The worst thing about ignorance is that it makes us trivialise issues. Back in 2012, for the launch of her top-selling novel 50 Shades of Grey, author EL James admitted that she regretted no one asked her to be a sex slave like the protagonist of her raunchy novel. “Perhaps I’d like to be told how to dress, eat and behave – but only for ten minutes,” she said. Of course, she’s not implying that being a sex slave is something someone aspires to be and it’s all in good humour but it is, on some level, trivialising something that cannot be comprehended by anyone, except the victims.
But people have started talking about it now, throwing light on the fact that illegal trafficking of humans for labour and sodomy is something that could happen to anyone, anywhere.
In this story, you’ll learn about 5 brave hearts who not only survived torture but also came out in public and spoke about their horrific experiences in detail to educate people on the realities of modern slavery.
1. Nadia Murad Basee Taha
Yazidi woman Nadia Murad was a sex slave of the Islamic State. Six of her eight brothers were murdered in front of her before she was snatched and raped repeatedly by ‘countless’ men several times a day. Her mother was killed while Nadia and her two sisters and teenage cousins and nieces were sent as slaves to the ISIS stronghold of Mosul. Hundreds of women and children have been tortured and used as sex slaves by the terrorist organisation. But the powerful woman that Nadia is, she not only managed to escape but has been actively talking about the violence faced by the innocent in Iraq. “When I speak I didn’t speak just on my behalf, but on behalf of all the women and children affected in the war zone,” she said. After months of campaigning, she is now a UN Goodwill Ambassador on human trafficking. Now, she wants to prosecute ISIS for crimes against humanity. Not only for herself but for her family, the 300 who were killed in the Yazidi genocide, the 150+ girls who are under ISIS’ captivity and subjected to horrific sexual abuse every day. ‘Rape was used to destroy women and girls and to guarantee that these women could never lead a normal life again,’ she said, recounting her harrowing story. She is currently being represented by Amal Clooney, a human rights lawyer, as they take the case up to the International Criminal Court.
2. Rani Hong
Rani Hong was kidnapped from her family in Southern India and sold to the slave trade when she was only a 7-year-old. She was then beaten up, put in a cage and transported across state borders only to be made to work as a labourer in a brick factory. Within a year, her health and emotional condition were so bad that she almost died. Since she wasn’t of any purpose to her slave master, she was sold into illegal adoption. Although she doesn’t remember being sexually abused, she said there were others who were. Talking to Hayley Fox for Take Part, Hong said, “Traffickers saw me as a product to be exploited.” Unlike our beliefs, she pointed out how rampant modern slavery really is. According to the United Nations, modern slavery is one of the biggest and fastest-growing criminal industries in the world with more than $150 billion being generated in profits each passing year. Years after the nightmare she was put through, Hong founded The Tronie Foundation, a trafficking awareness organisation that works with the United Nations General Assembly to advise countries on how to fight the problem of modern slavery better. Hong is currently residing in the USA with her husband and co-founder of the Tronie Foundation, Trong Hong, who is also a survivor of child trafficking.
3. Sina Vann
Childhood accounts for some of the best memories but unfortunately the same cannot be said for Sina Vann. She tries to forget, but just cannot. Her two-year ordeal started when she went on a trip she thought would be a vacation. A childhood friend had asked her to tag along. They were going from Vietnam to Cambodia. But “when I stepped into Cambodia, my childhood ended, and the dark side of my life started,” Sina to Free The Slaves. Only 13-years-old, she had been betrayed and sold into slavery. She remembers waking up, soaked in blood in a strange room far away from home. It was a brothel. Here, she would be drugged and raped by 20 to 30 men every day. If she refused to smile, she would be beaten up, and if she ever failed to satisfy a customer, she would be tortured. Didn’t matter if she was sick or not. “I was sick and shaking,” Sina recalls, “but if I didn’t service customers I would be locked in the dungeon. They would tie my hands and tie my feet. And they would splash water over me, and they would shock me. When I was shocked, I felt like my spirit just left me.” She had been rescued once but was brought back to the brothels by corrupt police officials. Sina was finally rescued during a raid organised by anti-slavery activist Somaly Mam.
Now, she inspires other sex slaves to lead lives with dignity and hope. She works for the Somaly Mam Foundation and is a leader in the “Voices for Change” program where she speaks on behalf of sex slaves who are too scared to speak for themselves. Sina also won the Frederick Douglass Award, given to an individual who has survived slavery and is using their life in freedom to help others. She hopes that she meets the people who enslaved her at least once in her lifetime only to “say thanks to them for helping me to be who I am now.”
4. Sreypov Chan
Sreypov, a 7-year-old innocent girl was sold to a brothel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to work as a sex slave by her own mother. She would be tortured every day as pimps would force her to have sex with as many as 20 men in a day. If she tried to run, she would be tortured. If she didn’t meet her quota of 20 men, she would be tortured again. They would burn her with a hot poker covered with biting insects, shove chilli peppers up her vagina among other unmentionable things. “I wanted to die,” Chan said while talking to Abigail Pesta writing for Marie Claire. At the age of 10, she got lucky as she managed to escape and start a new life for herself. Her father passed away when she was just 5, they had become really poor. The family eventually had to move to a shack before her mother sold her telling her she would be working as a house maid. She did work as a housekeeper for two days before her owners drove her to another home – a brothel she couldn’t get out of. She tried to run twice but was unsuccessful. On both occasions, she got captured, beaten up and sold to another brothel. On her third attempt, she managed to get in touch with police officers who called Somaly Mam. She is free now, but she still gets nightmares of her time in Phnom Penh.
5. Karla Jacinto
43,200. That’s the number Karla wants everyone to remember. Reported by CNN, Karla said she has been sexually abused and mistreated from the age of 5 by a relative. Coming from a dysfunctional family, she said she would feel neglected by her own mother. Recalling her horrific ordeal, she was waiting for some of her friends near a subway station in Mexico City when a little boy came up to her selling sweets. He said somebody was sending her a piece of candy as a gift. Karla was just 12 then. An old man came up to her telling her that he was a used car salesman. She got comfortable around him as the man told her he too was abused as a boy. They exchanged numbers. Karla was excited to meet him when he called a week later. He asked her to go on a trip to Puebla with him and attracted her by coming to pick her up in a fancy bright red car. Karla left with him, and that was her mistake as it was the beginning of four years of hell. She was taken to Guadalajara where she would be made to work as a prostitute. Her day would start at 10 in the morning and end at 12 midnight. She would be sent to brothels, shady motels, walk the streets infamous for prostitution, sometimes even home. She was made to be with at least 30 customers a day, seven days a week. She would even be beaten up black and blue by some of her customers. Karla also got pregnant and gave birth to a girl at 15 years of age. A baby girl who would be taken away from her just after a month. Karla did not see her until the girl was more than a year old. Karla was finally rescued by an anti-trafficking operation in Mexico City in 2008 after surviving four years of sexual abuse. 43,200 was the number of times she was raped.
” To not have your suffering recognized is an almost unbearable form of violence “
Wish you a good day!
-Esoofi Abd’il Qader