this culture and teach everyone that girls do not just take birth to be sold but also to dream and live her life. Somebody had to fight against sex trafficking, so I did it and I suffered a lot in this fight.”
Another survivor from South Africa, Grizelda Grootboom, who has also written a book called Ex!T on her life when she was trafficked and the journey through it, said, “A woman can be from any part of the world but we all connect on one level and that is sexual assault. Everybody has gone through some kind of pain and geographical boundaries do not matter.”
Grootboom laid emphasis on what happens into the underbelly of prostitution industry of Cape Town and how sex and drugs go together into ruining every woman’s life who is forced into sexual drudgery.
While women are trafficked into slavery, it is the young girls who are much more desired by men. “Those men who I had sex with during my time in prostitution were happy. They were glad that I was 12 years old,” said a Canadian survivor and founder of Survivor Speak. For more than 16 years, Dee Clarke has been organizing, educating and empowering adults and the youth to speak out for a public policy that affects their lives.